Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egypt: Regulation laid upon the vizier Rekhmire
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.


Regulation laid upon the vizier Rekhmire

    Regulation laid upon the vizier Rekhmire. The officials were brought to the audience-hall, [his majesty (?)] commanded that the vizier, Rekhmire, be presented [for (?)] appointment for the first time. His majesty spake before him: ["Take heed (?)] to thyself for the hall of the vizier; be watchful over all that is done therein. Behold, it is a support of the whole land: behold, as for the vizier, behold, he is not sweet, behold, bitter is he, when he addresses /// /// of copper is he, a wall of gold for the house of his /// ///. Behold, he is not one setting his face toward the officials and councilors, neither one making [brethren] of all the people. Behold, /// /// /// a man is in the dwelling of his lord, he [does] good for him; behold [he] does not /// /// for another.
    Behold, the petitioner of the South, [the North] and the whole land, shall come, supplied /// /// /// /// ///. Mayest thou see to it for thyself, to do everything after that which is in accordance with law; to do everything according to the right thereof. Do not /// /// /// that he may be just. Behold, as for an official, when he has reported water and wind of all his doings, behold, his deeds shall not be unknown /// /// /// [/// /// /// (?)] /// /// ///; he is not brought in because of the speech of the responsible officer, [but (?)] it is known by the speech of his messenger as the one stating it; he is by the side of the responsible officer as the speaker; he is not one lifting up the voice, a messenger petitioning /// /// /// /// /// or an official. Then one shall not be ignorant of his deeds; lo, it is the safety of an official to do things according to the regulation, by doing that which is spoken by the petitioner. .........
    It is an abomination of the god to show partiality. This is the teaching: thou shalt do the like, shalt regard him who is known to thee like him who is unknown to thee, and him who is near to /// like him who is far /////////// an official who does like this, then shall he flourish greatly in the place. Do not [avoid (?)] a petitioner, nor nod thy head when he speaks. As for him who draws near, who will approach to thee, do not /// /// /// /// the things which he saith in speaking. Thou shalt punish him when thou hast let him hear that on account of which thou punishest him. Lo, they will say, the petitioner loves him who nods the head [/// /// /// (?)] /// ///.
- Rekhmire; Source: W.M. Flinders Petrie, A History of Egypt, Part 2
Rekhmire, vizier under Thutmose III and Amenhotep II
Source: W.M. Flinders Petrie, A History of Egypt, Part 2
-/// /// of copper is he...: Joseph Kaster's The Wisdom of Ancient Egypt[1] has: he is copper enclosing the gold of his lord's house
-not one setting his face toward the officials...: rendered as not to show respect of persons to princes and councilors; it is not to make for himself slaves of any people. in Kaster The Wisdom of Ancient Egypt
-[he] does not /// /// for another: The power a vizier wielded made him a potential risk to his sovereign.
-right: Law was seemingly mostly customary law, based on precedents.
-as for an official, when he has reported water and wind: Kaster's translation: a prince is in a conspicuous place, water and wind report concerning all that he does.
    Be not enraged toward a man unjustly, but be thou enraged concerning that about which one should be enraged, show forth the fear of thee; let one be afraid of thee, (for) a prince is a prince of whom one is afraid. Lo, the true dread of a prince is to do justice. Behold, if a man show forth the fear of him a myriad of times, there is something of violence in him. Be not known to the people; and they shall not say: "He is (only) a man."
    He who speaks a lie shall go forth according to his docket, Lo, [/// (?)] thou shalt do thy office, as thou doest justice. Lo, one shall desire to do justice........ ....... Lo, one shall say of the chief scribe of the vizier: "A scribe of justice," shall one say of him. Now, as for the hall, wherein thou holdest hearings there shall be a broad-hall therein /////////. [He who dispenses (?)]justice before all the people, he is the vizier. Behold, a man shall be in his office, (as long as) he shall do things according to that which is given to him. Lo, a man is [/// (?)] when he shall act according to that which has been told him. Do not /// thy /// in /// /// that thou knowest the law thereof. Lo, let one [/// (?)] to the proud-hearted; the king loves the fearful more than the proud-hearted. Do thou according to [that which is given (?)] to thee; lo, ///////// ........ /////////. -before all the people: The dispensation of justice was public
-proud-hearted: One may assume that powerful men like Rekhmire, belonging to a long line of similarly important ancestors (Rekhmire's uncle Woser was vizier before him, as were his great-grandfather and grandfather), were not naturally of a humble disposition.
