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Legends of the Gods

The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

by E. A. Wallis Budge

London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trner & Co. Ltd.



In the eighteenth year of the Horus, Neter-Khat, of the King of the South and North, Neter-Khat, of the Lord of the Shrines of Uatchit and Nekhebit, Neter-Khat, of the Golden Horus Tcheser, 1 when Matar was H Prince, and Erpa, and Governor of the temple-cities in the Land of the South, and director of the Khenti 2 folk in Abtu, 3 there was brought unto him the following royal despatch: "This is to inform thee that misery hath laid hold upon me [as I sit] upon the great throne by reason of those who dwell in the Great House. 4 My heart is grievously afflicted by reason of the exceedingly great evil [which hath happened] because Hapi (i.e., the Nile) hath not come forth 5 in my time to the [proper] height for seven years.

Grain is very scarce, vegetables are lacking altogether, every kind of thing which men eat for their food hath ceased, and every man [now] plundereth his neighbour. Men wish to walk, but are unable to move, the child waileth, the young man draggeth his limbs along, and the hearts of the aged folk are crushed with despair; their legs give way under them, and they sink down to the ground, and their hands are laid upon their bodies [in pain]. The shennu 6 nobles are destitute of counsel, and [when] the storehouses which should contain supplies are opened, there cometh forth therefrom nothing but wind. Everything is in a state of ruin. My mind hath remembered, going back to former time, when I had an advocate, to the time of the gods, and of the Ibis-god, and of the chief Kher-heb priest I-em-hetep, 7 the son of Ptah of his Southern Wall.

"Where is the place of birth of Hapi (the Nile)? What god, or what goddess, presideth (?) over it? What manner of form hath he? It is he who stablisheth revenue for me, and a full store of grain. I would go to the Chief of Het-Sekhet 8 whose beneficence strengtheneth all men in their works. I would enter into the House of Life, 9 I would unfold the written rolls [therein], and I would lay my hand upon them."

Then [Matar] set out on his journey, and he returned to me straightway. He gave me instruction concerning the increase of Hapi, 10 and told me all things which men had written concerning it, and he revealed to me the secret doors (?) whereto my ancestors had betaken themselves quickly, the like of which has never been, to [any] king since the time of Ra, (?). And he said unto me: "There is a city in the middle of the stream wherefrom Hapi maketh his appearance;

'Abu' 11 was its name in the beginning; it is the City of the Beginning, and it is the Nome of the City of the Beginning. [It reacheth] to Uaua, 12 which is the beginning of the land. There is too a flight of steps, 13 which reareth itself to a great height, and is the support of Ra, when he maketh his calculation to prolong life to everyone; 'Netchemtchem Ankh' 14 is the name of its abode. 'The two Qerti' 15 is the name of the water, and they are the two breasts from which every good thing cometh forth (?).

Here is the bed of Hapi (the Nile), wherein he reneweth his youth [in his season], wherein he causeth the flooding of the land. He cometh and hath union as he journeyeth, as a man hath union with a woman. And again he playeth the part of a husband and satisfieth his desire. He riseth to the height of twenty-eight cubits [at Abu], and he droppeth at Sma-Behutet 16 to seven cubits. The union(?) there is that of the god Khnemu in [Abu. He smiteth the ground] with his sandals, and [its] fulness becometh abundant; he openeth the bolt of the door with his hand, and he throweth open the double door of the opening through which the water cometh.

"Moreover, he dwelleth there in the form of the god Shu, 17 as one who is lord over his own territory, and his homestead, the name of which is 'Aa' (i.e., the 'Island'). There he keepeth an account of the products of the Land of the South and of the Land of the North, in order to give unto every god his proper share, and he leadeth to each [the metals], and the [precious stones, and the four-footed beasts], and the feathered fowl, and the fish, and every thing whereon they live. And the cord [for the measuring of the land] and the tablet whereon the register is kept are there.

"And there is an edifice of wood there, with the portals thereof formed of reeds, wherein he dwelleth as one who is over his own territory, and he maketh the foliage of the trees (?) to serve as a roof.

His God-house hath an opening towards the south-east, and Ra (or, the Sun) standeth immediately opposite thereto every day. The stream which floweth along the south side thereof hath danger [for him that attacketh it], and it hath as a defence a wall which entereth into the region of the men of Kens 18 on the South. Huge mountains [filled with] masses of stone are round about its domain on the east side, and shut it in. Thither come the quarrymen with things (tools?) of every kind, [when] they seek to build a House for any god in the Land of the South, or in the Land of the North, or [shrines] as abodes for sacred animals, or royal pyramids, and statues of all kinds. They stand up in front of the House of the God and in the sanctuary chamber, and their sweet smelling offerings are presented before the face of the god Khnemu during his circuit, even as [when they bring] garden herbs and flowers of every kind.

The fore parts thereof are in Abu (Elephantine), and the hind parts are in the city of Sunt (?). 19 One portion thereof is on the east side 20 of the river, and another portion is on the west side 21 of the river, and another portion is in the middle 22 of the river. The stream decketh the region with its waters during a certain season of the year, and it is a place of delight for every man. And works are carried on among these quarries [which are] on the edges [of the river?], for the stream immediately faceth this city of Abu itself, and there existeth the granite, the substance whereof is hard (?); 'Stone of Abu' it is called.

