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british museum, Nov-2005 393
Tale of Sinuhe
Limestone ostrica, with hieratic writing, from an apprentice scribe's copy of the final part of the Tale of Sinuhe. Dated to the late 19th Dynasty from Thebes. The Tale writes of a period starting from the death of Amenemhat I (Sehetep-Ib-Ra, ruled 1985-1956 BC as the 1st king of the 12th Dynasty and the Middle Kingdom) and continues into the reign of his son Senusret I (Kheper-Ka-Ra, ruled 1956-1911 BC) and contains 203 lines. The earliest copy of the story dates to the reign of Amenemhat III (Ni-Maat-Ra, ruled 1831-1786 BC as the 6th king of the 12th Dynasty). There are four known copies dating to the Middle Kingdom and 28 to later periods including this ostrica.

The Tale is a funerary Autobiography thought to have been written on a tomb inscription (which has not been found). He 'talks' to the reader with a description of his virtues in order to preserve his reputation and funerary cult.

Part 1: Sinuhe speaks from the tomb. In the first part of the Tale as Sinuhe leaves Egypt after hearing that the old king (Amenemhat I) has died. He is in a panic and flees from Egypt (for reasons that are not fully explained).  Sinuhe, close to death in the dessert, is rescued by a passing foreign prince Amunenshi.

Part 2: Sinuhe explains to Amunenshi the virtues of the new king, Senusret, demonstrating his loyalty to Egypt. Sinuhe is given land and position and makes a 'little Egypt' amongst the barbarians.

Part 3: Sinuhe becomes very successful and highly trusted – even fighting a dual with another chieftain. However he yearns for Egypt and makes a private pray. This is heard by Senusret, who sends an answer to Sinuhe telling his to return for burial in Egypt.

Part 4: Sinuhe travels to Egypt and return to the King and his entourage. He is cleansed and rejuvenated, and the final part of the story is a description of the tomb which he is given as a sign of favour. The Tale ends, as it began, with Sinuhe in his tomb addressing the tomb-visitor.

The following is the Section of text written in Hieratic on the Limestone Ostrica
    A pyramid-chapel of stone was built for me amid the pyramids
   The overseer of glaze-workers of the pyramid procured its ground,
   The overseer of sealers did the drawing, the sculptors did the cutting,
   The overseers of works who were at the pyramid temple ferried for it.

   Every tool that is set to the temple-terrace, it found its task there.

   I was given spirit-servants, and I made an estate for the cult,
   Containing fields as endowment at the landing-stage as is done for the foremost official
   My image was adorned with gold, its kilt in electrum,
   It is His Majesty who had it done. No poor mortal ever received such treatment
   I am in the favour of before the king
   Until the day of landing (death) came.

    Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume 1 the Old and Middle Kingdom; Miriam Lichtheim; 1975
    The Literature of Ancient Egypt; William Simpson (Ed); 1978
    The Tale of Sinuhe and other Ancient Egyptian Poems; 1997
    Digital Egypt for Universities, University College London; internet; 2006
Tale of Sinuhe (also known as Sanehat)
Transliteration after Koch 1990, using the two principal sources (Berlin 3022 for the bulk of the text, and Berlin 10499, for the first section, missing in 3022).
Nobleman and overlord, governor and canal-cutter, sovereign among the Syrians
One known to the king directly, his favourite, the Follower Sanehat
He says:
I am a Follower who follows his lord, a servant of the family-quarters of the king
Of the noblewoman, abounding in favour, King's Wife of Senusret in Khenemsut
King's Daughter of Amenemhat in Qaneferu, Neferu, lady of reverence
Regnal year 30, month 3 of Flood, day 7: The god ascended to his horizon, the dual king Sehetepibra
He fared up to the sky, joining with the sun-disk, divine limbs merging with his creator. The Residence was in silence, hearts in sorrow, the Double Gate sealed, the court with head on knees, the nobles in lament.
Now His Majesty had sent an army against the Land of the Timehu with his eldest son as its commander, the good god Senusret. He was sent to smite the hill lands, to quell the inhabitants of Tjehenu, He was just on his return, and had brought the captives of Tjehenu, and all the limitless herds
The courtiers of the Palace despatched to the Western reaches, to inform the King's Son of the turn of events in the Chamber. The envoys found him on the road, and had reached him at the time of dusk. Not a slight moment did he delay, the falcon, he flew off with his followers, without having his army informed of it.
Now there was a despatch with regard to the King's children
who were following him in this army
One of them was summoned
Now I was up, and heard his voice
When he was speaking - I was a short distance away
My heart stopped, my arms crossed, trembling fell through my whole body
I slipped back in starts to seek out a hiding-place,
To place myself between the bushes, to remove the way and its farer
I made my way south
without thinking of approaching this Residence.
I imagined there would be bloodshed, and I denied I could survive it
I negotiated the Sea of Truth in the area of the Sycamore, and I made it to the Island of Sneferu
I rested on the curb of the fields, and moved on when it came to day.
I crossed a man standing at a fork in the road:
He hailed me, but I feared him
Evening fell as I trod on to the mooring-point of the horned bull
I ferried across in a cargo-boat without a rudder, thanks to a breeze from the west
I crossed by the east of the quarry in the ascent of the Goddess of the Red Mountain
I forced my legs to move on northwards
I reached the Walls of the Ruler, made to repel the Syrians and trample on the nomads
I took my shelter in the bush
From fear of being seen by the guard on the wall who was on duty and made my way at night
At daybreak I reached Peten and alighted at the land of the Great Black Water
Thirst struck, it overwhelmed me
I panted, my throat parched
I said, this is the taste of death,
Binding my heart and my body
I heard the sound of lowing of cattle and sighted Syrians
I was spied out by one of their scouts who had been in Egypt
Then he gave me water, and milk was cooked for me
I went with him to his people. What they did was good.
Hill-land passed me to hill-land
I wound up in Byblos, and travelled up to Qedem
I had spent a year and a half there when Amunenshi fetched me,
He being a ruler of the hinterland of Syria
He said to me You would be well with me, you can hear Egyptian
He said this because he knew my character, and had heard of my talent
The Egyptians who were there with him had given witness for me
Then he said to me How is it that you have reached these parts,
Has something happened in the Residence?
Then I said to him,
The dual king Sehetepibra has gone to the horizon,
How it happened is not known.
But I was told indirectly. I was coming with the Timehi-land army
When it was reported to me
My heart failed, and brought me on the road of flight
Though I had not been implicated and no accusation had been made against me
(though so slander had been heard, and my name had not been mentioned by the reporter - I do not know what brought me to this hill-land)
It is as if a slight of the god,
As a Delta-man seeing himself in Abu
Or a marsh-man in the Land of the bow
Then he said to me
How will that land be now, without that effective god
Whose fear permeated the hill-lands like Sekhmet in a year of plague
Then I addressed myself to him in reply to him
Why, his son is entering the palace
And has taken up the inheritance of his father
He is a god without equal, with no other existing before him
He is a master of far-sightedness, excellent in planning, effective in decrees
Coming and going follow his decrees
He is the one suppressing the hill-lands while his father was within his palace
And reporting to him that whatever he ordained has come to pass
He is truly a strong man made by his strong arm,
A man of action - noone comes close to him
He is to be seen as he descends for archery,
Joining the fray,
He is one who takes the horn, wearing down all hands - so his enemies cannot gather their forces
He is one cleansed in sight, cleaving foreheads,
So noone can stand in his way
He is one who strides ahead to shoot down those in flight
Giving no quarter to the man who turns tail
He is the stout-hearted in the moment of the charge
He is the turner who never turns tail
He is the broad-hearted one when he sees the multitude,
Who never places rest behind his heart
He is the forward mover when he descends to the Easterners,