    Arrangement of the sitting of the governor of the (residence) city, and vizier of the Southern City, (and) of the court, in the hall of the vizier. As for every act of this official, the vizier while hearing in the hall of the vizier, he shall sit upon a chair, with a rug upon the floor, and a dais upon it, a cushion under his back, a cushion under his feet, a /// upon it, and a baton at his hand; the 40 skins shall be open before him. Then the magnates of the South (shall stand) in the two aisles before him, while the master of the privy chamber is on his right, the [receiver of income (?)] on his left, the scribes of the vizier at his (either)hand,one [corresponding (?)] to another, with each man at bis proper place. One shall be heard after another, without allowing one who is behind to be heard before one who is in front. If one in front says: "There is none being heard at my hand," then he shall be taken by the messenger of the vizier. -Southern City: Thebes
-sit upon a chair...: The halls of many private homes had such a raised chair for the master of the house.
-baton: officials were generally holding a staff of office, which was not in all instances purely ceremonial.
-40 skins: statute books, written on leather which is more enduring than papyrus.
    There shall be reported to him the sealing of the sealed chambers up to (that) hour and the opening of them up to (that) hour. There shall be reported to him the affairs of the fortresses of the South and North. The going out of all that goes out of the king's-house shall be reported to him; and the coming in of all that comes into the king's-house shall be reported to him. Now, as for everything going in (and) everything going out on the floor of the court, they shall go out (and) they shall go in through his messenger, who shall cause (them) to go in (and) go out.
    The overseers of hundreds and the overseers of [/// (?)] shall report to him their affairs.
    Furthermore, he shall go in to take counsel on the affairs of the king, L.P.H., and there shall be reported to him the affairs of the Two Lands in his house every day. He shall go in to Pharaoh, before the chief treasurer; he shall wait at the northern flagstaff. Then the vizier shall come, proceeding from the gate of the great double façade.
-There shall be reported to him: The vizier was the head of the administration, during this period of one half of the country, in the case of Rekhmire Upper Egypt. Many of these responsibilities must have been delegated.
-fortresses: The involvement of the vizier with military matters was generally slight. The fortresses in the south along the Nile (Buhen, Semna etc), in the north-east defending the region of Horus Road (Wall of the Prince) and in the north-west preventing incursions of the Libyans had also economic importance.
-he shall wait: the treasurer was to wait for the vizier to arrive.
    Then the chief treasurer, he shall come to meet him (the vizier) and shall report to him, saying: "All thy affairs are sound and prosperous; every responsible incumbent has reported to me, saying: 'All thy affairs are sound and prosperous, the king's-house is sound and prosperous.'"
    Then the vizier, he shall report to the chief treasurer, saying; "All thy affairs are sound and prosperous; every seat of the court is sound and prosperous. There have been reported to me the sealing of the sealed chambers to this hour (and) the opening of them to (this) hour, by every responsible incumbent."
    Now, after each has reported to the other, of the two officials, then the vizier shall send to open every gate of the king's-house, to cause to go in all that goes in, (and) [to go out (?)] all that goes out likewise, by his messenger, who shall cause it to be put in writing.
-shall report to the chief treasurer: The treasurer was a colleague rather than a subordinate. The vizier had precedence, though.
-each has reported to the other: There was a constant mutual surveillance of the two offices, the vizierate and the treasury. It is unclear what was included in these reports, and what the procedure would have been if someone's affairs were not sound and prosperous.
-put in writing: The Egyptian bureaucracy was based on written records.
    Let not any official be empowered to judge [against a superior (?)] in his hall. If there be any assailant against any of these officials in his hall, then he shall cause that he be brought to the judgment-hall. It is the vizier who shall punish him, in order to expiate his fault. Let not any official have power to punish in his hall. There shall be reported [to (?)] him every judgment which is against the hall, [when he repairs thereto. (?)]
    As for every messenger whom the vizier sends with a message for an official, from the first official to the last, let him not be [swerved (?)], and let him not be conducted; the official shall repeat bis vizierial message while he stands before the official, repeating his message and going forth to wait for him. His messenger shall seize the mayors and village sheiks for the judgment-hall; his messenger shall give the [regulation (?)] ///////// his messenger gives answer, saying: "I have been sent with a message for the official so and so; he caused that I be conducted, and he caused that something be entrusted to me. Hear [the affair (?)] of this official ///////// expiate those things, about which there has been litigation by the vizier in his hall, in every [crime (?)], with greater punishment than by cutting off a limb.
-As for every messenger: The messengers were the vizier's personal representatives and received treatment similar to that of their master himself, cutting through the bureaucratic red-tape and expediting procedures.
