Sacred Texts  Egyptian  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, by James Henry Breasted, [1912], at

p. 199



The story of the Misanthrope, although that of an individual experience, nevertheless involves contemplation of society to whose failings this individual experience of the writer was largely due. But the subject himself remained the chief or exclusive concern. On the other hand, concern for social misfortune, the ability to contemplate and discern the unworthiness of men, the calamities that befall society, and the chronic misery which afflicts men as a body also appear as the subject of dark and pessimistic reflections in this remarkable age of growing self-consciousness and earliest disillusionment. A priest of Heliopolis, named Khekheperre-sonbu, born under Sesostris II (1906–1887 B.C.), gave expression to his sombre musings on society in a composition which was still circulating some four hundred years later when a scribe of the Eighteenth Dynasty copied it upon a board now preserved in the British Museum. 1 It is of especial interest, as indicating at the outset that such men of the Feudal Age were perfectly conscious that they were thinking upon new lines, and that they had departed far

p. 200

from the wisdom of the fathers. The little tractate reads as follows:

"The collection of words, the gathering of sayings, the pursuit of utterances with searching of heart, made by the priest of Heliopolis, . . . Khekheperre-sonbu, called Onkhu. He says: 'Would that I had unknown utterances, sayings that are unfamiliar, even new speech that has not occurred (before), free from repetitions, not the utterance of what has ⌈long⌉ passed, which the ancestors spake. I squeeze out my breast 1 for what is in it, in dislodging all that I say; for it is but to repeat what has been said when what has (already) been said has been said. There is no ⌈support⌉ for the speech of the ancestors when the descendants find it. . . . "'

"'I have spoken this in accordance with what I have seen, beginning with the first men down to those who shall come after. Would that I might know what others have not known, even what has not been repeated, that I might speak them and that my heart might answer me; that I might make clear to it (my heart) concerning my ill, that I might throw off the burden that is on my back. . . ."'

"'I am meditating on the things that have happened, the events that have occurred in the land. Transformations go on, it is not like last year, one year is more burdensome than the next. . . . Righteousness is cast out, iniquity is in the midst of the council-hall. The plans of the gods are violated, their dispositions are disregarded. The land is in distress, mourning is in every place, towns and districts are in lamentation. All men alike are under wrongs; as for respect, an end is made of it. The lords of quiet are disquieted. A morning comes every day and

p. 201

turns back again to what has been (formerly). When I would speak ⌈thereof⌉, my limbs are heavy laden. I am distressed because of my heart, it is suffering to hold my peace concerning it. Another heart would bow down, (but) a brave heart in distress is the companion of its lord. Would that I had a heart able to suffer. Then would I rest in it. I would load it with words of . . . that I might dislodge through it my malady.'"

"He said to his heart: 'Come then, my heart, that I may speak to thee and that thou mayest answer for me my sayings and mayest explain to me that which is in the land. . . . I am meditating on what has happened. Calamities come in to-day, to-morrow ⌈afflictions⌉ are not past. All men are silent concerning it, (although) the whole land is in great disturbance. Nobody is free from evil; all men alike do it. Hearts are sorrowful. He who gives commands is as he to whom commands are given; the heart of both of them is content. Men awake to it in the morning daily, (but) hearts thrust it not away. The fashion of yesterday therein is like to-day and resembles it ⌈because of⌉ many things. . . . There is none so wise that he perceives, and none so angry that he speaks. Men awake in the morning to suffer every day. Long and heavy is my malady. The poor man has no strength to save himself from him that is stronger than he. It is painful to keep silent concerning the things heard, (but) it is suffering to reply to the ignorant man. To criticise an utterance causes enmity, (for) the heart receives not the truth, and the reply to a matter is not endured. All that a man desires is his own utterance. . . .'"

"'I speak to thee, my heart; answer thou me, (for) a heart assailed is not silent. Lo, the affairs of the servant

p. 202

are like (those of) the master. Manifold is the burden upon thee.'

Here is a man deeply stirred by the corruption of his fellows. He contemplates society as a whole, and while he constantly gives expression to his own misery in view of such a prospect, it is not his own suffering which is the chief burden of his utterance. His concern is for society, shackled by its own inertia, incapable of discerning its own misery, or, if at all conscious of it, without the initiative to undertake its own regeneration. Many of his reflections might find appropriate place in the mouth of a morally sensitive social observer of our own times. It is evident, then, that we have reached an age when for the first time in history men have awakened to a deep sense of the moral unworthiness of society. Nor was this conviction confined to the reflections of an humble Heliopolitan priest. It speaks also in the disillusionment of Amenemhet I, the great founder of the dynasty under which these momentous developments in thought were taking place. He strikes the same sombre note to which, as we have seen, even the harper at their feasts attuned his instrument. This king has left us a brief word of counsel addressed to his son, Sesostris I, who was to succeed him—counsel very evidently uttered after a base attempt upon the old king's life by those whom he trusted. 1

p. 203

"He saith, while distinguishing righteousness,
 For his son    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
   .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
 Hearken to that which I say to thee,
 That thou mayest be king of the earth,
 That thou mayest be ruler of the lands,
 That thou mayest increase good.
 ⌈Harden⌉ thyself against all subordinates.
 The people give heed to him who terrorizes them.
 Approach them not alone,
 Fill not thy heart with a brother,
 Know not a friend,
 Nor make for thyself intimates,
 Wherein there is no end.
 When thou sleepest, guard for thyself thine own heart;
 For a man has no people
 In the day of evil.
 I gave to the beggar, I nourished the orphan;
 I admitted the insignificant as well as him who was of great account.
 (But) he who ate my food made insurrection;
 He to whom I gave my hand aroused fear therein."

This is all followed by the story of the attempt on his life, an incident which accounts to some extent for the disillusionment of the embittered old king.

The unrelieved pessimism of the Misanthrope, of our Heliopolitan priest, and of Amenemhet I was not, however, universal. There were men who, while fully recognizing the corruption of society, nevertheless dared dream of better days. Another moral prophet of this great age has put into dramatic setting not only his passionate arraignment of the times, but also constructive admonitions looking toward the regeneration of society and the golden age that might ensue. This, perhaps the most remarkable document of this group of social and moral tractates of the Feudal Age, may be called the Admonitions

p. 204

of Ipuwer. 1 The beginning of the papyrus containing the narrative introduction setting forth the circumstances under which the sage utters his reflections is unfortunately lost. The situation in its chief externals is, however, clear. The wise man Ipuwer, in the presence of the king himself and some others, possibly the assembled court, delivers a long and impassioned arraignment of the times concluding with counsel and admonition. A brief rejoinder by the king follows, and a few words of reply by the sage conclude the pamphlet. Of the long oration by the wise man, constituting the bulk of the document, over two-thirds is occupied by this arraignment; that is, nearly ten out of nearly fourteen pages. This indictment displays no logical arrangement of content, though there has been evident effort to dispose the utterances of the sage in strophic form, each strophe beginning with the same phrase, just as in the poems of the Misanthrope. In the following paragraphs we shall endeavor to summarize by subjects the chief content of the arraignment, with sufficient quotation to indicate the character of the wise man's utterances. The fragmentary condition of the papyrus, and the intense difficulty

p. 205

of the language employed make a continuous translation, even with copious commentary, quite out of the question. 1

With searching vision the sage sweeps his eye over the organized life of the Nile-dwellers and finds all in confusion. Government is practically suspended, "the laws of the judgment-hall are cast forth, men walk upon [them] in the public places, the poor break them open in the midst of the streets. Indeed, the poor man (thus) attains to the power of the Divine Ennead; that (old and respected) procedure of the Houses of the Thirty (Judges) is divulged. Indeed, the great judgment-hall is ⌈thronged⌉, poor men go and come in the Great Houses (law-courts)" (6, 9–12). "Indeed, as for the ⌈splendid⌉ judgment-hall, its writings are carried away; the private office that was is exposed. . . . Indeed, departmental offices are opened, their writings 'are carried away, 2 (so that) serfs become lords of ⌈serfs⌉. Indeed, officials are slain, their writings are carried away. Woe is me for the misery of this time. Indeed, the scribes of the [produce', their writings are rejected; the grain of Egypt is any corner's" (6, 5–9). "Behold, the district councils of the land are expelled from the land, the . . . are expelled from the royal houses" (7, 9–10).

This disorganization of government is due to a state of violence and warfare within the land. "A man smites his brother of the same mother. What is to be done?" (5, 10).

p. 206

[paragraph continues] "Behold a man is slain by the side of his brother, while he (the brother) ⌈forsakes⌉ him to save his own limbs" (9, 3). "A man regards his son as his enemy" (1, 5). "A man goes to plough bearing his shield. . . . Indeed, . . . the archer is ready, the violent is in every place. There is no man of yesterday" (2, 2). "Behold the man (who gains) a noble lady as wife, her father protects him; he who is without [such protection], they slay him" (8, 8–9). "Blood is everywhere; there is no ⌈lack⌉ of death; the swathing (of the dead) speaks, before one comes near it" (2, 6). "Behold a few lawless men are endeavoring to deprive the land of the kingship. Behold men are endeavoring to revolt against the Uræus (the royal serpent) . . . which pacifies the Two Lands" (7, 2–4). "Indeed, Elephantine and ⌈Thinis⌉ are the [⌈domain⌉] of Upper Egypt, (but) civil war pays no revenues" (3, 10–11).

To this condition of disorganization and revolt within are added the terrors of foreign invasion. "Indeed, the desert is in the land; the districts (of Egypt) are devastated; foreign bowmen come to Egypt" (3, 1). "Indeed, the Marshes (of the Delta) throughout are not hidden. Although Lower Egypt is proud of (its) trodden highways, what is to be done? . . . Behold, it is ⌈in the hand⌉ of those who knew it not like those who knew it. Asiatics are skilled in the workmanship of the Marshes" (4, 5–8).

A prey to internal disorder and revolt, helpless before the raids of the Asiatics on the eastern frontiers of the Delta, the property of Egypt is destroyed and the economic processes of the land cease. "Behold, all the craftsmen, they do no work; the enemies of the land impoverish its crafts. [Behold, he who reaped] the harvest

p. 207

knows naught of it; he who has not ploughed [⌈fills his granaries. When the harvest⌉] occurs, it is not reported. The scribe [⌈idles in his bureau, there is no work for⌉] his hands therein" (9, 6–8). "Indeed, when the Nile overflows, no one ploughs for him (the Nile). Every man says, 'We know not what has happened in the land' (2, 3). "Behold, cattle are left straying; there is none gathering them together. Every man brings for himself those that are branded with his name" (9, 2–3). As meat thus disappears, men eat "of herbs washed down with water. . . . Indeed, grain has perished on every side. Men are deprived of clothing, ⌈perfumes⌉, and ointments. All men say, 'There is none.' The storehouse is laid waste; its keeper is stretched on the ground" (6, 1–4). "Civil war pays no taxes. Scanty are ⌈grain⌉, charcoal, . . .  1 the labor of the craftsmen. . . . For what is a treasury without its revenues?" (3, 10–11).

