Ancient Egyptian Writings

Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

All societies have storytellers, and the Ancient Egyptians were no exception. In this lesson, discover the Prophecies of Neferti and the Story of Sinuhe and see how they were developed to build on Egyptian literature.

Prophesies of Neferti

Created in the 12th Dynasty (1991-1786 BCE), Prophecies of Neferti, a well-known Egyptian writing, is considered to be a pseudo-prophecy, or false prediction, because it was written after an important moment in history. The writing's purpose was to promote the ruling class's interests. Although Neferti is named as this writing's author, it is unlikely that this person ever existed. A wordplay, the name of Neferti means perfect Egyptian language and also refers to King Sneferu, a kind and popular Egyptian King of the 4th Dynasty.

King Sneferu

The story begins with King Sneferu who entertains a sage at his court. The sage, Neferti, asks the king if he would like to hear a story about the past or the future. Sneferu decides that he would welcome a story about the future of Egypt. Neferti's story is based on a vision of a chaotic future in which society is rife with disorder. Then, Neferti describes the coming of King Ameny, a leader who restores order to Egypt.

Neferti's prophecies are considered as Egyptian propaganda, biased information to encourage a particular point of view, that glorifies King Amenemhet I, a leader who overthrew Mentuhotep IV. Thus, the story is a literary justification of King Amenemhet's rise to power. As a prophetic text, Prophesies of Neferti would become an Egyptian literature classic that was copied hundreds of times. Similar to the laments, which were characteristic of this historical period, the Prophecies of Neferti fostered the pessimistic literature tradition of the time, which was to use writings to bring attention to society's feelings of insecurity and their unhappiness with the gods for allowing such chaotic conditions.

Story of Sinuhe

Like the Prophecies of Neferti, the Story of Sinuhe had an anonymous author. Written during the 12th Dynasty, the story is propaganda that focuses on the assassination of King Amenemhet I, and support for King Senwosret I who ascends the throne after the terrible murder of his father. Having high literary quality, the Story of Sinuhe is significant for readers today.

King Amenemhet I and his wife
king amen

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