Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egyptian texts: The decree of Demedjibtawy
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The decree of Demedjibtawy protecting mortuary foundations and exempting them from dues and duties

1 The Horus Demedjibtawy
2 Royal decree for the god's father, beloved of god commanding, royal pupil, supervisor of the city of the (royal) pyramid, judge of the gate, vizier, maker of offerings to Min, Idi.
3 As to all the people of this whole land 4 who would do 5 something, 6 violence or damage 7 to 8 the statues, 9 the offering tables, 10 the chapels, 11 the inscriptions of administrations (?), 12 the foundations 13 belonging to you and of any kind 14 that are in all sanctuaries and all temples, 15 my Majesty has not permitted 16 that their goods be established 17 (nor) those of their fathers 18 in them, 19 (nor) that they join the hallowed dead in the necropolis, 20 nor that they be among the living.
- Cairo, JE 41894
Demedjibtawy is difficult to identify historically. He is thought to belong to the eighth dynasty and may be identical with Wadjkare. Sethe thought this to be somewhat unlikely: According to his interpretation the last line of this text mentions the messenger sent by name–Wadjkare-/// (where the second part of the name is lost) son of Hab, who was apparently named after the king reigning at the time of his birth, Wadjkare. If Demedjibtawy's throne name were Wadjkare, he would have had to have been in power long enough for the youngster to grow up, about two decades, and the First Intermediate Period is not known for long reigns [2].
-god's father, beloved of god: titles which seem to have come into being during the 6th dynasty.
-the inscriptions of administrations (?): Strudwick [3]: wooden items
-the foundations: Strudwick: monuments
-judge of the gate: courts of law were often situated by the entrance of temples.
-their goods be established: Strudwick: their property remain therein
-living: according to Moret the resurrected deceased, according to Strudwick "the living [upon earth]."
21 [As to all the people of this entire land] who should cause an impediment to enjoy 23 (or cause) a diminishment 23 of the goods of the tenants 24 (or) to the offerings (for) you, 25 which are taken for the authorities 26 (and) done to your statues 27 which are in the temples of the South 28 i.e. 29 fields, 30 (loaves of) bread, 31 (vessels of) beer, 32 (offerings of) meat, 32 dairy products, 34 made over to you by legal conveyance. 35 certainly, my Majesty has not ordered 36 that they be at the head of the hallowed dead 37 (in) the necropolis. 38 On the contrary,that they be fettered and tied like prisoners of King 39 Osiris and the gods of their cities. -tenants: the priesthood who had received the usufruct of land etc. for the upkeep of the mortuary offerings of a deceased person.
-taken for the authorities: Strudwick: which are noted in the land-registry
-has not ordered ...: i.e. has ordered that they not be ... It is interesting to note that all the threatened punishments concern the after-life, a sign for the powerlessness of the kings during this period of upheavals.
-at the head of the hallowed dead: Strudwick: among the akhs. (cf. Akh)
-of King Osiris: Strudwick: of the king and Osiris
-the gods of their cities: gods were originally local and achieved national importance by merging similar deities from various localities. (cf. Cities and citizens)
38 And as to every head supervisor, every official, who shall not oppose anything 39 in his nome, as to all the people who shall impose these dutiesto justice shall be brought even the king, the judge of the gate, vizier, and the officials40 his charter does not exist anymore for his function nor for his seal, his charter does not exist for any of his possessions, the charter of his children does not exist anymore concerning this subject, 41 (while) he will remain established as official who opposes the imposition of these duties. -head supervisor: Moret: "nomarch" during the Middle Kingdom, Strudwick: chief
-shall not oppose anything: Strudwick: does not carry out punishment
-who shall impose these duties: Gardiner: act after the said manner
-to justice shall be brought even the king, the judge of the gate, vizier, and the officials: Egyptian kings were bound by what was right like everybody else. Clauses such as this, reminding the king that he was not just upholder of Maat but also subject to it, appear occasionally in documents [1]. Officials, too, had to be reminded not to be overly zealous. Horemheb, in his Great Edict went further, extending his protection to private persons oppressed by tax collectors.
Strudwick on the other hand translates: until the king, vizier, or officials come by
-his charter does not exist anymore for: Strudwick: he has no right -charter: legal document conferring a right. Temples and foundations had their exemptions from paying duties and doing compulsory work assured by documents.
42 Have this decree copied, cause it to be taken 43 to every nomarch of the South, and that it be put on a stela of stone at the entrance of every shrine 40 where there are foundations, so that the sons of the sons of men may see [for all eternity].
May one send the supervisor of the
khentyu-she of Pharaoh, Wadjkare-/// (son) of Hab, concerning this subject.

M. A. Moret, "Chartes d'immunité dans l'Ancien Empire égyptien", in Journal asiatique, 1917 (Sér. 11/T.10), Paris, pp.359ff.

-khentyu-she: xnt.ju-S, perhaps "tenants".
-Pharaoh, Wadjkare-/// (son) of Hab, concerning this subject: Strudwick: the Great House attend, whom Wadjkare /// sent ///. The term pharao, lit. Great House (pr aA), referred at this time to the palace, rather than to its chief occupant, the king.

M. A. Moret, "Chartes d'immunité dans l'Ancien Empire égyptien", in Journal asiatique, 1917 (Sér. 11/T.10), Paris
Nigel Strudwick, Texts from the Pyramid Age, Brill 2005, ISBN 9004130489
[1] Moret, op.cit., pp.380f.
[2] Moret, op.cit., p.385.
[3] Strudwick, op.cit., pp.123f.

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© November 2007

- Alternative spellings:
Demedjibtawy: Demedjibtaoui, Demedjibtawi, Demedj-ib-tawy, Demedj-ib-taoui
Wadjkare: Wadjkara, Ouadjkare