Under such economic conditions at home, foreign commerce decays and disappears. "Men sail not northward to [Byb]los to-day. What shall we do for cedars for our mummies, with the tribute of which priests are buried; and with the oil of which [princes] are embalmed as far as Keftyew. 2 They return no more. Scanty is gold, ended are the . . . of all crafts. . . . What a great thing that the natives of the oases (still) come bearing their festal produce!" (3, 6–9). 3

Such conditions might be expected, for the public safety of men and merchandise has vanished. "Although the

p. 208

roads are guarded, men sit in the thickets until the benighted traveller comes, in order to seize his burden. That which is upon him is taken away. He is beaten with blows of a stick and wickedly slain" (5, 11–12). Indeed, the land turns around (the order of things is overturned) as does a potter's wheel. He who was a robber is lord of wealth, [⌈the rich man⌉] is (now) one plundered (2, 8–9). "Indeed, chests of ebony are smashed and luxurious acacia-wood is split into ⌈billets⌉" (3, 4–6). "Indeed, gates, columns, and ⌈walls⌉ are burned up" (2, 10). As in the Song of the Harper and the despair of the Misanthrope, the provisions for the dead are violated and serve no purpose. "Behold, though one be buried as a (royal) falcon on the bier, that which the pyramid concealed (the sepulchre) has become empty" (7, 2). When even the royal tombs are not respected men make but little attempt to build a tomb. "Indeed, many dead are buried in the river; the stream is a tomb and the embalming place has become a stream" (2, 6–7). "Those who were in the embalming place are laid away on the high ground" (instead of in a tomb) (4, 4). "Behold, the owners of tombs are driven out upon the high ground."

Thus, as the figure of the "potter's wheel" suggests, all is overturned. Social conditions have suffered complete upheaval. In the longest series of utterances all similarly constructed, in the document, the sage sets forth the altered conditions of certain individuals and classes of society, each utterance contrasting what was with what now is. "Behold, he who had no yoke of oxen is (now) possesser of a herd; and he who found no plough-oxen for himself is (now) owner of a herd. Behold, he who had no grain is (now) owner of granaries; and he who used to fetch grain for himself, (now) has it issued

p. 209

[paragraph continues] (from his own granary)" (9, 3–5). "Behold, the owner of wealth (now) passes the night thirsting (instead of banqueting); and he who used to beg for himself his dregs is now owner of ⌈overflowing⌉ bowls. Behold, the owners of robes are (now) in rags; and he who wove not for himself is (now) owner of fine linen" (7, 10–12). Thus the sage goes on with one contrast after another. In such a state as this society is perishing. "Men are few; he who lays away his fellow in the earth is everywhere" (2, 13–14). "There is dearth of women and no conception (of children); Khnum (creator of man) fashions not (men) by reason of the state of the land."

In the general ruin moral decadence is, of course, involved, though it is not emphasized as the cause of the universal misery. "The man of virtues walks in mourning by reason of what has happened in the land" (1, 8); others say, "If I knew where the god is, then would I make offerings to him" (5, 3). "Indeed, [righteousness] is in the land (only) in this its name; what men do, in appealing to it, is iniquity" 1 (5, 3–4). Little wonder that there is universal despair. "Indeed, mirth has perished, it is no longer made; it is sighing that is in the land, mingled with lamentations" (3, 13–14). "Indeed, great and small [say], 'I would that I might die.' Little children say, 'Would there were none to keep me alive'" (4, 2–3). "Indeed, all small cattle, their hearts weep; the cattle sigh by reason of the state of the land" (5, 5). The sage cannot view all this dispassionately; he, too, is

p. 210

deeply affected by the universal calamity and prays for the end of all. "Would that there might be an end of men, that there might be no conception, no birth. If the land would but cease from noise, and strife be no more" (5, 12–6, 1). He even chides himself that he has not endeavored to save the situation before. "Would that I had uttered my voice at that time, that it might save me from the suffering wherein I am" (6, 5). "Woe is me for the misery in this time!" (6, 8).

Such is the dark picture painted by the Egyptian sage. This arraignment, occupying, as we have said, nearly two-thirds of the document as preserved, must be regarded as setting forth the conditions in Egypt at a very definite time. The close relationship in language, thought, and point of view between this tractate of Ipuwer and the other social pamphlets known to belong to the Feudal Age, leave little question as to the date of our document. The unhappy state of Egypt depicted by the sage must have existed in the obscure and little-known period immediately preceding the Feudal Age (Middle Kingdom).

As might be imagined from the intense grief with which Ipuwer views the misery of the time, he is not content to leave his generation in this hopeless state. He now turns to exhortation, urging his countrymen first to destroy the enemies of the king. Five short utterances (10, 6–11) begin with the words: "Destroy the enemies of the august residence" (of the king), although the papyrus is too fragmentary at this point to determine clearly what followed each repetition of the injunction. At least eight similar injunctions follow, each beginning with the word "Remember!" (10, 12–11, 10) and calling upon all men to resume all sacred observances on behalf of the gods. This second group of exhortations is gradually

p. 211

involved in ever-increasing obscurity as the fragmentary condition of the papyrus grows worse. Out of a large lacuna at last 1 there emerges the most important passage in the entire speech of the sage, and one of the most important in the whole range of Egyptian literature.

In this remarkable utterance the sage looks forward to the restoration of the land, doubtless as a natural consequence of the admonitions to reform which he has just laid upon the hearts of his countrymen. He sees the ideal ruler for whose advent he longs. That ideal king once ruled Egypt as the Sun-god, Re, and as the sage recalls that golden age, he contrasts it with the iniquitous reign under which the land now suffers. "He brings cooling to the flame. It is said he is the shepherd 2 of all men. There is no evil in his heart. When his herds are few, he passes the day to gather them together, their hearts being fevered. 3 Would that he had discerned their character in the first generation. Then would he have smitten evil. He would have stretched forth his arm against it. He would have smitten the ⌈seed⌉ thereof and their inheritance. . . . Where is he to-day? Doth he sleep perchance? Behold his might is not seen" (11, 13–12, 6).

While there is no unquestionably predictive element in this passage, it is a picture of the ideal sovereign, the righteous ruler with "no evil in his heart," who goes about like a "shepherd" gathering his reduced and thirsty herds.

p. 212

[paragraph continues] Such a righteous reign, like that of David, has been, and may be again. The element of hope, that the advent of the good king is imminent, is unmistakable in the final words: "Where is he to-day? Doth he sleep perchance? Behold his might is not seen." With this last utterance one involuntarily adds, "as yet." The peculiar significance of the picture lies in the fact that, if not the social programme, at least the social ideals, the golden dream of the thinkers of this far-off age, already included the ideal ruler of spotless character and benevolent purposes who would cherish and protect his own and crush the wicked. Whether the coming of this ruler is definitely predicted or not, the vision of his character and his work is here unmistakably lifted up by the ancient sage—lifted up in the presence of the living king and those assembled with him, that they may catch something of its splendor. This is, of course, Messianism nearly fifteen hundred years before its appearance among the Hebrews." 1

p. 213

In the mind of the sage the awful contrast between the rule of the ideal king and that of the living Pharaoh in whose presence he stands now calls forth the fiercest denunciation of his sovereign. Like Nathan 1 with his biting words, "Thou art the man," he places the responsibility for all that he has so vividly recalled upon the shoulders of the king. "Taste, Knowledge, and Righteousness are with thee," he says, (but) "it is strife which thou puttest in the land, together with the sound of tumult. Lo, one makes attack upon another. Men conform to that which thou hast commanded. If three men go upon a road, they are found to be two, (for) they who are many slay the few. Is there a herdman who loves death, (that is, for his herds)? Wherefore thou commandest

p. 214

to make answer: 'It is because one man loves, (but) another hates' . . . (Nay, I say) thou hast (so) done as to bring forth these things. Thou hast spoken lies" (12, 12–13, 2). Having thus given the king the lie in response to his supposed reply, the wise man for a moment reverts to description of the desolate condition of society which occupied him in the long arraignment. The progress of his thought, however, is toward the future betterment to which he admonished after the conclusion of the arraignment, and his bitter denunciation of the king; now, therefore, the misery for which he is responsible merges into a final picture of "joy and prosperity" (13, 9–14, 5) in eight strophes, each beginning with a refrain of somewhat uncertain meaning.

The sage has completed his long address, and the king now actually replies, though we are unable to recover it from the broken fragments of the tattered page on which

p. 215

it appears. A brief reply of Ipuwer ensues, beginning, "That which Ipuwer said when he replied to the majesty of the sovereign." It is very obscure, but seems to remind the king ironically that he has but done what the inertia and indifference of a corrupt generation desired, and here, as Gardiner shows, the tractate probably ended.

In recognizing the depths to which a degenerate and corrupt society and government have descended, our sage has much in common with the Misanthrope. The latter, however, found his individual fortunes so fatally involved in the general catastrophe that there was no hope, and he desired death as the only solution. Ipuwer, on the other hand, quite unmistakably looks toward a future redemption of society. The appearance in this remote age of the necessary detachment and the capacity to contemplate society, things before unknown in the thought of man, is a significant phenomenon. Still more significant, however, is this vision of the possible redemption of society, and the agent of that redemption as a righteous king, who is to shield his own and to purge the earth of the wicked. This is but the earliest emergence of a. social idealism which among the Hebrews we call "Messianism." Such a conception might go far in the early East. After centuries of circulation in Egypt, the tale picturing the trial of the virtue of a good youth, as we have it in the Story of the Two Brothers, passed over into Palestine, to be incorporated in the mosaic which has descended to us as the story of Joseph. How such materials migrated among the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean has been demonstrated by the recent recovery of the Aramaic original of the Story of Akhikar. Under these circumstances it is more than possible that the imagination of the literary prophets of the Hebrews was first touched by some knowledge

p. 216

of the Egyptian vision of the ideal age and the ideal king set forth in such a tractate as that of Ipuwer, and wandering into Palestine, as did the Tale of the Two Brothers.

We see, then, that not all of the social thinkers at the court of the Pharaoh in the Feudal Age shared the unqualified pessimism which we had thus far found in their earlier teachings; nor, on the other hand, did they follow exclusively the fair but elusive vision of this Messianic dreamer. Not an ideal king only, but a body of just officials should usher in the era of social justice in the thought of some. The men of this school as they scanned life, held wholesome and practical principles of right living applicable to the daily situation of the average member of the official class. These views have found expression in at least two tractates which have descended to us: The Eloquent Peasant and the Wisdom of Ptahhotep. The first, whose author, as so commonly in this impersonal age, we do not know, is in the form of a picturesque Oriental tale, conceived solely to furnish a dramatic setting for a series of disquisitions on the proper character and spirit of the just official, and the resulting social and administrative justice toward the poor. It is not a little interesting to discern this ancient thinker of four thousand years ago wrestling with a difficulty which has since then continued to be one of the most refractory problems of all administrators in the East, a problem which has not been wholly solved even under the skilled and experienced administration of England in Egypt at the present day.

