Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings - Vol. 2

Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings - Vol. 2

Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings - Vol. 2

Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings - Vol. 2


First published in 1973 - and followed by Volume II in 1976 and Volume III in 1980 - this anthology has assumed classic status in the field of Egyptology and portrays the remarkable evolution of the literary forms of one of the world's earliest civilizations.

Volume I outlines the early and gradual evolution of Egyptian literary genres, including biographical and historical inscriptions carved on stone, the various classes of literary works written with pen on papyrus, and the mortuary literature that focuses on life after death. Introduced with a new foreword by Antonio Loprieno.

Volume II shows the culmination of these literary genres within the single period known as the New Kingdom (1550-1080 B.C.). With a new foreword by Hans-W. Fischer-Elfert.

Volume III spans the last millennium of Pharaonic civilization, from the tenth century B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era. With a new foreword by Joseph G. Manning.


This second volume of new translations is designed along the lines of the preceding one. In keeping with the ancient view, it defines literature broadly so as to include monumental inscriptions carved on stone and literary texts written on papyrus. Where the first volume outlined the gradual creation of Egyptian literary genres in the course of many centuries, the present one shows the elaboration of the genres within a single cultural period and in a relatively short span of time.

The literary production of the New Kingdom was much larger than that of the earlier periods. Hence even a whole volume devoted to it can do no more than focus on the highlights. Moreover, in the New Kingdom both the monumental inscriptions and the papyrus texts usually ran to greater length than their Middle Kingdom counterparts. The selection made from the vast quantity of stone-carved inscriptions contains famous pieces along with some less-renowned ones. Together they illustrate the principal topics that were deemed appropriate to the always functional monumental context. Similarly, the works written on papyrus have been selected to show the variety of themes and forms, and to single out those compositions that were outstanding in their day and have retained a timeless interest. Tales marred by major lacunae have been excluded; hence the absence, among others, of “The Capture of Joppa.”

M. L.

Santa Monica, California June 17, 1974 . . .

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