Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: The autobiography of the nomarch Ankhtifi
Main menu Main Index and Search Page History List of Dynasties Cultural Chronolgy Mythology Aspects of Life in Ancient Egypt Glossary of ancient Egyptian terms Herodotus on the Pharaohs Ancient Egyptian Reader Apologia and Bibliography
  For best results save the whole webpage (pictures included) onto your hard disk, open the page with Word 97 or higher, edit if necessary and print.
  Printing using the browser's print function is not recommended.

The autobiography of Ankhtifi

    Ankhtifi was a nomarch at Hierakonpolis during the First Intermediate Period (probably under the 9th dynasty) who vied with other local potentates for supremacy. He was buried in the necropolis of Moalla a few kilometres south of Thebes. His tomb contains his biography, with the exaggerations typical of these inscriptions intended to make a good impression upon the gods. Ankhtifi may have been a good administrator, he was not a philanthropist: the corn he sent north and south had to be paid for.
Ankhtifi had a mighty good opinion of himself. Apart from considering himself a champion without peer and saying so repeatedly in his autobiography, he did not think it possible that anybody would, as he put it: rival me in anything I have done, in millions of years.[3]
[1] The Prince, Count, Royal Seal-bearer, Sole Companion, Lector-priest, General, Chief of scouts, Chief of foreign regions, Great Chief of the nomes of Edfu and Hieraconpolis, Ankhtifi, says:
[2] Horus brought me to the nome of Edfu for life, prosperity, health, to reestablish it, and I did (it). For Horus wished it to be reestablished, because he brought me to it to reestablish it. I found the House of Khuu inundated like a marsh, abandoned by him who belonged to it, in the grip of a rebel, under the control of a wretch. I made a man embrace the slayer of his father, the slayer of his brother, so as to reestablish the nome of Edfu. How happy was the day on which I found well-being in this nome! No power in whom there is the heat of strife will be accepted, now that all forms of evil which people hate have been suppressed. [3] I am the vanguard of men and the rearguard of men. One who finds the solution where it is lacking. A leader of the land through active conduct. Strong in speech, collected in thought, on the day of joining the three nomes. For I am a champion without peer, who spoke out when the people were silent, on the day of fear when Upper Egypt was silent. [4] As to everyone on whom I placed my hand, no misfortune ever befell him, because my heart was sealed and my counsel excellent. But as to any fool, any wretch, who stands up in [opposition] - I shall give according as he gives. "O woe," will be said of one who is accused by me. His [war ?] will take water like a boat. For I am a champion without peer!
Source: M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. I, pp. 85f.

-House of Khuu: Lichtheim: The name of the nome of Edfu (2nd Upper Egyptian nome)
-in the grip of a rebel, under the control of a wretch: rebel, wretch and the like were standard terms of abuse given to political oponents.
-on the day of joining the three nomes: Lichtheim: . In addition to ruling the nomes of Hieraconpolis (3rd Upper Egyptian nome) and Edfu, Ankhtifi made an alliance with the nome of Elephantine (1st Upper Egyptian nome just below the 1st Nile cataract), thus creating a union of the three southernmost nomes which was directed against the nome of Thebes (4th Upper Egyptian nome). (cf. Nomes, cities and sites)
-on whom I placed my hand: Lichtheim: whom I protected.
I was the beginning and the end of mankind, since nobody like myself existed before nor will he exist; nobody like me was ever born nor will he be born. I surpassed the feats of the ancestors, and coming generations will not be able to equal me in any of my feats within this million of years.
I gave bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked; I anointed those who had no cosmetic oil; I gave sandals to the barefooted; I gave a wife to him who had no wife. I took care of the towns of Hefat and Hor-mer in every [situation of crisis when] the sky was clouded and the earth [...] of hunger on this sandbank of Apophis. The south came with its people and the north with its children; they brought the finest oil in exchange for the barley which was given them. My barley went upstream until it reached lower Nubia and downstream until it reached the Abydene nome. All of Upper Egypt was dying of hunger and people were eating their children, but I did not allow anyone to die of hunger in this nome.
I cared for the house of Elephantine and for the town Iat-negen in these years after Hefat and Hor-mer had been satisfied..... I was like a (sheltering) mountain for Hefat and like a cool shadow for Hor-mer.
The whole country has become like locusts going upstream and downstream (...); but never did I allow anybody in need to go from this nome to another. I am the hero without equal.
Source: Unfortunately I've lost the reference.
but cf. Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, 2003, p.129
-I surpassed the feats of the ancestors: Many nomarchs of this period refer to their ancestry, generally comparing themselves favourably with them.
-cosmetic oil: used for protecting the skin and in the hot dry climate of Egypt more than a mere luxury.
-hunger on this sandbank of Apophis: The Old Kingdom had ended in turmoil and while kings continued to be enthroned their influence was mostly conspicuous through its absence. The political collapse was apparently connected with the natural disasters which brought, prolonged periods of widespread famine to Egypt.
Sandbank was traditionally a metaphor for famines, as these generally resulted from low Nile inundations, during which the sandbanks remained uncovered by water.[2]
The sandbank of Apophis, the serpent enemy of the sungod Re, was in the heavens, an obstacle to the sun's progress, but the demon's poison descended in the West. Apophis himself was cut to pieces by the ennead on his sandbank.[1]
-oil: oil was a means of exchange of some importance in the barter economy of ancient Egypt.
-people were eating their children: probably not to be taken literally. This is a tomb inscription composed for the benefit of the gods who were to judge the nomarch. Preventing cannibalism would have counted in his favour.
-Hefat: today's el Mo'alla


[1]Christian Leitz, Dagmar Budde, Frank Förster, Daniel von Recklinghausen, Bettina Ventker, Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen, Peeters Publishers, 2002, p.73
[2]Assmann & Jenkins 2003, p.101
[3]Assmann & Jenkins 2003, p.86
Jan Assmann, Andrew Jenkins, The mind of Egypt: history and meaning in the time of the Pharaohs, Harvard University Press, 2003, pp.93-105

- Index of TextsIndex of Texts
Index of TopicsIndex of Topics
Main IndexMain Index and Search Page
Offsite links   (Opening in a new window)
These are just suggestions for further reading. I do not assume any responsibility for the content of these sites
The Tomb of AnkhtifiThe Tomb of Ankhtifi (description)
The Tomb of AnkhtifiThe Tomb of Ankhtifi (pictures)

Feedback: Please report broken links, mistakes - factual or otherwise, etc. to me.Thanks.

© January 2002
December 2006
April 2009