The tale of the Eloquent Peasant is as follows. 1 A

p. 217

peasant of the Fayum region in the Natron district, living in a village called the Salt-Field, loads a small train of donkeys with the produce of his village and goes down to Heracleopolis, near the mouth of the Fayum, to trade for grain. On the way thither he is obliged to pass the establishment of one Thutenakht, a subordinate official among the people of Rensi, 1 who was grand steward of the Pharaoh himself, Heracleopolis being the royal residence at the time in which the action is placed (Ninth or Tenth Dynasty). Now, when Thutenakht sees the donkeys of the peasant approaching, he at once devises a plan for seizing them. Sending a servant hastily to the house, he secures thence some pieces of linen, which he spreads out in the highway so as to fill it entirely from the edge of the grain-field on the upper side to the water of the canal on the lower. The unsuspecting peasant approaches, as the tale, with a discernible touch of the writer's indignation, states, "on the way belonging to every one," which Thutenakht has thus blocked. Fearing the water below, the peasant turns upward to skirt the edge of the grain-field.

p. 218

[paragraph continues] As the donkeys pass, one of them nips a mouthful of the tempting grain, at once affording the wily Thutenakht the opportunity he desired. The peasant pathetically maintains the attitude and the speech of deprecatory but not servile courtesy, until with loud complaint Thutenakht seizes the asses. Thereupon the peasant repeats his former courteous remonstrance, but adds a bold protest. "My way is right. One side is blocked. I bring my ass along the edge thereof, and thou seizest him because he has plucked a mouthful of the grain. Now, I know the lord of this domain. It belongs to the grand steward, Meru's son, Rensi. Now, it is he who drives off every robber in this whole land. Shall I then be robbed in his domain!" Infuriated by the peasant's boldness, Thutenakht seizes a branch of green tamarisk, mercilessly beats his victim, and, in spite of the peasant's cries and protests, drives off the asses to his own quarters. After four days of fruitless pleading for the return of the asses, the unhappy peasant, all the time knowing that his family at home is on the verge of starvation, determines to apply to the grand steward himself, on whose domain the outrage occurred. He is the more encouraged in so doing by the proverbial reputation for justice which the grand steward enjoys. As the peasant approaches the city, he fortunately meets the grand steward issuing from the shore-gate of his estate and going down to embark in his state barge on the canal. By the most ceremonious politeness and complete command of the current diplomacy of address, the peasant gains the ear of the great man for a moment as he passes, so that he sends a body-servant to hear the peasant's story. When the servant has returned and communicated Thutenakht's theft to Rensi, the grand steward lays the affair before his suite of officials.

p. 219

[paragraph continues] Their reply is the author's skilfully created occasion for bringing before the reader, without comment, the current and conventional treatment of such complaints of the poor in official circles. The colleagues of the grand steward at once range themselves on the side of their subordinate, the thievish Thutenakht. They reply to Rensi, with much indifference, that the case is probably one of a peasant who has been paying his dues to the wrong superior officer, and that Thutenakht has merely seized dues which rightfully belonged to him. They ask with indignation, "Shall Thutenakht be punished for a little natron and a little salt? (Or at most) let it be commanded him to replace it and he will replace it." It is characteristic of their class that they quite ignore the asses, the loss of which means starvation to the peasant and his family.

Meantime the peasant stands by and hears his fatal loss thus slurred over and ignored by those in authority. The grand steward meanwhile stands musing in silence. It is a tableau which epitomizes ages of social history in the East: on the one hand, the brilliant group of the great man's sleek and subservient suite, the universal type of the official class; and, on the other, the friendless and forlorn figure of the despoiled peasant, the pathetic personification of the cry for social justice. This scene is one of the earliest examples of that Oriental skill in setting forth abstract principles in concrete situations, so wonderfully illustrated later in the parables of Jesus. Seeing that the grand steward makes no reply, the peasant makes another effort to save his family and himself from the starvation which threatens them all. He steps forward and with amazing eloquence addresses the great man in whose hands his case now rests, promising

p. 220

him a fair voyage as he embarks on the canal and voicing the fame of the grand steward's benevolence on which he had reckoned. "For thou art the father of the orphan, the husband of the widow, the brother of the forsaken, the kilt of the motherless. Let me put thy name in this land above every good law, O leader free from avarice, great man free from littleness, who destroys falsehood and brings about truth. Respond to the cry which my mouth utters, when I speak, hear thou. Do justice, thou who art praised, whom the praised praise. Relieve my misery. Behold me, I am heavy laden; prove me, to I am in sorrow." 1

The grand steward is so pleased with the peasant's extraordinary readiness in speech, that he leaves him without giving any decision in his case, and proceeds at once to the court, where he says to the king: "My lord, I have found one of these peasants who is verily beautiful of speech." The king, greatly pleased, charges the grand steward to lead the peasant on without giving him a decision, in order that he may deliver himself of further addresses. The king likewise commands that what the peasant says shall be carefully written down, and that meantime he shall be supplied with food and maintenance and that a servant be sent to his village to see that his family suffers no want in the interval. As a result of these arrangements, the peasant makes no less than eight successive appeals to Rensi.

These addresses to the grand steward at first reflect the grievous disappointment of the peasant in view of the great man's reputation for unswerving justice. He therefore begins his second address with reproaches, which

p. 221

[paragraph continues] Rensi interrupts with threats. The peasant, like Ipuwer in his arraignment of the king, is undaunted and continues his reproof. The third speech reverts to praises like those of his first appeal to Rensi. "O grand steward, my lord! Thou art Re, lord of the sky together with thy court. All the affairs of men (are thine). Thou art like the flood (inundation), thou art the Nile that makes green the fields and furnishes the waste lands. Ward off the robber, protect the wretched, become not a torrent against him who pleads. Take heed, (for) eternity draws near. Prefer acting as it is (proverbially) said, 'It is the breath of the nostrils to do justice' (or 'right, righteousness, truth'). Execute punishment on him to whom punishment is due, and none shall be like thy correctness. Do the balances err? Does the scale-beam swerve to one side? . . . Speak not falsehood, (for) thou art great (and therefore responsible). Be not light, (for) thou art weighty. Speak not falsehood, for thou art the balances. Swerve not, for thou art a correct sum. Lo, thou art at one with the balances. If they tip (falsely) thou tippest (falsely). . . . Thy tongue is the index (of the balances), thy heart is the weight, thy two lips are the beam thereof" (11. 140–167).

These comparisons of the grand steward's character and functions with the balances appear repeatedly in the speeches of the peasant. 1 Their lesson is evident. The norm of just procedure is in the hands of the ruling class. If they fail, where else shall it be found? It is expected that they shall weigh right and wrong and reach a just decision with the infallibility of accurate balances. They form a symbol which became widely current in Egyptian

p. 222

life, till the scales appear as the graphic means of depicting the judgment of each soul in the hereafter. Indeed in the hands of blind Justice they have survived even into our own day. But this symbol had its origin among these social thinkers of the Feudal Age in Egypt four thousand years ago. It should be noticed, too, that the peasant reminds the grand steward of his own appearance before the judgment of the impartial balances. "Take heed," says he, "(for) eternity draws near." This is one of few appeals against injustice to the future responsibility of the oppressor. It is found once more also in this document, in the second speech of the peasant. 1

The threats of the peasant now prove too keen for the grand steward as he stands before the palace, and he despatches two servants to flog the unhappy man. Nevertheless he awaits Rensi's coming, as he issues from the state temple of the residence, to address him in a fourth speech, and proceeds then in a fifth to even sharper denunciation. "Thou art appointed," he says, "to hear causes, to judge two litigants, to ward off the robber. But thou makest common cause with the thief. Men love thee, although thou art a transgressor. Thou art set for a dam for the afflicted, to save him from drowning." 2

Still there is no response from Rensi, and the peasant begins a sixth address with renewed appeal to the great man's sense of justice and his reputation for benevolence. "O grand steward, my lord! ⌈Destroy⌉ falsehood, bring about justice. Bring about every good thing, destroy [every evil] thing; like the coming of satiety, that it may end hunger; (or) clothing, that it may end nakedness; like the peaceful sky after the violent tempest, that it may

p. 223

warm those who suffer cold; like fire that cooks what is raw; like water that quenches thirst." 1

As Rensi remains unresponsive to this appeal, the wretched peasant is again goaded to denunciation. "Thou art instructed, thou art educated, thou art taught, but not for robbery. Thou art accustomed to do like all men and thy kin are (likewise) ensnared. (Thou) the rectitude of all men, art the (chief) transgressor of the whole land. The gardener of evil, waters his domain with iniquity that his domain may bring forth falsehood, in order to flood the estate with wickedness." 2 Even such denunciation seems now to leave the grand steward entirely indifferent and the peasant approaches for his seventh speech. He begins with the usual florid encomium in which the grand steward is the "rudder of the whole land according to whose command the land sails," 3 but turns soon to his own miserable condition. "My body is full, and my heart is burdened," he complains; "there is a break in the dam and the waters thereof rush out. (Thus) my mouth is opened to speak." Then as the indifference of this man of just and benevolent reputation continues, the unhappy peasant's provocation is such that the silence of the grand steward appears as something which would have aroused the speech of the most stupid and faltering of pleaders. "There is none silent whom thou wouldst not have roused to speech. There is none sleeping whom thou wouldst not have wakened. There is none unskilled whom thou wouldst not have made efficient. There is no closed mouth which thou wouldst not have opened. There is none ignorant

p. 224

whom thou wouldst not have made wise. There is none foolish whom thou wouldst not have taught." 1 Unable to restrain the tide of his indignation, therefore, the peasant goes on to his eighth speech and continued denunciation. "Thy heart is avaricious; it becomes thee not. Thou robbest; it profiteth thee not. . . . The officials who were installed to ward off iniquity are a refuge for the unbridled, (even) the officials who were installed to ward off falsehood." 2 The appeal to justice, however, is not abandoned, and the peasant returns to it in the most remarkable utterances in this remarkable tractate. "Do justice for the sake of the lord of justice . . . thou (who art) Pen and Roll and Writing Palette, (even) Thoth 3 who art far from doing evil. . . . For justice (or 'righteousness, right, truth') is for eternity. It descends with him that doeth it into the grave, when he is placed in the coffin and laid in the earth. His name is not effaced on earth; he is remembered because of good. Such is the exact summation of the divine word." Upon these impressive words follows naturally the question whether, in spite of this, injustice is still possible; and so the peasant asks: "Do the balances indeed swerve? Do the scales indeed incline to one side?" Or is it merely that no decision at all has been reached to right the shameful wrong which he has suffered? And yet the just magistrate who might have righted it has been present from the beginning. "Thou hast not been sick, thou hast not fled, thou hast not ⌈hidden thyself⌉! (But) thou hast not given me requital for this good word which came out of

p. 225

the mouth of Re himself: 'Speak the truth, do the truth. 1 For it is great, it is mighty, it is enduring. The reward thereof shall find thee, and it shall follow (thee) unto blessedness hereafter.'" 2

No response from Rensi follows these noble words. The peasant lifts up his voice again in a final despairing plea, his ninth address. He reminds the grand steward of the dangers of consorting with deceit; he who does so "shall have no children and no heirs on earth. As for him who sails with it (deceit), he shall not reach the land, and his vessel shall not moor at her haven. . . . There is no yesterday for the indifferent. There is no friend for him who is deaf to justice. There is no glad day for the avaricious. . . . Lo, I make my plea to thee, but thou hearest it not. I will go and make my plea because of thee to Anubis." In view of the fact that Anubis is a god of the dead, the peasant doubtless means that he goes to take his own life. The grand steward sends his servants to bring him back as he departs, and some unintelligible words pass between them. Meantime, Rensi "had committed to a roll every petition (of the peasant) unto [this] day." It is supposedly a copy of this roll which has descended to us; but, unfortunately, the conclusion has been torn off. We can only discern that the roll prepared by Rensi's secretaries is taken by him to the king, who found "it more pleasant to (his) heart than anything in this whole land." 3 The king commands

p. 226

the grand steward to decide the peasant's case, the attendants bring in the census-rolls, which determine where he officially belongs, his exact legal and social status, the number of people in his household, and the amount of his property. Less than a dozen broken words follow, from which it is probable that Thutenakht was punished, and that the possessions of that greedy and plundering official were bestowed upon the peasant.

