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Literature of Ancient Egypt for final

Tale of Wenamun
V/P: Prose; literary in style
Date: 20th or 21st dynasty, so either late NK or early 3rd Intermediate Period.
Significance: Shows Egypt’s the decline of Egypt’s prestige abroad after end of the Ramesside period. Egypt no longer truly feared or respected.
Summary: Wenamun is a priest sent to the Phoenician city-state Byblos to get timber for a religious barge. He’s robbed on the way there, and when he finally does get to Byblos, the local king refuses to give the wood as a gift (which was the custom). Egypt is disrespected and humiliated. He gets blown off course on his way back and lands up in Cyprus, where the text ends.
Key point: Likely fictional, though highly realistic; can be treated as a primary source of its historical context

Story of Sinuhe
V/P: Prose
Date: early 20th century BCE, after the death of dynasty 12’s founder, Amenemhat I
Style: told by Sinuhe himself, literary narrative
Summary: Sinuhe flees to Canaan (after being stricken with fear at the death of the king and the ascension of his son) and becomes a member of the ruling elite there, acquires a wife and family and prosperity there, but ultimately returns to civilized Egypt after longing for home.
Key points and significance: *Perhaps propagandistic, meant to show the king as great and benevolent, willing to pardon a man.
*Legitimates Egyptian customs and institutions, ie, the king, funerary traditions, lends Egyptian notions of superiority over the lesser peoples of Asia, etc.
*Shows Egypt at its prime

Negative Confession
V/P: verse (most)
Date: New Kingdom
Style: religious literature, funerary text
Summary: Negative Confession is Spell 125 of the famous Book of the Dead. In it, a dead man professes before a panel of gods, headed by Osiris, that he has not committed a list of 42 sins. Then the Weighing of the Heart ritual takes place.
Significance of the text: Shows evolution of Egyptian religion; entrance into heaven is not restricted to Pharaohs, but is open to anyone who shows moral behavior in this life.

Tale of Two Brothers
V/P: Prose
Date: 19th dynasty of the NK, under the Pharaoh Seti II
Style: an entertaining fairytale, drawing on literary and folkloristic themes.
Summary: Two brother’s have their relationship made to go through a series of crises when the wife of the older one attempts to seduce the younger one. Ultimately the two become reconciled and seek revenge upon the treacherous wife, finally getting it after a series of setbacks.
Significance/Key Points: One of these is kingship. The second half of the tale deals largely with Egyptian ideas of kingship and the connection between divinity and the pharaoh. That Bata’s wife ultimately ends up pregnant with him is a reference the duality of the role of women in pharaonic succession; the roles of wife and mother were often simultaneous. Also, the divine aspect of his wife’s creation could be seen to serve as legitimacy for the kingship of Bata, especially since he was not actually the child of the pharaoh. Beyond this, Bata’s closeness with the Ennead in the middle of the story also serves to legitimize his rule; the gods bestowed divine favor upon Bata in his time of need.

Hymn to the Aten
V/P: Verse
Date: reign of the NK pharaoh Akhenaten.
A hymn-poem written in praise of the solar god Aten, praising how Aten provides for the world and thus sustains life.
This is an artefact of the Amarna period of Egyptian history. It captures the dramatic religious changes which took place in Egypt then.

Shipwrecked Sailor
Housed at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
V/P and Style: Prose; narrative
Date: Middle Kingdom
Summary: An uninitiated sailor-hero on a sea journey is thrown off course by a storm, encounters an enchanted island, confronts a monster, survives, wiser for the experience, and then counsels another sailor who is anxious as to how the king will receive him after a failed expedition.
Key points: resourcefulness of the Egyptian abroad; love of family and of Egypt

Satrap Stela
V/P: Prose, presents Ptolemy as a hero
D: 312/311 BCE, during the putative reign of Alexander’s infant son, during which time Ptolemy was officially the satrap of Egypt, though, effectually, he was pharaoh.
The Satrap Stela is the earliest extant royal style hieroglyphic inscription honoring the Ptolemies, and in addition to showing respect for the Egyptian religion and beliefs (something previous conquerors had failed to do), this inscription reminded the people exactly who it was who had liberated Egypt from the Persian Empire, thus ensuring much support for the new ruler and the dynasty that would follow him.

Eloquent Peasant
V/P and Style: Prose and verse (the eloquent peasant’s speeches are in verse); narrative
D: Middle Kingdom
Summary: a peasant, robbed of his goods, makes appeal to the pharaoh’s Chief Steward, and presents the pharaoh and the chief steward a series of 9 speeches showing great rhetorical prowess. He is finally given justice (Ma’at).
Key points: Addresses themes such as the relationship between power, vengeance, and punishment and justice, and the relationship between justice and reward (reciprocity) in this world and in the next.

Prophecy of Lamb
V/P: narrative
D: Reign of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, thus early 1st Century CE.
Summary: Relates that during the brief reign of the Egyptian king Bocchoris/Bakenranef of the 3rd Intermediate Period, a lamb delivered the king a long, detailed account of events that would occur in Egypt over the next 900 years. For most of the time the lamb predicts Egypt will be plague by social upheaval and injustice, though in the end justice and stability would reappear.
Key points: Demotic papyrus

Admonition of Sage
V/P: verse
D: oldest extant copy dates back to the 19th dynasty of the NK, but the text itself is believed to concern either the First Intermediate Period or the late Middle Kingdom
The Ipuwer Papyrus describes Egypt as afflicted by natural disasters and in a state of chaos, a topsy-turvy world where the poor have become rich, and the rich poor, and warfare, famine and death are everywhere. One symptom of this collapse of order is the lament that servants are leaving their servitude and acting rebelliously. These reactionary themes suggest dating it either to the invasion of the Hyksos that precipitated the 2nd Intermediate Period or the atrophy of royal power that came during the fall of the Old Kingdom.

Thutmose III Stela
V/P: Pure poetry as well as poetical prose; a masterpiece o martial poerty
D: 18th dynasty of the NK
S: Amun-Ra promises Thutmose (by his nisut-bity name “Men-Kheper-Re”) his support in the winning of universal dominion for Egypt.
Significance: Celebrates the numerous conquests of Thutmose III – Egypt’s greatest empire builder, who conquered from the Sudan to Mesopotamia.
Key points: Though composed after his victories, the text is written as a prophecy spoken by Amun-Ra.
The black granite stela was originally erected in Amun Ra’s Karnak Temple.

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