Friday, April 22, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Quote of the Week: S is for Sinuhe

I've skipped doing my usual Quote of the Week on Fridays because of the challenge, but today I'm not feeling particularly inspired to write a post about the subject I had selected so I'm changing it.

Today S is for The Story of Sinuhe, one of the oldest pieces of literature in existence. Its author is unknown, but the many surviving copies of the story witness to its popularity in Ancient Egypt. The story is a simple one. Sinuhe, whose name means "son of the sycamore", is a "henchman" (or attendant, based on translation) of Prince Sesostris who has accompanied the Prince on a Libyan campaign. A message arrives telling the Prince that his father King Amenemhet I has died and Sinuhe overhears it. Apparently fearful that "there would be strife" and feeling that he has been cursed, Sinuhe flees into Canaan. There Sinuhe becomes the son-in-law of a tribal chief, fights for him and earns himself great prosperity.

I became great thereby, I grew large in my riches, I became abundant in my flocks. Thus God hath done, so as to shew mercy to him whom he had condemned, whom he had made wander to another land. For today is his heart satisfied. A fugitive fled in his season; now the report of me is in the Residence. A laggard lagged because of hunger; now give I bread to my neighbour. A man left his country because of nakedness; but I am clad in white raiment and linen. A man sped for lack of one whom he should send; but I am a plenteous owner of slaves. Beautiful is my house, wide my dwelling-place; the remembrance of me is in the Palace.

But even though Sinuhe has become great and has everything a man could desire, he is not quite content. He longs to return to Egypt

O God, whosoever thou art that didst ordain this flight, show mercy and bring me to the Residence! Peradventure thou wilt grant me to see the place where my heart dwelleth. What matter is greater than that my corpse should be buried in the land wherein I was born? Come to my aid! A happy event has befallen. I have caused God to be merciful. May he do the like again so as to ennoble the end of him whom he had abased, his heart grieving for him whom he had compelled to live abroad. If it so be that today he is merciful, may he hear the prayer of one afar off, may he restore him whom he had stricken to the place whence he took him.

Sinuhe's heart still dwells in the land of his birth and like any true Egyptian the all important thing is for him to be properly buried there. Sinuhe believes that his prosperity is a sign that the gods have granted him mercy and so he prays to be returned to his home in Egypt. His wish is granted. A decree from the King comes inviting Sinuhe to return which he does and lives the rest of his life in the royal favor of the King and Queen.

I could say much more about this story, but I don't want this post to be over long. If you are interested in reading this incredibly ancient tale, you can find a translation of it here.


  1. Yes a very beatiful story. Very brave and kudo's for religion and polotics:)

  2. I forgot to mention how I love that I am follower #100. Uneven numbers make me a little crazy:)

  3. Thanks for being my 100th follower, Doreen!

  4. It is true, that there is always some thing that pinches even the rich and apparently satisfied. In Sinuhe's case it is love of his land and in others some thing that thye may or may not want to talk about.Great post:)


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