    Now, as for every act of the vizier, while hearing in his hall; and as for every one who shall /// /// /// /// /// [he shall record (?)] everything concerning which he hears him. He who has not disproved the charge at his hearing, which takes place [/// (?)] then it shall be entered in the criminal docket. He who is in the great prison, not able to disprove the charge of his messenger, likewise; when their case comes on another time, then one shall report and determine whether it is in the criminal docket, and there shall be [executed (?)] the things concerning which entry was made, in order to expiate their offense. -hearing: Sitting in court and listening to petitions etc.
-He who has not disproved the charge: There was an assumption of guilt rather than innocence.
-prison: seemingly rather a detention centre than a penal institution.
    As for any writing sent [[by the vizier (?)] to] any hall, being those which are not confidential, it shall be taken to him together with the documents of the keepers thereof under seal of the (sDm.w) officers, and the scribes thereof after them; then he shall open it; then after he has seen it, it shall return to its place, sealed with the seal of the vizier. (But) if he furthermore ask for a confidential writing, then let it not be taken by the keepers thereof. -him: the official requesting the document.
-the documents of the keepers: the whereabouts of documents were recorded.
-he: the official requesting the document.
-confidential writing: secret material was apparently not loaned out.
    Now, as for every messenger whom the vizier sends on account of any petitioner, he shall cause that he go to him.
    Now, as for every petitioner to the vizier concerning lands, he shall dispatch him (the messenger) to him, in addition to a hearing of the land-overseer and the local council of the [district. (?)] He shall decree a stay for him of two months for his lands in the South or North. As for his lands, however, which are near to the Southern City and to the court, he shall decree a stay for him of three days, being that which is according to law; (for) he shall hear every petitioner according to this law which is in his hand.
-concerning lands: Land was of course the base of all wealth. Precautions were therefore taken that no injustice should occur, authorities knowledgeable in the matter were consulted and travelling times for petitioners etc. taken into account.
    It is he who brings in the officials of the district; it is he who sends them out: they report [to] him the affairs of their districts.
    Every property-list is brought to him; it is he who seals it.
    It is he who administers the [gift(?)]-lands in all regions. As for every petitioner who shall say: "Our boundary is unsettled;" one shall examine whether it is under the seal of the official thereof; then be shall seize the seizures of the local council who unsettled it.
    Now, as for every remarkable case, and everything pertaining thereto; do not look at anything therein.
    One shall put every petition in writing, not permitting that he petition orally. Every petitioner to the king shall be reported to him, after he puts (it) in writing.
    It is he who dispatches every messenger of the king's-house, L.P.H., who is sent to the mayors and village sheiks. It is he who dispatches every circuit messenger, every expedition of the king's-house. It is he who acts as the one who /// /// [in] the South and North, the Southern frontier (tp rsy) and Abydos (tA-wr). They shall report to him all that happens among them, on the first day of every four-month season; they shall bring to him the writing thereof, in their hands, together with their local council.
-they report [to] him the affairs of their districts: Under a strong vizier the administration was centralized. There were times when central control ceased and affairs were administrated at regional and local level.
-property-list: Copies of deeds, wills etc were deposited in state archives, often affiliated with temples.
-under the seal of the official thereof: Officials witnessed the deposited documents, cf. Contracts and other Legal Documents.
-remarkable case: Erman thought this referred to unregistered land.
-Every petitioner to the king shall be reported to him: The king was approachable only through the office of the vizier.
    It is he who gathers the troops, moving in attendance upon the king, in journeying northward or southward.
    It is he who stations the rest who remain in the Southern City, (and) in the court, according to the decision in the king's-house, L. P. H.
    The commandant of the ruler's-table is brought to him, to his hall, together with the council of the army, in order to give to them the regulation of the army.
    Let every office, from first to last, proceed to the hall of the vizier, to take counsel with him.
-troops: These troops were used as police protection rather than a force of war.
-stations the rest: Some troops were left as a garrison, probably to prevent unrest or even insurrection.
-commandant of the ruler's-table: According to Breasted: A district commandant who delivered game and supplies for the prince's table. In the Middle Kingdom the nomarchs also had such officers.
    It is he who dispatches to cut down trees according to the decision in the king's-house.
    It is he who dispatches the official staff, to attend to the water-supply in the whole land.
    It is he who dispatches the mayors and village sheiks to plow for harvest time.
    It is he who [appoints (?)] the overseers of hundreds in the hall of the king's-house.
    It is he who [arranges (?)] the hearing of the mayors and village sheiks who go forth in his name, of South and North.
    Every matter is reported to him; there are reported to him the affairs of the southern fortress; and every arrest which is for seizing ///.
    It is he who takes every deposition; it is he who "hears" it. It is he who dispatches the [district (?)] soldiers and scribes to carry out the [administration (?)] of the king. The records of the nome are in his hall. It is he who hears concerning all lands. It is he who makes the boundary of every nome, the field [/// (?)], all divine offerings and every contract.
