Ancient Egyptian Texts:  3.4


Text:   Louvre N 2414   [ TM 55922 , TM 3497 ]
Provenance:   Serapeum, Saqqara
Date:   c. 163 B.C.
Script:   Demotic
Translated by:   M. Lichtheim
Format:   see key to translations

These precepts were written on a sheet of papyrus, which was found amongst the documents of Ptolemaios the katochos. The papyrus was re-used several times. On the same side as the precepts is the draft of a demotic petition by Harmais (B); on the other side is a Greek inventory written by Ptolemaios in 159 BC. (P.Par. 56). Because of the way that the papyrus was re-used, there has been some speculation as to who composed or wrote down the precepts, but there is insufficient evidence to be certain; see B. Legras, "La diglossie des enkatokhoi grecs du Sarapieion de Memphis" ( Persée ).

Some of the precepts were translated into English long ago by T. Devéria in "Records of the past", volume 8 ( ). A more complete and accurate translation was provided by M. Lichtheim, "Late Egyptian Wisdom Literature in the International Context", pp.94-95 ( PDF ).

The translation of Harmais' petition (B) is taken from the German translation by K. Sethe, "Ein bisher unbeachtetes Dokument zur frage nach dem κατοχή" (1921). Ptolemaios wrote another petition about the same incident in Greek, which has survived intact (UPZ 1 6). For a translation of the Greek petition, see D.J. Thompson, "Memphis Under the Ptolemies", pp.215-216 ( Google Books ).

[A]   { Column I }
1   The instruction of Pȝ-wr-ḏl [which] he gave to his beloved son.
2   He who reports property to the god and then fails to give it, it is in his stench that he will give it to him.
3   The thief of the town is the lion in its heart; do not make him your companion, lest he cause you to be killed.
4   The wall of the town is its guard.
5   The twnn of the town is its . . .
6   The master of the town is its rich man.
7   A man who is faring toward death is he who goes to a woman [who] has a husband.
8   A man [whose] wrath is small creates praise for himself.
9   He who slanders a house which is dying creates stench for himself.
10   A house is open to him who has something in his hand.
11   Praise does not speak to the ear.
12   Teach your son so that the land may love him.
13   A man who does not have a fellow townsman, his character is his family.
14   Do not burn lest you be scorned.

{ Column II }
1   Do not slander lest you be slandered.
2   Do not make an evil man your companion.
3   Do not hinder a fool.
4   Do not build your house until you have . . .
5   Do not scorn your documents {or, books};
6   It is for strength that they have become old.
7   Do not disregard an insult so that awe and fear of you may come about.
8   Do not disregard an insult of your wife; . . .   9 give her her property.
10   Do not curse your master before the god.
11   Do not curse one whom you do not know.
12   Do not say to your master "I shall give you the property," [when] you do not possess it.
13   Do not say "I can bewitch the river," and then you . . .
14   Do not slander a man, let him live.

{ Column III }
1   Do not love your son {i.e., do not prefer your eldest son} lest another son contend with him.
2   Do not disregard an insult of your son . . .
3   . . .
4   Do not let your son take a wife after his own heart,   5 so that he shall not lack what you make.
6   Do not let yourself be sent on an errand and cause that another is sent after you.
7   Do not give your son to a wet-nurse except a wet-nurse   8 [who] has a husband.
9   Do not build your house upon your mansion-of-eternity.
10   Do not build your house near a temple.
11   Do not go about with a stupid man.
12   Do not stop to listen to his voice.
13   Do not vex the heart of your friend with a trifling inquiry.
14  Do not assume the manner of a busy-body.
15  Do not send on an errand a man who belongs to your master.

[B]   I gave myself to [. . . Astarte] and her sanctuary by praying to the goddess. I have been taking care of the chapel for 8 years since I left Prj-qws. I do not go outside the enclosing wall of the sanctuary, while I am with the goddess in the interior of my place with Ptolemaios.

5 It happened that Amosis, the representative of the chief priest, came on the 15th of Thoth. . . . . me. He said to me: "we are looking for weapons" . . . . . [It was late in the evening of the 16th of Thoth that the . . . of the] king came, together with five men, carrying a lamp with him. It was after this that Amosis returned, without being able to say anything, without being able to accomplish anything. Harendotes the son of Katytis, and Harendotes the son of Nechtenibis, they assaulted me, they . . . . ., they plundered my place and stole all the copper money 10 that was deposited before the great goddess. When morning came the following day, on the 17th of Thoth Amosis returned again to the goddess's chapel, for the . . . . . . to take away. They came here, they took away my copper money with them again, they organised a search of the sacred shrines that are there. I cannot find what is my fault and my wickedness. I, I testify now, having already given to the city-house of . . . . . with the writings of Ptolemaios, to the place where the king is.

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