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Words of Wisdom


The Judgment Scene

Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Any

(Anubis is watching this small, incomplete text-line facing left) :

Said he who is in the tomb : 

'Pay attention to the decision of truth
and {the plummet} of the balance,
according to its stance !' 

Osiris, the scribe Ani, said : 'O my heart which I had from my mother ! O my heart which I had from mother ! O my heart of my different ages ! May there be nothing to resist me at the judgment. May there be no opposition to me from the assessors. May there be no parting of You from me in the presence of him who keeps the scales ! You are my Ka within my body, which formed and strengthened my limbs. May You come forth to the place of happiness whereto I advance. May the entourage not cause my name to stink, and may no lies be spoken against me in the presence of the god ! It is indeed well that You should hear !

(the second part starts above the right-hand beam, faced by the Baboon, glyphs face left) :

Said Thoth, the righteous judge, to the Great Ennead, which is in the presence of Osiris : 'Hear ye, this decision, in very truth ! The heart of Osiris has been weighed and his Ba stands as a witness for him. His deeds are righteous in the Great Balance, and no sin had been found in him. He did not diminish the offerings in the temples, he did not destroy what had been made, he did not go about with deceitful speech while he was on Earth.'

(the third large section starts in the far right corner, facing right) :

Said the Great Ennead of Thoth, who is in Hermopolis : 'That which comes forth from your mouth is true. The vindicated Osiris, the scribe Ani, is righteous. He has no sin, there is no accusation against him before us. Amemet (the eater of the dead, executing the second death) shall not be permitted to have power over him. Let there be given to him the offerings which are issued in the presence of Osiris, and may a grant of land be establised in the Field of Peace, like for the followers of Horus.'

Papyrus of Ani, Plate 3 - XXVIIIth Dynasty

Words of Wisdom


The Instruction of Any has long been known through a single manu­script: Papyrus Boulaq 4 of the Cairo Museum, which dates from the Twenty-First or Twenty-Second Dynasty. Of the first pages only small fragments have remained, and the copy as a whole abounds in textual corruptions due to incomprehension on the part of the copying scribe. The introductory sentence of the work is preserved on a tablet in the Berlin Museum (No. 8934), and small portions of the text are found in three papyrus fragments in the Musee Guimet, in Papyrus Chester Beatty V of the British Museum, and in four ostraca from Deir el­Medina.

Given the corruption and lacunae of the main text copy and the absence of sizable duplicate copies, the text has presented great difficul­ties to editors and translators. In the words of Sir Alan Gardiner: "The papyrus known as P. Boulaq IV, to the contents of which Chabas gave the name Les Maximes du scribe Anii, has long enjoyed the unenviable reputa­tion of being the obscurest of all Egyptian wisdom texts" YEA, 45 [1959], 12).

An incomplete papyrus of eight pages containing about a third of a duplicate copy of the Instruction of Any came to light in the French excavations at Deir el-Medina (see G. Posener, RdE, 6 [1949], 42). It has been edited for publication by G. Posener and is scheduled to appear as a volume of the Institut Franipis d'Archeologie Orientale du Caire. Pro­fessor Posener has very kindly allowed me to use a photocopy of his hiero­glyphic transcription of the papyrus; and this has enabled me to better understand a number of passages. The precise extent of the help pro­vided by the partial Deir el-Medina copy will be gauged after it has been published.

The work itself was composed in the New Kingdom, almost certainly in the Eighteenth Dynasty. It combines traditional themes with a certain amount of innovation. Two aspects, in particular, distinguish it from most earlier Instructions. One is the fact that the Instruction of Any comes from the sphere of the middle class and is meant for the average man. The author presents himself as a minor official, and the ac"'ice he dispenses, in the usual form of a father instructing his son, is sui,;.d to the thinking of anyone who possessed a modicum of education and of material comforts. Thus there is nothing specifically aristocratic about the values that are taught. This is of course in keeping with the evolu­tion of Egyptian society and with the growth of the middle class.