His delight is the plunder of archery,
He takes his shield, tramples underfoot,
He never raises his arm twice for the kill (his arrow never strays, his bow never strains)
The nomads are routed before him as at the might of the Great Goddess
He fights and plans the outcome,
He never guards, without event
He is a lord of mercy, full of kindness,
He has conquered by love, his citizens love him more than themselves
They rejoice over him more than over their god
Women surpass men in extolling him
As he is king, and he had conquered still in the egg,
His face was set to it from the moment he was born
With him comes the increase in births
He is the sole one of the gift of god,
How joyful is this land that he has come to rule -
He is one who extends the borders
He will seize the southern lands,
Before considering the northern lands
He has been made to smite the Syrians and trample the nomads
Send to him and let him know your name
Do not plot anything against His Majesty
He will do everything for you that his father did
He will not fail to do good for the hill-land that will be loyal to him
He spoke before me:
Then fair Egypt, she is indeed the land that knows his firmness
You are here, though, and will be with me. What I do for you will be good
He placed me at the head of his children
He settled me with his eldest daughter
And let me choose for myself from his hill-land,
From the choicest of his surrounds on the border of the next hill-land
It was a fair land, called Iaa
There were figs there and grapes.
It had wine more abundant than water
Its honey was plentiful, its plant-oil innumerable
On its trees were all kinds of fruit
There was barley there and wheat,
And unlimited cattle of every kind
Much also accrued to me as coming for love of me
He made me ruler of a clan from the most select of his hill-land
I acquired food, jars and wine in the course of a day
Meat was cooked, ducks roasted, as well as the livestock
They laid snares for me, and laid down the catch for me,
As well as the goods of my hounds
They made for me numerous [foods?] and milk in every kind of dish
I spent many years,
And my children had grown to adults.
Each man of them in control of his own clan,
And any envoy on his way to or from the Residence, he stopped by me
I sheltered everyone, I gave water to the thirsty,
I placed the man who went astray back on the road, I rescued the afflicted,
Any Syrians who fell to fomenting strife and disturbing the rulers of hill-lands,
I challenged their movements
This ruler of Syria made me spend many years as commander of his army
Every hill-land I moved against,
I ensured I prevailed over it,
Removing down to the plants at its wells,
I captured its cattle, brought away its servants, removed their food
And slew its inhabitants,
by my right arm, by my bow, by my movements, by my excellent plans
I became invaluable to him, and he loved me, for he know how valiant I was
He placed me at the head of his children,
For he saw the firmness of my arms
There came a hero of Syria
who challenged me in my tent
He was an unrivalled champion,
Who had prevailed over the entire region
He said he would fight me,
He intended to smite me,
He planned to carry off my cattle before the council of his clan
That ruler was consulting with me, so I said I did not know the man,
That it was not I who went to him and strode into his tent,
Or was it I who opened his gate, and moved past his walls?
He must have been tempted to it when he saw me carrying out your missions
Well, I am like a bull of the strikers amid another herd of cattle
The bull of the herd smites him, the horned bull assails him
Does a lowly man become loved when fate makes him a master?
There is no desert-nomad who befriends a marshman
Does a marsh-reed flourish on the mountain-side
Does a bull love to fight,
Then should a herd-leader like to turn back in fear of being matched?
If he wishes to fight, let him be told his wish
Does a god not know what he ordained? Or a man who knows how it will be?
I went to rest, tied my bow, sharpened my arrows,
Whetted the blade of my dagger, arrayed my weapons
At dawn Syria came, it roused its people,
It assembled the hill-lands on either side,
For it knew of this fight
He came toward me as I stood
And I placed myself next to him
Every heart was burning for me
Women and men pounding
Every mind was willing me on,
'is there any hero that can fight against him?'
And then his shield, his dagger, his armour, his holder of spears fell,
As I approached his weapons
I made my face dodge
And his weapons were wasted as nothing
Each piled on the next
Then he made his charge against me
He imagined he would strike my arm
As he moved over me, I shot him,
My arrow lodged in his neck,
He cried out, and fell on his nose,
I felled him with his dagger
I uttered my war-cry on his back,
Every Asiatic lowing
I gave praise to Mont
As his servants mourned for him
This ruler Amunenshi took me into his embrace,
Then I brought away his goods, I carried off his cattle,
What he had planned to do to me, I did to him,
I seized what was in his camp, and uncovered his tent
There I was in greatness, I was broad in my standing,
I enjoyed wealth in cattle,
Thus the god acted to make peace for the one he had cursed,
The one he had led away to another hill-land
Today his heart is appeased
The fugitive flees from his surrounds, but my right place is in the Residence,
The deserter deserts from hunger, but I can give bread to my neighbour
A man abandons his land from nakedness, but I, I own white linen, finest cloth,
A man runs away for lack of one to send, but I, I own many servants
My estate is fine, my place is broad, my renown is in the palace
Whichever god ordained this flight
Be at peace, give me back to the Residence
Have mercy on me and let me see the place where my heart resides
