Ancient Egyptian Texts: The biography of Petosiris
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The biography of Petosiris
Lines 1 to 9 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
1 His beloved younger son, owner of all his property, the Great one of the Five, the master of the (holy) seats, 2 the high priest who sees the god in his shrine, who carries his lord 3 and follows his lord, who enters into the holy of holies, who performs his functions 4 together with the great prophets; the prophet of the Ogdoad, chief of the priests of 5 Sakhmet, leader of the priests of the third and fourth phyles; the royal scribe who reckons all the property in 6 the temple of Khmun; the second prophet of Khnum-Re, lord of Herwer, and of Hathor, lady of Nefrusi; 7 the phylarch of the second phyle of the temple of Herwer and that of Nefrusi, the prophet of Amen-Re 8 and of the gods of those places, Petosiris, the revered, called 9 [An]khef(en)-khons, born of the lady Nefer-renpet, justified; he says:
Lines 10 to 16 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
10 O every prophet, every priest, every scholar,
Who enter 11 this necropolis and see this tomb,
Praise god for him who acts (for me),
12 Praise god for them who act (for me)!
For I was one honored by his father,
Praised by 13 his mother,
Gracious to his brothers.
I built this tomb 14 in this necropolis,
Beside the great souls who are there,
15 In order that my father's name be pronounced,
And that of my elder brother,
A man is revived 16 when his name is pronounced!
Petosiris lived in the second half of the 4th century BCE.
This text was inscribed on the east wall of his funerary chapel.
His beloved younger son: Lichtheim: The text is inscribed in that section of the chapel which Petosiris had dedicated to his father Sishu. This is why he begins by identifying himself as his father's younger son.
the Great one of the Five: wr djw, the high priest of Thoth at Khmunu (Hermopolis)
his lord: the statue of the god.
Ogdoad: the eight Hermopolitan primeval gods.
Sakhmet: lion goddess of war and healing
phyles: groups (Greek). Priests belonged to one of four phyles, which were in charge of the services according to a monthly roster.
Nefrusi: town in the Hare nome
Herwer: town in the Hare nome
phylarch: leader of a phyle.
acts: M.Lichtheim: "Acting" in the sense of worshiping and reciting the prayer for offerings.
my father's name be pronounced: On the importance of the name in perpetuating one's existence for eternity see Body and Soul
Lines 16 to 22 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
The west is the abode of him who is 17 faultless,
Praise god for the man who has reached it!
No man will attain it,
18 Unless his heart is exact in doing right.
The poor is not distinguished there 19 from the rich,
Only he who is found free of 20 fault
By scale and weight before eternity's lord.
There is none exempt 21 from being reckoned:
Thoth as Baboon in charge of the balance
22 Will reckon each man for his deeds on earth.
Lines 22 to 33 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
I was on 23 the water of Khmun's lord since my birth,
I had all his plans 24 in my heart.
[He] chose me to administer 25 his temple,
Knowing I respected him in my heart.
26 I spent seven years as controller for this god,
27 Administering his endowment without fault being found,
28 While the Ruler-of-foreign-lands was Protector in Egypt,
And nothing was 29 in its former place,
Since fighting had started 30 inside Egypt,
The South being in turmoil, the North in revolt;
31 The people walked with [head turned back (?)],
All temples 32 were without their servants,
The priests fled, not knowing 33 what was happening.
Lines 33 to 46 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
When I became controller for Thoth, 34 lord of Khmun,
I put the temple of Thoth in 35 its former condition.
I caused every rite to be as before,
36 Every priest (to serve) in his proper time.
I made great 37 his priests,
Advanced his temple's hour-priests;
I promoted 38 all his servants,
I gave a rule to his attendants.
39 I did not reduce the offerings in his temple!
I filled 40 his granaries with barley and emmer,
His treasury with 41 every good thing.
I increased what there had been 42 before,
And every citizen praised god for me.
I gave silver, 43 gold, and all precious stones,
So that I gladdened the hearts of the priests,
44 And of all those who work in the gold house,
And my heart rejoiced 45 in it.
I made splendid what was found ruined anywhere,
I restored 46 what had decayed long ago,
And was no longer in its place.
The west: where the sun set, the realm of the dead who had been justified.
The scales for weighing the heart of the deceased and the devourer, the monster Ammit
Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
Khmun's lord: Thoth, whose main cultic centre was at Hermopolis (Khmunu)
Ruler-of-foreign-lands: Petosiris lived under the Persian occupation.
nothing was in its former place: a lament uttered throughout the millennia of Egypt's history whenever somebody thought that Maat, the world order, was in abeyance.
The South being in turmoil, the North in revolt: M. Lichtheim: This description of turmoil probably refers to the final years of Persian domination and the beginning of Macedonian rule, when order was restored. The Greek elements in the decoration make it certain that the tomb was built after Alexander's conquest of Egypt, and so unflattering an account of disorder under foreign rule would hardly have been written in Macedonian times if it were meant to refer to a Macedonian, rather than a Persian ruler.
hour-priests: Greek horologoi, they set the time for the beginning of the hourly rituals according to their observations of the sky and in later times with the help of clocks. Often they were lay priests. The Middle Kingdom official Ikhernofret reports: I caused the lay priests (i.e. hour-priests) to [know how] to do their duties, (I) caused them to know the stipulation of every day, the feasts of the beginnings of the seasons.