The high ideal of justice to the poor and oppressed set forth in this tale is but a breath of that wholesome moral atmosphere which pervades the social thinking of the official class. It is remarkable, indeed, to find these aristocrats of the Pharaoh's court four thousand years ago sufficiently concerned for the welfare of the lower classes to have given themselves the trouble to issue what are very evidently propaganda for a régime of justice and kindness toward the poor. They were pamphleteers in a crusade for social justice. They have made this particular pamphlet, too, very pleasant reading for the patrician class to whom it was directed. In spite of the constant obscurity of the language, the florid style, and the bold and extreme figures of speech, it enjoyed a place as literature of a high order in its day. It is evidently in the approved style of its age, and the pungent humor which here and there reaches the surface could but enhance the literary reputation of the tractate in the estimation of the humor-loving Egyptians. But it was literature with a moral purpose.

It is probable that the Wisdom of Ptahhotep, 1 the other

p. 227

social tractate of the official class, did not enjoy the same popularity. It is not so clearly cast in the form of a tale, though it does not lack dramatic setting. Like the Eloquent Peasant, the action is placed under an earlier king. Indeed, the most important manuscript of Ptahhotep purports to contain also the wisdom of a still earlier sage who lived a thousand years before the Feudal Age. The composition attributed to the earlier wise man preceded that of Ptahhotep in the roll and probably formed its beginning and first half. All but a few passages at the end have been torn off, but its conclusion is instructive as furnishing part of the historical setting of earlier days in which this school of sages were wont to place their teachings. Following the last fourteen lines of his instruction, all that is preserved, we find the conclusion of the unknown sage's life:

"The vizier (for such he purports to have been) caused his children to be summoned, after he had discerned the

p. 228

fashion of men and their character ⌈came to him⌉. 1 . . . He said to them: As for everything that is in writing in this roll, hear it as I say it ⌈as an added obligation⌉.' They threw themselves upon their bellies, they read it according to that which was in writing. It was pleasanter to their hearts than anything that is in this whole land. 2 Then they rose up and they sat down accordingly. Then the majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Huni died, and the majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Snefru was established as excellent king in this whole land. Then Kegemne was appointed to be governor of the (residence) city and vizier. It (the book) is ended." 3 Presumably, the career of the nameless old vizier and sage of the Third Dynasty, into whose mouth the wisdom of the Twelfth Dynasty was put, ended with the life of his king and the advent of a new vizier. 4 It is evident that social ethics as taught by the sages of the Twelfth Dynasty (Feudal Age) was also commonly attributed by them to the viziers of the Pyramid Age, for we shall find that this was the case also with the Wisdom of Ptahhotep, which was the next roll taken up by the copyist as he resumed this pen, leaving an interval to mark the end of the old book which he had just finished.

The Wisdom of Ptahhotep begins: "The instruction of the governor of the city and vizier, Ptahhotep, under the majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Isesi, who lives for ever and ever. The governor of the city and vizier Ptahhotep says, O king, my lord, infirmity comes on, old age advances, the limbs weaken,

p. 229

[paragraph continues] ⌈feebleness⌉ is renewed, strength perishes because of the languor of the heart (understanding). The mouth is silent and speaks not; the eyes wax small, the ears are dulled. The languid heart sleeps every day. The heart forgets, it remembers not yesterday. . . . That which is good becomes evil. All taste departs. That which old age does to people is evil in everything. The nostrils are stopped up, they breathe not. It is evil whether one stands or sits. Let thy servant be commanded to furnish the staff of old age. 1 Let my son stand in my place, and let me instruct him according to the word of those who have heard the manner of the ancestors, that (word) which the forefathers served, (variant: "which the gods have heard"). May they do likewise for thee; may revolt be suppressed among the people (of Egypt), may the Two Lands serve thee."'

"Said his majesty: 'Instruct him after the word of old. May he do marvels among the children of the princes. . . .'"

The Wisdom of Ptahhotep then purports to have been uttered by a historical personage on a particular occasion. In the Fifth Dynasty, to which king Isesi belonged, there was indeed a line of viziers named Ptahhotep, who transmitted the office from father to son. The reign of Isesi fell about five hundred years earlier than the Feudal Age in which we find his wise vizier's wisdom in circulation. Ptahhotep petitions the king to appoint his son to the vizierial office in his place, because of advancing old age, the ills of which he graphically enumerates. In order

p. 230

that his son may be informed in the duties of so important an office, the vizier craves of the king permission to instruct him. While it is characteristic of the attitude of the inner official circle that the wisdom communicated should be designated as that which has descended from the fathers, its cautious mandates for right and wholesome living and for discreet official conduct may quite conceivably represent the sum total of the ripe experience of many generations of official life. While such men as the Misanthrope, Khekheperre-sonbu, and to a large extent also even Ipuwer had lost all confidence in the conventional virtue of the official world, the doctrines of the Eloquent Peasant and the Wisdom of Ptahhotep reveal to us that at least a nucleus of the best men of the official class and the court still felt confidence in the good old manner of living which had come down from their predecessors, if carefully conserved, and the principles of virtue persistently inculcated. Like all such fancied conservation, it contains clear evidences of the current and modern point of view, so much so indeed that there is ground for another interpretation of the historical setting, namely, that it was used merely to give prestige to a set of teachings which were for the most part modern. If so, the device is in sharp contrast with the open avowal of Khekheperre-sonbu that he sought new views and words which had not become hackneyed by generations of use.

Having received the king's permission, Ptahhotep enters upon the instruction of his son. "Beginning of the sayings of the good word which the hereditary prince, the count, the divine father, the priest, the eldest son of the king, of his body, the governor of the city, the vizier, Ptahhotep said, as instruction of the ignorant to knowledge, according to the correctness of the good word, as a

p. 231

profitable thing for him who is obedient to it, and as an evil thing for him who transgresses it." 1

The introduction concludes with a short paragraph on the desirability of humility in wisdom in spite of its high value. Then begin the forty-three paragraphs into which the Wisdom of Ptahhotep is divided. There is not space here either for the entire text of this excessively difficult tractate or for the commentary necessary to make it intelligible to the modern reader. Nor even so, on the basis of our modern knowledge of the language, is it possible to render the document as a whole. 2

The following table of the rubrics heading the paragraphs and suggesting in each case the subject discussed will serve, however, to indicate the ground which the wise man endeavored to cover. Where distinctly ethical problems are involved I have added to the rubric as much of the text as I found intelligible.

1. "If thou findest a wise man in his time, a leader of understanding more excellent than thou, bend thy arms and bow thy back" 3 (5, 10–12).

2. "If thou findest a wise man in his time, thy equal, . . . be not silent when he speaks evil. Great is the approval by those who hear, and thy name will be good in the knowledge of the princes" (5, 13–14).

3. "If thou findest a wise man in his time, a poor man

p. 232

and not thy equal, be not overbearing against him when he is unfortunate" (6, 1–2).

4. "If thou art a leader (or 'administrator') issuing ordinances for the multitude, seek for thee every excellent matter, that thy ordinance may endure without evil therein. Great is righteousness (truth, right, justice), enduring . . .; it has not been disturbed since the time of Osiris" (6, 3–7).

5. "Put no fear (of thee?) among the people. . . . What the god commands is that which happens. Therefore live in the midst of quiet. What they (the gods?) give comes of itself" (6, 8–10).

6. "If thou art a man of those who sit by the seat of a man greater than thou, take what (food) he gives, . . . look at what is before thee, and bombard 1 him not with many glances (don't stare at him). . . . Speak not to him until he calls. One knows not what is unpleasant to (his) heart. Speak thou when he greets thee, and what thou sayest will be agreeable to (his) heart" (6, 11–7, 3).

7. "If thou art a man of ⌈those who⌉ enter, whom (one) prince sends to (another) prince, . . . execute for him the commission according as he saith. Beware of [altering-I a word which (one) prince ⌈speaks⌉ to (another) prince, by displacing the truth with the like of it" (7, 3–5).

8. "If thou ploughest and there is growth in the field, the god gives it (as) increase in thy hand. Satisfy not thine own mouth beside thy kin" (7, 5–6).

9. "If thou art insignificant, follow an able man and all thy proceedings shall be good before the god" (7, 7–8).

10. "Follow thy desire as long as thou livest. Do not more than is told (thee). Shorten not the time of following desire. It is an abomination to encroach upon the

p. 233

time thereof. ⌈Take⌉ no ⌈care⌉ daily beyond the maintenance of thy house. When possessions come, follow desire, (for) possessions are not complete when he (the owner) is ⌈harassed⌉ (7, 9–10).

11. "If thou art an able man" (give attention to the conduct of thy son) (7, 10–8, 1).

12. "If thou art in the judgment-hall, standing or sitting" (8, 2–6).

13. "If thou art together with people" (8, 6–11).

14. "Report thy procedure without ⌈reservation⌉. Present thy plan in the council of thy lord" (8, 11–13).

15. "If thou art a leader" (or "administrator") (8, 14–9, 3).

16. "If thou art a leader (or 'administrator'), hear ⌈quietly⌉ the speech of the petitioner. He who is suffering wrong desires that his heart be cheered to do that on account of which he has come. . . . It is an ornament of the heart to hear kindly" (9, 3–6).

17. "If thou desirest to establish friendship in a house, into which thou enterest as lord, as brother, or as friend, wheresoever thou enterest in, beware of approaching the women. . . . A thousand men are undone for the enjoyment of a brief moment like a dream. Men gain (only) death for knowing them" (9, 7–13).

18. "If thou desirest that thy procedure be good, withhold thee from all evil, beware of occasion of avarice. . . . He who enters therein does not get on. It corrupts fathers, mothers, and mother's brothers. It ⌈divides⌉ wife and man; it is plunder (made up) of everything evil; it is a bundle of everything base. Established is the man whose standard is righteousness, who walks according to its way. He is used to make his fortune thereby, (but) the avaricious is houseless" (9, 13–10, 5).

p. 234

19. "Be not avaricious in dividing. . . . Be not avaricious toward thy kin. Greater is the fame of the gentle than (that of) the harsh" (10, 5–8).

20. "If thou art successful, establish thy house. Love thy wife in husbandly embrace, fill her body, clothe her back. The recipe for her limbs is ointment. Gladden her heart as long as thou livest. She is a profitable field for her lord" (10, 8–12). 1

21. "Satisfy those who enter to thee (come into thy office) with that which thou hast" (11, 1–4).

22. "Repeat not a word of ⌈hearsay⌉" (11, 5–7).

23. "If thou art an able man who sits in the council of his lord, summon thy understanding to excellent things. Be silent" (for speech is difficult) (11, 8–11).

24. "If thou art a strong man, establish the respect of thee by wisdom and by quietness of speech" (11, 12–12, 6).

25. "⌈Approach⌉ not a prince in his time" 2 (12, 6–9).

26. "Instruct a prince (or 'official') in that which is profitable for him" (12, 9–13).

27. "If thou art the son of a man of the council, commissioned to content the multitude, . . . be not partial. Beware lest he (the man of the multitude?) say, 'His plan is ([that of") the princes. He utters the word in partiality" (13, 1–4).

28. "If thou art gentle ⌈in⌉ a matter that occurs" (13, 4–5).

29. "If thou becomest great after thou wert little, and gettest possessions after thou wert formerly poor in the city, . . . be not ⌈proud⌉-hearted because of thy wealth. It has come to thee as a gift of the god" (13, 6–9).

p. 235

30. "Bend thy back to thy superior, thy overseer of the king's house, and thy house shall endure because of his (or 'its') possessions and thy reward shall be in the place thereof. It is evil to show disobedience to a superior. One lives as long as he is gentle" (13, 9–14, 4).

31. "Do not practise corruption of children" (14, 4–6).

