An introduction to the history and culture of pharaonic Egypt: The Gebel Barkal stela of Thutmose III
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Thutmose III: The Napata Stela

(The Gebel Barkal Stela)

Captions of images
    The good god Menkheperre, son of Re, Thutmose, ruler of Thebes, may life be given him like Re, eternally! May he have protection, life, endurance and rulership, everything like Re.
Description of act of offering
A water offering given for Amen-Re.
Caption for the image of the king
He does it so that life will be given (him). He shall be at the head of the kas of all the living, appearing glorious as king of Upper and Lower Egypt on the throne of Horus like Re.
Speech of Amen-Re
    Amen-Re on the summit of the Pure Mountain says: I have given you the kingship over both lands.
Description of act of offering
    Offering wine for Amen-Re. He does it so that life may be given (him).
Caption for the image of the king
    He (the king) is at the head of the kas of all the living, having appeared glorious as king of Upper and Lower Egypt (in) Upper and Lower Egypt.
Speech of Amen-Re
    [///////] (Amen-Re) says: I have given you all the lands and foreign countries.
    Words spoken: I have given you all [/////////]
  -good god: epithet given to a deceased king
-water offering: offerings of food and drink were indispensable for the continued, eternal existence of men and gods.
-Pure Mountain: Gebel Barkal, a small mountain some 400 km north of Khartoum. Foundation place of Napata which was to become the capital of the kingdom of Kush.
-both lands: Upper and Lower Egypt
Main inscription
    In the year 47, month 3 of the season of inundation, day 10, under the majesty of the Horus mighty bull, appeared glorious in Thebes, under the two ladies enduring in kingship like Re in the heavens, Gold Horus, holy in appearance, mighty in power, king of Upper and Lower Egypt Menkheperre, beloved son of his body of Re, lord over every foreign land, Thutmose, beautiful of being.
This introductory passage begins with the enumeration of the full titulary of Thutmose.
-the two ladies: Nekhbet and Uto, the protective goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt.
-son of his body: being called just "son" did not necessarily mean a blood relationship (cf. King's son of Kush).
He built as memorial for his father Amen-Re, lord of thrones and of both lands, the fortress "Killing the Desert Dwellers". He made for him a resting place for eternity, as he augmented the victories of my majesty more than for every other king who had been. I seized the Southerners on the command of his ka and the Northerners according to his instruction. He created the son of Re, Thutmose, ruler of Thebes, may life be given (him) like Re, eternally, the good god who grasps with his hand, who beats the Southerners, who beheads the Northerners, who smashes the skulls of the enemies of Egypt, who slaughters the bedouins of Asia, who strikes the rebels among the sand dwellers, who vanquishes the lands of the far north, who beats the inhabitants of Nubia, who reached the borders of the foreign lands which attacked him. On the battlefield he attacks, raging. All the foreign lands stood together as one ready to fight, there was no escape, for they trusted their numerous warriors. There was no end to men and horses. When they came their hearts were courageous and no fear was in their hearts. The powerful one cast them down, strong of arm, trampling down his enemies. He is the king who fights alone, no throng is surrounding his heart. He is more courageous than millions in the great army, one does not find his like, a warrior, courageous on the battlefield, one can not resist him. He fights with both his arms against all foreign countries at the front of his army. He flashes like a star crossing the sky between two troops of bowmen. As soon as he enters the fray his attack is indeed like a flame. He extinguishes them completely and they lie in their blood. It is his akh spirit which casts them down for him, his flame casts down his enemies. -lord over every foreign land: the pharaoh was, as successor-substitute of the gods, ruler over the world that counted, i.e. Egypt. Being also overlord over the rest of the world considered to belong to the realm of chaos was an afterthought.
-ka: cf. Body and Soul
The Nahrin campaign of Thutmose III
-akh spirit: cf. Body and Soul
    The numerous army of Mitanni is cast down in one hour. They have disappeared completely as those who never were, like an end of (by) the Devourer, by act of the arms of the great good god, strong in battle, who causes slaughter among everyone.
    He is for himself alone the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkheperre, may he live forever. He is the Horus of (with) a powerful arm, an excellent fortress for his army, a refuge for the (his) subjects, who attacks all countries in a battle face to face, who frees Egypt on the battlefield, a protector who does not fear the greedy. He is a strong-willed bull. His southern borders (reach) to the "Horn of the Earth" to the south of this land, the northern to the far north of Asia, to the pillars of the heavens. They come to him with bowed head in search of his breath of life.
