- Sinuhe -
Sinuhe is the (presumably) fictive hero of a Middle Kingdom story. His name is a modern-day interpretation of , sA-nh.t, which literally means 'son of the sycomore', 'sycomore' referring to the goddess Hathor.
Written in an autobiographical style, the story starts with the death of Amenemhat I, the founder of the 12th Dynasty, at a time when the old king's heir and successor, Sesostris I, is away to do battle with a Libyan Bedouin tribe. Amidst the uncertainty, Sinuhe accidenatally overhears a conversation between two courtiers. Although the actual conversation is not part of the story, it terrifies Sinuhe so much that he decides to flee the country. This is often seen as an indication that Amenemhat I may have fallen victim to a plot.
Fearing for his life, Sinuhe decides not to join Sesostris I, but heads for the desert regions beyond Egypt's border with Syria-Palestine. There he faces death from hunger and thirst, but is saved at the very last moment by some Bedouin tribesmen. Adapting to their way of life, Sinuhe starts travelling through Syria-Palestine and establishes a reputation that is so good that the king of Retenu offers him his daughter in marriage.
Despite his newly found happiness, Sinuhe gets homesick and when he receives an invitation from Sesostris I to return to Egypt he gladly accepts it. Upon his return to Egypt, Sesostris I pardons him for whatever it was that had made him decide to flee in the first place and makes him a member of the court.
The popularity of this story is shown by the many copies, some more fragmentary than others, that have been found of it. The two most complete versions are two papyri of Middle Kingdom date, now in a Berlin collection. Other fragmentary copies have been found on ostraca.
The story appears to have been intended mainly to show Sesostris I as a great and benevolent king, willing to pardon those that had fled the country in difficult circumstances. The narrative, however, is of such a quality, that it would not do justice to the story to describe it as propgandistic. In addition to a great and compelling narrative, the story also provides us some information about the location of Itj-tawi, Egypt's capital during the 12th Dynasty, the presence of a fortress called "Wall of the Ruler" at the border with Syria-Palestine and even the relationship of Egypt with its neighbours.
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Last update: 21 July, 2009