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Trigger, et al. Brewer and Teeter provides a more up-to-date, though far more general, introduction for students and the interested lay reader. Among single-authored works, Kemp and its first edition is without doubt the most original, stimulating, and wide-ranging survey of ancient Egyptian civilization. As an introduction to the subject, and a spur to deeper engagement, it is currently without a serious rival, and is likely to remain so for some time.


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Brewer, Douglas J. Egypt and the Egyptians. Wide-ranging introduction to ancient Egyptian civilization, intended as a student primer. Combines archaeological and documentary evidence to explore all aspects of Egyptian society. Accessible and clear, with an extensive bibliography and illustrations. Addresses difficulties of interpretation. Kemp, Barry J. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London: Routledge, Original, authoritative, and accessible analysis covering the Predynastic to Late Periods, focusing especially on cultural dynamics and the economy.

An invaluable resource for students and scholars. Illustrations are a noteworthy feature. First edition has a chapter on the city of Amarna, now supplemented by Kemp cited under Society and Cultures. Trigger, Bruce G. Ancient Egypt: A Social History. DOI: Marked a new direction in Egyptological scholarship with its focus on social and economic history and its integration of archaeological and historical data. Remains a valuable reference for students, although its bibliography is now out of date. Wendrich, Willeke, ed. Egyptian Archaeology. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, Collection of fifteen original contributions on diverse aspects of Egyptian civilization, based on archaeological evidence.

Topics include theories of state formation, kingship, and the Middle Kingdom as well as neglected subjects such as regionality, gender, foreigners in Egypt, class and society, and identity and personhood. Progressive, insightful, and up-to-date. A rewarding reference work for students. Wilkinson, Toby, ed. The Egyptian World. Collection of thirty-two original contributions by international specialists, drawing on recent fieldwork and analysis.

Arranged in seven thematic sections environments, institutions, economies, societies, ideologies, aesthetics, and interactions. Includes previously unpublished drawings and photographs. Presents a digest of current research trends in Egyptology and as an examination of the Egyptian world. Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page.

Please subscribe or login. The great Homer Papyrus of was rolled up as a pillow for the head of its former owner; and its former owner was a young and apparently a beautiful woman, with little ivory teeth, and long, silky black hair. The inscription on her coffin was illegible, and we are alike ignorant of her name, her nationality, and her history.

She may have been an Egyptian, but she was more probably a Greek. We only know that she was young and fair, and she so loved her Homer that those who laid her in her last resting-place buried her precious papyrus in her grave. That papyrus is now among the treasures of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and all that is preserved of its possessor—her skull and her lovely hair—are now in the South Kensington Museum, London.

But we are not now concerned with the transcripts of foreign classics which have been found on Egyptian soil. Our subject is the native literature of that ancient and wonderful people whose immemorial home was the Valley of the Nile. The two most important subjects in the literature of a nation are, undoubtedly, its history and its religion; and up to the present time nothing in the shape of an Egyptian history of Egypt has been found.

But these are the materials of history—the bricks and blocks and beams with which the historian builds up his structure. Brugsch, in his Geschichte Aegyptens Unter Den Pharaonen , has brought together all such documents as were known at the time when he wrote it; but no one can read that excellent work without perceiving that it is but a collection of inscriptions, and not a consecutive narrative. Whole reigns are sometimes represented by only a name or a date; whole dynasties are occasionally blank. This is no fault of the learned author.

It simply means that no monuments of those times have been discovered. Yet we cannot doubt that histories of Egypt were written at various periods by qualified scholars. Manetho, though a true-born Egyptian, wrote his history in Greek, which was the native tongue of the Ptolemies and the language of the court. He wrote it, moreover, by the royal command. Now, the Sacred College of Heliopolis was the most ancient home of learning in Egypt. Its foundation dated back to the ages before history; the oldest fragments embedded in The Book of the Dead being of Heliopolitan origin.

