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According to Wikipedia, Ancient Egyptian belief in the sun god Ra started sometime before 2500 BC. In that Wikipedia article, it also states, "The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire put an end to the worship of Ra by the citizens of Egypt." But I can't seem to find a time frame for that. Obviously, some time after 0 CE, but how long after?

I know there won't be exact dates for the beginning and end of the time frame that the Ancient Egyptians worshipped Ra and his pantheon of associated gods. But I'd like to get a reasonable number, rounded to the nearest hundred years if possible, to complete this sentence: "The ancient Egyptians worshipped Ra for ____ years."

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Robert Columbia
    Oct 24, 2021 at 14:03
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    This question may be somewhat ill-posed as the period where a god named Ra was worshipped may well cover an evolution in the conception of the god so great that the similarity is in little more than name. Likewise, there may have been a period where a god changed name to/from Ra without the worshippers changing their concept of what they were worshipping. I'd also point out that for all we know there may be a Ra-worshipper around today. It would be good if the question made clear exactly what is being asked.
    – Mark Olson
    Oct 24, 2021 at 17:36

3 Answers 3

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The Wikipedia article on Egyptian Temples has a rough estimate as to when the last temple of the Old Egyptian Religion, The Temple of Isis at Philae, was closed - as early as 456 if one goes by inscriptions found at the site, or as late as 535, if one believes Procopious. They source the claim from the 2011 edition of The Archaeology of Late Antique Paganism, which argues a gradual and organic decline that culminated in the abandonment of cult activities well before the hard cut-off of Justinian's command to destroy the temple. While cult activities may have continued in isolation, this is the end of the Old Egyptian Religion in recorded history.

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    Thank you for an answer to the question, citing research and avoiding argument.
    – MCW
    Jul 23, 2015 at 12:22
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    Yes. Note, however, that this is a lower bound: they show that open worship continued at least that long, but not how long it may have continued in secret, since the believers would not have dared to make their worship public. So an absolutely accurate answer is probably impossible.
    – jamesqf
    Jul 23, 2015 at 19:56
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    @jamesqf History is, by definition, the record written by contemporaries, or archaeological evidence in support of a hypothesis. Anything else is woolgathering. Jul 24, 2015 at 2:06
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    So, I could reasonably say, "the ancient Egyptians worshipped Ra for about 3000 years." Cool.
    – Questioner
    Jul 24, 2015 at 6:01
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    @Questioner - The cult of Ra began to formalize its mythology and worship practices around the time of the Second Dynasty, so that's a good ballpark. It was integrated into a larger religious system during the Middle Kingdom, so Ra worship would be present in a temple to Isis and her cult at the end. Jul 24, 2015 at 11:28
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Christianity became the official religion of Rome under Constantine (306-337 AD). Soon after that there were major doctrinal disputes between the Bishops of Alexandria that had to be arbitrated between his sons. So by 350 AD at the latest you'd have to say Christianity was well established.

Of course, long before that Greek and Roman influence might have replaced Amon Ra.

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    It is a delusion to think that paganism disappeared in the Roman Empire at the time of Constantine. We have a record of a major persecution of pagans (and of Jews) by order of the archbishop of Alexandria in 415. The pagan philosophical schools survived in Athens until they were shut down by order of Justinian (ruled 527-565).
    – fdb
    Jan 17, 2015 at 16:20
  • Ra was more of a state god, so determining when the state stopped supporting it provides a working number, as per his assertion that Christianity was the tipping point. The problem with your 'non delusional' comment is that it provides no useful information for the original poster.
    – Oldcat
    Jan 20, 2015 at 23:15
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    It is better to provide no information than to provide misinformation.
    – fdb
    Jan 21, 2015 at 0:28
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Overall worship of Egyptian polytheism began around 2,500 BC and began it's decline around the late 4th and 5th Centuries CE as Christianity became popular, and was finally disposed in the 6th. When Christiandom came to Rome it spread early across the Mediterranian. Christian Roman Emporer's outlawed "Paganistic" teachings and cults.

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    This should be supported by sources.
    – MCW
    Oct 25, 2021 at 10:48

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