Egypt: The Teaching for Merikare

The Teaching for Merikare

[here begins the teaching which King...made] for his son Merikare [...]. As for [...] his kinsfolk [...] the citizens [...] him, and his partisans are many in sum [...] enter [...] he is pleasing in the sight of his serfs, being firmly established in [...]. A talker is a mischief-maker, suppress him, kill [him], erase his name, [destroy] his kinsfolk, suppress the remembrance of him and his partisans who love him.

/ A violent man is a confuser of the citizens who always makes partisans of the younger generation. If now you find someone belonging to the citizenry [...] and his deeds have passed beyond you, accuse him before the entourage and suppress [him], for he is a rebel indeed; a talker is a mischief-maker. Bend the multitude and drive out hot temper from it; [...] will not rise [in] rebellion by means of the poor man when he is made to rebel.

[The mind] of the underling is confused; the army [...]; put an end to it by mixing [...]. Many are angry, for men are put in the labor establishment. Be lenient [...] when you oppose; / when you fatten [herds, the people] are in joy. Justify yourself in the presence of God; then men will say [...] you [plan]. You shall contend against wrong [...] a good disposition is a man's heaven, but vilification by the ill-disposed man is dangerous.

Be skillful in speech, that you may be strong; [...] it is the strength of [...] the tongue, and words are braver than all fighting; none can circumvent the clever man [...] on the mat; a wise man is a [school] for the magnates, and those who are aware of his knowledge do not attack him. [Falsehood] does not exist near him, but truth comes to him in full essence, after the manner of what the ancestors said.

/ Copy your forefathers, for [work] is carried out through knowledge; see, their words endure in writing. Open, that you may read and copy knowledge; (even) the expert will become one who is instructed. Do not be evil, for patience is good; make your lasting monument in the love of you. Multiply [the people] whom the city has enfolded; then will God be praised because of rewards; men will watch over your [...] and give thanks for your goodness, and your health will be prayed for [...].

Respect the great; keep your people safe; consolidate your frontier and your patrolled area, for it is good to work for the future. Show respect [...] life for the clear-sighted, but the trusting man will suffer pain. Let men be sent [...] / through your kindly disposition. Wretched is he who has bound the land to himself [...] a fool is he who is greedy when others posses. [Life] on earth passes away, it is not long; he is fortunate who [has a good] remembrance in it. No man goes straight forward, (even though) a million belong to the Lord of the Two Lands. [...] shall live forever; he who comes from the hand of Osiris shall depart, just as he who is self-indulgent shall be lost.

Make your magnates great, that they may execute your laws; one who is rich in his house will not be one-sided, for he who does not lack is an owner of property; a poor man does not speak truly, and one who says, "Would that I had,' is not straightforward; he is one-sided toward the possessor of rewards. Great is the great one whose great ones are great; / valiant is a king who owns an entourage; and august is he who is rich in magnates. Speak truth in your house, so that the magnates who are on earth may respect you, for a sovereign's renown (lies in) straightforwardness; it is the front room of a house that inspires the back room with respect.

Do justice, that you may live long upon earth. Calm the weeper, do not oppress the widow, do not oust a man from his father's property, do not degrade magnates from their seats. Beware of punishing wrongfully; do not kill, for it will not profit you, but punish with beatings and with imprisonment, for thus the land will be set in order, excepting only the rebel who has conspired, for God knows those who are disaffected, / and God will smite down his evil doing with blood. It is the lenient man who [...] lifetime; so do not kill a man of whose ability you are aware, and with whom you once recited writings, but read in the account [...] because of God, and stride forward freely in a difficult place. The soul comes to the place which it knows, and it will not overstep the ways of the past; no magic can oppose it, and it will reach those who will give it water.

As for the tribunal which judges the needy, you know that they will not be lenient on that day of judging the poor; in the hour of exercising (their) function, wretched is he who is accused as a wise man. Do not put your trust in length of years, / for they regard a lifetime as an hour; a man survives after death, and his deeds are laid before him in a heap. Existence yonder is eternal, and he who complains of it is a fool, but as for him who attains it, he will be like a god yonder, striding forward like the lords of eternity.