See how great it is to wrap my corpse in the land in which I was born
Come in my defence, then, a good event has occurred, I have appeased the god
May he act so as to bring right the end for one he afflicted
May his heart ail for the one he excluded to live on the hill-land
Today at last he is appeased
Let him hear the prayer of the exile,
May he bring back his arm for the one he forced over the land
Back to the place he brought him from
May the king of Egypt be content with me, may I live in his pleasure
Greeting the lady who is in his palace
May I hear the missions of her children, that my body be young
For now old age has descended
Sloth has overwhelmed me
My eyes are heavy, my arms slack
My legs are unstable, my heart seeks rest
I am drawn close to departure, when they will bear me to the city of eternity
May I follow the Lady of All that she may tell me what is good for her children
May she draw eternity over me
Now report was made to the Majesty of the dual king Kheperkara justified
Concerning this condition I was suffering
Then His Majesty sent to me largesse of before the king
He extended his heart to this servant as to a ruler of any hill-land
And the king's children who were in his palace let me hear their commissions
Copy of the decree brought to this servant concerning bringing him to Egypt
The Horus living of births, he of the Two Ladies living of births,
The dual king Kheperkara son of Ra of Amenemhat living forever eternally
Decree of the king to the follower Sanehat
See this decree of the king is brought to you
To inform you that you have travelled the hill-lands
Going from Qedem of Syria
Hill-land gave you to hill-land following the counsel of your heart to yourself
What was it you had done, or had been done to you?
You did not say wrong that your words be punished
You did not speak in the council of officials that your statements be bound
This matter, it carried off your heart - there was nothing in my heart against you
This your heaven who is in the palace, she is well and strong today
Her head is adorned with the kingship of the land
Her children are in the inner palace
May you add the riches of their gift to you, that you may live by their offerings
Prepare your return to Egypt, that you may see the Residence where you were born
That you may kiss the ground at the Great Double Gate, and join the courtiers
Today now you have begun to age
You have unravelled virility You are reminded of the day of burial, of passing to reverence
A night is cut for you with oils and wrappings from the Goddess Linen
A procession of passing is made for you, on the day of rejoining the earth
A case of gold, a mask of lapis lazuli, the sky over you, placed in the bier
The oxen drawing you, chanters in front of you
Dances are made by the sacred dancers at the door of your tomb
Offerings are pronounced for you, meat is butchered at the door of your chapel
Your columns are enriched with silver in the midst of the king's children
You will not die upon the hill-land, the Asiatics will not inter you
You are not to be placed in a sheepskin as your enclosure is made
It is too long for wandering the land, think of the corpse and return
This decree reached me as I stood among my clan
It was read out to me
And I placed myself on my belly
I touched the ground
And put it strewn over my chest
I went around my camp shouting aloud
How is this done for a servant whose heart led him astray to foreign lands
This is utter good, the mercy that rescues me from death
Your spirit will let me spend the end of my bodily days in the Residence
Copy of the report to this decree
The servant of the palace Sanehat says
In peace very greatly
Concerning this flight made by the humble servant in his ignorance
It is your ka, good god, lord of the two lands,
Whom Ra loves, praised by Mont lord of Thebes and Amun lord of the thrones of the two lands,
By Sobek-Ra, Horus, Hathor, Atum and his nine gods
Soped perfect of Might of Semseru, Horus the easterner
The lady of the cavern - may she join your brow, the tribunal at the front of the flood
Min-Horus amid the hill-lands, the great goddess, lady of Punt, Nut, Horwerra
All the gods of Egypt, of the hill-land, of the islands of the Great Green
May they give life and power to your nostrils
May they join you in their giving
May they grant you eternity without end and unbounded time
Fear of you rebounds through lands and hill-lands, you grasp what the sun-disk circles
This is a prayer by the humble servant to his lord for rescue from the west
Lord of insight, who perceives the populace, whose insight is the Majesty of the palace
This humble servant is in fear of saying it
It is like a matter too great to be repeated
Great god, equal of Ra, in informing the one who has worked for him himself
This humble servant is in the hand of the one consulting about him
It has to be placed under his care
Your Majesty is Horus who seizes, your arms are stronger than all lands
Now your Majesty decrees that he be brought,
And Meki in Qedem, the mountain-men leading Kesh, Menus from the land of Fenkhu,
These are the rulers by their exact names who have come into your affection
Without mentioning Syria, as much yours as are your dogs
As for this flight made by this servant
It was not planned, it was not in my heart, I did not plot it
It is as if a Delta-man saw himself in Abu, a marsh-man in the Land of Nubia
I did not fear, I was not persecuted, I heard no accusation
My name was not heard in the mouth of the reporter
And yet my limbs went cold,
Legs panicked, my heart took hold of me
The god who decreed this flight led me away: I am not the arrogant, not I
The man who knows his land, he fears
Ra has set fear of you throughout the land, the dread of you in every hill-land
Place me in the Residence or in this place,