32. "If thou searchest the character of a friend, . . . transact the matter with him when he is alone" (14, 6–12).

33. "Let thy face be bright as long as thou livest. ⌈As for what goes out of the storehouse, it comes not in again; and as for loaves (already) distributed, he who is concerned therefor has still an empty stomachs⌉" ("There is no use crying over spilt milk?") (14, 12–15, 2).

34. "Know thy merchants when thy fortunes are evil" (15, 2–5).

35. Quite uncertain (15, 5–6).

36. "If thou takest a wife" (15, 6–8).

37. "If thou hearkenest to these things which I have said to thee, all thy plans will progress. As for the matter of the righteousness thereof, it is their worth. The memory thereof shall ⌈circulate⌉ in the mouths of men, because of the beauty of their utterances. Every word will be carried on and not perish in this land forever. . . . He who understands ⌈discretion⌉ is profitable in establishing that through which he succeeds on earth. A wise man is ⌈satisfied⌉ by reason of that which he knows. As for a prince of good qualities, ⌈they are in⌉ his heart and his tongue. His lips are right when he speaks, his eyes see, and his ears together hear what is profitable for his son. Do right (righteousness, truth, justice), free from lying" (15, 8–16, 2).

38. "Profitable is hearkening for a son that hearkens. . . . How good it is when a son receives that which his

p. 236

father says. He shall reach advanced age thereby. A hearkener is one whom the god loves. Who hearkens not is one whom the god hates. It is the heart (= understanding) which makes its possessor a hearkener or one not hearkening. The life prosperity and health of a man is his heart. The hearkener is one who hears and speaks. He who does what is said, is one who loves to hearken. How good it is when a son hearkens to his father! How happy is he to whom these things are said! . . . His memory is in the mouth of the living who are on earth and those who shall be" (16, 3–12).

39. "If the son of a man receives what his father says, none of his plans will miscarry. Instruct as thy son one who hearkens, who shall be successful in the judgment of the princes, who directs his mouth according to that which is said to him. . . . How many mishaps befall him who hearkens not! The wise man rises early to establish himself, while the fool is ⌈scourged⌉" (16, 13–17, 4).

40. "As for the fool who hearkens not, he accomplishes nothing. He regards wisdom as ignorance, and what is profitable as diseased. . . . His life is like death thereby, . . . he dies, living every day. Men pass by (avoid?) his qualities, because of the multitude of evils upon him every day" (17, 4–9).

41. "A son who hearkens is a follower of Horus. He prospers after he hearkens. He reaches old age, he attains reverence. He speaks likewise to his (own) children, renewing the instruction of his father. Every man who instructs is like his sire. He speaks with his children; then they speak to their children. Attain character, . . . make righteousness to flourish and thy children shall live" (17, 10–18, 12).

42. Concerns "thy heart" (understanding) and "thy

p. 237

mouth." "Let thy attention be steadfast as long as thou speakest, whither thou directest thy speech. May the princes who shall hear say, 'How good is that which comes out of his mouth!"' (18, 12–19, 3).

43. "So do that thy lord shall say to thee, 'How good is the instruction of his father from whose limbs he came forth! He has spoken to him; it is in (his) body throughout. Greater is that which he has done than that which was said to him.' Behold, a good son, whom the god gives, renders more than that which his lord says to him. He does right (righteousness, etc.), his heart acts according to his way. According as thou attainest me ('what I have attained'), thy limbs shall be healthy, the king shall be satisfied with all that occurs, and thou shalt attain years of life not less [⌈than⌉] I have passed on earth. I have attained one hundred and ten years of life, while the king gave to me praise above (that of) the ancestors (in the vizierial office) because I did righteousness for the king even unto the place of reverence (the grave)" 1 (19, 3–8).

In the Wisdom of Ptahhotep we have what purports to be the ripe worldly wisdom of a seasoned old statesman and courtier, with a long life of experience with men and affairs behind him. Nor do they in any way belie their assumed authorship. It is easy to picture a self-satisfied old prince looking back with vast complacency upon his long career, and drawing out of his wide experience, with no attempt at arrangement, the precepts of conduct, official and personal, which he has found valuable. As a matter of fact, however, it is evident that

p. 238

we have here a collection of precepts which had grown up among the officials of the Egyptian state when this compilation was made, and put into the mouth of Ptah-hotep. Some of them are doubtless much older than the collection itself; but in the main they reflect to us the conventional daily philosophy of the wisest among the official body in the Feudal Age.

Over half of these admonitions deal with personal character and conduct, while the remainder have to do with administration and official conduct. 1 In general they inculcate gentleness, moderation, and discretion without lack of self-assertion, displaying indeed the soundest good sense in the poise and balance to which they commend the young man. There is none of the sombre pessimism of the Misanthrope or Khekheperre-sonbu. Life is abundantly worth while. A wholesome amount of pleasure is to be taken, and official or other burdens are not to be allowed to curtail the hours of relaxation (see paragraph 10). Moreover, a man should always wear a cheerful face, for "there is no use in crying over spilt milk." Finally the dominant note is a commanding moral earnestness which pervades the whole homely philosophy of the old vizier's wisdom. The most prominent imperative throughout is "do right," and "deal justly with all."

So prominent are justice, character, and moral ideals in the surviving documents of this great age, that I am

p. 239

confident we should place here the Installation of the Vizier, a traditional address orally delivered to the vizier by the king in person whenever a new incumbent was inducted into the vizierial office. 1 This remarkable address shows that the spirit of the Wisdom of Ptahhotep and the Eloquent Peasant was not exclusively a matter of homely proverbial philosophy, current precepts of conduct, or a picturesque story with a moral. This spirit of social justice pervaded even the very structure of the state and had reached the throne itself. The address is as follows:

p. 240

"Regulation laid upon the vizier X. 1 The council was conducted into the audience hall of Pharaoh, Life! Prosperity! Health! One (= the king) caused that there be brought in the vizier X, newly appointed."

"Said his majesty to him, 'Look to the office of the vizier; be watchful over all that is done therein. Behold it is the established support of the whole land.'

"'Behold, as for the vizierate, it is not sweet; behold, it is bitter, as ⌈he is named⌉. [Behold], he is copper enclosing the gold of his [lord's] house. Behold it (the vizierate) is not to show respect-of-persons to princes and councillors; it is not to make for himself slaves of any people.'

"'Behold, as for a man in the house of his lord, his ⌈conduct⌉ is good for him (the lord). (But) lo, he does not the same for another' (than the lord). 2

p. 241

"'Behold, when a petitioner comes from Upper or Lower Egypt (even) the whole land, equipped with . . . see thou to it that everything is done in accordance with law; that everything is done according to the custom thereof, [giving] to [⌈every man⌉] his right. Behold a prince is in a conspicuous place, water and wind report concerning all that he does. For behold, that which is done by him never remains unknown.'

"'When he takes up a matter [for a petition]er according to his case, he (the vizier) shall not proceed by the statement of a departmental officer. 1 But it (the matter under consideration) shall be known by the statement of one designated by him (the vizier), saying it himself in the presence of a departmental officer with the words: "It is not that I raise my voice; (but) I send the petitioner [according to] his [case to ⌈another court⌉] or prince." Then that which has been done by him has not been misunderstood.'

"'Behold the refuge of a prince is to act according to the regulation by doing what is said' (to him). 2 A petitioner who has been adjudged [⌈shall not say⌉]: 'My right has not been given to. [me].'

"'Behold, it is a saying which was in the ⌈vizierial installation⌉ of Memphis in the utterance of the king in urging the vizier to moderation . . . "[Bewar]e of that which is said of the vizier Kheti. It is said that he discriminated against some of the people of his own kin [in favor of] strangers, for fear lest it should be said of him that he [favored] his [kin dishon]estly. When one of

p. 242

them appealed against the judgment which he thought ⌈to make⌉ him, he persisted in his discrimination." Now that is more than justice.'

"'Forget not to judge justice. It is an abomination of the god to show partiality. This is the teaching. Therefore do thou accordingly. Look upon him who is known to thee like him who is unknown to thee; and him who is near the king like him who is far from [his house]. Behold, a prince who does this, he shall endure here in this place.'

"'Pass not over a petitioner without regarding his speech. If there is a petitioner who shall appeal to thee, being one whose speech is not what is said, 1 dismiss him after having let him hear that on account of which thou dismissest him. Behold, it is said: "A petitioner desires that his saying be regarded rather than the hearing of that on account of which he has come."'

"'Be not wroth against a man wrongfully; (but) be thou wroth at that at which one should be wroth.'

"'Cause thyself to be feared. Let men be afraid of thee. A prince is a prince of whom one is afraid. Behold, the dread of a prince is that he does justice. Behold, if a man causes himself to be feared a multitude of times, there is something wrong in him in the opinion of the people. They do not say of him, "He is a man (indeed)." Behold, the ⌈fear⌉ of a prince [⌈deters⌉] the liar, when he (the prince) proceeds according to the dread of him. Behold, this shalt thou attain by administering this office, doing justice.'

"'Behold, men expect the doing of justice in the procedure [of] the vizier. Behold, that is its (justice's) customary

p. 243

[paragraph continues] [⌈law⌉] since the god. Behold, it is said concerning the scribe of the vizier: "A just scribe," is said of him. Now, as for the hall' in which thou "hearest" there is an audience-hall therein [⌈for⌉] ⌈the announcement⌉ of judgments. Now, as for "him who shall do justice before all the people," it is the vizier.'

"'Behold, when a man is in his office, he acts according to what is commanded him. [Behold] the success of a man is that he act according to what is said to him. Make no [⌈delay⌉] at all in justice, the law of which thou knowest. Behold, it becomes the arrogant that the king should love the timid more than the arrogant.' 1

"'Now mayest thou do according to this command that is given thee—behold it is the manner of ⌈success⌉ besides giving thy attention to the ⌈crown⌉-lands, and making the establishment thereof. If thou happenest to inspect, then shalt thou send to inspect the overseer of ⌈land-measuring⌉ and the ⌈patrol of the overseer of land-measuring⌉. If there be one who shall inspect before thee, then thou shalt question him.'

"'[Behold the regulation] that is laid up[on] thee.'"

The chief emphasis throughout this remarkable state document is on social justice. The vizierate is not for the purpose of showing any preference "to princes and councillors" nor to enslave any of the people. All justice administered shall be according to law in every case, not forgetting that the vizier's position is a very conspicuous one, so that all his proceedings are widely known among the people. Even the waters and the winds report his doings to all. Nor does justice mean that any

p. 244

injustice shall be shown those who may be of high station, as in the famous case of the ancient Memphite vizier Kheti, who made a decision against his own kin in spite of the inherent merits of the case. This is not justice. On the other hand, justice means strict impartiality, treating without distinction, known and unknown, him who is near the king's person and him who enjoys no connection with the royal house. Such administration as this will secure the vizier a long tenure of office. While the vizier must display the greatest discretion in his wrath, he must so demean himself as to ensure public respect and even fear, but this fear shall have its sole basis in the execution of impartial justice; for the true "dread of a prince is that he does justice." Hence he will not find it necessary repeatedly and ostentatiously to excite the fear of the people, which produces a false impression among them. The administration of justice will prove a sufficient deterrent. Men expect justice from the vizier's office, for justice has been its customary law since the reign of the Sun-god on earth, and he whom they proverbially call "him who shall do justice before all the people" is the vizier. A man's success in office depends upon his ability to follow instructions. Therefore let there be no delay in the dispensation of justice, remembering that the king loves the timid and defenceless more than the arrogant. Then with a reference to the lands which probably formed the royal fortune, and the inspection of the officials in charge of them, the king concludes this veritable magna charta of the poor with the words: "Behold the regulation that is laid upon thee."

