|According to John L.
Foster who wrote the famous : Ancient Egyptian Literature: An
"the two great hindrances
to any proper appreciation of the literature and civilization of ancient
Egypt are the Bible and the glory that was Greece. These
two sources—and the civilizations that produced them—are the twin bastions
of Western culture; and since they have so undeniably formed
the Western World and the very ways it thinks, it is no wonder the West
approaches other cultures in terms of what they have taught it.
West views of ancient history are conditioned by what it understands as
true from ancient Greece and, particularly, Israel. Indeed,
Its very idea of what constitutes ancient history is filtered through the
accounts of Genesis and Exodus.
has happened to Egyptology in the century and a half since Champollion
deciphered the hieroglyphs, back at a time when one studied ancient
Egypt only for confirmation of biblical attitudes?
difference has been the partial recovery, during the past 150 years,
of the languages, histories, and cultures of the high civilizations of
the ancient Near East; and these enable the reader to study
and understand a country like
from its own documents and monuments
and from its own point of view.
increased knowledge has demonstrated that the version of ancient history
that West has been brought to know and cherish has been a very much oversimplified
and parochial one, projecting the viewpoint, at the earliest, of an ancient
Israelite author during the united monarchy, some time later than 1000
writing, on the other hand, began some two millennia earlier, around 3000
B.C.; and civilization had been proceeding in high gear over the entire
Fertile Crescent for at least that same two-thousand-year period before
David. We need to realize that some forty percent—almost half— of
recorded human history occurred before King David.
of the classical and western religious value system Westerners have traditionally
accepted the biblical account of ancient history as true and tried to fit
evidence from extra-biblical sources into that system. This no longer
(John L. Foster)
literary selections of Ancient Egypt in the coming essays are all from
that earlier time, some of them from the earliest time, composed toward
the dawn of writing, of literature, and of history itself.
first essay deals with "The Other World" theme in ancient Egyptian
literature. A fascinating subject which is guaranteed to intrigue many
Modern Egyptians as they delve into "The nature of the beyond "
time, strictly viewed expressed by their ancestors.
Moreover, the subject matter
is riveting for any Arab speaking audience when it finds how intimate its
rich native tongue is, with that of Ancient Egypt. A linguistic fact that
has been given a lip service so far, and never fully explored.
Here is a literary sample that all Arab speaking
Egyptians will easily recognize and appreciate:
Prayer of Rahery for Life
in the Afterworld
May you come and go, while
with joyful heart by favor
of the Lord of gods,
With a fine burial in old
after your length of years
May you take your place in
unite with earth in the
Become transformed to a living
powerful over bread, and
water, and air
Which may take shape as phoenix
or as swallow,
as falcon or as heron, just
as you wish.
May you ferry across without
and sail upon the waters
of the flood.
May your life return once
your spirit never deserting
your body again!
May your spirit be holy among
and may the blessed hold
converse with you;
the prayers of Ancient Egyptian Priest of Rahery)
Ancient Egyptian term for the Afterlife, or the Afterworld,
Linguistically, the equivalent
of the Ancient Egyptian term Aqr-t in Arabic is the
cognate term: Akhr-t (see definition in the attached
In addition, both terms
describe the Afterworld in equal terms: The Other World; the
Ultimate World of enjoyments and blessings!
L. Foster is a Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University
of Chicago, where he has studied , translated and written about Ancient
Egyptian literature since 1966
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même
chose: The more that changes, the more it's the same thing.