    It is he who takes every deposition; it is he who hears the rejoinder when a man comes for argument with his opponent.
    It is he who appoints every appointee to the hall of judgment, when any litigant comes to him from the king's-house. It is he who hears every edict.
-water-supply: The establishment and upkeep of waterworks was mostly in the hands of regional and local authorities. The central authority was involved to some degree given their crucial importance.
The vizierial administration was based on local officials (village elders, town mayors) administering their home region under the direct supervision of the vizier and on emissaries (scribes, soldiers) sent as personal representatives to accomplish some task.
The main secular duties of the vizier were
  • Keeping order
  • Dispensation of justice
  • Facilitating food production
  • Overseeing the administration
  • Levying taxes
  • Fulfilling the king's wishes
It is he who hears concerning the "Great Beauty" of every divine offering. It is he who levies all taxes of the income, and who gives it to him [/// (?)] ///////// every /// in the Southern City, (and) in the court. It is he who seals it under bis seal. It is he who hears every matter; it is he who makes the distribution of the tribute to the crown possessions. The great council shall report to him their dues ///////// every /// that is brought to the judgment-hall, and every offering to the judgment-hall, he shall hear concerning it. It is he who opens the gold-house, together with the chief treasurer. It is he who inspects the tribute of [all] lands ///////// chief steward, together with the great council (DADA.t wr.t). It is he who makes the [lists of (?)] all bulls, [of (?)] which a list is made.
-tribute: cf. The Subjugation of Nubia
    It is he who inspects the [water-supply (?)] (swr.t) on the first of every ten-day period [///] ///////// concerning every matter of the judgment-hall.
    The mayors, village sheiks, and every man shall report to him, all their tribute. Every district supervisor, and every [overseer of (?)] hundreds, they shall report to him every litigation [///] ///////// they shall report to him furthermore, monthly, in order to control the tribute. The treasurers and the (kfA yb-) officials shall /////////.
    ///////// the rising of Sirius, and the [///] of the Nile. There shall be reported to him the high (Nile) ///////// [/// /// /// ///] ///.
    It is he who exacts the ships for every requisition made upon him. It is he who dispatches every messenger of the king's-house to /////////. When the king is with the army, it is he who makes report /////////. Report is made to him by all the officials of the head of the navy, from the highest to the lowest. It is he who seals the edicts ///////// [///] of the keeper of [///] who is dispatched with a message of the king's-house.
    Every report shall be reported to him by the doorkeeper of the judgment-hall, who reports [on his part (?)] all that he (the vizier) does while bearing is the hall of the vizier.
-ten-day period: Each of the 12 months was divided into 3 periods of ten days.
-rising of Sirius: The yearly rising of Sirius above the horizon at dawn (on the 21st July) coincided with the beginning of the period of inundation. Being dependent on the earth's movements it was more predictive of the rise of the Nile than the Egyptian calendar date. The calendar year was only 365 days long and important natural phenomena like the rising of the Nile occurred at an ever later date as time passed. Just once every 1461 years would the heliacal rising of Sirius fall on the first day of the Season of Inundation (Akhet).
-be reported to him the high (Nile): The height of the river was gauged at a number of points, the southernmost Nilometer being at Elephantine. The measurements were recorded.
    Sitting, in order to hear the petitioners, in the hall of the vizier; by the hereditary prince, count, wearer of the royal seal, sole companion, (mr.t ntr-) priest, chief of the six courts of justice, a mouth giving satisfaction in the whole land; (sm-) priest, [master of every wardrobe (?)], judging justly, not showing partiality, sending two men forth satisfied, judging the weak and the powerful, not [bringing sorrow (?)] to the one who petitioned him; satisfying the heart of the king before the Two Lands, prince before the people, companion approaching the sovereign, favorite of him who is in the palace.
    Going forth over the land every morning to do the daily favors, to hear the matters of the people, the petitions of the South and the North; not preferring the great above the humble, rewarding the oppressed [/// ///] bringing the evil to him who committed it; by ///////// [Rekhmire].
-six courts of justice: Apparently courts dealing with matters beyond the competence of the popular qenbets.
-mouth: spokesman, hence leader
-bringing the evil to him who committed it: Egyptian justice was retributive, punishment going well beyond the "eye for an eye" principle.

J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two; §§ 666ff.


- -Index of Texts
-Index of Topics
-Main Index and Search Page
Offsite links(Opening in a new window)
I do not assume any responsibility for the availability or content of these websites
-[1] Instructions of Rekhmire
-The tomb of Rekhmire (Nova)
-The tomb of Rekhmire (Osirisnet)

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

August 2004