Avoid demeaning the already miserable by any show of strength against the weak. Do not raise your hand against the aging nor criticize the conversations of the great. Do not formulate your messages in an abrasive manner nor envy one who does. Do not raise a cry against the man who injures you, and do not you yourself reply. One who does evil — the deep canal will get him; and its moving waters, they will bear him off! The Northwind, it descends, darkening his hour, dragging him into the howling storm; The clouds pile high, the crocodiles are restless, and this fevered man of yours — how does he fare? It is his voice up there crying before the Highest, and the Moon above shall specify his crimes. “Ply the oars that the evil one may cross to Us, We have not seen his like before.” — Raise him up, give him your hand,hurl him into the arms of God; Fill him with bread at your table so that he be satisfied and be ashamed. This too is a thing dear to the heart of God — let a Man go slow before speaking.
Do not start a quarrel with the hot-mouthed man nor be disdainful toward him in your speech; Be deliberate before an adversary, bow to a foe, and sleep on what you think before you speak. A stormwind moving like a flame in straw — that is the hot-head in his hour! Yield before him, leave the bellicose man to the god who knows how to mend him. If you spend your days with these things in your heart, your offspring shall live to see them.
-ANCIENT Egyptian Literature An Anthology TRANSLATED BY JOHN L. FOSTER
Hail to you, Moon, Thoth,
Bull in Khmun, dweller in Hesret,
Who makes way for the gods!’
Who knows the secrets.
Who records their expression,
Who distinguishes one speech from another,
Who is judge of everyone.
Keen-faced in the Ship-of-millions,
Courier of mankind,
Who knows a man by his utterance,
Who makes the deed rise against the doer.
Who contents Re,
Advises the Sole Lord,
Lets’ him know whatever happens;
At dawn he summons in heaven,
And forgets not yesterday’s report.
First part of the Hymn to Thoth by Haremhab in: Miriam Lichtenheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature Volume II: The New Kingdom, p. 102
1,1 Sound is the cautious, blessed is the moderate, open is the tent to the quiet man. 1,2–3 Broad is the place of the one calm in speech, sharp are knives against him who oversteps the path. There should be no haste except at its proper time.
-The Maxims of Kagemni pertaining to moderation in behavior.
Text from Middle Egyptian Literature by James P Allen
Inscription No. 116 from the tomb of PetOsiris West Side of Pillar A in Chapel. 6 columns // English text from: Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume III (Miriam Lichtsheim), pp. 44-52; Hieroglyphics from: G. Lefebvre, Le tombeau de Petosiris, 3 vols. (Cairo, 1923 — 1924).
An offering that the King gives to Osiris-Khentamenti, the great god,
lord of Abydos, that he may give an offering of a thousand of bread and
beer, oxen and fowl, alabaster and clothing, ointment and incense, a
thousand of everything good and pure to the ka of the owner of this
tomb, the Great one of the Five, the master of the (holy) seats, the second
prophet of Khnum-Re, lord of Herwer, and of Hathor, lady of Nefrusi;
the phylarch of the second phylae of the temple of Herwer and that of
Nefrusi, Sishu, justified; he says:
O you who are alive on earth, And you who shall be born, Who shall come to this desert, Who shall see this tomb and pass by it: Come, let me lead you to the way of life, That you may sail with good wind, without getting stranded, That you may reach the abode of generations. Without coming to grief. I am a worthy deceased without fault. If you hear (my) words, it you cleave to them, You will find their worth. Serving god is the good way. Blessed is he whose heart leads him to it! I speak to you of what happened to me, I let you perceive the plan of god. I let you discern knowledge of his might! I have come here to the city of eternity, Having done the good upon earth, Having filled my heart with god’s way, From my youth until this day! I lay down with his might in my heart. I rose up doing his has wish; I did justice, abhorred falsehood, Knowing he lives by it (justice), is contented by it. I was pure as his ka desires, I joined not with him who ignores god’s might. Relying on him who was loyal to him, I seized no goods from any man. I did no wrong to anyone. All citizens praised god for me. I did this remembering I would reach god after death, Knowing the day of the lords of justice, When they separate in judgment! One praises god for him who loves god. He will reach his tomb without grief.
