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Ancient Egyptian texts: An ideal autobiography
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False door with statue
False door,
tomb of Mereruka, Sakkara;
Source: Jon Bodsworth

An ideal autobiography
18th dynasty
Stockholm Inscription No. 55

May the King be gracious and grant, and Osiris, Lord of the westerners, and Upuaut of Upper and Lower Egypt and Anubis at the top of the snake mountain. May they grant:     Amen is often mentioned in such inscriptions. His absence should not be interpreted that this inscription is not Theban.
To be blessed in heaven, mighty on earth and triumphant in the underworld.
Entry to and exit from my tomb,
That I may cool myself in his shadow,
    In order to give symbolic access to the tomb false doors were sculpted or painted on the inside wall.
That I may drink water from my pond daily, while all my limbs are fresh.
That the Nile may give me nourishment, offerings and fresh vegetables in his time.
That I may stroll by my lake, daily without ceasing,
    Water played an important part in Egyptian life, both spiritually for purification as well as simply being enjoyable and part of the good life.
That my bA-soul may alight on the tops of the statues which I have made.
That I may refresh myself under my sycamores and eat the bread which they yield,
That I may have my mouth with which to speak like the followers of Horus.
That I may ascend to heaven and descend to earth,
without being hindered in my path
without there being created a prohibited zone for my Ka,
without my
bA-soul being locked up.
    The bA, somewhat misleadingly translated as soul, is depicted as a bird with a human head.
Tutankhamun's ba, source: Jon Bodsworth
Source: Jon Bodsworth
That I may be among the glorified and in the company of the blessed,
That I may plough my land in the field of reeds,
That I may reach my field of offerings,
That they may come forth to me with the jug, with bread and with the cakes of the lords of eternity.
That I may receive my meal with a great deal of meat on the dining table of the great god.
    Food offerings were important for the continued existence. They were often symbolic by painting offering scenes on the tomb walls. But some people endowed temples with land to guarantee services for eternity.
I say this how I want it to be and how I shall be obeyed immediately.
I was a nobleman who was obeyed
whose excellence the king recognised,
who had access to his lord because of his wisdom.
Really straight for the king of Lower Egypt.
I am safe with Re and justified by Osiris.
I did that which people praise and with which the gods are satisfied:
I gave bread to the dead and sated him who had not.
I followed the Horus in his palace in praise and love.
I was not loud-mouthed in the presence of councils.
I did not quarrel with him who was greater than me.
I did not spread wide my steps, until I followed the magnificent throne.
    Knowing and accepting one's place in the hierarchy was a major factor contributing to the amazing social stability of Egyptian society.
I did in truth that which the King loves,
knowing it had been recommended to him.
I kept guard at my position to elevate his power.
I rose early in order to greet him, daily.
I was aware of that which he might say to me.
Never did I forget that which he had decided for me.
I spent (my life) in awe and justice.
I reached this (the death) in silence and calm.
My lord praised me for my usefulness.
He saw the prowess of my arms.
My excellence brought me into the hall of office.
I did not come forth with a secret of the King's house.
I did not give away affairs of the residence.
    Successful servants (and the Egyptian society was composed of a mass of servants serving one single master, the pharaoh) like to attribute their rise to their own abilities rather than to other factors such as luck.
    All such tomb inscriptions reek of self-praise on the one hand and self-abasement on the other. The idea seems to have been to influence the decision of the gods through the magic of the written word to give the deceased a favourable verdict [1].
I did not calumniate, not even when there were arrears (or: in an [evil] matter).
I have not permitted evil to rise to the palace.
My heart was calm and it was good for my own sake.
I was useful to the Horus in his house.
O, you who are on earth,
Give me praise, satisfied with my confession.
I have said this which I have said, in truth, [there is no lie] in it.
Bend [my arm with need for nourishment] and sacrifice for the dead.
Tell me:
Htp-dj-nsw for the blessed one with Osiris.
It is a breath of the mouth
but beneficial for the exalted.
This is not something [because of which one grows tired.
For the Ka of ...]
    when there were arrears (or: in an [evil] matter): meaning unclear

Source of text: Torgny Säve-Söderbergh Einige ägyptische Denkmäler in Schweden



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April 2003