The other novel feature appears in the epilogue. In earlier Instruc­tions the epilogue had consisted either in the grateful acceptance of the teaching by the listeners, or in the teacher's conclusion urging compli­ance. The epilogue of Any, however, is a debate between father and son in which the son makes the objection that the father's teachings are too difficult to be understood and obeyed. By making the son disinclined to learn and obey, the author of the work introduced a new dimension into the concept of didactic literature: the thought that instruction might fail to have an impact. The thought is introduced in order to be refuted. The father has the last word as well as the more telling arguments. Yet the expression of a negative point of view adds a fresh and realistic note to the genre Instruction by showing an awareness that the efficacy of teaching could be questioned and that the teachability of man had its limitations.

Publication: A. Mariette, Les papyrus egyptiens du musee de Boulaq (Paris, 1871), pls. 15-28. E. Suys, La sagesse d'Ani: Texte traduction et commen­taire, Analecta Orientalia, 2 (Rome, 1935). Includes hieroglyphic trans­cription of the Berlin and Paris fragments.

Other fragments: A. H. Gardiner, Hieratic Papyri, I, 50, and II, 27: P. Chester Beatty V, verso 2,6-11 (= P. Boulaq 4, 3,1-3 and 6,1-4). Posener, Ostr. hier., nos. 1063, 1257, 1258, 1259.

Study and translation of excerpts: A. Volten, Studien zum Weisheitsbuch des Anii, Danske videnskabernes selskab, historisk-filologiske meddel­elser, xxiii, 3 (Copenhagen, 1937-38).

Translation: Erman, Literature, pp. 234-242.     J. A. Wilson in ANET, pp. 420-421 (excerpts).

Translation of individual maxims: A. Volten, "Agyptische Nemesis­Gedanken," Miscellanea Gregoriana (Rome, 1941), pp. 373-374: lines 8, 14-16.           A. H. Gardiner, JEA, 45 (1959), 12-15: lines 3,4-9.

Note: The page and line numbering used here is that of Suys's publi­cation which was also employed by Volten. My translation begins with page 3,1 preceded by the title of the work found on the Berlin tablet.


 The Instruction of Ani

Beginning of the educational instruction made by the Scribe Any of the Palace of Queen Nefertari.1

Take a wife while you're young,

That she make a son for you;

She should bear for you while you're youthful,

It is proper to make people.'

Happy the man whose people are many,

He is saluted on account of his progeny.

Observe the feast of your god,'

And repeat its season,

God is angry if it is neglected.

Put up witnesses (5) when you offer,

The first time that you do it.

When one comes to seek your record,

Have them enter you in the roll;

When time comes to seek your purchase,"

It will extol the might of the god.

Song, dance, incense are his foods,

Receiving prostrations is his wealth;

The god does it to magnify his name,

But man it is who is inebriated.

Do not (10) enter the house of anyone,

Until he admits you and greets you;

Do not snoop around in his house,

Let your eye observe in silence.

Do not speak of him to another outside,

Who was not with you;

A great deadly crime


'Beware of a woman who is a stranger,

One not known in her town;

Don't stare at her when she goes by,

Do not know her carnally.

A deep water whose course is unknown,

Such is a woman away from her husband.

 "I am pretty," she tells you daily,

When she has no witnesses;

She is ready to ensnare you,

A great deadly crime when it is heard.

Do not leave when the chiefs enter,

Lest your name stink;

In a quarrel (4,1) do not speak,

Your silence will serve you well.

Do not raise your voice in the house of god,

He abhors shouting;


Pray by yourself with a loving heart,


Whose every word is hidden.


He will grant your needs,


He will hear your words,


He will accept your offerings.


Libate for your father and mother,


Who are resting in the valley;


When the gods (5) witness your action,


They will say: "Accepted."


Do not forget the one outside,


Your son will act for you likewise.


Don t indulge in drinking beer,


Lest you utter evil speech'


And don't know what you're saying.


If you fall and hurt your body,


None holds out a hand to you;


Your companions in the drinking Stand up saying:


"Out with the drunk"


If one comes to seek you (10) and talk with you,


One finds you lying on the ground

As if you were a little child.


Do not go-out of your house,

Without knowing your place of rest.

Let your chosen place be known,

Remember it and know it.

Set it before you as thee path to take,

If you are straight you find it.