-bull: royal epithet since earliest times, see the Narmer palette
-Horn of the Earth: In the Egyptian world view four pillars held up the sky, mountain peaks supporting them. The one to the north was beyond the "Great Green", generally assumed to be the Mediterranean, to the east was the "Mountain of Birth", to the south the "Horn of the earth", to the west the "Region of Life".[1]
    He is a king, strong like Monthu, who robs, but no one has robbed him, who tramples all foreign lands that rebel, without one who could protect them in that land of Naharin that his lord had left for fear.
    I destroyed his cities and his settlements and I set fire to them. My Majesty turned them into ruins, so that they could not be rebuilt. I captured all their people, who were carried off as prisoners, and the cattle thereof without bound, and likewise their property. I took their corn, I tore out their barley. I felled their trees and all their fruit-trees. Their region was [killed(?)], my majesty destroyed it. It has become a burned place where there are no trees.
-Monthu: Theban war god, originally from Hermonthis, who was, apparently, worshipped at Karnak since the Old Kingdom in the northern temple complex dedicated to Amen-Re Monthu [7].
-Naharin: The country between the rivers, at this time the kingdom of Mitanni (mTn)
    And my Majesty sailed to the northern border of Asia. My Majesty ordered that many ships be built of cedar from the mountains of God's Land in the neighbourhood of the Mistress of Byblos. They were placed on wagons towed by bulls. They travelled ahead of my Majesty to ferry across that river that is between this foreign land and Naharin - a king to be boasted of because of his two arms in melee, and who crossed the Euphrates after them who had attacked him, as the first of his army while seeking that miserable enemy in the foreign lands of Mitanni, while he fled for fear before His Majesty to another land, a far place. -God's Land (tA nTr): generally taken to mean Punt, which most experts place in east Africa, but here the region of today's Lebanon, the source of Egypt's timber for shipbuilding, is meant. According to Lichtheim the term refers at times to woodlands. [5]
-The Mistress of Byblos: Ba'alat Gebel, the local Astarte. Byblos, (kbn), had trade relations with Egypt dating to the Predynastic Period. Identified with Hathor.
-that river (pXr-wr):, The Euphrates. Beinlich translates pXr-wr as 'sea in the north east'
    Then my Majesty established my stele on that mountain of Naharin, as one extracted from the mountain on the western side of the Euphrates.
    I have no enemy in the southern lands, the northerners come bowing because of my might. It is Re who has commanded them to me. I enclosed that which his eye encircled. He gave me the land in its length and breadth. I have bound together the Nine Bows, islands in the middle of the sea, the Nine Bow peoples and the rebellious foreign lands. I returned south to the beloved land, after I had subdued Naharin.
-his eye: the sun.
-Nine Bows: traditional name for the often hostile peoples thought to be subject to the Egyptian kings (and thus to Maat, the proper world order). Later they came to refer to enemy foreigners.[2] (cf. Egyptians and foreigners)
-rebellious foreign lands: The Egyptian kings claimed world rule, foreigners not accepting the Egyptian yoke would therefore be styled "wicked", 'rebellious", or the like.
-beloved land: Egypt.
    Fear was great in the mouth of the Sanddwellers. Therefore their doors were closed, and they did not step out of their door for fear of the bull. A king he is, strong, an excellent fortress for his army, a wall of metal of the sky . He seizes every land with his power without there being millions of men around him, who shoots accurately whenever he aims, whose arrows do not miss; strong, there was none like him, Monthu, strong on the battlefield.
-Sanddwellers: bedouins
-the bull: the Egyptian king.
-metal of the sky: iron.
    Another feat of prowess which Re commanded me: He granted me another brave deed by the sea of Ny. He made me drive together a herd of elephants. My Majesty fought them, they being a herd of 120 elephants. Never had the like been done by a king since the god who had seized the white crown of Upper Egypt. I said this without boasting with it, and without a lie therein. I did it according to what my father, Amun-Re, lord of the thrones of the two lands, commanded me, who guided My Majesty on the good path by his effective plans. He united for me the Black Land and the Red Land, and that which the sun encircles is in my grasp.