Речь Сишу, отца Петосириса Надпись 116 Западная сторона колонны А в часовне, 6 колонок
Приносится царская жертва для Осириса, Первого-из-Западных (Хенти-Аменти), владыки Абидоса, да даст он приношение тысячи хлебов и кувшинов пива, быков и птиц, алебастра и одеяний, умащений и благовоний, тысячу всяких вещей хороших и чистых для Ка владельца этой гробницы, величайшего из Пяти, владыки священных престолов, второго пророка Хнума-Ра, владыки Херуэр, и Хатхор, владычицы Нефруси; предводителя второй череды (филы) в храме Херуэр и в храме Нефруси, Сишу, правогласного; говорит он:
О вы, живущие на земле, И те, кому предстоит родиться, Те, кто придет в эту пустыню, Кто увидит эту гробницу и будет проходить мимо нее! Придите, позвольте мне наставить вас на путь жизни, Так что вы будете плыть с попутным ветром, не встречая препятствий, Так что вы достигните обиталища поколений Без того, чтобы пребывать в скорби! Я — почивший, достойный, свободный от вины, Если вы услышите слова мои, Если вы (будете поступать по слову моему), Вы найдете ценность в них. Служение богу — благой путь, Благословен тот, чье сердце приводит его к этому пути! Я поведаю вам о том, что было со мной, Я дам вам осознать план бога, Я дам вам постигнуть знание могущества его! Я прибыл сюда, в город вечности, Я творил добрые дела на земле, Наполнив сердце мое (5) путем бога От юности моей и до сего дня! Я поместил могущество его в своем сердце, Я вырос, исполняя желания Ка его; Я творил справедливость и отвращался лжи, Зная, что живущий в правде удовлетворится ею. Я был чист, согласно желанию его Ка, Я не вступал в общение с теми, кто не уважал могущество бога, И уповал на тех, кто был предан ему. Я не похитил имущества ни у единого человека, Я ни с кем не поступил неправедно. Все горожане восхваляли бога за меня. Я поступал так, помня о том, что я достигну бога после смерти, Памятуя о дне владык справедливости, Когда они совершают правосудие! Восхваляют бога ради того, кто любит бога, И он достигнет места погребения без печали.
The Rosetta Stone is a rock stele, found in 1799, inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in 3 scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion is Demotic script, and the lowest is Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all 3 scripts with only minor differences, the stone provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
It is carved in black granodiorite and is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period, and was eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in July 1799 by a soldier named Pierre-François Bouchard of the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt. It was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times and aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this previously untranslated hieroglyphic language. Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating among European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria and was transported to London. It has been on public display at the British Museum almost continuously since 1802. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum.
Study of the decree was already under way when the first full translation of the Greek text appeared in 1803. It was 20 years, however, before the transliteration of the Egyptian scripts was announced by Jean-François Champollion in Paris in 1822; it took longer still before scholars were able to read Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and literature confidently. Major advances in the decoding were recognition that the stone offered three versions of the same text (1799); that the demotic text used phonetic characters to spell foreign names (1802); that the hieroglyphic text did so as well, and had pervasive similarities to the demotic (Thomas Young, 1814); and that, in addition to being used for foreign names, phonetic characters were also used to spell native Egyptian words (Champollion, 1822–1824).
Ever since its rediscovery, the stone has been the focus of nationalist rivalries, including its transfer from French to British possession during the Napoleonic Wars, a long-running dispute over the relative value of Young and Champollion’s contributions to the decipherment, and, since 2003, demands for the stone’s return to Egypt.
Two other fragmentary copies of the same decree were discovered later, and several similar Egyptian bilingual or trilingual inscriptions are now known, including two slightly earlier Ptolemaic decrees (the Decree of Canopus in 238 BC, and the Memphis decree of Ptolemy IV, ca. 218 BC). The Rosetta Stone is, therefore, no longer unique, but it was the essential key to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian literature and civilisation. The term Rosetta Stone is now used in other contexts as the name for the essential clue to a new field of knowledge.
Cleanse yourself before your (own) eyes,
Lest another cleanse you.
When you prosper, found your household,
Take a hearty wife, a son will be born you.
It is for the son you build a house,
When you make a place for yourself.
Make good your dwelling in the graveyard,
Make worthy your station in the West.
Given that death humbles us,
Given that life exalts us,
The house of death is for life.
Seek for yourself well-watered fields,
Chose for him a plot among your fields,
Well-watered every year.
He profits you more than your own son.
Prefer him even to your [heir].
of Prince Hardjedef in M. Lichtheim: Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume I, p.
First recorded wisdom text dating from the Old Kingdom.
Death is before me today: like the recovery of a sick man, like going forth into a garden after sickness.
Death is before me today: like the odor of myrrh, like sitting under a sail in a good wind.
Death is before me today: like an aroma of lotus flowers, like the first moments on the edge of sweet drunkenness.
Death is before me today: like the course of a stream; like the return of a man from the war-galley to his house.
Death stands before me today: like the clarity of heaven, like the answer long-desired to a heavy riddle.
Death is before me today: like the home that a man longs to see, after years spent as a captive.