Furnish your station in the valley,

The grave that shall conceal your corpse;

Set it before you as your concern,

A thing that matters in your eyes.

Emulate the great departed,

Who are at rest within their tombs.

No blame accrues to him who does it,

It is well that you be ready too.

When your envoy' (5,1) comes to fetch you,

He shall find you ready to come

To your place of rest and saying:

"Here comes one prepared before you.

" Do not say, "I am young to be taken,

" For you do not know your death.

When death comes he steals the infant

Who is in his mother's arms,

Just like him who reached old age.

Behold, I give you these useful counsels,

For you to ponder in your heart;

Do it (5) and you will be happy,

All evils will be far from you.

Guard against the crime of fraud,

Against words that are not (true);

Conquer malice in your self,

A quarrelsome man does not rest on the morrow.

Keep away from a hostile man,

Do not let him be your comrade;

Befriend one who is straight and true,

One whose actions you have seen.

If your rightness matches his,

The friendship will be balanced.

Let your hand preserve what is in your house,

Wealth accrues to him who guards it;

Let your hand not scatter it to (10) strangers,

Lest it turn to lose for you.

If wealth is placed where it bears interest,

It comes back to you redoubled;

Make a storehouse for your own wealth,

Your people will find it on your way.

What is given small returns augmented,

What is replaced brings abundance:'

The wise lives off the house of the fool,

Protect what is yours and you find it;

Keep your eye on what you own,

Lest you end as a beggar.

He who is slack amounts to nothing,

Honored is the man who's active.


Learn about the way of man

Who undertakes to found his household.

Make a garden, enclose a patch,

In addition to your plow land;

Set out trees within it,

As shelter about your house.

Fill your hand with all the flowers

That your eye can see;

One has need of all of them,

It is good fortune not to lose them?

Do not rely on another's goods,

Guard what you acquire yourself;

Do not depend on another's wealth,

Lest he become master in your house.

Build a house or find and buy one,

Shun contention,

Don't say: "My mother's father has a house,

a house that lasts,' one calls it;"

When you come to share with your brothers,

Your portion may be a storeroom.

If your god lets you have children,

They'll say: "We are in our father's house."

Be a man hungry or sated in his house,

It is his walls (10) that enclose him.

Do not be a mindless person,

Then your god will give you wealth.

Do not sit when another is standing,

One who is older than you,

Or greater than you in his rank.

No good character is reproached,

An evil character is blamed.


Walk the accustomed path each day,

Stand according to your rank.

"Who's there?" So one always says,

Rank creates its rules;

A woman is asked about (15) her husband,

A man is asked about his rank.

Do not speak rudely to a brawler,

When you are attacked hold yourself back;

You will find this good (7,1) when your relations are friendly,

When trouble has come it will help you bear up,

And the aggressor will desist.

Deeds that are effective toward a stranger

Are very noxious to a brother."

Your people will hail you when you are joyful,

They will weep freely (when you are sad);

When you are happy the brave look to you,

When you are lonely you find your relations.

One will do all you say

If you are versed in writings;

Study the writings, put them in your heart, (5)


Then all your words will be effective.


Whatever office a scribe is given,


He should consult the writings;


The head of the treasury has no son,


The master of the seal has no heir.


The scribe is chosen for his hand,


His office has no children;


His pronouncements are his freemen,


His functions are his masters.


Do not reveal your heart to a stranger,

He might use your words against you;

The noxious speech that came from your mouth,

He repeats it and you make enemies.

A man may be ruined by his tongue,

Beware and you will do well."

A man's belly is wider than a granary,

And full of all kinds of answers;

Choose the good one and say it,

While the bad is shut in your belly

A rude answer brings a beating,

Speak sweetly and you will be loved.

Don't ever talk back to your attacker


Do not set a trap for him;

It is the god who judges the righteous,

His fate comes and takes him away."

Offer to your god,

Beware of offending him.

Do not question his images,

Do not accost him when he appears.

Do not jostle him in order to carry him,

Do not disturb the oracles."

Be careful, help to protect him,

Let your eye watch out (15) for his wrath,

And kiss the ground in his name.

He gives power in a million forms,

He who magnifies him is magnified.