-Black Land: Kemet (km.t) the Egyptian floodplain
-Red Land: Deshret (dSr.t) the Egyptian desert regions
    I am reporting to you now, listen, people! He gave to me the foreign countries of Retenu on the first campaign. They came to meet my Majesty with millions of men, hundreds of thousands of the best from all foreign countries, who manned their chariots with 330 chiefs, every one there with his army. They were ready in the Wadi Qanu, massed together. An excellent exploit was made by me among them. My Majesty attacked them, they immediately fled and fell in droves. They entered Megiddo, my Majesty enclosed them for a period of 7 months, before they came out, imploring my Majesty with the words: "Give us your breath, our lord! The desert dwellers of Retenu will not rebel again." The battle of Megiddo
-Retenu: southern Syria
-millions of men, hundreds of thousands of the best: exaggeration was the least of sins committed by ancient kings.
-breath: the breath of life.
    Then he caused that enemy together with the chiefs who were with him, to be brought before my Majesty, all their children, with many gifts of gold and silver, all their horses that were with them, their great chariots of gold and silver, (also) those painted brightly, all battle tunics, their bows and their arrows, all their weapons. This was what they had come to war with and threatened my Majesty. They brought it as tribute to my Majesty. They stood on their walls in order to give praise to my Majesty, begging that the breath of life may be given them. Then my Majesty made them swear an oath of loyalty, in these words: "We shall not do evil again to Menkheperre, may he live forever, our lord, for the period of our life, for we have seen his power. He gave us the breath of life, according to his wish."  
It was my father Amen-Re, lord of thrones of both lands, who has accomplished it, not the arm of men. Then my Majesty caused them to be given free passage (lit. the road) to their cities. They all left on donkeys, for I had taken their horses. I captured the inhabitants for Egypt and their possessions as well. It was my father Amen-Re, lord of the thrones of both lands, who has accomplished it, the excellent god, successful in deeds, his plans do not fail. My Majesty came in order to seize the countries and inhabitants of foreign lands, completely. I threw them down, obeying his command, because he did it this way. He caused me to strike all inhabitants of foreign lands, not one who dared to approach me. It was my mace which felled the Asiatics, it was my Ames sceptre that struck the Nine Bows. My Majesty subdued every land, Retenu is under my sandals, the Nubians are slaves of my Majesty. -on donkeys: riding animals was a rare skill in the bronze age. Donkeys were apparently frequently ridden in the Middle East, much less so in Egypt.
-his: Amen-Re's
-mace: a symbol of power rather than a weapon used in combat at the time. In depictions Egyptian kings are often shown striking enemies with a mace.
-Ames sceptre: Ams, a club-like sceptre, held by kings. When Rawer, a sem-priest stood before King Neferirkare the royal Ams-sceptre touched his foot whereupon the king immediately wished him: May you be hale! [3] The deceased too were armed with it, according to the Books of the Dead. Thus, in the pTurin Museo Egizio 1791, Tb 145, the Osiris NN is holding the Ams in his hand as club against the rebels[4]
    They pay me (tribute) as one (man), being taxable millions of times in numerous things of the top of the earth, much gold from Wawat, its amount without bounds. One built there for the palace every year Eight-boats and many transporters for the crews, beside the tribute, the Nubians bring ivory and ebony. Precious wood from Kush was brought to me as beams of doum palms and wooden things without number as acacia wood from the Southland. My army made them in Kush, which existed there in millions, besides Eight-boats and many transporters made of doum palms which my Majesty had fetched by force. One built for me in Djahi every year, from genuine cedars of the Lebanon, which were brought to the palace, l.p.h. Precious wood came to me to Egypt, taken to the south, ///// genuine cedars from the Lebanon as the best from God's Land which was delivered, the best wood like hard alabaster, to be delivered to the residence, without letting go by the appropriate season every year. My army arrives, which is as garrison in Wan Rata. //////// (made) of cedar wood of the victories of my Majesty according to the plans of my father Amen-Re, who has given me the rule over all foreign peoples. I gave nothing of it to the Asiatics; this is the timber which he loves. He subdued them, they recognized my lord, their suffering was ended.
-Wawat: region in northern Nubia
-Djahi: region in Canaan
    //////////// my Majesty. Listen, people of the southern land, which is by the Gebel Barkal, called the "Throne of Both Lands" by the people before it was known. Oh, you shall learn of this miracle of Amen-Re before of the two lands, completely ///////////// When the guards were just about to come in order to meet at night and to keep the regular watch, it was at the second hour, a star appeared to their south. Never had the like happened. It shone exactly towards them.
