I. The Book of the Two Ways
This is a very ancient funerary work, which is found written in cursive hieroglyphs upon coffins of the eleventh and twelfth dynasties, of which many fine examples are to be seen in the British Museum.
The object of the work is to provide the souls of the dead with a guide that will enable them, when they leave this world, to make a successful journey across the Tuat, i.e. the Other World or Dead Land, to the region where Osiris lived and ruled over the blessed dead.
The work describes the roads that must be travelled over, and names the places where opposition is to be expected, and supplies the deceased with the words of power which he is to utter when in difficulties.
The abode of the blessed dead could be reached either by water or by land, and the book affords the information necessary for journeying thither by either route.
The sections of the book are often accompanied by coloured vignettes, which illustrate them, and serve as maps of the various regions of the Other World, and describe the exact positions of the streams and canals that have to be crossed, and the Islands of the Blest, and the awful country of blazing fire and boiling water in which the bodies, souls, and spirits of the wicked were destroyed.
II. The Book "Am Tuat," or Guide to him that is in the Tuat
This Book has much in common with the Book of the Two Ways. According to it, the region that lay between this world and the realm of Osiris was divided into ten parts, which were traversed, once each night, by the Sun-god in the form which he took during the night.
At the western end was a sort of vestibule, through which the god passed from the day sky into the Tuat, and at the eastern end was another vestibule, through which he passed on leaving the Tuat to re-enter the day sky. The two vestibules were places of gloom and semi-darkness, and the ten divisions of the Tuat were covered by black night.
When the Sun-god set in the west in the evening he was obliged to travel through the Tuat to the eastern sky, in order to rise again on this earth on the following day.
He entered the Tuat at or near Thebes, proceeded northwards, through the under-worlds of Thebes, Abydos, Herakleopolis, Memphis, and Saīs, then turned towards the east and crossed the Delta, and, having passed through the underworld of Heliopolis, appeared in the eastern sky to resume his daily course from east to west. His journey so far as Memphis he made in a boat, which sailed on the river of the Tuat.
At Memphis he left the boat on the river, and entered a magical boat formed of a serpent's body, and so passed under the mountainous district round about Sakkārah.
At or near Saīs he returned to his river boat, and sailing over the great marine lakes of the Delta reached Heliopolis.
The sun-god was guided through each section of the Tuat by a goddess who belonged to the district, and for the sake of uniformity the journey through each section was supposed to occupy an hour; the guiding goddess left the god's boat at the end of her hour, and the goddess of the next section took her place.
The path of the god was lighted by fire, which the beings who lived in the various sections poured out of their mouths, and the attendant gods who were with them in his boat spake words of power, which overcame all opposition and removed every obstacle.
As he passed through each section it was temporarily lighted up by the fire already mentioned, and he uttered words of power, the effect of which was to supply the inhabitants of the section with air, food, and drink, sufficient to last until the next night, when he would renew the supply.
Many parts of the Tuat were filled with hideous monsters in human and animal forms, and with evil spirits of every kind, but they were all rendered powerless by the spells uttered by the gods who were in attendance on the Sun-god in his boat.
At one time in the history of Egypt it became the earnest wish of every pious man to make the journey from this world to the next in the Boat of the Sun. Armed with words of power and amulets of all kinds, and relying on their lives of moral rectitude, and the effect of the offerings which they had made to the dead, their souls entered the Boat, and set out on their journey. When they reached Abydos their credentials were examined, and those who were found to be speakers of the truth and upright in their actions were allowed to continue their journey with the Sun-god, and to live with him ever after.
Some souls preferred to remain at Abydos and to live with Osiris, and those who were found righteous in the Judgment were allowed to do so, and were granted estates in perpetuity in the kingdom of this god.
The Book "Am Tuat" describes the sections of the Tuat and their inhabitants, and supplies all the information which the soul was supposed to require in passing from this world to the next. Many copies of certain sections of it are known, and some of these are in the British Museum; the most complete copy of it is in the tomb of Seti I at Thebes.
III. The Book of Gates
This book was also written to be a Guide to the Tuat, and has much in common with the Book of the Two Ways and with the Book Am Tuat. In it also the Tuat is divided into ten sections and has two vestibules, the Eastern and the Western, but at the entrance to each section is a strongly fortified Gate, guarded by a monster serpent-god and by the gods of the section.
The Sun-god of night, as in the Book Am Tuat, makes his journey in a boat, and is attended by a number of gods, who remove all opposition from his path by the use of words of power. As he approaches each Gate, its doors are thrown open by the gods who guard them, and he passes into the section of the Tuat behind it, carrying with him light, air, and food for its inhabitants.
The Book of Gates embodies the teaching of the priests of the cult of Osiris, and the Book Am Tuat represents the modified form of it that was promulgated by the priests of Amen.
