There are very few narrative stories from ancient Egypt, but the few that have survived offer an opportunity to compare and contrast.
Compare the Story of Sinuhe with the stories and heroes of Greek mythology: How is the Egyptian hero different?What different values, views of human beings, or attitudes about the gods and society emerge from the Tale?Choose two aspects to focus on.
The Story of Sinhue can be found attached to this post. For relevant Greek mythology, the writer must be in possession or have knowledge of Stanley Lombardo’s The Essential Homer (relevant until Hector’s death by Achilles) and popular stories from Ovid Metamorphoses (translated by Rolfe Humphries).
Background Information That You Should Read
The story, which appears to be a literary fiction, is set in the 12th Dynasty, beginning with the death of Pharaoh Sehetepibre Amenemhet I (1991-1962 BC) and continuing into the reign of Pharaoh Kheperkare Senwosret I (1971-1926 BC).Their royal residence was at Itjtowy, on the Nile.
Summary.The “Tale of Sinuhe” is about an Egyptian nobleman who, upon hearing of the death of King Amenemhet I, panics when he thinks he overhears men talking about a conspiracy and flees to Retenu (modern Lebanon/Palestine), the land of “Asiatics” or Bedouins. (lines 1-30)He lives out much of the rest of his life there.He shows his noble qualities when serving Amusinenshi, the chief of Upper Retenu.Sinuhe is rewarded: he marries Amusinenshi’s daughter and becomes chief of the fertile land of Yaa. (lines 30-98)He serves as an officer to help the chiefs suppress an uprising and proves his valor by defeating a challenger in combat. (99-147)But in his later years Sinuhe is homesick and wants to return to Egypt. (148-78)He is invited back by edict of King Senwosret I, who had succeeded his father Amenemhet I.Sinuhe rejoices and reflects on his years away. (179-238)He travels to Egypt and is met warmly at the palace.He is reassured that he is safe and is given a house.They even prepare a pyramid for his burial. (239-310)
Geography.Egypt is thought of as two lands, Upper Egypt (up the Nile, south, near the Elephantine Island, by today’s Aswan Dam) and Lower Egypt (down the Nile, north, Memphis, pyramids, Heliopolis, and the Nile Delta); the Pharaoh symbolically united them (274).The Ways of Horus was a frontier station leading to the east.Retenu was in what is today Lebanon, Byblos is near Beirut, and Qedem is inland.It was thought by Egyptians to be populated by “Asiatics” or Bedouin.
Gods and Religion.Re was the Sun God; he was seen as all-powerful.The sun was conceived of as a disk.
The Pharaoh is regarded as being a god himself.At death he was said to have ascended to the sun disk.He is referred to as a “great God” (48, 216, 254) and is assimilated to Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris.Horus was seen as the ancestor and alter-ego of all Pharaohs.Hathor, the goddess of love and rebirth, was the “Lady of Heaven,” though the Pharaoh’s queen could also be referred to this way (172, 185, 271).
A Ka is an individual’s spirit; we hear of the Pharaoh’s Ka, but Sinuhe also has ka-servants to assist in preparations for his funeral.In considering their burials,Egyptians valued security and permanence, and wanted to be burial in a sarcophagus that would be placed in a limestone tomb; by contrast, barbarian “Asiatics” simply wrapped bodies in a ram’s skin (195-99).
Allusiveness. Egyptian narrative, like Greek, can be allusive—making references to places, people and divinities that the writer assumes readers already recognize.The footnotes in translations rarely explain all them.I would have appreciated quotation marks to make it clear when someone is speaking (for example, it is the royal children who are speaking at lines 270-79).
No more than 300 words; a cover page is unnecessary).Type papers in Times 12 font.Papers that are sloppily written will be penalized; write in standard edited English and proofread carefully.
Advice.Do not summarize events; an essay that simply re-tells the story does not illuminate it.I recommend two paragraphs, one each for the two aspects you wish to discuss.Try to begin each paragraph with a clear statement of that paragraph’s topic.A short quotation or two can help illustrate your points.A sample paper on the Europa myth is posted on Blackboard.