The composition contained in the first Aitlastnsi papyrus was written certainly not earlier, but probably also not later, than the reign of Rameses 11, the name of that king occurring in several passages (12,3; IS$: 27J. 5). Of the ten ostraca and papyri preserving greater or less portions of the text none is of more recent date than about the middle of the 20th. Dynasty; and this quite unusual number of manuscripts, scattered over so brief a period, bears eloquent testimony to the popularity which the work enjoyed in the Ramesside schools. Nor is its popularity hard to explain, if the standards of taste current in those times are carefully borne in mind. In the first place the theme upon which the entire composition turns is the profession of the scribe, and no lesson was more assiduously instilled into the mind of the Egyptian schoolboy than the belief in the dignity and the advantages of that career. Thus from one aspect Annstasi I ought to be regarded ' as akin to the numerous alluisions in which the student is bidden apply himself diligently to the art of writing, or where other occupations are invidiously compared with the labours of the scribe. Secondly, its wealth of topics and consequent variety of vocabulary must have given the text particular value as a model of style and as a means of teaching orthography. The abundant use made of foreign words and the display of erudition with regard to outlandish place-names agree well with what we know of the predilections of the age. Lastly, the good-humoured raillery which is the dominant note of the papyrus springs from one of most attractive sides of the Egyptian temperament. Hints of the Egyptian's love of repartee and appreciation of irony may be found in the snatches of conversation
written above the scenes on the walls of tombs, or in the paintings and sculptures themselves, or in the rare caricatures that have survived, and samples are to be found here and there in the literature; but nowhere are these attributes more strikingly illustrated than in Aizastnsi: If it must be confessed that the quality of the wit is poor, and that the satirical vein is intolerably insistent, still, that a Ramesside author should so well have understood to use language in a way not immediately suggested by its plain face-value is an achievement to be respected.

 

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Egyptian Hieratic Texts - Alan H Gardiner

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