From the Book of Gates we derive much information about the realm of Osiris, and the Great Judgment of souls, which took place in his Hall of Judgment once a day at midnight. Then all the souls that had collected during the past twenty-four hours from all parts of Egypt were weighed in the Balance; the righteous were allotted estates in perpetuity in the "land of souls," and the wicked were destroyed by Shesmu, the executioner of the god, and by his assistants.
The texts that describe the various "Gates" of the Book of Gates, explain who are the beings represented in the pictures, and state why they were there.
And the Book proves conclusively that the Egyptians believed in the efficacy of sacrifices and offerings, and in the doctrine of righteous retribution; liars and deceivers were condemned, and their bodies, souls, spirits, doubles, and names destroyed, and the righteous were rewarded for their upright lives and integrity upon earth by the gift of everlasting life and happiness.
The most complete copy of this interesting work in England is cut on the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I, about 1350 B.C. This unique sepulchral monument is exhibited gratis in Sir John Soane's Museum at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, and every student of the religion of the Egyptians should examine it.
IV. The Ritual of Embalmment
Two important fragments of a copy of this work are preserved in the Museum of the Louvre (No. 5158), and a part of another in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo (No. 3); the former copy was written for a priest of Amen called Heru, and the latter for a priest called Hetra. These fragments of the work describe minutely the process of mummifying certain parts of a human body, and state what materials were employed by the embalmer.
Moreover, it gives the texts of the magical and religious spells that were ordered to be recited by the priest who superintended the embalmment, the effect of which was to "make divine" each member of the body, and to secure for it the protecting influence of the god or goddess who presided over it.
The following extract refers to the embalming of the head:
"Then anoint the head of the deceased and all his mouth with oil, both the head and the face, and wrap it in the bandages of Harmakhis in Hebit.
The bandage of the goddess Nekhebet shall be put on the forehead, the bandage of Hathor in Heliopolis on the face, the bandage of Thoth on the ears, and the bandage of Nebt-hetepet on the back of the neck.
All the coverings of the head and all the strips of linen used in fastening them shall be taken from sheets of linen that have been examined as to quality and texture in the presence of the inspector of the mysteries.
On the head of the deceased shall be the bandage of Sekhmet, beloved of Ptah, in two pieces.
On the two ears two bandages called the "Complete."
On the nostrils two bandages called "Nehai" and "Smen."
On the cheeks two bandages called "He shall live."
On the forehead four pieces of linen called the "shining ones."
On the skull two pieces called "The two Eyes of Rā in their fullness."
On the two sides of the face and ears twenty-two pieces. As to the mouth two inside, and two out. On the chin two pieces. On the back of the neck four large pieces. Then tie the whole head firmly with a strip of linen two fingers wide, and anoint a second time, and then fill up all the crevices with the oil already mentioned. Then say,
"O august goddess, Lady of the East, Mistress of the West, come and enter into the two ears of Osiris. O mighty goddess, who art ever young, O great one, Lady of the East, Mistress of the West, let there be breathing in the head of the deceased in the Tuat. Let him see with his eyes, hear with his ears, breathe with his nose, pronounce with his mouth, and speak with his tongue in the Tuat.
Accept his voice in the Hall of Truth, and let him be proved to have been a speaker of the truth in the Hall of Keb, in the presence of the Great God, the Lord of Amenti."
V. The Ritual of the Divine Cult
This title is commonly given to a work consisting of sixty-six chapters, which were recited daily by the high priest of Amen-Rā, the King of the Gods, in his temple at Thebes, during the performance of a series of ceremonies of a highly important and symbolical character. The text of this Ritual is found cut in hieroglyphs on the walls of the temple of Seti I at Abydos, and written in hieratic upon papyri preserved in the Imperial Museum in Berlin.
The work was originally intended to be recited by the king himself daily, but it was soon found that the Lord of Egypt could not spare the time necessary for its recital each day, and he therefore was personified by the high priest of each temple in which the Ritual was performed.
The object of the Ritual was to place the king in direct contact with his god Amen-Rā once a day. The king was an incarnation of Amen-Rā, and ruled Egypt as the representative upon earth of the god. He drew his power and wisdom direct from the god, and it was believed that these required renewal daily.
To bring about this renewal of the divine spirit in the god's vicegerent upon earth, the king entered the temple in the early morning, and performed ceremonies and recited formulæ that purified both the sanctuary and himself. He then advanced to the shrine, which contained a small gilded wooden figure of the god, inlaid with precious stones and provided with a movable head, arms, and legs, and opened it and knelt down before the figure.
He performed further ceremonies of purification, and finally took the figure of the god in his arms and embraced it.
During this embrace the divine power of Amen-Rā, which was in the gilded figure at that moment, passed into the body of the king, and the divine power and wisdom, which were in the king as the god's representative, were renewed. The king then closed the doors of the shrine and left the sanctuary for a short time. When he returned he opened the shrine again, and made adoration to the god, and presented a series of offerings that symbolised Truth.
