Posted at Oct 27/2011 03:25PM:
angreenb: Did the ancient Egyptians ever believe that one could truly work himself up from a poor situation to a higher one? King Senwosret III mentions how he was noble from birth and was meant, from the time he was an “egg,” to rule. This is all to be expected from a king of an absolute monarchy. However, I’m surprised that we also see similar notions in the vizier Amenemhet’s rhetoric and the wording of Ikhernofret’s text. Ikhernofret says that the king saw him as “one of excellent conduct” who had “come from the womb as one wise.” So, philosophically, to what extent did the ancient Egyptians believe that the individual consciously created one’s own future and to what extent did they believe they were born to be great? How much control did the ancient Egyptians think they had over their own destinies?
Posted at Oct 27/2011 06:59PM:
Alexa Pugh: As we have seen from many primary sources, the Egyptians were not shy about extolling their accomplishments, especially in terms of funeral texts, such as the tomb autobiographies. Interestingly, the boundary stela of Senwosret III attests (about his description of the Nubians) "it is not an untruth," and, more importantly, "here is no boastful phrase that has come from my mouth" in reference to his attack on Nubian lands (Parkinson 46). What provoked Senwosret III (or the person who inscribed this) to feel like he needed to validate the truth of these statements in this way? Were Egyptians skeptical about the accomplishments of previous kings too? Were they starting to be more interested in separating reality from the version of events they presented to the gods? Was a distinction between the two even a concern for them?
Posted at Oct 27/2011 09:18PM:
Gillie Johnson: In the Heqanakht Papers Ipi's second wife is treated very contemptuously. The numerous tombs built for royal wives during the Middle Kingdom seems to suggest, for royalty at least, second marriage was not uncommon. Yet in Trouble at home: a letter from a general stepmothers are depicted as innately evil. How were second marriages viewed by different members of Egyptian society? Did stepmothers really pose such a big threat to families? How much power did women wield in the household?
Posted at Oct 27/2011 09:41PM:
Gillie Johnson: As Parkinson notes, The Heqanakht Papers served as the inspiration for Agatha Christie's novel, Death Comes as the End. While the plot and characters of the novel closely mirror the people and events described in The Heqanakht Papers, Christie also explores the concepts of evil and a person's true nature as opposed to the image he or she publicly projects. How would an Egyptian define evil? What things tend to be characterized as good or bad? If Ipi wrote an autobiography, how would his depiction of himself vary from his true personality as depicted in his letters? To what extent do autobiographies mask the individual's actual personality?
Posted at Oct 27/2011 09:49PM:
Nick Bartos: Both Callender and Lichtheim argue that “The Instruction of King Amenemhet I for his Son Sesostris I” is in fact a document not composed by Amenemhet I (as previously thought), but is instead the work of a scribe at the behest of King Senusret I, therefore presumably exposing his views on kingship. In its description of an assassination attempt, the king appears to be weak, almost powerless after not foreseeing “the failing of the servants” (Lichtheim: 137). Yet, in the “Building Inscription of Sesostris I” the view of kingship is completely different. We instead see Senusret I as a “king by nature” who “conquered as a fledgling,” “lorded in the egg,” and otherwise completely infallible (Lichtheim: 116). How can we explain these very different accounts of kingship in the same reign? Is this an issue of audience (who is actually seeing these passages) rather than an actual ideological shift or inaccuracy?
Posted at Oct 27/2011 10:38PM:
Katie East: In the admonitions of Ipuwer the author presents a picture of Egypt in chaos and the details he chooses to highlight as indicative of such as chaos are interesting. Chaos is primarily characterized through a breakdown of social order as evidenced by people and things behaving in ways that are the opposite of how they should. In particular, the nobles are forced to act in ways unbecoming of individuals of high rank. Does the fact that chaos is seen in the breakdown of the social order especially in regards to nobles indicate the important role nobles played in everyday life, or does it perhaps point to a more nuanced understanding of the importance of hierarchy, with a king at the top? Does it say more about the ways the author, who was presumably writing for an audience of nobles, sees the importance of nobility or was he simply trying to gain favor among his audience and likely employers?
Posted at Oct 27/2011 11:10PM:
ArianaGunderson: In the readings for this week, the idea of 'father and son' is repeated throughout many texts. Several kings name gods as their fathers. Mentuhotep IV states that he "commanded to erect this stela for his father Min," (Lichtheim 114) and Ikhernofret builds a stela for his "father Osiris, Foremost-of-the-Westerners." (Lichtheim 124) In our discussion of kingship at the beginning of the course, we considered the role of the divine in determining the legitimacy of the king. These passages suggest that the Middle Kingdom rulers blatantly associated themselves with the gods to assert legitimacy. The father-son connection cropped up again in these readings with regards to the king's progeny. Lichtheim notes that the Wisdom Literature advice texts all take the role of a father-to-son dialogue (134). Perhaps this can provide some insight to the relationship between fathers and sons in Ancient Egypt, one in which instruction featured prominently. The Heqanakht Papers bolster this: Heqanahkt leaves his son Merisu in charge of his estate while he is away, and sends him letters which instruct him in his work. Perhaps we can further discuss the relationships between fathers and sons presented in the readings for Friday's class!
Posted at Oct 28/2011 12:54AM:
E_Fredrickson: A few documents from Senwosret III seem to share the notion that the king should defend Egypt's current boundaries, but not necessarily extend them. Thus, in boundary stela of Senwosret III, Senwosret is presented as someone "who attacks when attacked and is quiet when it is quiet." This would seem to suggest that the king wished to present himself as defending against incursions rather than aggressively attacking foreign nations. Similarly, in a hymn to Senwosret III, Senwosret is portrayed as Sekhmet but particularly "against his enemies who have trodden on his boundaries." On the basis of the line already quoted, is it significant that the hymn portrays the enemies infringing on Egypt's territory rather than Egypt deliberately extending its territory?
Posted at Oct 28/2011 01:39AM:
Nathan Partlan: In E_Frederickson's statement, he posits that Senwosret III may be primarily defensive in his foreign policy. However, the same boundary stela presents the line: "One who attacks him who would attack," and similarly, "I have carried off their dependents/gone to their wells, killed their cattle." These and other lines seem to present his foreign policy as aggressive, pre-emptively attacking foes and destroying their property on their own territory. Do we see this sort of aggression-as-defense policy as a common theme in Egyptian politics, and is it a depiction of actual policy or merely an overstatement of aggression to aggrandize the king's strength?
Posted at Oct 28/2011 11:45AM:
Christina Sauer: In "The Instruction of King Amenemhet I for His Son Sesostris I," there are multiple occasions which suggest that someone (Lichtheim proposes a royal scribe) wrote the text for the king posthumously. Why, then, would all the great things the king had done be relayed to his son when most of his works appear self-gratifying? Isn't that what caused the "hatred in the streets?" Or, is the text meant as a warning to the successor not to repeat the past?
Posted at Oct 28/2011 11:55AM:
Kate Alexander: In the building inscription of Sesostris I, the king speaks of the importance of names in gaining access to the afterlife: "He who plans for himself does not know oblivion, for his name is still pronounced...A name is good sustenance. It means being alert to the concerns of eternity." Given the power of names, were particular names reserved for kings and gods? Did the common people believe that their own names had such mystic powers, or were such aspirations still only for the king?