Manetho had, therefore, the most venerable, and probably the largest, library in Egypt at his command; and whatever histories may have been written before his time, we may be very certain that his was the latest and the best. But of that precious work, not a single copy has come down to our time.

A few invaluable fragments are preserved in the form of quotations by later writers—by Josephus, for instance, in his Antiquities of the Jews , by George the Syncellus, by Eusebius—and by various chronologers; but the work itself has perished with the libraries in which it was treasured and the scholars by whom it was studied. Still, there is always room for hope in Egypt; and it may yet be reserved for some fortunate explorer to discover the grave of a long-forgotten scribe whose head shall be pillowed, not on a transcript of Homer, but upon a copy of the lost History of Manetho.

Of the numerous historic documents which remain to us, the three most interesting are perhaps the celebrated "Chant of Victory" of King Thothmes III. The first of these is engraved on a large black granite tablet found in the Great Temple of Karnak, at Thebes. It records the conquests of Thothmes III. He was possessed by the same insatiable thirst for conquest, by the same storm-driven restlessness.

It was his magnificent boast that he planted the frontiers of Egypt where he pleased; and he did so. He was by far the greatest warrior-king of Egyptian history, and his "Chant of Victory," though rhapsodical and Oriental in style, does not exaggerate the facts. This chant, written by the laureate of the day, is one of the finest example extant of the poetry of ancient Egypt. For the Egyptians, notwithstanding the poverty of their grammar and the cumbrous structure of their language, had poetry, and poetry of a very high order.

It was not like our poetry. It had neither rhyme nor metre; but it had rhythm. It abounded in imagery, in antithesis, in parallelisms. The same word, or the same phrase, was repeated at measured intervals. In short, it had style and music; and although the old Egyptian language is far more literally dead than the languages of Greece and Rome, that music is still faintly audible to the ears of such as care to listen to its distant echo. A two-fold bas-relief group at the top of the tablet of Thothmes III.

It is the god who speaks. I came! I gave thee might to fell the princes of Taha. I made them to behold thy Majesty as a Lord of Light, shining in their faces, even in my own likeness! I gave thee might to fell the nations of Asia. Thou hast reduced to captivity the chiefs of the Rotennu. I gave thee might to fell the people of the far East!

Thou hast traversed the provinces of the Land of the Gods. I gave thee might to fell the nations of the West! Phoenicia and Cyprus have thee in terror. I made them to behold thy Majesty even as a young Bull, bold of heart, horned, and unconquerable! I gave thee might to fell the dwellers in the harbors of the coast-lands!

I made them to behold thy Majesty even as the Crocodile, the Lord of Terror of the water, whom none dare to encounter. I gave thee might to fell those who dwell in their islands! Those who live in the midst of the great deep hear thy war-cry and tremble. I made them to behold thy Majesty as an avenger who bestrides the back of his victim. I gave thee might to fell the people of Libya! I made them to behold thy Majesty as a furious Lion, crouching over their corpses and stalking through their valleys.

I gave thee might to fell those beyond the limits of the sea! I made them to behold thy Majesty as the Hawk which hovers on high, beholding all things at his pleasure. I made them to behold thy Majesty as the Jackal of the South, Lord of Swiftness, who scours the plains of the upper and lower country. I gave thee might to fell the nations of Nubia, even to the barbarians of Pat! I made them to behold thy Majesty like unto thy two brothers, Horus and Set, whose arms I have united to give thee power and strength.

Great is its gateway. I bade thee make it, and thou hast made it. I am content. The poem of Pentaur, which is sometimes called the Egyptian Iliad, is in a quite different style. It is much longer than the chant of Thothmes. It is full of incident and dialogue, and it recites, not a mere catalogue of victories, but the events of a single campaign and the deeds of a single hero. That hero is Rameses II. The rectangular space enclosed on three sides by a row of shields represents the royal camp.