The text belongs to the most interesting examples of an ancient Egyptian religious literature and is considered to be one of the top pieces of literary work of ancient world. It describes the dilemma of a man, whose life was destroyed by the decay of a society, probably during the First Intermediate Period (2181 BC – c. 2055 BC). The man discusses his personal problems with his ba (soul), that is described as an independent entity. He desires death and plans to commit a suicide.
His ba, who could decide to stay by his side or to leave him to his destiny, eventually manages to convince him to stay alive so they can share their afterlife together.
This is not something you would typically expect from the ancient Egyptian literature usually praising gods, securing the afterlife or spreading a state propaganda. It is a very human and honest confession of hopelessness that is universal throughout time and space.
It’s easy to swing by your local library and pick up a book by Homer or Sappho—two of the greats of ancient Greece. But finding translated works of ancient Egypt isn’t as simple.
The difference between hieroglyphs and other ancient languages is that the former is often dismissed as art, not story.
Toby Wilkinson, a fellow of Clare College in the U.K., wants to change that. He’s publishing a book that, for the first time, amasses the writings of ancient Egyptians and translates it into English for the general public.
Teti I (2345–2333 BCE) was the first king of Egypt’s 6th dynasty, and was buried at Saqqara. Preserved within his pyramid are some excellent examples of pyramid texts. Pyramid texts are ancient religious texts from Egypt’s Old Kingdom, and are possibly the oldest known religious texts in the world.
The spells (or “utterances”) written are primarily concerned with protecting the remains of the king, reanimating his body after death, and aiding him in ascending to the heavens.
The following is a translated section from the pyramid texts of Teti I’s pyramid (‘Utterance 373’ via: Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol 1):
“Oho! Oho! Rise up, O Teti!
Take your head, collect your bones,
Gather your limbs, shake the earth from your flesh!
Take your bread that rots not, your beer that sours not,
Stand at the gates that bar the common people!
The gatekeeper comes out to you, he grasps your hand,
Takes you into heaven, to your father Geb.
He rejoices at your coming, gives you his hands,
Kisses you, caresses you,
Sets you before the spirits, the imperishable stars…”
I want to study ancient Egypt. Where should I start?
This is part two of an answer to an ask sent in by an anon who was wanting to study ancient Egypt from its chronological beginnings.
When studying ancient Egypt, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of topics and information to sift through. For the purposes of this post/ask, I’m going to assume that you are not interested in studying as part of a course, but rather in your own time.
First off, you’re going to be reading a LOT. It’s good to amass a small library of sorts for all your references, though you can find a lot of older books online in pdf form for free.
Here are some books that you might find useful:
Note - you do not need all these books. Rather, these are some that would come in handy to those wanting to build a basic Egyptology reference library at home.
Baines, John / Malek, Jaromir, Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt.
Manley, Bill, The Penguin Atlas of Ancient Egypt.
Murnane, William J. The Penguin Guide to Ancient Egypt.
Shaw, Ian, The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt.
Shaw, Ian. Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction.
Schulz, R. / Seidel, M. (eds.) Egypt: World of the Pharaohs.
Wilkinson, Richard H. (ed.) Egyptology Today.
The Shire Egyptology series are also an excellent resource! They cost around $10-15 AUD each and cover a wide range of topics. They are really great for someone wanting an introductory approach to various topics of interest for ancient Egypt.
Assmann, Jan, The Search for God in ancient Egypt.
Grajetzki, Wolfram, Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt.
Hart, George, The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses .
Hornung, Eric, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt. The One and the Many.
Kanawati, Naguib. The Tomb and Beyond: Burial Customs of Egyptian Officials.
Wilkinson, Richard H., The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt.
Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt
Now if you want to start off with Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt, these would come in handy:
Adams, Barbara. Predynastic Egypt. (from the Shire Egyptology series, great one to start with!)
Midant-Reynes, Beatrix. The Prehistory of Egypt.
Spencer, A. Jeffrey. Early Egypt: The Rise of Civilisaton in the Nile Valley.
Wilkinson, Toby. Early Dynastic Egypt.
Bahn, Paul. The Penguin Archaeology Guide.
Catling, Christopher and Bahn, Paul. The Illustrated Practical Encyclopedia of Archaeology (not very detailed for Egypt, but great basic resource and easy to read).
Johnson, Matthew. Archaeological Theory: An Introduction.
Reid, Donald Malcolm. Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I.
Wendrich, Willeke. Egyptian Archaeology.
Art and architecture
Arnold, Dieter. Building in Egypt: Pharaonic Stone Masonry.
Arnold, Dieter, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture.