"[Here is] a list of the names of the gods who dwell in the Divine House of Khnemu. The goddess of the star Sept (Sothis), the goddess Anqet, Hap (the Nile-god), Shu, Keb, Nut, Osiris, Horus, Isis, and Nephthys.

"[Here are] the names of the stones which lie in the heart of the mountains, some on the east side, some on the west side, and some in [the midst of] the stream of Abu. They exist in the heart of Abu, they exist in the country on the east bank, and in the country on the west bank, and in the midst of the stream, namely, "Bekhen-stone, Meri (or Meli)-stone, Atbekhab (?)-stone, Rakes-stone, and white Utshi-stone; these are found on the east bank. Per-tchani-stone is found on the west bank, and the Teshi-stone in the river.

[Here are] the names of the hard (or, hidden) precious stones, which are found in the upper side, among them being the . . . . . stone, the name 23 of which hath spread abroad through [a space of] four atru measures: Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron, Lapis-lazuli, Emerald, Thehen (Crystal?), Khenem (Ruby), Kai, Mennu, Betka (?), Temi, Na (?). The following come forth from the fore part 24 of the land: Mehi-stone, [He]maki-stone, Abheti-stone, iron ore, alabaster for statues, mother-of-emerald, antimony, seeds (or, gum) of the sehi plant, seeds (or, gum) of the amem plant, and seeds (or, gum) of the incense plant; these are found in the fore parts of its double city." These were the things which I learned therefrom (i.e., from Matar).

Now my heart was very happy when I heard these things, and I entered into [the temple of Khnemu]. The overseers unrolled the documents which were fastened up, the water of purification was sprinkled [upon me], a progress was made [through] the secret places, and a great offering [consisting] of bread-cakes, beer, geese, oxen (or, bulls), and beautiful things of all kinds were offered to the gods and goddesses who dwell in Abu, whose names are proclaimed at the place [which is called], "Couch of the heart in life and power."

And I found the God standing in front of me, and I made him to be at peace with me by means of the thank-offering which I offered unto him, and I made prayer and supplication before him. Then he opened his eyes, and his heart was inclined [to hear] me, and his words were strong [when he said], "I am Khnemu, 25 who fashioned thee. My two hands were about thee and knitted together thy body, and made healthy thy members; and it is I who gave thee thy heart. Yet the minerals (or, precious stones) [lie] under each other, [and they have done so] from olden time, and no man hath worked them in order to build the houses of the god, or to restore those which have fallen into ruin, or to hew out shrines for the gods of the South and of the North, or to do what he ought to do for his lord, notwithstanding that I am the Lord and the Creator.

"I am [he] who created himself, Nu, the Great [God], who came into being at the beginning, [and] Hapi, who riseth according to his will, in order to give health to him that laboureth for me. I am the Director and Guide of all men at their seasons, the Most Great, the Father of the Gods, Shu, the Great One, the Chief of the Earth.

The two halves of the sky (i.e., the East and the West) are as a habitation below me. A lake of water hath been poured out for me, [namely,] Hap (i.e., the Nile), which embraceth the field-land, and his embrace provideth the [means of] life for every nose (i.e., every one), according to the extent of his embrace of the field-land. With old age [cometh] the condition of weakness. I will make Hap (i.e., the Nile) rise for thee, and [in] no year shall [he] fail, and he shall spread himself out in rest upon every land. Green plants and herbs and trees shall bow beneath [the weight of] their produce.

The goddess Renenet 26 shall be at the head of everything, and every product shall increase by hundreds of thousands, according to the cubit of the year. The people shall be filled, verily to their hearts' desire, and everyone. Misery shall pass away, and the emptiness of their store-houses of grain shall come to an end. The land of Ta-Mert (i.e., Egypt) shall come to be a region of cultivated land, the districts [thereof] shall be yellow with grain crops, and the grain [thereof] shall be goodly. And fertility shall come according to the desire [of the people], more than there hath ever been before."

Then I woke up at [the mention of] crops, my heart (or, courage) came [back], and was equal to my [former] despair, and I made the following decree in the temple of my father Khnemu:--

The king giveth an offering to Khnemu 27 the Lord of the city of Qebhet, 28 the Governor of Ta-Sti, 29 in return for those things which thou hast done for me. There shall be given unto thee on thy right hand [the river bank] of Manu, 30 and on thy left hand the river bank of Abu, together with the land about the city, for a space of twenty measures, 31 on the east side and on the west side, with the gardens, and the river front everywhere throughout the region included in these measures. From every husbandman who tilleth the ground, and maketh to live again the slain, and placeth water upon the river banks and all the islands which are in front of the region of these measures, shall be demanded a further contribution from the growing crops and from every storehouse, as thy share.