It should be noted that this programme of social kindness and justice, in which the king loves the timid and defenceless more than the powerful and arrogant, is distinctly

p. 245

religious in motive. "It is an abomination of the god," says the king, "to show partiality." Moreover, justice has been the traditional law of the vizier's office since the time when the Sun-god ruled in Egypt. The rule of the Pharaoh which was supposed to continue the blood and the line of Re was likewise continuing the justice of the Sun-god's ancient régime on earth. The king lays his mandate unequivocally upon the vizier, but at the same time he does not hesitate to appeal to a higher court. The vizier must do justice because the great god of the state abhors injustice, and not solely because the king enjoins it. Twelve to thirteen hundred years later we find the Hebrew prophets boldly proclaiming the moral sovereignty of Jehovah as over that of the king, but how many generations of seemingly fruitless ministry were required before this contention of the prophets found expression in the spirit of the Hebrew government, much less in royal pronouncements such as this of the Feudal Age in Egypt. Was it the vision of the ideal king held up at the court by Ipuwer, the sombre picture of the corruption of men painted by the Misanthrope, the picturesque scene of official oppression disclosed in the story of the Eloquent Peasant, or the conventional tableau of father counselling son presented in the Wisdom of Ptahhotep, which finally so enveloped the throne in an atmosphere of social justice that the installation of the prime-minister and chief-justice of the realm, for such the vizier was, called forth from the king a speech from the throne, an official expression by the head of the state to its highest executive officer, embodying the fundamental principles of social justice? We have not been accustomed to associate such principles of government with the early East, nor, indeed, even with the modern Orient.

p. 246

[paragraph continues] Indeed, when we examine the Laws of Hammurabi, which date from the same age, we find the administration of justice conditioned by clear recognition of social classes. For the same crime the penalty and the damages vary according to the social class of the individuals involved. In the Installation of the Egyptian vizier such distinctions are obliterated and all are to be treated alike. When Plato in his essay on Politics made the State the organized embodiment of justice, he probably little knew that fifteen hundred years earlier Egypt had adopted this ideal and endeavored to make it reality; or is this another evidence that Plato had been in Egypt, and an idea which he appropriated there?

The influence of such lofty ideals of social justice, which thus found the highest expression in government, was no doubt in large measure due to the form in which they circulated among all classes. Such doctrines, had they been enunciated as abstract principles, would have attracted little attention and exerted little or no influence. The Egyptian, however, always thought in concrete terms and in graphic forms. He thought not of theft but of a thief, not of love but of a lover, not of poverty but of a poor man: he sees not social corruption but a corrupt society. Hence the Misanthrope, a man in whom social injustice found expression in the picture of a despairing soul who tells of his despair and its causes; hence Ipuwer, a man in whom dwelt the vision to discern both the deadly corruption of society and the golden dream of an ideal king restoring all; hence the Eloquent Peasant, a man suffering official oppression and crying out against it; hence Ptahhotep, a man meeting the obligations of office with wholesome faith in righteous conduct and just administration to engender happiness, and passing on this

p. 247

experience to his son; hence even the Instruction of Amenemhet, a king suffering shameful treachery, losing faith in men and likewise communicating his experience to his son. The result is that the doctrines of these social thinkers were placed in a dramatic setting, and the doctrines themselves find expression in dialogue growing out of experiences and incidents represented as actual. In the East, and doubtless everywhere, such teachings, we repeat, make the most universal and the most powerful appeal in this form. It was the form into which the problem of suffering, as graphically exemplified in the story of Job, most naturally fell. The Story of Akhikar, recently recovered in its ancient Aramaic form, is unquestionably a discourse on the folly of ingratitude which belongs in the same class; while the most beautiful of all such tales, the parables of Jesus, adopt the method and the form for ages current in the East. When Plato wished to discourse on the immortality of the soul, he assumed as his dramatic setting the death of Socrates, and the doctrines which he wished to set forth took the form of conversation between Socrates and his friends. 1 It is hardly conceivable that this method of moralizing and philosophizing in dialogue after an introduction which throws the whole essentially into the form of a tale, a method which produced so many documents in Egypt, had no influence on the emergence of the dialogue form in Asia and Europe. It is not likely that the form originated independently among the Aramæans, Hebrews, and Greeks. The wide international circulation of the Akhikar tale, as we have said before, demonstrates how such literary products could travel, and it is perhaps significant that the

p. 248

oldest form of the Akhikar tale was found in Egypt. In any case it is evident that the form of the teachings of these early social thinkers and reformers contributed much to give them a wide and powerful influence, an influence which finally reached the throne itself, as we have seen.

While we are, unhappily, unable to trace further the influence of these men in the practical legislation of this age, for the laws of Egypt have perished, the pervading power of their teaching is evident in the mortuary inscriptions of the period. We leave the court and journey to the provinces and baronies, where we find on the tomb door of such a baron as Ameni of Benihasan the following account of his administrative policy as lord of a barony:

"There was no citizen's daughter whom I misused, there was no widow whom I afflicted, there was no peasant whom I repulsed (evicted?), there was no herdman whom I repelled, there was no overseer of five whose people I took away for (unpaid) taxes. There was none wretched in my community, there was none hungry in my time. When years of famine came, I ploughed all the fields of the Oryx barony (his estate) as far as its southern and its northern boundary, preserving its people alive, furnishing its food so that there was none hungry therein. I gave to the widow as (to) her who had a husband. I did not exalt the great (man) above the small (man) in anything that I gave. Then came great Niles (inundations), possessors of grain and all things, (but) I did not collect the arrears of the field." 1

In this record we seem to hear an echo of the Installation of the Vizier, especially in the statement, "I did not exalt the great man above the small man in anything

p. 249

that I gave." It is easy to believe that such a baron as this had been present at court and had heard the instructions of the Pharaoh at the vizier's inauguration. If the administration of Ameni was in any measure what he claims for it, we must conclude that the social teachings of the wise at the court were widely known among the great throughout the kingdom. Even though we may conclude that he has idealized his rule to a large extent, we have still to account for his desire to create such an impression as we gain from his biography. It is evident that the ideals of social justice, so insistently set forth in the literature of the age, had not only reached the king, but they had also exerted a profound influence among the ruling class everywhere.

Herein, then, we may discern a great transformation. The pessimism with which the men of the early Feudal Age, 1 as they beheld the desolated cemeteries of the Pyramid Age, or as they contemplated the hereafter, and the hopelessness with which some of them regarded the earthly life were met by a persistent counter-current in the dominant gospel of righteousness and social justice set forth in the hopeful philosophy of more optimistic social thinkers, men who saw hope in positive effort toward better conditions. We must regard the Admonitions of Ipuwer and the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant as striking examples of such efforts, and we must recognize in their writings the weapons of the earliest known group of moral and social crusaders. What more could such a man as Ipuwer have wished than the address delivered by the king at the installation of the vizier? A

p. 250

king capable of delivering such an address approaches the stature of that ideal king of whom Ipuwer dreamed.

There can be no doubt that that ideal king was Re, the moral glories of whose reign were to be renewed in his Pharaonic representative on earth. It is to the approval and to the traditional character of the reign of the Sun-god that the king appealed as the final basis for his instruction to the vizier. It is Re who is dominant in the thinking of these social philosophers of the Feudal Age. In the Song of the Harper even the mummy of the dead is set up before Re. It is to Re that the Misanthrope looks for justification in the hereafter, and Khekheperre-sonbu was a priest of the Sun-city of Heliopolis. Ipuwer's vision of the future ideal king emerges from reminiscence of the blessedness of Re's earthly reign among men; while the summary of the whole appeal of the Eloquent Peasant is contained in "that good word which came out of the mouth of Re himself: 'Speak truth, do truth (or "righteousness"), for it is great, it is mighty, it is enduring." The moral obligations emerging in the Solar theology thus wrought the earliest social regeneration and won the earliest battle for social justice of which we know anything in history. It is evident here also, as in the Pyramid Texts, that the connection of Osiris with ideals of righteousness and justice is secondary. He was tried and found innocent in the great hall at Heliopolis, that is before the Solar bar of justice, recognized, at the time when the Osiris myth was forming, as the tribunal before which he must secure acquittal, and his later exaltation as judge is but the Solarization of the Osirian functions on the basis of the Solar judgeship so common in the Pyramid Texts. In the Pyramid Texts, Osiris had already climbed upon the celestial throne of

p. 251

[paragraph continues] Re; we shall see him now also appropriating Re's judgment-seat. 1

We discern the Egyptians, then, developing at a surprisingly early date a sense of the moral unworthiness of man and a consciousness of deep-seated moral obligation to which he has been largely untrue. Their beginnings lie too far back to be discernible, but as they developed they found practical expression in the idealized kingship whence they were quickly reflected into the character and the activities of Re, the ideal king. The moral obligation which men felt within them became a fiat of the god, their own abomination of injustice soon became that of the god, and their own moral ideals, thus becoming likewise those of the god, gained a new mandatory power. The idealized kingship of Re, the possible recurrence of such a beneficent rule, brought with it golden visions of a Messianic kingdom. Furthermore, Re became the great moral arbiter before whom all might receive justice. Even Osiris had thus been subjected to the moral ordeal before the Sun-god in his great hall of justice at Heliopolis, as the Osirian myth narrates. It is not necessary to deny to early Osirian belief some ethical content, of which we found indications likewise in the local faiths of a number of Egyptian gods of the Pyramid Age; but here again it should not be forgotten that the Pyramid Texts have preserved traces of a view of Osiris which, far from making him the ideal king and the friend of man, discloses him as an enemy of the dead and hostile to men. 2 It is not until the Feudal Age that

p. 252

[paragraph continues] Osiris unmistakably emerges as the champion of righteousness. Ptahhotep, with the complaisant optimism which characterizes his maxims, avers that righteousness has not been "disturbed since the time of Osiris," meaning the time when Osiris ruled on earth as a righteous king. 1 While the political triumph of Re largely created the religious atmosphere which environed these social philosophers of the court, we shall now observe Osiris and Re, side by side, in the moral thinking of the age.

