The Ancient Egyptian City of Cats
In Ancient Egypt the cat was more than just a domesticated feline pet, it was a holy animal which represented the goddess Bastet. By the New Kingdom of Egypt, cat worship became common place among Egyptians, and there was even a special “Cult of the Cat” dedicated to Bastet and the veneration of kitties. In the 9th Century BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I made the City of Bubastis the capital of his empire, and dedicated the city to the worship of Bastet and of cats. At the center of the city was a temple dedicated to Bastet, described as one of the most attractive temples in all of Egypt. However it was not the temple itself that caught the eye. After the time Egypt had become a part of the Hellenic (Greek) world Cult of the Cat continued to flourish in Egypt. In 450 BC the Greek traveler and historian Herodotus visited Bubastis and the temple. What he saw was shocking. Thousands upon thousands of cats, all of which were venerated as sacred animals and cared for by priests. To control the cat population (in an age before spaying, neutering, or Bob Barker) periodic culling of the cat heard through ritual sacrifices conducted by the priests. The mummified cats were then sold to pilgrims as relics. Herodotus goes on further to report that the annual Festival of Bastet was held in the city every year, drawing as many as 700,000 people from all around Egypt, who would spend the time drinking, partying, and having sex, all because of the cats.
While many may scoff at the idea of thousands of sacred cats occupying a holy temple, there is real evidence to back such a claim. In the late 19th century a tomb containing the mummies of 80,000 cats was discovered near the Temple of Bastet in modern day Beni Hasan. Peashooter is amazed by the thought of so many cats, but wonders how badly that temple must have smelled.