Raise up your young troops, that the Residence may love you. Multiply your partisans as neighbors; see, your towns are full of newly settled folk. It is for twenty years that the rising generation is happy in following its desire, and neighbors come forth again; he who is caused to enter goes in for himself by means of children [...]. Ancient times have fought for us, / and I raised (troops) from them at my accession. Make your magnates great, promote your [warriors], increase the rising generation of your retainers, they being equipped with knowledge, established with lands, and endowed with cattle.

Do not distinguish the son of a man of rank from a commoner, but take a man to yourself because of his actions, so that every craft may be carried on [...] for the possessor of strength. Guard your frontier, marshal your fortresses, for troops are profitable to their master. Construct [fine] monuments to God, for it means the perpetuation of the name of whoever does it, and a man should do what is profitable to his soul, (namely) monthly service as priest and the wearing of white sandals. Enrich the fane, be discreet concerning the mysteries, enter / into the sanctuary, eat bread in the temple, richly provide the altars, increase the revenues, add to the daily offerings, for it is a profitable matter for whoever does it; maintain your monuments in proportion to your wealth, for a single day gives to eternity, an hour does good for the future, and God is aware of him who serves him. Dispatch your statues to a distant land of which they shall not render an inventory, for he who destroys the goods of an enemy will suffer.

The enemy cannot be quiet (even) within Egypt, but troops shall subdue troops, in accordance with the prophecy of the ancestors about it, and men fight against Egypt (even) / in the necropolis. Do not destroy ancient buildings with a destruction through action; I acted thus and so it happened, just as he who had transgressed likewise did against God. Do not deal ill with the Southern Region, for you know the prophecy of the Residence about it, and it has happened [even as] this shall happen; they shall not transgress as they said [...]. I turned back <to> Thinis [...] its southern boundary at Tawer, and I captured it like a cloudburst, though King Mer-[...]re did not do it. Be lenient about it....[...] renew contracts. / There is no pure reason who is caused to be hidden, and it is good to act on behalf of posterity.

You stand well with the Southern Region, for the bearers of loads come to you with produce; I did the same as the ancestors, and there was none who had corn who gave it. Be kindly to those who are weak toward you, and satisfy yourself with your own bread and beer. Granite comes to you without hindrance, so do not destroy someone else's monuments. Hew stone in Turah, but do not build your tomb of what has been thrown down, (or of) what has been made for what is to be made. See, the king is a possessor of joy; / you can be drowsy and you can sleep through your strength of arm; follow your desire through what I have done, for there is no enemy within your frontier.

I rose as ruler in my city, but I was anxious about the Delta from he-shenu to Sebak, its southern boundary being at the Canal of the Two Fishes. I pacified the west as far as the sand dunes of the Fayyum; it labors and yields meru-wood; men see wan-wood (once again) and yield it to us. But the east is rich in foreigners, and their taxes are [withheld]; the Middle Island is turned about, (and also) everyone in it. (yet) the temples say of me: O Great One, / men salute you.

See, [the land] which they destroyed is made into districts and every great city [is restored]. The governance of (each) one is in the hands of ten men, a magistrate is appointed who will levy [...] the amount of all taxes. The priest is provided with a farm, and men work for you like a single gang. How is it that disaffection does not occur? (Because) you will not suffer from a Nile which fails to come, and the revenues of the Delta are in your hand. See, the mooring post which I have made in the east is driven in from the limits of Hebnu to Road-of-Horus, settled with towns and full of people of the pick of the entire land, to repel / enemies from them. May I see a brave man who will imitate it and who will do more than I have done [...] by the hand of a cowardly heir.

Speak thus concerning the barbarian: As for the wretched Asiatic, unpleasant is the place where he is (with) trouble from water, difficulty from many trees, and the roads thereof awkward by reason of mountains. He does not dwell in one place, being driven hither and yon through want, going about [the desert] on foot. He has been fighting since the time of Horus; he never conquers, yet he is not conquered, and he does not announce a day of fighting, like a thief whom a community has driven out.

But I lived, / and while I existed the barbarians were as though in the walls of a fortress; [my troops] broke open [...]. I caused the Delta to smite them, I carried off their people, I took away their cattle, until the detestation of the Asiatics was against Egypt. Do not worry about him, for the Asiatic is a crocodile on his riverbank; he snatches a lonely serf, but he will never rob in the vicinity of a populous town.