It was now not only religious belief and social axiom, but also formally announced royal policy, that before the bar of justice the great and the powerful must expect the same treatment and the same verdict accorded to the poor and the friendless. It is not the province of these lectures to discover to what extent practical administration made these ideals effective. That is a matter of history for the investigation of which the materials are unhappily very scanty. Later conditions would indicate that the ideal remained largely unrealized. It can hardly be doubted, however, that such doctrines of social justice as we have found in this age contributed powerfully to develop the conviction that not the man of power and wealth, but the man of justice and righteousness, would be acceptable before the great god's judgment-seat. Here then ends the special and peculiar claim of the great and powerful to consideration and to felicity in the hereafter, and the democratization of blessedness beyond the grave begins. The friendless peasant pleading with the grand steward says to him, "Beware! Eternity approaches." Ameni, the great lord of Benihasan, sets forth upon his tomb door, as we have seen, the record of social justice in his treatment of all as the best passport he can devise

p. 253

for the long journey. Over and over again the men of the Feudal Age reiterate in their tombs their claims to righteousness of character. "Sesenebnef has done righteousness, his abomination was evil, he saw it not," 1 says an official of the time on his sarcophagus. The mortuary texts which fill the cedar coffins of this age 2 show clearly that the consciousness of moral responsibility in the hereafter has greatly deepened since the Pyramid Age. The balances of justice to which the peasant appealed so often and so dramatically are now really finding place in the drama of justification hereafter. "The doors of the sky are opened to thy beauty," says one to the deceased; "thou ascendest, thou seest Hathor. Thy evil is expelled, thy iniquity is wiped away, by those who weigh with the balances on the day of reckoning." 3 Just as the peasant so often called the grand steward the balances of justice, so the deceased may be possessed of character as true and unswerving as the scales themselves. Hence we find the Coffin Texts saying, "Lo, this —— (name of the deceased) is the balances of Re, wherewith he weighs truth" (or righteousness). 4 It is evident also whose are the balances of truth and who the judge who presides over them. It is as before the Sun-god, before whom even Osiris had been tried. A similar connection of the judgment with Re places it in the cabin of the Solar barque. 5

The moral requirement of the great judge has become a matter of course. The dead says: "I have led the way before him and behind him. He loves righteousness and hates evil, upon his favorite ways of righteousness whereon

p. 254

the gods lead." 1 When the dead man entered those righteous paths of the gods, it was with a sense of moral unworthiness left behind. "My sin is expelled," he said, "my iniquity is removed. I have cleansed myself in those two great pools which are in Heracleopolis." 2 Those ceremonial washings which were so common in the Pyramid Texts have now become distinctly moral in their significance. "I go upon the way where I wash my head in the Lake of Righteousness," says the dead man. 3 Again and very often the deceased claims that his life has been blameless: "I am one who loved righteousness, my abomination was evil." 4 "I sit down justified, I rise up justified." 5 "I have established righteousness, I have expelled evil." 6 "I am a lord of offering, my abomination is evil." 7

A number of times the Osirian Horus appears as the moral champion of the dead, to whom he says: "I am thy son Horus, I have caused that thou be justified in the council." 8 This of course means the identification of the dead with Osiris, and the enjoyment of the same justification which had been granted Osiris. Hence Horus says to the dead: "O Osiris X! I have given to thee justification against thy enemies on this good day." 9 This justification was of course not that granted by Osiris, but by the Sun-god, as shown by such utterances of Horus as this: "I put righteousness before him (the deceased) like Atum" (the Sun-god). 10 Now, the justification before the Sun-god was accomplished by Thoth, as advocate of the

p. 255

accused, Thoth having been, according to the Solar myth, the vizier of the Sun-god. Hence we find in the Coffin Texts a "Chapter of Justification before Thoth, Hereditary Prince of the Gods," although the text of the chapter unfortunately consists of mortuary ceremonies on behalf of Osiris, and makes but one reference to justification in mentioning "the beautiful paths of justification." 1 In the justification of Osiris himself, Thoth had figured as his defender, and the justification in the foregoing chapter is probably Osirian, though it does not unequivocally make Osiris the judge. The ethical significance of Osiris is evident in a passage where the deceased, identified with Osiris, says: "I perish not, I enter as truth, I [support] truth, I am lord of truth, I go forth as truth, . . . I enter in as truth"; 2 or again where Osiris says: "I am Osiris, the god who does righteousness, I live in it." 3

But Osiris early discloses himself as the judge. We hear in the Coffin Texts of "the Great Council (or court of justice) of Osiris" as early as the Ninth or Tenth Dynasty (twenty-fourth to twenty-second centuries). 4 In the same text the dead (or possibly Horus) says: "I have commanded those who are in the Great Council in the cavern of Osiris; I have repeated it in the presence of Mat (Goddess of Truth), to cause that I prevail over that foe." 5 It is perhaps this council that is meant when the dead is assured, "Thou art justified on the day when judgment is rendered in the council of the Lord of Gem-wet," although I am not certain that Osiris was the Lord of Gemwet. 6 According to another notion there were seven of these "councils" or courts of Osiris, and we find a

p. 256

prayer that the soul of the deceased may be justified "against his enemies in the sky, in the earth, and in these seven councils of Osiris." 1 Doubtless the popularity of Osiris had much to do with the spread of the conviction, now universal, that every soul must meet this ethical ordeal in the hereafter. It now became, or let us say that at the advent of the Middle Kingdom it had become, the custom to append to the name of every deceased person the epithet "justified."

In the Pyramid Texts this epithet had been received only by the Pharaoh, for royal Osirianism identified the king with the justified Osiris and prefixed "Osiris" to the king's name. A new element now entered the old popular Osirianism, and the process which was democratizing the splendid royal hereafter now began to identify every dead man with Osiris, so that he not only as of old entered the kingdom of Osiris to enjoy the god's protection and favor, but he now became Osiris and was conceived as king. Even in burials of simple folk, the mummy was fashioned and laid on the back like that of Osiris, and amulets representing the royal insignia of the Pharaoh were painted on the inside of the coffin or laid beside the body. 2 The popular power of the ancient god is evident in the new custom of prefixing the name of Osiris to that of the dead man. He might be and was frequently identified with the Sun-god too, but as a departed spirit it was by the name of Osiris that he was designated.


199:1 British Museum, 5645. Although long exhibited, its content was first discerned and published by Gardiner, in his Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage, as an Appendix, pp. 95–112 and pls. 17–18. The above rendering is chiefly that of Gardiner.

200:1 Literally "body" or "belly," the seat of mind.

202:1 The text is preserved in seven corrupt hieratic manuscripts of the Empire dating from the age near the end of the reign of Ramses II. The latest and best treatment and text are by Griffith (Zeitschr. für aegyptische Sprache, 34, 35–49). An excellent translation of the clearer passages by Erman in Aus den Papyrus des koeniglichen Museums zu Berlin, 44–45. The above version is indebted to both; see BAR, I, 474–483. For the old bibliography see Maspero, Dawn of Civilization, 467, n. 2.

204:1 So Gardiner. A papyrus in the Leiden Museum, No. 344. It is 378 centimetres long and 18 centimetres high, and contains seventeen pages of writing. Although early published by Leemans in his Aegyptische Monumenten (pls. cv–cxiii), it is in such a bad state of preservation, and is furthermore so obscure and difficult in language and subject-matter, that it resisted the attempts of scholars to determine its content until 1903, when H. O. Lange published a sketch of the document, with selected translations, showing it to be a socio-prophetic tractate: Prophezeiungen eines aegyptischen Weisen, in Sitzungsber. der Kgl. Preuss. Akad., 1903, 601 ff. In 1909 the papyrus was published in extenso, in what will remain the standard edition, by Alan H. Gardiner (The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage, Leipzig, 1909), with fuller discussion and closer determination of the exact character of the document.

205:1 The above translations are chiefly those of Gardiner, who has been commendably cautious in his renderings. Besides his own thorough work on the document, he has incorporated the proverbially penetrating observations and renderings of Sethe.

205:2 This was particularly heinous from the orderly Egyptian's point of view; the withdrawing of writings and records from the public offices for purposes of evidence or consultation was carefully regulated. The regulations governing the vizier's office have survived; see BAR, II, 684.

207:1 Three sorts of wood follow.

207:2 Vocalize Kaftoyew, Caphtor (as first suggested by Spiegelberg), that is Crete.

207:3 This last remark is of course ironical in reference to the fact that the only traffic with the outside world left to Egypt is the scanty produce of the oases which still filters in.

209:1 The restoration of "righteousness" is due to Sethe, and in view of its frequent occurrence, as the opposite of the word here used as "inquity" (ysft), from the Pyramid Texts on, the restoration fits the context admirably, but Gardiner states that the traces in the lacuna do not favor the restoration. The original hieratic of the passage is not included in his publication.

211:1 Latter part of p. 11.

211:2 Or "herdman." The Sun-god is called "a valiant herdman who drives his cattle" in a Sun-hymn of the Eighteenth Dynasty (see below, p. 316), and this, it seems to me, makes quite certain Gardiner's conclusion (on other grounds) that this passage is a description of the reign of Re.

211:3 This probably means thirsty, perhaps a symbol for afflicted. Compare the hearts of the cattle "weeping" above, p. 209.

212:1 Lange first called attention to the Messianic character of this passage. His interpretation, however, was that the passage definitely predicts the coming of the Messianic king. Gardiner has successfully opposed Lange's conclusion as far as prediction is concerned, and by his full and careful commentary has contributed much to our understanding of the passage. But no student of Hebrew prophecy can follow Gardiner in his next step, viz., that by the elimination of the predictive element we deprive the document of its prophetic character. This is simply to import a modern English meaning of the word prophecy as prediction into the interpretation of these ancient documents, particularly Hebrew literature. Gardiner's final conclusion is: "I must once more affirm that there is no certain or even likely trace of prophecies in any part of this book" (Admonitions, p. 17). In the same paragraph he states the "specific problem" of the document to be "the conditions of social and political well-being." This is, of course, the leading theme of Hebrew prophecy. On the basis of any sufficient definition of Hebrew prophecy, including the contemplation of social and political evils, and admonitions for their amelioration, the utterances of p. 213 Ipuwer are prophecy throughout (see infra, p. 215). With reference to the "Messianic" passage above, its Messianic character does not in the slightest depend upon its predictive character. Gardiner is surely right (against Lange) in making the long arraignment not prediction, but a description of actually existent conditions. The admonitions which follow, however, definitely look to the future, in which the sage expects the people to carry out his injunctions. The "Messianic" passage follows directly upon these admonitions, and itself is followed by a rebuke to the king merging into a picture which, in Gardiner's words, describes "the joy and prosperity of the land in a happier age" (ibid., p. 87). Indeed in Gardiner's own opinion the "Messianic" passage concludes with a "return to a consideration of the future prospects of Egypt," so that at the end "we touch firm ground in three sentences that clearly refer to the looked-for (but not necessarily prophesied) redeemer: 'Where is he to-day? Doth he sleep perchance? Behold ye, his might is not seen'" (ibid., p. 80). The parenthesis is Gardiner's, and what he means is, of course, that the "redeemer" is looked for, but not necessarily predicted. It is solely this entirely insufficient conception of Hebrew prophecy as "prediction" which eventuates in Gardiner's conclusion, "that there is too much uncertainty about the matter for it to be made the basis of any far-reaching conclusions as to the influence of Egyptian upon Hebrew literature" (ibid., p. 15). The "uncertainty," p. 214 as Gardiner here specifies it, concerns solely Lange's interpretation of the "Messianic" passage as predictive; though even, according to Gardiner, the latter part of the "Messianic" passage looks forward to a "redeemer" yet to come. The Messianic vision with the Hebrew prophets was often but a great hope, sometimes rising to conviction that the hope would be realized. It was a vision toward the realization of which they desired to contribute. It was but an early form of social idealism, which evidently began (so far as we know) in Egypt, and emerged in lofty form among the Hebrews also. A unique detachment and capacity to contemplate society, emerging for the first time in history in the Feudal Age in Egypt, produced these social tractates above discussed. If the story of the Two Brothers, after centuries of circulation in Egypt, reached Palestine to find embodiment in the tale of Joseph, it is more than possible that the pamphlets of Ipuwer and the men of his class similarly entered Palestine and suggested to the idealists of Israel the conception of the righteous king and redeemer. I ought, perhaps, to add that in a letter to me Gardiner disclaims regarding prediction as constituting "prophecy," but I have had to deal with his argument as I found it in his admirable volume.

213:1 The similarity was noticed by Gardiner.