After this the king dressed the figure of the god in sacred apparel, and decorated it. Then, having performed further acts of worship before it, he closed the doors of the shrine, sealed them with mud seals, and left the sanctuary.
This was a very popular funerary work in the Roman Period. It is a development of a long prayer that is found in the Pyramid Texts, and was written by the priests and used as a spell to make the name of the deceased flourish eternally in heaven and on the earth. Many copies of it, written on narrow strips of papyrus, are preserved in the British Museum.
VII. The Book of Āapep, the great enemy of the Sun-god
Āapep was the god of evil, who became incarnate in many forms, especially in wild and savage animals and in monster serpents and venomous reptiles of every kind. He was supposed to take the form of a huge serpent and to lie in wait near the portals of the dawn daily, so that he might swallow up the sun as he was about to rise in the eastern sky.
He was accompanied by legions of devils and fiends, red and black, and by all the powers of storm, tempest, hurricane, whirlwind, thunder and lightning, and he was the deadly foe of all order, both physical and moral, and of all good in heaven and in earth.
At certain times during the day and night the priests in the temple of Amen-Rā recited a series of chapters, and performed a number of magical ceremonies, which were intended to strengthen the arms of the Sun-god, and give him power to overcome the resistance of Āapep. These chapters acted on Āapep as spells, and they paralysed the monster just as he was about to attack the Sun-god.
The god then approached and shot his fiery darts into him, and his attendant gods hacked the monster's body to pieces, which shrivelled up under the burning heat of the rays of the Sun-god, and all the devils and fiends of darkness fled shrieking in terror at their leader's fate.
The sun then rose on this world, and all the stars and spirits of the morning and all the gods of heaven sang for joy. The complete text of this book is found in a long papyrus dated in the reign of Alexander II in the British Museum (No. 10,188).
VIII. The Instructions, or Precepts of Tuauf to his son Pepi
Two copies of this work, which has also been called a "Hymn in praise of learning," are contained in a papyri preserved in the British Museum (Sallier II and Anastasi VII). These "Instructions" in reality represent the advice of a father to his son, whom he was sending to school to be trained for the profession of the scribe.
Whether the boy was merely sorry to leave his home, or whether he disliked the profession which his father had chosen for him, is not clear, but from first to last the father urges him to apply himself to the pursuit of learning, which, in his opinion, is the foundation of all great and lasting success.
"I have compared the people who are artisans and handicraftsmen [with the scribe],
and indeed I am convinced that there is nothing superior to letters.
Plunge into the study of Egyptian Learning,
as thou wouldst plunge into the river,
and thou wilt find that this is so.
I would that thou wouldst love Learning as thou lovest thy mother.
I wish I were able to make thee to see how beautiful Learning is.
It is more important than any trade in the world.
Learning is not a mere phrase, for the man who devoteth himself thereto from his youth is honoured, and he is despatched on missions.
I have watched the blacksmith at the door of his furnace.
His hands are like crocodiles' hide, and he stinketh worse than fishes' eggs.
The metal worker hath no more rest than the peasant on the farm.
The stone mason—at the end of the day his arms are powerless;
he sitteth huddled up together until the morning, and his knees and back are broken.
The barber shaveth until far into the night, he only resteth when he eateth.
He goeth from one street to another looking for work.
He breaketh his arms to fill his belly, and, like the bees, he eateth his own labour.
The builder of houses doeth his work with difficulty;
he is exposed to all weathers, and he must cling to the walls which he is building like a creeping plant.
His clothes are in a horrible state, and he washeth his body only once a day.
The farmer weareth always the same clothes.
His voice is like the croak of a bird, his skin is cracked by the wind; if he is healthy his health is that of the beasts. If he be ill he lieth down among them, and he sleepeth on the damp irrigated land.
When he is in Egypt, what then? No sooner hath he arrived at home than he is sent off on another mission.
As for the dyer, his fingers stink like rotten fish, and his clothes are absolutely horrors.
The shoemaker is a miserable wretch.
He is always asking for work, and his health is that of a dying fish.
The washerman is neighbour to the crocodile.
His food is mixed up with his clothes, and every member of him is unclean.
The catcher of water-fowl, even though he dive in the Nile, may catch nothing.
The trade of the fisherman is the worst of all.
He is in blind terror of the crocodile, and falleth among crocodiles."
The text continues with a few further remarks on the honourable character of the profession of the scribe, and ends with a series of Precepts of the same character as those found in the works of Ptah-hetep and the scribe Ani, from which extracts have already been given.
IX. Medical Papyri
The Egyptians possessed a good practical knowledge of the anatomy of certain parts of the human body, but there is no evidence that they practised dissection before the arrival of the Greeks in Egypt. The medical papyri that have come down to us contain a large number of short, rough-and-ready descriptions of certain diseases, and prescriptions of very great interest.
