Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: The autobiography of Bekenkhonsu
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Obelisk at Luxor, painted by David Roberts
Luxor obelisk, 23 metres tall, weighing 220 tons
Excerpt of lithograph by David Roberts

The autobiography of Bekenkhonsu

    Hereditary prince, count, High Priest of Amon, Beknekhonsu, triumphant; he says:

    I was a truthful witness, profitable to his lord, extolling the instructions of the god, proceeding upon his way, performing the excellent ceremonies in the midst of his temple. I was chief overseer of works in the house of Amon, satisfying the excellent heart of his lord. O all ye people, take account in your hearts; ye who are on earth, who shall come after me, in millions of millions of years, after old age and inirmity, whose hearts are versed in discerning worth. I will inform you of my character while I was upon earth, in every office which I administered, since my birth.

I passed four years in extreme childhood.
I passed twelve years as a youth, while I was chief of the training stable of King Menmare.
I acted as priest of Amon, during four years.
I acted as divine father of Amon, during twelve years.
I acted as third prophet of Amon, during fifteen years.
I acted as second prophet of Amon, during twelve years.
He favoured me, he distinguished me, because of my rare merit. He appointed me to be High Priest of Amon during twenty-seven years.


After 4 years as a toddler Bekenkhonsu began twelve years of training during which he learned to fill the position of a nobleman in command.
During the last years of the reign of Seti I Menmare he entered the priesthood as a wAb priest and after serving Amen for 43 years he was appointed First Prophet, i.e. High Priest by Ramses II. This was one of the most powerful positions in the country from the 18th dynasty onwards (c.f. The priests of Amen-Re and the Theban Kings).
Bekenkhonsu died 86 years old, an age few people reached in those days.


    I was a good father to my serf-laborers, training their classes, giving my hand [to] him who was in trouble, preserving alive him who was in misfortune, performing the excellent duties in his temple. I was chief overseer of works before Thebes for his son, who came forth from his limbs, King Ramses II, given life, maker of monuments for his father, Amon, who place him on his throne.
The assistant, the High Priest of Amon, Beknekhonsu, triumphant, made (it).

    He says as follows: I performed the excellent duties in the house of Amon, being chief overseer of works of my lord. I made for him a temple (called) Ramses-Meriamon-Hearer-of-Petitions, at the upper portal of the house of Amon. I erected obelisks therein, of granite, whose beauty approached heaven. A wall was before it of stone over against Thebes; it was flooded, and the gardens were planted with trees. I made very great double doors of electrum; their beauty met the heavens. I hewed very great flagstaves, and I erected them in the august forecourt in front of his temple.

    I hewed great barges of the Beginning-of-the-River, for Amon, Mut and Khonsu; by the hereditary prince, High Priest of Amon, Beknekhonsu.

Inscription of Bekenkhonsu
J.H.Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt, part III, §§ 563 to 568


  Apart from his priestly duties, Bekenkhonsu was an administrator, responsible among other things for the erection of temple buildings, which under Ramses II took on monstrous sizes.
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