References to hydrocephalic skulls can be found in ancient Egyptian medical literature from 2500 BC to 500 AD. Hydrocephalus was described more clearly by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates in the 4th century BC, while a more accurate description was later given by the Roman physician Galen in the 2nd century AD. The first clinical description of an operative procedure for hydrocephalus appears in the Al-Tasrif (1000 AD) by the Arab surgeon, Abulcasis, who clearly described the evacuation of superficial intracranial fluid in hydrocephalic children. He described it in his chapter on neurosurgical disease, describing infantile hydrocephalus as being caused by mechanical compression. He states:
“The skull of a newborn baby is often full of liquid, either because the matron has compressed it excessively or for other, unknown reasons. The volume of the skull then increases daily, so that the bones of the skull fail to close. In this case, we must open the middle of the skull in three places, make the liquid flow out, then close the wound and tighten the skull with a bandage.”
In 1881, a few years after the landmark study of Retzius and Key, Carl Wernicke pioneered sterile ventricular puncture and external CSF drainage for the treatment of hydrocephalus. It remained an intractable condition until the 20th century, when shunts and other neurosurgical treatment modalities were developed. It is a lesser-known medical condition; relatively small amounts of research are conducted to improve treatments for hydrocephalus, and to this day there remains no cure for the condition. In developing countries, it is common that this condition go untreated at birth. It is difficult to diagnose during ante-natal care and access to medical treatment is limited. However, when head swelling is prominent, children are taken at great expense for treatment. By then, brain tissue is undeveloped and neurosurgery is rare and difficult.
Ptahhotep, sometimes known as Ptahhotpe or Ptah-Hotep, was an ancient Egyptian official during the late 25th century BC and early 24th century BC.
He is credited with authoring The Instruction of Ptahhotep, an early piece of Egyptian “wisdom literature” meant to instruct young men in appropriate behavior. This is believed to be the first book in history.
He wrote on a number of topics in his book that were derived from the central concept of Egyptian wisdom and literature which came from the goddess Maat. She was the daughter of the primordial and symbolized both cosmic order and social harmony. Ptahhotep’s instruction was written as advice to his people in the hopes of maintaining this said “social order”. He wrote perspicacious advice covering topics from table manners and proper conduct for success in court circles to handy hints to the husband for preserving his wife’s beauty. Ptahhotep also wrote more social instructions such as ways to avoid argumentative persons and cultivate self-control.
When I was chamberlain of the palace and sandal-bearer, King Mernere, my lord who lives forever, made me Count and Governor of Upper Egypt, from Yebu in the south to Medenyt in the north, because I was worthy in his majesty’s heart, because I was rooted in his majesty’s heart, because his majesty’s heart was filled with me. When I was chamberlain and sandal-bearer, his majesty praised me for the watch and guard duty which I did at court, more than any official of his, more than any noble of his, more than any servant of his. Never before had this office been held by any servant.
I governed Upper Egypt for him in peace, so that no one attacked his fellow. I did every task. I counted everything that is countable for the residence in this Upper Egypt two times, and every service that is countable for the residence in this Upper Egypt two times. I did a perfect job in this Upper Egypt. Never before had the like been done in this Upper Egypt. I acted throughout so that his majesty praised me for it.
His majesty sent me to Ibhat to bring the sarcophagus “chest of the living” together with its lid, and the costly august pyramidion for the pyramid “Mernere-appears-in-splendor,” my mistress. His majesty sent me to Yebu to bring a granite false-door and its libation stone and granite lintels, and to bring granite portals and libation stones for the upper chamber of the pyramid “Mernereappears-in-splendor,” my mistress. I travelled north with (them) to the pyramid “Mernere-appears-in-splendor” in six barges and three tow-boats of eight ribs in a single expedition. Never had Yebu and Ibhat been done `in a single expedition under any king. Thus everything his majesty commanded was done entirely as his majesty commanded.
His majesty sent me to Hatnub to bring a great altar of alabaster of Hatnub. I brought this altar down for him in seventeen days. After it was quarried at Hatnub, I had it go downstream in this barge I had built for it, a barge of acacia wood of sixty cubits in length and thirty cubits in width. Assembled in seventeen days, in the third month of summer, when there was no water on the sandbanks, it landed at the pyramid “Mernere-appears-in-splendor” in safety. It came about through me entirely in accordance with the ordinance commanded by my lord.
His majesty sent me to dig five canals in Upper Egypt, and to build three barges and four tow-boats of acacia wood of Wawat. Then the foreign chiefs of Irtjet, Wawat, Yam, and Medja cut the timber for them. I did it all in one year. Floated, they were loaded with very large granite blocks for the pyramid “Mernere-appears-in-splendor.” Indeed I made a [saving] for the palace with all these five canals. As King Mernere who lives forever is august, exalted, and mighty more than any god, so everything came about in accordance with the ordinance commanded by his ka.
I was one beloved of his father, praised by his mother, gracious to his brothers. The count, true governor of Upper Egypt, honoured by Osiris, Weni.