Lines 47 to 51 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
47 I stretched the cord, released the line,
To found 48 the temple of Re in the park.
I built it 49 of fine white limestone,
And finished with all kinds of work;
50 Its doors are of pinewood,
Inlaid with Asian copper.
51 I made Re reside in it,
The nursling in the isle of fire.
stretched the cord: ceremony performed before beginning construction of a temple etc. This ceremony used to be performed by the pharaoh.
pinewood: probably imported from Lebanon.
Asian copper: generally referring to bronze.
Re reside in it: placed the god's statue in its sanctuary.
isle of fire: the eastern sky, birthplace of Re.
Lines 51 to 60 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
I built 52 the house of the goddesses
Inside the house of 53 Khmun,
Having found their house was old.
They dwell 54 in the temple of Thoth, lord of Khmun,
"Festive chapel 55 of the goddesses," people call it,
56 Its face is turned east.
I built the house of 57 Nehmetaway, [the one who-made-what-is (?)],
And the house of Hathor, lady of the sycamore 58 of the south,
[The like of (?)] Nehmetaway, the mother of god.
I built them 59 of fine white limestone,
Finished with all kinds of work,
60 I made these goddesses dwell there.
Nehmetaway: protective goddess, consort of Thoth from the New Kingdom onward.
Hathor: goddess of the sky and of love, mirth, fertility, beauty and more.
Lines 60 to 70 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
I made 61 an enclosure around the park,
Lest it be trampled by 62 the rabble,
For it is the birthplace of every god,
63 Who came into being in the beginning.
This spot, wretches 64 had damaged it,
Intruders had traversed it;
The fruit 65 of its trees had been eaten,
Its shrubs taken to 66 intruders' homes;
The whole land was 67 in uproar about it,
And Egypt was distressed by it,
For the half 68 of the egg is buried in it.
I made a solid work of 69 the wall of Khmun's temple,
To gladden the heart of (my) lady 70 Nehmetaway,
When she sees this work every day.
half of the egg: one half of the egg from which Re was hatched. According to the Book of the Dead: The Osiris Ani saith:- I have risen up out of the seshett chamber, like the golden hawk which cometh forth from his egg.
The egg was a symbol for the beginning of life. The first god emerged from an egg lying in a swamp thicket, and the coffin texts already refer to Re's origin: O Re, who is in his egg. Ptah was considered the creator of the egg and he is depicted forming it on his potter's wheel.
Lines 70 to 82 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
Now when I was 71 before this goddess,
Heket, lady of Herwer,
At her beautiful feast 72 of the year's last month,
I being controller of Thoth,
73 She went to a spot in the north of this town,
Heket: a chthonic goddess in frog shape. Heket supported Khnum during delivery.
To "House of Heket," 74 as it is called by all,
Which was ruined since time 75 immemorial.
The water had carried it off every year,
Till its foundation 76 plan was no longer seen,
It only was called "House of Heket,"
While no 77 brick nor stone was there,
Then the goddess halted there.
78 I summoned the temple scribe of this goddess,
I gave him silver 79 without counting,
To make a monument there from that day.
I built a great 80 rampart around it,
So that the water could not carry it off.
I 81 was diligent in consulting the scholars,
So as to organize the rites,
82 By which this goddess is served,
And content her till she knew it was done.
the goddess halted there: M.Lichtheim: I.e., carried through the town in procession, the goddess halted at the spot where a temple of hers had been to indicate her wish that it be rebuilt.
Lines 83 to 92 in hieroglyphics by G. Lefebvre (Opening in a new window)
83 My lord Thoth distinguished [me] above all [my] peers,
As reward for 84 my enriching him,
With all good things, with silver and gold,
With 85 harvests and produce in granaries,
With fields, 86 with cattle,
With orchards of grapes,
With orchards of all fruit trees,
With ships on the water,
87 With all good things of the storehouse.
[I] was favored by the ruler of Egypt,
I was loved by his courtiers.
88 May this too be given me as reward:
Length of lifetime in gladness of heart,
A good burial after old age,
89 My corpse interred in this tomb,
Beside my father and elder brother,
I being blessed by 90 the lord of Khmun,
And also all the gods of Un,
My house 91 maintained by my children,
With son succeeding 92 son!
May he who comes hereafter say:
"A servant of his god till veneration day!"
My lord Thoth distinguished [me]...: M.Lichtheim: The phrasing of lines 83 - 84 does not make it clear whether the goods enumerated in lines 84 - 87 were given by Petosiris to the temple of Thoth or by the god to Petosiris in reward for his many benefactions to the temples.
veneration day: euphemism for day of death.
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.3, pp.44ff.
Line drawing of a wine making scene, tomb of Petosiris
Source: Lefebvre. Gustave, Le Tombeau de Petosiris, 1924
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