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Herodotus on Asychis
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Herodotus on Asychis

    There is no doubt that Mycerinos refers to Menkaure, the builder of the smallest of three great Gizeh pyramids. Unfortunately, in his narrative Herodotus has placed the three 4th dynasty pharaohs after New Kingdom rulers. This leaves Asychis in an ambivalent position. On the one hand he built a pyramid, definitely not a New Kingdom activity. The fact that he is said to have built it of bricks, would be strange for a 4th dynasty pharaoh, while Middle Kingdom pyramids were constructed of mud bricks and covered with a layer of stone. On the other hand Asychis is followed by Anysis, generally considered to be the last pharaoh of the Third Intermediate Period.
    Diodorus mentions Sasychis, a second dynasty lawgiver. The name Asychis may have been derived from this pharaoh's name, though chronologically he does not fit. Some Greek texts identify Asychis as Sheshonq I [1].
    No coined money was in use in Egypt until the fifth century, and even thereafter it did not circulate widely. Little is known of 4th dynasty economic policies. If any ruler had interfered in these matters it would have been a Late Period king. According to Diodorus, Bocchoris enacted laws concerning contracts and abolished debt slavery.

 

 
After Mykerinos the priests said Asychis became king of Egypt, and he made for Hephaistos the temple gateway which is towards the sunrising, by far the most beautiful and the largest of the gateways; for while they all have figures carved upon them and innumerable ornaments of building besides, this has them very much more than the rest.

    In this king's reign they told me that, as the circulation of money was very slow, a law was made for the Egyptians that a man might have that money lent to him which he needed, by offering as security the dead body of his father; and there was added moreover to this law another, namely that he who lent the money should have a claim also to the whole of the sepulchral chamber belonging to him who received it, and that the man who offered that security should be subject to this penalty, if he refused to pay back the debt, namely that neither the man himself should be allowed to have burial, when he died, either in that family burial-place or in any other, nor should he be allowed to bury any of his kinsmen whom he lost by death.

    This king desiring to surpass the kings of Egypt who had arisen before him left as a memorial of himself a pyramid which he made of bricks and on it there is an inscription carved in stone and saying thus: "Despise not me in comparison with the pyramids of stone, seeing that I excel them as much as Zeus excels the other gods; for with a pole they struck into the lake, and whatever of the mud attached itself to the pole, this they gathered up and made bricks, and in such manner they finished me."

Herodotus, Histories 2,136
Project Gutenberg


[1] Troy Sagrillo, who gives this reference:
Kitchen, Kenneth Anderson. 1988. "A Note on Asychis". In Pyramid Studies and Other Essays Presented to I. E. S. Edwards, edited by John R. Baines, et al. Occasional Publications 7. London: The Egypt Exploration Society. 148-151.
Joachim Quack doubts the correctness of this interpretation. He thinks that Greek Asychis stands for aSA-ix.t.

 

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