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Papyrus from the Instruction of Amenemopet


Height: 24.000 cm

EA 10474/2

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Papyrus from the Instruction of Amenemopet

    From Egypt
    Third Intermediate Period, about 1000 BC

    One of the great works of New Kingdom wisdom literature

    'Instructions' or 'wisdom literature' are an important element of ancient Egyptian literature. They were first written during the Middle Kingdom (about 2040-1750 BC), when pessimistic discourses on the general 'state of the nation' were also composed. They continued to be written in the New Kingdom (about 1559-1070 BC).

    The British Museum has the complete text of the Instruction of Amenemopet. The original is thought to date to the Twentieth Dynasty (about 1186-1069 BC) or later. The poem lacks a narrative framework; instead it is divided into thirty sections or maxims, each concerned with one topic. In each section, a piece of advice is put forward, and then refined through a series of similes. Two themes common are the sections, the 'silent man' and the 'heated man', in other words, the 'ideal' and 'non-ideal'. The poem praises the omniscience of god, and contrasts it with human fallibility.

    The manuscript is arranged in verses of one line each, which is unusual. All Egyptian literature is written in verse, but the verses are usually written one after the other. In New Kingdom manuscripts a red dot marks the end of each line. Each line of verse consists of two-three stressed units, as in Coptic verse; there is no rhyme.

    M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian literature: a, 3 vols. (University of California Press, 1973-1980)

    R.B. Parkinson and S. Quirke, Papyrus, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


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