The literature of the ancient Egyptians PDF book (1914) with Illustrations

 The literature of the ancient Egyptians PDF book (1914) by E. A. WALLIS BUDGE

The literature of the ancient Egyptians PDF


Excerpt from the author's introduction:


The Literature of Ancient Egypt is the product of a period of about four thousand years, and it was written in three kinds of writing, which are called hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic. In the first of these, the characters were pictures of objects, in the second the forms of the characters were made as simple as possible so that they might be written quickly, and in the third many of them lost their picture form altogether and became mere symbols. Egyptian writing was believed to have been invented by the god Tehuti, or Thoth, and as this god was thought to be a form of the mind and intellect and wisdom of the God who created the heavens and the earth, the picture characters, or hieroglyphs as they are called, were held to be holy, or divine, or sacred. Certain religious texts were thought to possess special virtue when written in hieroglyphs, and the chapters and sections of books that were considered to have been composed by Thoth himself were believed to possess very great power and to be of the utmost benefit to the dead when they were written out for them in hieroglyphs, and buried with them in their coffins. Thoth also invented the science of numbers, and as he fixed the courses of the sun, moon, and stars, and ordered the seasons, he was thought to be the first astronomer.


In selecting the texts for translation in this book an attempt has been made to include compositions that are not only the best of their kind, but that also illustrate the most important branches of Egyptian Literature. Among these religious, mythological, and moral works bulk largely, and in many respects, these represent the peculiar bias of the mind of the ancient Egyptian better than compositions of a purely historical character.

No man was more alive to his own material interests, but no man has ever valued the things of this world less in comparison with the salvation of his soul and the preservation of his physical body. The immediate result of this was a perpetual demand on his part for information concerning the Other World, and for guidance during his life in this world.

 The priests attempted to satisfy his craving for information by composing the Books of the Dead and the other funerary works with which we are acquainted, and the popularity of these works seems to show that they succeeded. From the earliest times, the Egyptians regarded a life of moral excellence upon the earth as a necessary introduction to the life which he hoped to live with the blessed in heaven. And even in pyramid times, he conceived the idea of the existence of a God Who judged rightly, and Who set " right in the place of wrong." This fact accounts for the reverence in which he held the Precepts of Ptah-hetep, Kaqemna, Herutataf, Amenemhat I, Ani, Tuauf, Amen-hetep, and other sages. To him, as to all Africans, the Other World was a very real thing, and death and the Last Judgment were common subjects of his daily thoughts.

The great antiquity of this characteristic of the Egyptian is proved by a passage in a Book of Precepts, which was written by a king of the ninth or tenth dynasty for his son, who reigned under the name of Merikara. The royal writer in it reminds his son that the Chiefs [of Osiris] who judge sinners perform their duty with merciless justice on the Day of Judgment. It is useless to assume that the length of years will be accepted by them as a plea of justification. With them, the life of a man is only regarded as a moment. After death, these Chiefs must be faced, and the only things that they will consider will be his works. Life in the Other World is forever, and only the reckless fool forgets this fact. The man who has led a life free from lies and deceit shall live after death like a god.

The reader who wishes to continue his studies of Egyptian Literature will find abundant material in the list of works given on pp. 256-8.



Author: E. A. WALLIS BUDGE
 Publication Date: 1917

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