God of this earth is the sun in the sky,

While his images are on earth;


When incense is given them as daily food,

The lord of risings is satisfied.

Double the food your mother gave you,

Support her as she supported you;

She had a heavy load in you,

But, she did not abandon you.

When you were born after your months,

She was yet yoked (to you)

Her breast in your mouth for three years.

As you grew and your excrement disgusted,

She wasted, saying: "What shall I do!"

When she sent you to school,

And you were taught to write,   

She kept watching over you daily,

With bread and, beer from her house,

When as mouth you take a wife,

And you are settled in your house,

Pay attention to your offspring.


Bring him up as did your mother.

Do not give her cause to blame you,

Lest she raise her hands to god

And he hears her cries.

Do not eat bread while another stands by

Without extending your hand to him'.

As to food, it is here always,

It is man (5) who does not last;


One man is rich, another is poor,

But food remains for him who shares it.

As to him who was rich last year,

He is a vagabond this year;

Don't be greedy to fill your belly,

You don't know your end at all.

Should you come to be in want,

Another may do good to you.

When last year's watercourse is gone,

Another river is here today;

Great lakes become dry places,

Sandbanks turn into depths.

Man does not have a single (10) way,

The lord of life confounds him.14

Attend to your position,

Be it low or high;

It is not good to press forward,

Step according to rank.

Do not intrude on a man in his house,

Enter when you have been called;

He may say "Welcome" with his mouth,

Yet deride you in his thoughts.

One gives food to one who is hated,

Supplies to one who enters uninvited.

Don't rush to attack your attacker,

Leave him to the god;

Report him daily to the god, (15)

Tomorrow being like today,

And you will see what the god does,

When he injures him who injured you.

Do not enter into a crowd,

If you find it in an uproar

And about to come to blows.

Don't pass anywhere near by,

Keep away from their tumult,

Lest you be brought before the court,

When an inquiry is made.

Stay away from hostile people,

Keep your heart quiet among fighters;

An outsider is not brought to court,

One who knows nothing is not bound in fetters.


It is useful to help one whom one loves,

So as to cleanse him of his faults;

You will be safe from his errors,'

The first of the herd leads to the field,

Do not control your wife in her house,

When you know she is efficient;

Don't say to her: "Where is it? Get it!"        

When she has put it in the right place

Let your eye observe in silence,

Then you recognize her (5) skill;

It is joy when your hand is with her,

There are many who don't know this.

If a man desists from strife at home,

He will not encounter its beginning.

Every man who founds a household

Should hold back the hasty heart.

Do not go after a woman,

Let her not steal your heart."

Do not talk back to an angry superior,

Let him have his way;

Speak sweetly when he speaks sourly,

It's the remedy that calms the heart.

Fighting answers carry sticks,

And your strength collapses;

Do not vex your heart.

He will return to praise you soon,

When his hour of rage has passed.

If your words please the heart,

(10) The heart tends to accept them;

Choose silence for yourself,

Submit to what he does.

Befriend the herald" of your quarter,

Do not make him angry with you.

Give him food from your house,

Do not slight his requests;

Say to him, "Welcome, welcome here,"

No blame accrues to him who does it.


The scribe Khonshotep answered his father, the scribe Any:

Do not proclaim your powers, So as to force me to your ways;

Does it not happen to a man to slacken his hand

So as to hear an answer in its place?

Man resembles the god in his way If he listens to a man's answer.

One (man) cannot know his fellow,

If the masses are beasts;

One (man) cannot know his teachings-,'

And alone possess a mind,

If the multitudes are foolish.

All your sayings are excellent,

But doing them requires virtues

Tell the god who gave you. wisdom:

"Set them on your path!"

The scribe Any answered his son, the scribe Khonshotep:

Turn your back to these many words,

That are knot worthy being heard.

The crooked stick left on the ground,

With sun and shade attacking it,

If the carpenter takes it, he straightens it,

Makes of it a noble's staff,

And a straight stick makes a collar.

"You foolish heart, Do you wish us to teach,

Or have you been corrupted?

"Look," said he "you my father,

You who are wise and strong of hand:

The infant in his mother's arms,

His wish is for what nurses him."

"Look," said he,"when he finds his speech,

He says: "Give me bread."




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