The oblong structure to the right of the centre is the pavilion of Rameses; five attendants kneel before the entrance to an inner apartment, surmounted by a royal oval watched over by winged genii. This represents the sleeping-place of the King. The pavilion appears to be a movable structure raised on arches; it was probably of wood, and was constructed in such wise as to be easily taken to pieces and put together again. To the left, the horses of the charioteers are feeding in mangers and attended by grooms.

Bales of fodder lie on the ground. A blacksmith with his brazier prepares to shoe a horse near the middle of the camp. Elsewhere we see charioteers dragging away empty chariots, a soldier mending a hoe, a man carrying a pair of water-buckets suspended at each end of a pole across his shoulders; infantry and charioteers arriving in camp; soldiers squatting round a bowl at their supper; officers chastising lazy or recalcitrant subordinates, and the like. Close above and behind the royal pavilion there is a brawl among the king's officers, one of whom is in the act of being stabbed.

The Literature of Ancient Egypt

Just below this group a horse prepares to lie down, bending its fore-legs with a remarkably natural action; while in the foreground to the right, we see the two Syrian spies being soundly bastinadoed, in order to force the truth from them. All the busy life of a great camp is depicted in this wonderful section of the largest battle-subject in the history of art.

The latter, meanwhile, had their spies out in all directions, and knew every movement of the Egyptian host. Two of these spies, being previously instructed, allowed themselves to be taken by the King's scouts. Introduced into the royal presence, they prostrated themselves before Pharaoh, declaring that they were messengers from certain of the Syrian chiefs, their brothers, who desired to break their pact with the Kheta, and to serve the great King of Egypt. They further added that the Khetan host, dreading the approach of the Egyptian army, had retreated to beyond Aleppo, forty leagues to the northward.

Rameses, believing their story, then pushed confidently onward, escorted only by his body-guard. The bulk of his forces, consisting of the brigade of Amen, the brigade of Ptah, and the brigade of Ra, followed at some little distance; the brigade of Sutekh, which apparently formed the reserve, lingering far behind on the Amorite frontier. Meanwhile two more spies were seized, and the suspicions of the Egyptian officers were aroused.

Being well bastinadoed, the Syrians confessed to the near neighborhood of the allied armies, and Rameses, summoning a hasty council of war, despatched a messenger to hurry up the brigade of Amen. At this critical juncture the enemy emerged from his ambush, and by a well-executed flank movement interposed between Pharaoh and his army. Six times, with only his household troops at his back, he broke their lines, spreading disorder and terror and driving many into the river. Then, just at the right moment, one of his tardy brigades came hurrying up, and forced the enemy to retreat.

A pitched battle was fought the next day, which the Egyptians claimed for a great victory. Such would appear to be the plain, unvarnished facts. The poet, however, takes some liberties with the facts, as poets are apt to do even now. He abolishes the household troops, and leaves Rameses to fight the whole field single-handed. Nor is the Deus ex machina wanting—that stock device which the Greek dramatists borrowed from Egyptian models. Amen himself comes to the aid of Pharaoh, just as the gods of Olympus do battle for their favorite heroes on the field of Troy.

This poem is certainly the most celebrated masterpiece of Egyptian literature; I therefore make no apology for quoting at some length from the original. We will take up the narrative at that critical point where the Hittites are about to execute their flank movement, and so isolate Rameses from his army.

His Majesty was alone; none else was beside him. The brigade of Amen was advancing behind. The brigade of Ptah marched in the centre, and the brigade of Sutekh took the way bordering on the land of the Amorites. Three men were they on each chariot; and with them were all the bravest of the fighting-men of the Kheta, well armed with all weapons for the combat. And the King arose, and grasped his weapons and donned his armor, like unto Baal, the war-god, in his hour of wrath.

And the great horses of his Majesty came forth from their stables, and he put them to their speed, and he rushed upon the ranks of the Kheta. Four of the King's spearsmen and two of his Sardinian body-guard await his approach. And lo! They were three on each chariot, and massed in one solid phalanx. Where art thou, oh Amen, my father? Hath the father forgotten his son? Have I not walked in thy ways, and waited on thy words? Have I not built thee temples of enduring stone?