    None withstood there. I killed them like those who had never been, they lay in their blood, enemies in heaps(?). But now the snake was behind their backs with flame towards their faces, not one found his hand among them, not one looked back. Their horse teams were no more, they had bolted in /// /// the desert. ///////////////////////////// in order to make that all inhabitants of foreign lands see the might of my Majesty. I returned south with a happy heart, after I had celebrated a feast for my lord Amen-Re, lord of the thrones of the two lands, who had commanded this victory and had caused the panic ////////////////////// in my time. He instilled fear of me among all inhabitants of foreign lands. They fled far before me. Everything on which the sun shines is bound under my soles.
    My Majesty himself says /////////////////////////// [victory], for I am very experienced in power and victory, which my noble father Amen, lord of the thrones of both lands, has granted me. He made me master of the five parts, of that which the sun encircles. I am str[ong] ////////////////////// [the northern] The fear of my Majesty is in the southern regions, there is no path far from me. He sealed the whole land for me. There is no boundary to that which became mine through force. He enforced my power in Upper Retenu. ////////////////////////////// They brought me tribute from there to the place where my Majesty was, at all times. The foreign country delivered to me all good things that are found there. After it had hidden them from other kings, it opened them up. ///////////////////// electrum, gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, every precious stone, all kinds of spices, sweet of smell, which have grown in Punt, all good things of the south. Everything which has reached my Majesty through trade belongs to him (i.e. Amen). I fill his house and repay him for his protection. ///////////////////////////////// on the battlefield. I for my part shall bring offerings, wonderful things from all lands, of the best which his strong arm has taken. He has given me the order for it against all inhabitants of foreign lands. These courtiers ////////////////////////////// Amen-Re, lord of the thrones of both lands, the great god of the beginning, the primordial, who has created your beauty. He has given you every land. Rule it for him who knows that you have emerged before him. It is him who guides your Majesty on the path. ///////////////////////////////
    I have spread fear of me to the northern borders of Asia, so that my messenger will not be hindered. My soldiers cut down the flagpole on the terraces of the cedars, on the mountains of God's Land. ////////////////////////// for the memorials of my fathers, all the gods of Upper and Lower Egypt. Then my Majesty built a neshmet-bark of cedar wood for the water-procession /// /// on the coast of Lebanon as fortress ///////////////////////////////// All chiefs of Lebanon built the royal boats in order to sail south in them (and) bring all the precious things of Lebanon to the palace, l.p.h. The chiefs of ////////////////////////////// The chiefs of Retenu pulled the poles with cattle to the coast. They came with their tribute to the place where his majesty was, to the residence in //////////////////////////////// with all the beautiful products which were brought as precious things of the South, the revenues as yearly taxes like all subjects of my Majesty.
-terraces of the cedars: the slopes of the mountains of Lebanon
-neshmet-bark: the bark in which the god Osiris was transported by priests during the procession of his festival at Abydos. People hoped to participate in Osiris' journey after their death, in the hope of being resurrected like Osiris [6].
    That which the people say ///////////////////////// The inhabitants of the foreign lands have seen your power, your glory, it encircled the summit of the earth. Awe, the hearts of those who attack you, tremble before it ///////// the people /////////////////////// every Nubian, they disregard your plans. It is your father who will give you victories over every foreign land. Now, his Majesty was in the palace on the west side of the town //////// forever.


After K. Sethe, Urkunden der 18. Dynastie, Bd. 2: Historisch-biographische Urkunden, Heft 4, S. 1227-1243

[1] Gaston C. Maspero, Dawn of Civilization, Kessinger Publishing 2003, ISBN 0766177742, pp.16ff
[2] David B. O'Connor, Stephen Quirke, Mysterious Lands, Routledge Cavendish 2003, ISBN 1844720047, p.12
[3] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae => aaew => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Grabinschriften => Gisa => Grabkomplex des Kaiemankh (G 4561) => Grabkomplex des Rawer (PM III 265-269) => Relief- und Stelenfragmente => Biographische Inschriftenstele
[4] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae => aaew => Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfa"lische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pTurin Museo Egizio 1791 => Tb 1451
[5] Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol.3, University of California Press 1980, p.86
[6] Jan Assmann, Death And Salvation In Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press 2005, ISBN 0801442419, p.225. A translation of the so-called Abydos formula from the stela of Meri, who served under Senusret I, is on the following pages (226-7)
[7] Nicholas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, Blackwell Publishing 1992, ISBN 0631193960, p.298

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