216:1 The tale of the Eloquent Peasant is preserved in six papyri, three of which are now in the Berlin Museum (P. 10499, P. 3023, P. 3025); one in the British Museum (Papyrus Butler 527, Brit. Mus., No. p. 217 10274, recto, containing only forty lines); and two in the Amherst collection (consisting of fragments belonging to Berlin, P. 3023 and P. 3025). The Berlin papyri, P. 3023 and P. 3025, were published by Lepsius, Denkmaeler, VI, 108–110. A final standard publication, including all three of the Berlin papyri, was issued by the Berlin Museum in 1908 (Die Klagen des Bauern, bearbeitet von F. Vogelsang and Alan H. Gardiner, Leipzig, 1908). It contains a careful translation. See also Gardiner, Eine neue Handschrift des Sinuhegedichtes (Sitzungsber. der Kgl. Preuss. Akad., 1907, p. 142), on the discovery of Berlin P. 10499. Papyrus Butler was published by Griffith in Proceedings of the Soc. of Bibl. Arch., XIV, 1892, pp. 451 ff. The Amherst fragments were published by Newberry in The Amherst Papyri, London, 1899.

217:1 This name was formerly read "Meruitensi." The proper reading, "Rensi," was established by Sethe, Zeitschr. für aegypt. Sprache, 49, 95 ff.

220:1 In the older Berlin papyrus the conclusion reads: "Count me (or 'prove me'), lo, I am few."

221:1 It is a comparison which the great nobles of the Feudal Age were fond of using on their tomb stem; e.g., BAR, I, 745, 531.

222:1 Berlin, P. 3023, l. 95.

222:2 Ibid., ll. 234–8.

223:1 Ibid., ll. 240–8.

223:2 Ibid., ll. 260–5 = Berlin, P. 3025, ll. 14–20.

223:3 Ibid., ll. 267–8.

224:1 Ibid., ll. 285–8. The negative has been omitted by the scribe in the second half (the relative clause) of each one of these sentences. This is doubtless due to the customary confusion in many languages in sentences where two negatives occur.

224:2 Ibid., ll. 292–8.

224:3 God of writing and legal procedure.

225:1 In such an utterance as this it is important to remember that "truth" is always the same word which the Egyptian employs for "right, righteousness, justice," according to the connection in which it is used. In such an injunction as this we cannot distinguish any particular one of these concepts to the exclusion of the rest.

225:2 Ibid., ll. 307–322. The word rendered "blessedness hereafter" means "reverence," the state of the revered dead.

225:3 The same words are used regarding the vizier's wisdom in Pap. Prisse (2, 6–7). See below, p. 228.

226:1 The Wisdom of Ptahhotep is preserved in five manuscripts: (1) the Papyrus Prisse in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Nos. 183194; (2) the three papyri in the British Museum, Nos. 10371, 10435, and 10509; a wooden writing-tablet, or board, in the Cairo Museum, known as the Tablette Carnarvon, No. 41790. The Papyrus Prisse was published by the owner, E. Prisse D’Avennes (Fac-similé d’un p. 227 papyrus égyptien, Paris, 1847). It was republished, together with all the other manuscripts (except B. M., 10509), by G. Jéquier (Le Papyrus Prisse, et ses variantes, Paris, 1911). The Carnarvon tablet was published in transcription, with discussion of its relation to the Papyrus Prisse by Maspero, in Recueil de travaux, XXXI, 146–153, and afterward by the Earl of Carnarvon in his beautiful volume, Five Years' Excavations at Thebes, Oxford Univ. Press, 1912 (discussed by Griffith, pp. 36–37, and reproduced pl. xxvii). The five columns contained in Brit. Mus. Pap., No. 10509, were published by Budge, Fac-similes of Egyptian Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, London, 1910, pls. xxxiv-xxxviii, pp. xvii-xxi. This reached me too late to be employed above. Like the other Wisdom literature, or semi-philosophical tractates discussed above, Papyrus Prisse is excessively difficult. The old translations, as their divergences from each other show, are too conjectural to be used with safety. An exhaustive study on the basis of modern grammatical knowledge would undoubtedly render much of it intelligible, although a large proportion of it is too obscure and too corrupt in text ever to be translated with certainty.

228:1 On the rendering, see Gardiner, Admonitions, p. 107, n. 1.

228:2 The same statement is made regarding the roll containing the speeches of the Eloquent Peasant. See above, p. 225.

228:3 Papyrus Prisse, pp. 1 and 2.

228:4 This vizier, Kegemne, was also a famous wise man.

229:1 Literally "old man's staff," which is a technical term for son and heir or successor. See BAR, I, 692, and Griffith in the notes on Bersheh, I, pl. xxxiii. What is meant is, that the vizier, as the narrative shows, desires to be commanded to instruct his son as his successor.

231:1 The Carnarvon Tablet ends here. It furnishes some valuable variants which have been incorporated above.

231:2 We very much need an exhaustive treatment of the text, with careful word studies such as Gardiner has prepared for the Admonitions of Ipuwer. The summary offered above makes no pretension to rest upon any such study of the text, but perhaps presents enough for the purposes of this volume. See also Griffith, in Warner's Library of the World's Best Literature.

231:3 These references include the entire paragraph in each case. All refer to Pap. Prisse.

232:1 The word really means "to shoot."

234:1 Mohammed makes essentially the same remark in the Koran.

234:2 "In his time" is seemingly an idiom for some particular mood. See also paragraphs 1–3 above.

237:1 This is the end of the original, for the scribe's docket in red follows, reading as usual: "It is finished from its beginning to its end according to what was found in writing" (19, 9).

238:1 We may divide the paragraphs as numbered above roughly as follows:

Personal character and conduct, paragraphs 1–3, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 22, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41. Total, 23 paragraphs.

Administration and official conduct: 4, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 15, 16, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 39, 42, 43. Total, 19 paragraphs.

Uncertain, paragraph 35.

239:1 This document has survived in three different copies, each a hieroglyphic wall inscription, in three different tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty at Thebes. The best preserved and most important of the three is in the tomb of Rekhmire, vizier under Thutmose III (1501–1447 B.C.). The other two copies are in the tomb of Woser, uncle and predecessor of Rekhmire, and the tomb of Hapu, vizier under Thutmose IV (1420–1411 B.C.). These two are little more than fragments. The inscription was published, on the basis of the Rekhmire text, by Newberry, who first discovered it (The Life of Rekhmara, London, 1900, pls. ix–x). Newberry placed the materials from the tombs of Woser and Hapu at Gardiner's disposal, who then re-edited the text with excellent commentary and translation (the Installation of a Vizier, Recueil de travaux, XXVI, 1–19). The document is exceedingly difficult in language and still shows serious lacunæ. Further study was given it by Sethe, who re-edited the text in his Urkunden (IX, 1086 ff.). He secured successive collations of all the originals from Davies, and published a final and much improved text with full commentary and translation (Die Einsetzung des Veziers unter der 18. Dynastie, Leipzig, 1909, in Untersuchungen zur Geschichte and Altertumskunde Aegyptens, V, 2). The above translation is an adaptation of Sethe, and should be used in place of my former translation in my Ancient Records (II, 665–670). While all the texts date from the fifteenth century B.C., the reasons for placing the document in the Middle Kingdom, at least several centuries earlier, seem to me conclusive. The document refers to a precedent from the Pyramid Age (Old Kingdom), and it is in spirit and thought closely related to the social documents of the Feudal Age above discussed. Employing the canons of historical criticism current elsewhere, if this document had not borne a date, it would p. 240 have been placed in the Middle Kingdom by any unbiassed critic. It shows particularly close affinity to the Wisdom of Ptahhotep (Papyrus Prisse), duplicating not a few of its ideas, and even employing also the same form in some cases. For example regarding proper and kind treatment of a petitioner the two texts say:

"A petitioner desires that his utterance be regarded rather than the hearing of that on account of which he has come" (Installation, l. 17).

"He who is suffering wrong desires that his heart be cheered to do that on account of which he has come" (Wisdom of Ptahhotep, Prisse 9, 5; see paragraph 16, above).

There is not space here to array the parallel materials, but I hope to do this elsewhere in a special study. I may call attention to Prisse 11, 12–13, and 10, 6–7 as containing doctrines identical with those in the Installation. Perhaps the most conclusive evidence is the social policy of Ameni ("I did not exalt the great above the small"), almost an epitome of the Installation address, and of unquestionable Middle Kingdom date.

240:1 Here of course was the name of the vizier, varying from incumbent to incumbent.

240:2 The meaning of course is that the vizier is to be loyal to his lord, the king, to whose house he is attached.

241:1 That is, an officer belonging to the staff of the vizier who has heard the matters reported at second hand, lest misunderstanding should result, when the vizier handles or acts on cases from another court.

241:2 Compare Prisse, 7, 9.

242:1 Meaning either what is said and thus proven by witnesses, or what should not be said, impropriety of speech.

243:1 The same contrast between the "timid" and the "arrogant" or "violent-hearted" is found in Ipuwer (11, 13), and is another connection between the Installation and the Feudal Age documents.

247:1 The analogy of the Platonic dialogues was noticed by Gardiner, Admonitions, p. 17.

248:1 BAR, I, 523.

249:1 Such views are dated with considerable precision early in the Twelfth Dynasty by the Instruction of Amenemhet, the first king of the dynasty.

251:1 The Heliopolitan trial of Osiris is in itself enough to dispose of the extraordinary contention of Budge (in his two volumes on Osiris) that the Sun-god is a secondary phenomenon of foreign origin, imported into Egypt after the supremacy of the Osirian faith was established.

251:2 See above, pp. 75, 142–3.

252:1 See above, p. 232, paragraph 4 (Pap. Prisse 6, 5).

253:1 Gautier et Jéquier, Licht, pl. xxv, horizontal line at top. Other references are BAR, I, 459, 509, 531, 532, 613, 745.

253:2 These are forerunners of the Book of the Dead. An account of them will be found below, pp. 272–3

253:3 Rec. 32, 78.

253:4 Rec. 30, 189.

253:5 Rec. 31, 23.

254:1 Rec. 31, 22; see similar important references to "righteousness" on p. 21, but they are obscure.

254:2 Lepsius, Aelteste Texte, pl. i, ll. 9–10 (Book of the Dead, 17th chap.).

254:3 Ibid., pl. i, l. 12 = pl. xvi, ll. 10–11 (Book of the Dead, 17th chap.).

254:4 Annales du Service, V, 237.

254:5 Rec. 31, 28, l. 62.

254:6 Rec. 31, 25.

254:7 Rec. 30, 69.

254:8 Rec. 33, 34.

254:9 Rec. 33, 36.

254:10 Rec. 33, 36.

255:1 Lacau's, chap. XXIX, Rec. 30, 69 ff.

255:2 Rec. 31, 16.

255:3 Annales, V, 248.

255:4 Assiut Coffin of Mesehet, Rec. 31, 173.

255:5 Ibid.

255:6 Rec. 29, 147.

256:1 Tomb of Harhotep, Mém. de la Miss. arch. franc., I, 177–180. This appeal for justification is probably a magical formula. It is repeatedly addressed to the personified parts—rudder, mast, sail, etc.—of the sacred Osiris barque at Abydos, each being adjured to "justify" the soul of the deceased. (Cf. forty-eight names of a barque in Lacau, XXVII, Rec., 30, 65 ff., and Book of the Dead, xcix.) It is possible that "justify" implies little of ethical content here, and that it may be chiefly legal. On the use of "justified" as a juristic verdict, see Sethe, Einsetzung des Vezirs, p. 23, n. 96.

256:2 See Schaefer, Zeitschr. fuer aegypt. Sprache, 43, 66 ff.

Next: Lecture VIII. Popularization of the Old Royal Hereafter—Triumph of Osiris—Conscience and the Book of the Dead—Magic and Morals