Have I not dedicated to thee sacrifices of tens of thousands of oxen, and of every rare and sweet-scented wood? Have I not given thee the whole world in tribute? I call upon thee, oh Amen, my father! I invoke thee! Behold, I am alone, and all the nations of the earth are leagued against me! My foot-soldiers and my chariot-men have abandoned me! I call, and none hear my voice! But Amen is more than millions of archers —more than hundreds of thousands of cavalry! The might of men is as nothing—Amen is greater than all! Amen comes to my call. He gives me his hand—I shout aloud for joy, hearing his voice behind me!

It is I, thy father! My hand is with thee, and I am more to thee than hundreds of thousands. I am the Lord of Might, who loves valor. I know thy dauntless heart, and I am content with thee. Now, be my will accomplished.


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His appeal for divine aid is changed to a shout of triumph. I am as Baal in his wrath! The two thousand five hundred chariots which encompass me are dashed to pieces under the hoofs of my horses. Not one of their warriors has raised his hand to smite me. Their hearts die in their breasts—their limbs fail—they can neither hurl the javelin, nor wield the spear. Headlong I drive them to the water's edge! Headlong they plunge, as plunges the crocodile! They fall upon their faces, one above the other, and I slay them in the mass!

No time have they to turn back—no time to look behind them! He who falls, falls never to rise again! It is Sutekh the glorious! It is Baal in the flesh! Alone—alone, he slays hundreds of thousands! Let us fly for our lives! This sculptured tableau is divided horizontally by the river Orontes, represented by the zigzag lines. The fortified city of Kadesh occupies a projecting tongue of land, almost surrounded by the great bend of the river.

To the right, where there is apparently a ford, some Egyptian chariots are dashing across in pursuit of a Khetan chariot, in which are seen three warriors. The Egyptian chariots are distinguished from those of the Kheta by containing only two. In the top register, to right, an aide-de-camp on horseback gallops off with orders for the tardy rear-guard, and we see a horse running away with an empty saddle. To the left Rameses depicted of colossal size pursues the flying foe to the water's edge.

Some lie trampled under his chariot-wheels, and some are drowning in the river. A drowning chief is dragged to shore by a soldier of the garrison. Forming a frieze round the end of the tableau to left is a squadron of Egyptian chariots in single file. I fought alone! Alone, I overthrew millions! It was only my good horses who obeyed my hand, when I found myself alone in the midst of the foe.

Verily, they shall henceforth eat their corn before me daily in my royal palace, for they alone were with me in the hour of danger. This treaty was shortly confirmed by the marriage of Rameses with a Khetan princess; and the friendship thus cemented continued unbroken throughout the rest of his long reign. The foregoing passages are much abridged, but they fairly represent the fervent diction and the dramatic action of this celebrated poem.

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The style is singularly capricious, narrative and dialogue succeeding each other according to the exigencies of the situation. These changes are unmarked by any of those devices whereby the modern writer assists his reader; they must therefore have been emphasized by the reciter. To use a very modern word in connection with a very ancient composition, one might say that Rameses "published" this poem in a most costly manner, with magnificent illustrations.

And he did so upon a scale which puts our modern publishing houses to shame. His imperial edition was issued on sculptured stone, and illustrated with bas-relief subjects gorgeously colored by hand. Four more or less perfect copies of this edition have survived the wreck of ages, and we know not how many have perished.

One of the tableaux in this hall is fifty feet in length by about forty feet in height, and it contains many thousands of figures. In these temple-copies, the poem is sculptured in hieroglyphs. But there were also popular editions of this immortal poem—copies written on papyrus by professional scribes; and one of these copies is in the British Museum, a fragment of the beginning of the same copy being in the Museum of the Louvre.