The most important medical papyrus known is that which was bought at Luxor by the late Professor Ebers in 1872-3, and which is now preserved in Leipzig.
This papyrus is about 65 feet long, and the text is written in the hieratic character. It was written in the ninth year of the reign of a king who is not yet satisfactorily identified, but who probably lived before the period of the rule of the eighteenth dynasty, perhaps about 1800 B.C. A short papyrus in the British Museum contains extracts from it, and other papyri with somewhat similar contents are preserved in the Museums of Paris, Leyden, Berlin, and California.
X. Magical Papyri
The widespread use of magic in Egypt in all ages suggests that the magical literature of Egypt must have been very large. Much of it was incorporated at a very early period into the Religious Literature of the country, and was used for legitimate purposes, in fact for the working of what we call "white magic."
The Egyptian saw no wrong in the working of magic, and it was only condemned by him when the magician wished to produce evil results.
The gods themselves were supposed to use spells and incantations, and every traveller by land or water carried with him magical formulæ which he recited when he was in danger from the wild beasts of the desert or the crocodile of the river and its canals. Specimens of these will be found in the famous magical papyri in the British Museum, e.g. the Salt Papyrus, the Rhind Papyrus, and the Harris Papyrus.
Under this heading may be mentioned Papyrus Sallier IV in the British Museum, which contains a list of lucky and unlucky days.
Here is a specimen of its contents:
1st day of Hathor. The whole day is lucky. There is festival in heaven with Rā and Hathor.
2nd day of Hathor. The whole day is lucky. The gods go out. The goddess Uatchet comes from Tep to the gods who are in the shrine of the bull, in order to protect the divine members.
3rd day of Hathor. The whole day is lucky.
4th day of Hathor. The whole day is unlucky. The house of the man who goes on a voyage on that day comes to ruin.
6th day of Hathor. The whole day is unlucky. Do not light a fire in thy house on this day, and do not look at one.
18th day of Pharmuthi. The whole day is unlucky. Do not bathe on this day.
20th day of Pharmuthi. The whole day is unlucky. Do not work on this day.
22nd day of Pharmuthi. The whole day is unlucky. He who is born on this day will die on this day.
23rd day of Pharmuthi. The first two-thirds of the day are unlucky, and the last third lucky.
XI. Legal Documents
The first legal document written in Egypt was the will of Rā, in which he bequeathed all his property and the inheritance of the throne of Egypt to his first-born son Horus. Tradition asserted that this Will was preserved in the Library of the Sun-god in Heliopolis. The inscriptions contain many allusions to the Laws of Egypt, but no document containing any connected statement of them has come down to us.
In the great inscription of Heruemheb, the last king of the eighteenth dynasty, a large number of good laws are given, but it must be confessed that as a whole the administration of the Law in many parts of Egypt must always have been very lax.
Texts relating to bequests, endowments, grants of land, &c., are very difficult to translate, because it is well-nigh impossible to find equivalents for Egyptian legal terms. In the British Museum are two documents in hieratic that were drawn up in connection with prosecutions which the Government of Egypt undertook of certain thieves who had broken into some of the royal tombs at Thebes and robbed them, and of certain other thieves who had robbed the royal treasury and made away with a large amount of silver
(Nos. 10,221, 10,052, 10,053, and 10,054).
Equally interesting is the roll that describes the prosecution of certain highly placed officials and relations of Rameses III who had conspired against him and wanted to kill him. Several of the conspirators were compelled to commit suicide.
The text is written in hieratic on papyrus, and is preserved in the Royal Museum, Leyden.
XII. Historical Romances
Examples of these are the narrative of the capture of the town of Joppa in Palestine by an officer of Thothmes III, and the history of the dispute that broke out between Seqenenrā, King of Upper Egypt, and Āapepi, King of Avaris in the Delta.
These are written in hieratic and are preserved in the British Museum, in Harris Papyrus 500, and Sallier No. 1 (10,185).
The chief source of our knowledge of the Mathematics of the Egyptians is the Rhind Papyrus in the British Museum (No. 10,057), which was written before 1700 B.C., probably during the reign of one of the Hyksos kings.
The papyrus contains a number of simple arithmetical examples and several geometrical problems. The workings out of these prove that the Egyptian spared himself no trouble in making his calculations, and that he worked out both his arithmetical examples and problems in the most cumbrous and laborious way possible.
He never studied mathematics in order to make progress in his knowledge of the science, but simply for purely practical everyday work; as long as his knowledge enabled him to obtain results which he knew from experience were substantially correct he was content.
Footnotes and references:
See the massive stone sarcophagi of Nectonebus exhibited in the Southern Egyptian Gallery of the British Museum.