Dig a moat against [...] and flood the half of it at the Bitter Lakes, for see, it is the navel-string of the desert dwellers; / its walls and its soldiers are many and the partisans in it know how to take up arms, apart from the freemen of the camp; the region of Djed-esut totals ten thousand men consisting of free untaxed commoners, and magnates have been in it since the time of the Residence. <its> boundary is established, its garrison is brave, and many northerners irrigate it to the limits of the Delta, they being taxed in corn like freemen; it is... the face of him who made it, and see, it is the door of the Delta. They made a moat for / Ninsu, for a populous city is... Beware of being surrounded by the partisans of an enemy; watchfulness is what renews years.

When your frontier to the Southern Region is troubled, it is the barbarians who have taken the belt. Build castles in the Delta, for a man's name will not be diminished by what he has done, and a well-founded city cannot be harmed. Build castles [...], for an enemy loves disturbance, and his actions are mean.

The late King Akhtoy ordained in a teaching: / "Be inactive about the violent man who destroys altars, for God will attack him who rebels against the temples. men will come about it according as he does it; he will be satisfied with what is ordained for him, (namely) a trap for him; no one will use loyalty toward him on that day of coming. protect the altars, worship God, and do not say: It is weakness of mind"; do not let your arms be loose. As for him who makes rebellion against you, it is to destroy the sky. Prosperity means a year of monuments; even if an enemy knows, he will not destroy them, through the desire that what he ahs done may be embellished by another who comes after. There is not one devoid of / an enemy, but the ruler of the Two Banks is a wise man, and a king who possesses an entourage cannot act stupidly. He is wise from birth, and God will distinguish him above millions of men.

The kingship is a goodly office; it has no son and it has no brother who shall make its monuments endure, yet it is the one person who ennobles the other; a man works for his predecessor, through the desire that what he has done may be embellished by another who shall come after him. A mean act was committed in my reign; / the territory of Thinis was devastated. It indeed happened, but not through what I had done; I knew of it only after it was done. See, the consequences exceeded what I had done, for what is damaged is spoiled, and there is no benefit for him who restores what he (himself) has ruined, who demolishes what he ahs built and embellished what he has defaced; beware of it! A blow is repaid by the like of it, and all that is achieved is a hitting.

One generation of men passes to another, and God, who knows character, has hidden Himself. There is none who will oppose the possessor of a hand, and he is an attacker of / what the eyes see, so worship God upon his way. Things are made of costly stone and fashioned in copper; the mud flat is replaced with water; there is no stream that can be made to hide, for it means that the dike in which it hid itself is destroyed. The soul goes to the place it knows and does not stray on yesterday's road. Beautify your mansion in the West, embellish your place in the necropolis with straightforwardness and just dealing, for it is on that which their hearts rely; more acceptable is the character of the straightforward man than the ox of the wrongdoer. Serve God, that he may do the like for you, with offerings / for replenishing the altars and with carving; it is that which will show forth your name, and God is aware of whoever serves Him. Provide for men, the cattle of God, for he made heaven and earth at their desire. He suppressed the greed of the waters, he gave the breath of life to their noses, for they are likenesses of Him which issued from His flesh. he shines in the sky for the benefit of their hearts; he has made herbs, cattle, and fish to nourish them. he has killed His enemies and destroyed His own children, because they had planned to make rebellion; He makes daylight for the benefit of their hearts, and he sails around in order to see them. he has raised up / a shrine behind them, and when they weep, He hears. he has made them rulers even from the egg, a lifter to lift (the load) from the back of the weak man; He has made for them magic to be weapons to ward off what may happen.

Be watchful over it by night as by day. how has He killed the disaffected> Even as a man strikes his son for his brother's sake, for God knows every name.

Do not be distressed <at> my utterance even when it gives laws concerning the king. Instruct yourself, that you may rise up as a man; then you will attain to my repute without anyone who accuses you. do not kill / anyone who approaches you, but favor him, for God knows him. He who flourishes on earth is one of them, and they who serve the king are gods. Instill the love of you into all the world, for a good character is what is remembered... is perished, and it is said of you: "he who will destroy the time of suffering by those who are at the back in the House of Akhtoy, in praying for him who will come today.

See, I have told you the best of my inmost thoughts, which you should set steadfastly before your face.

(The Leningrad Papyrus ends with a wordy colophon informing us that this particular copy was made by a scribe named Khamwese for his won use and that of his brother Mahu)