You are still the one who clothes this horizon
The disk shines for love of you, water is in the river to be drunk at your desire
The air in the sky, it is breathed in when you say so
This humble servant is to hand over the staff acquired by this servant in this place
Then this servant will be returned as your Majesty permits in his desire
We live by the breath of your gift, as Ra, Horus and Hathor love this your noble life
As Mont lord of Thebes wishes that it live forever
I was permitted a day in Iaa to hand over my things to my children
With my eldest son in charge of my clan, my clan and all my things in his hands,
My servants, all my cattle, my fruits, all my sweet trees
This servant arrived south,
I touched on the ways of Horus,
And the commander there who was organising patrols
Sent a message to the Residence to inform them
Then his Majesty sent the good overseer of foragers of the King's House
Followed by ships laden with the gifts of before the king
For the Syrians who came along with me to bring me to the ways of Horus
I pronounced each of them by his name
All the cupbearers were busy at their tasks
I received and the captain loaded for me,
And there was kneading and straining beside me until I reached the landing of Itj(tawy)
Very early at daybreak there came the summons for me
Ten men coming, ten men going to lead me to the palace
I touched the ground between the dawn rays
As the king's children stood on the walls at the conduct of my approach
The courtiers were led to the audience hall as I was placed on the way to the inner palace
I found His Majesty on the great throne on a podium of electrum
Then I was stretched out on my belly
I lost myself in his presence,
This god addressed me friendlily
As I was like a man seized in pitch black
My soul had gone, my body trembled
My heart was no longer in my body - could I know life from death?
Then His Majesty said to one of those courtiers
Raise him and let him speak to me
Then His Majesty said
Look at you, on return from travelling the hill-lands
The flight has worked its impact on you, you are grown old
You have reached old age
It is no trifle that your body will be purified,
That you will not be interred by nomads - do not, do not be silent
You have not spoken, though your name is pronounced
Fearing the hand of punishment, I answered with the answer of the fearful
What has my lord said to me
That I might answer it - there is no slight to the god in this
It is terror that resides in my body
Just as the fated flight came to be
See me before you - you are life, may your Majesty do as he desires
Then the king's children were brought in
And His Majesty said to the king's wife
Here is Sanehat, returned as an Asiatic, remade as a Syrian
She uttered a very great cry, and the king's children in one outburst
They said before His Majesty
It cannot truly be him, sovereign my lord
And His Majesty said, it is truly he
At that they brought their counterpoises, their images, their sistra in their hands
They waved them at His Majesty
Your arms are for the good, O king enduring
The adornments of the lady of heaven
The goddess Gold gives life to your nose
The lady of the stars unites with you
The south crown fares north, the northern south, united as one in the way of your Majesty
The cobra is set at your brow, you have removed the weak from evil
Ra lord of the two lands is pleased with you, praise to you as to the Lady of All
Rest your bow, untie your arrow, give breath to the one in lifelessness
Allow us this good turn
This wayfarer, son of the north wind,
The nomad born in Egypt
He took flight for fear of you, he abandoned the land in dread of you
There will be no destruction for the face that sees your face
There will be no fear for the eye that looks at you
Then His Majesty said
He shall not fear, nor be given over to terror
He is to be a courtier among the officials,
He may be placed in the midst of the court
Proceed to the inner palace, for instruction in appointing his standing
So I went inside the inner palace
The king's children giving me their arms
I went then to the Great Double Gate
I was installed at the house of a king's son, full of riches
With a bathroom, and images of the horizon
With valuables from the treasury - clothing of royal linen
and ointment of the first for the king's officials whom he loves
Every cupbearer was busy at his task
Years were made to fall from my body, as I was shorn, my hair combed
The load was returned to the hill-land, the garments to the nomads,
I was arrayed in fine linen, and anointed with first quality oil
I lay down on a bed, and returned the sand to its dwellers
And the tree-oil to those who anoint themselves with it
I was given the house of a lord of an estate, as a gift from a courtier
Numerous craftsmen built it up, everything was strengthened anew
Foods were continually delivered to me from the palace, 3 or 4 times a day
Besides the gifts of the king's children without a moment of pausing
Section reproduced on the Limestone Ostrica
A pyramid-chapel of stone was built for me amid the pyramids
The overseer of glaze workers of the pyramid procured its ground,
The overseer of sealers did the drawing, the sculptors did the cutting,
The overseers of works who were at the pyramid temple ferried for it.
Every tool that is set to the temple-terrace, it found its task there.
I was given spirit-servants, and I made an estate for the cult,
Containing fields as endowment at the landing-stage as is done for the foremost official
My image was adorned with gold, its kilt in electrum,
It is His Majesty who had it done. No poor mortal ever received such treatment
I am in the favour of before the king
Until the day
of landing came
This is its completion from its start to its finish as found in writing.

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