"Whatsoever is caught in the nets by every fisherman and by every fowler, and whatsoever is taken by the catchers of fish, and by the snarers of birds, and by every hunter of wild animals, and by every man who snareth lions in the mountains, when these things enter [the city] one tenth of them shall be demanded.

"And of all the calves which are cast throughout the regions which are included in these measures, one tenth of their number shall be set apart as animals which are sealed for all the burnt offerings which are offered up daily.

"And, moreover, the gift of one tenth shall be levied upon the gold, ivory, ebony, spices, carnelians (?), sa wood, seshes spice, dum palm fruit (?), nef wood, and upon woods and products of every kind whatsoever, which the Khentiu, 32 and the Khentiu of Hen-Resu, 33 and the Egyptians, and every person whatsoever [shall bring in].

And [every] hand shall pass them by, and no officer of the revenue whatsoever shall utter a word beyond these places to demand (or, levy on) things from them, or to take things over and above [those which are intended for] thy capital city.

"And I will give unto thee the land belonging to the city, which beareth stones, and good land for cultivation. Nothing thereof shall be [diminished] or withheld, of all these things in order to deceive the scribes, and the revenue officers, and the inspectors of the king, on whom it shall be incumbent to certify everything.

"And further, I will cause the masons, and the hewers of ore (?), and the workers in metal, and the smelters (?) of gold, and the sculptors in stone, and the ore-crushers, and the furnace-men (?), and handicraftsmen of every kind whatsoever, who work in hewing, and cutting, and polishing these stones, and in gold, and silver, and copper, and lead, and every worker in wood who shall cut down any tree, or carry on a trade of any kind, or work which is connected with the wood trade, to pay tithe upon all the natural products (?), and also upon the hard stones which are brought from their beds above, and quarried stones of all kinds.

"And there shall be an inspector over the weighing of the gold, and silver, and copper, and real (i.e., precious) stones, and the [other] things, which the metal-workers require for the House of Gold, and the sculptors of the images of the gods need in the making and repairing of them, and [these things] shall be exempted from tithing, and the workmen also. And everything shall be delivered (or, given) in front of the storehouse to their children, a second time, for the protection of everything. And whatsoever is before thy God-house shall be in abundance, just as it hath ever been from the earliest time.

And a copy of this decree shall be inscribed upon a stele, [which shall be set up] in the holy place, according to the writing of the [original] document which is cut upon wood, and [figures of] this god and the overseers of the temple shall be [cut] thereon. Whosoever shall spit upon that which is on it shall be admonished by the rope. And the overseers of the priests, and every overseer of the people of the House of the God, shall ensure the perpetuation of my name in the House of the god Khnemu-Ra, the lord of Abu (Elephantine), for ever."


1 Tcheser was a king of the IIIrd Dynasty, and is famous as the builder of the Step Pyramid at Sakkarah. His tomb was discovered by Mr. J. Garstang at Bet Khallaf in Upper Egypt in 1901.
2 I.e., the people who were in front of, that is, to the South of Egypt, or the population of the country which lies between Dakkah and Aswan.
3 The ancient Egyptian name for Elephantine Island, which appears to have gained this name because it resembled an elephant in shape.
4 I.e., the palace.
5 I.e., risen.
6 I.e., the high court officials and administrators.
7 The famous priest and magician, who was subsequently deified and became one of the chief gods of Memphis.
8 Hermopolis.
9 Per-ankh, or Pa-ankh, was a name given to one of the temple-colleges of priests and scribes.
10 I.e., the Inundation, or Nile Flood.
11 The Elephant City, i.e., Elephantine.
12 A portion of Northern Nubia.
13 This is probably an allusion to the famous Nilometer on the Island of Philae.
14 I.e., "Sweet, sweet life."
15 The Qerti were the two openings through which the Nile entered this world from the great celestial ocean.
16 Diospolis of Lower Egypt, or "Thebes of the North."
17 The god who separated the Sky-goddess Nut from the embrace of her husband, the Earth-god Keb, and who holds her above him each day.
18 Kens extended south from Philae as far as Korosko.
19 Perhaps Sunut, = the Syene of the Greeks, and the סְוֵנֶה of the Hebrews.
20 I.e., Syene.
21 I.e., Contra Syene.
22 I.e., the Island of Elephantine.
23 I.e., the stone was very famous.
24 The "fore part," or "front," of the land means the country lying to the south of Nubia, and probably some part of the modern Egyptian Sudan.
25 He was the "builder of men, maker of the gods, the Father who was from the beginning, the maker of things which are, the creator of things which shall be, the source of things which exist, Father of fathers, Mother of mothers, Father of the fathers of the gods and goddesses, lord of created things, maker of heaven, earth, Tuat, water and mountains" (Lanzone, Dizionario, p. 957).
26 The goddess of the harvest.
27 Or perhaps, Khnemu-Ra.
28 Qebhet is the name given to the whole region of the First Cataract.
29 The "Land of the Bow," i.e., the Northern Sudan.
30 The Land of the setting sun, the West.
31 schoinos.
32 The inhabitants of the Northern Sudan, probably as far to the south as Napata.
33 The people of the Island of Mero and probably those living on the Blue and White Niles.


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