The British Museum document contains one hundred and twelve lines of very fine hieratic writing, and the last page ends with a formal statement that it was "written in the year VII. For the chief librarian of the royal archives. From the original hieratic papyrus in the British Museum. As, however, the colophon is unmistakably clear as to date, and as that date is but two years subsequent to the events narrated in the poem, we may at least assume that the papyrus is a contemporary document. In this elaborate composition the events of the first and second engagements are combined in a single subject.

In one place we see Rameses, single-handed, rushing upon the foe in his chariot, and driving them head-long into the river; in another we behold the pitched battle of the following morning. Every circumstance of that momentous fight is shown with the most painstaking fidelity. The chariots start first, an officer of bowmen leading the way on foot.

Next follow the infantry, marching in a solid square, and protected, van, flank, and rear, by a force of chariots. The infantry are armed with only spear and shield.

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This is a very interesting section of the great tableau, as it shows us the Egyptian order of battle. Next comes the encounter with the enemy—the shock of chariots—the overthrow of the Hittite warriors. Part of this fight is arbitrarily introduced into that section of the subject where Rameses is performing his great feat of arms on the preceding day; but merely to fill the spaces with figures.

In some of these minor episodes we see the Egyptian warriors descending from their chariots and attacking the enemy on foot. The Hittite chariots are clumsily built, the wheels being cut from a solid block of wood, like millstones, and working on a central pivot. The Khetan soldiers wear a scalp-lock, and are three in a chariot. In this section of the great tableau the Egyptian artist depicts the incidents of the battle-field after the victory is won. We see the charioteers and infantry returning in order, and the enemy's cattle being driven to the camp.

Long files of prisoners are brought along, some tied together by the neck, others with their arms bound behind their backs. In the lowest register a captain of archers brings in a string of eight captives, and is greeted by his comrades with acclamations. In the second register, to the right, Rameses sits in his chariot with his back to the horses and witnesses the counting of the hands of the slain, while three scribes enter the numbers on their tablets.

Finally, the field is fought—the battle is won, and the King, seated in his chariot with his back to the horses, witnesses the bringing in of the prisoners and the counting of the hands of the slain. Three officers cast the severed hands in a heap before the feet of the conqueror, while the captives, strung together by the neck, are brought into his presence with their arms fast bound behind their backs.

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In the last scene of all, Rameses, depicted of colossal size, sits enthroned, and receives the congratulations of his great officers of state. His fan-bearer and his bow-bearer stand behind his chair, and his chariot and horses are taken back with honor to the royal stables. They were familiar with incidents of which the poet takes no note, and of which we could know nothing had they not been recorded by the chisel of the sculptor and the brush of the painter.

In that spirited scene where Rameses, Phoebus-like, stands erect in his chariot, bending his great bow and chasing the enemy into the water page , we see, for instance, a half-drowned chieftain being dragged to land by one of the Hittite garrison, and we learn that he was no less a personage than the Prince of Aleppo.

His warriors lift him up after the King has flung him into the water. From the Pylon of the Ramesseum, Thebes. Photographed by Mr. The scientific literature of the Egyptians is extremely interesting, inasmuch as it illustrates that eager spirit of inquiry which is the mainspring of intellectual effort, and without which there can be no intellectual progress. We have nothing to learn from these earliest pioneers of astronomy, of mathematics, of medicine. We smile at their childlike and fanciful speculations; but we are sometimes amazed to find how near they were to grasping many truths which we have been wont to regard as the hard-won prizes of modern research.

This is especially true of ancient Egyptian astronomy. Their observations were singularly exact. They understood perfectly well the difference between the fixed stars and the planets; the first being "the genii which never move," and the last "the genii which never rest. Two mathematical papyri have been found. One was discovered by Mr.

Catalog Record: The literature of the ancient Egyptians | HathiTrust Digital Library

Petrie in the ruins of a buried house in Tanis. This papyrus is the property of the Egypt Exploration Fund, and Prof. The other mathematical papyrus was found by Mr.

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Rhind at Thebes. It belongs to the British Museum, and has been translated by Dr.