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Gods & Monsters: Apep

This blog post is dedicated to John T, author of the blog JhnWrites About Games, as a way of saying “thank you” for his generous donation towards my Extra Life 2014 fundraising efforts. Thanks, John! I hope you don’t have a phobia of snakes…


In their second developer diary “Puzzles 101”, Executive Producer Scot Amos and Lead Level Designer Jeff Wajcs introduced us to another of Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris’s growing cast of antagonists: the evil snake boss Apep.

Apep as seen in Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris

Apep as seen in Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris (Image credit: Kelly M)

Like the playable characters Isis and Horus, Apep was modelled after the Egyptian god (or, more accurately, demon) of the same name and is commonly depicted in Egyptian art as a large snake or water serpent. This slithery demon came to be associated with chaos and darkness and was considered the mortal enemy of the sun god Ra. The Egyptians believed that Apep lived in the waters of the Egyptian underworld, Duat, and would rouse from his slumber every night to attack the sun god’s barge as it made its way through the underworld.

Apep was a formidable foe who had the power to hynoptize Ra and his fellow gods before attempting to devour them. Only one god was considered strong enough to repel this evil serpent: Set.** Armed with his trusty spear, Set would stand at the helm of the solar barge, ready to take on Apep and fend off his attacks. But despite Set’s best efforts to kill this sneaky snake, his victory was always short-lived. Apep would come back to life each night, ready to resume his never-ending onslaught on the solar barge. He was one enemy who simply refused to stay down. And even though he was doomed to failure, Apep occasionally gained the upper hand in his battle against the gods. Solar eclipses were thought to be the result of Apep successfully sneaking up on and swallowing Ra (if only for a few minutes) and other natural phenomena, such as thunderstorms and earthquakes, were often attributed to this serpentine god of chaos.

Set defending Ra's solar barge from Apep

Set defending Ra’s solar barge from the evil Apep
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In a society built upon ma’at (the Egyptian concept of social order, balance, and truth), Apep was seen as a major threat to Egyptian livelihood, even in pictorial form. Most depictions of Apep in Egyptian art show him pierced by knives or being dismembered by other gods. Words and images held a certain power and magic in Egyptian culture so he was often depicted in an injured state as a way of protecting others from his evil powers. Spells for defeating Apep could be found in the “Book of Overthrowing Apep”. The best surviving example of these spells can be found on the Bremner-Rhind Papyrus at the British Museum. And if this wasn’t enough, wax effigies of Apep would be ritually dismembered and destroyed by the priests of Ra in annual ceremonies as a way of demonstrating their power over the evil snake. It’s probably safe to say that the Egyptians had no love for Apep or his sun-swallowing ways.

Apep being beheaded by Ra in his cat form, as seen on the Papyrus of Hunefer

Apep being beheaded by Ra in his cat form, as seen on the Papyrus of Hunefer
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

After reading all this, one would think that the Egyptians had a thing against snakes…but you’d be wrong. Not all snakes were considered evil in Egyptian culture. For instance, the cobra goddess Wadjet was a protective goddess from Lower Egypt who came to symbolize regal sovereignty and divine authority. She can often be found in her uraeus form on kings’ crowns and headdresses alongside the vulture goddess Nekhbet, the protector and patron goddess of Upper Egypt. Not all snakes are created equal, it seems.

Now, with all this in mind, we’ll have to wait and see how Lara and her companions fare against the evil Apep in Temple of Osiris. I hope for their sakes that one of them has a spear handy…

** While Set is normally depicted as an “evil” god in the Tomb Raider series, it’s worth noting that things are rarely black and white when it comes to Egyptian mythology. Some Egyptologists argue that Set gained a certain notoriety when he came to be associated with the Hyksos and other foreign rulers. Xenophobia may have swayed the Egyptians’ opinions of this desert god and it’s believed that his less amiable character traits may have been emphasized, possibly even exaggerated, as a result. In the later periods of Egyptian history, Set came to be associated with Apep, taking over his role as the “god of chaos”, and other gods stepped in to act as the defenders of Ra’s solar barge. No wonder Set has a bad attitude in Temple of Osiris

Sources & Further Reading:


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About Kelly M (396 Articles)
A Gibraltarian-born blogger, gamer, and archaeology enthusiast with a passion for languages and wildlife conservation. Tweets under the username @TombRaiderArch and runs the official fansite, The Archaeology of Tomb Raider.

2 Comments on Gods & Monsters: Apep

  1. Real snakes? Yes. Horrifying. Awesome, mythological – we hope… – snakes? Nope. Love them, and am incredibly happy to have had an Egyptian-themed article dedicated to me. I love Egypt! Thanks again, Kelly. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #10 | Doug's Archaeology
  2. Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris Q&A with Scot Amos | The Archaeology of Tomb Raider
  3. Gods & Demons: Ammit | The Archaeology of Tomb Raider

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