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From The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, and Rare Manuscripts, Volume XXX, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901; pp. 11307-11316.




[“The Story of the Two Brothers” is in places incoherent, but charms throughout by beautiful and natural touches. The copy in which it has been preserved to us is practically complete, but is full of errors of writing and of composition, whole sentences having crept in that are useless, or contradictory to the context. The style is however absolutely simple and narrative, and the language entirely free from archaisms.

The papyrus which bears the name of Seti II. as crown prince, dates from the XIXth Dynasty. The beginnings of many of the sentences and paragraphs are written in red: this is specially the case when a sentence commences with an indication of time, usually expressed in a fixed formula. In such cases the translation of the passage written in red is here printed in italics.]

ONCE there were two brothers, of one mother and one father; Anpu was the name of the elder, and Bata was the name of the younger. Now, as for Anpu, he had a house and he had a wife. His younger brother was to him as it were a son; he it was who made for him his clothes, while he walked behind his oxen to the fields; he it was who did the plowing; he it was who harvested the corn; he it was who did for him all the work of the fields. Behold, his younger brother grew to be an excellent worker; there was not his equal in the whole land; behold, the strain of a god was in him.

Now when the days multiplied after these things, his younger brother followed his oxen as his manner was, daily; every evening he turned again to the house, laden with all the herbs of the field, with milk and with wood, and with all things of the field. He put them down before his elder brother, who was sitting with his wife; he drank and ate; he lay down in his stable with the cattle.

Now when the earth lighted and the second day came, he took bread which he had baked, and laid it before his elder brother; and he took with him his bread to the field, and he drave his cattle to pasture them in the fields. And he used to walk behind his cattle, they saying to him, “Good is the heritage which is in such a place;” and he hearkened to all that they 11308 said, and he took them to the good pasture which they desired. And the cattle which were before him became exceeding excellent, and they became prolific greatly.

Now at the time of plowing, his elder brother said unto him, “Let us make ready for ourselves a yoke of oxen for plowing; for the land hath come out from the water; it is good for plowing in this state; and do thou come to the field with corn, for we will begin the plowing in the morrow morning.” Thus said he to him; and his younger brother did everything that his elder brother had bidden him, to the end.

Now when the earth lighted and the second day came, they went to the fields with their yoke of oxen; and heir hearts were pleased exceedingly with that which they accomplished in the beginning of their work.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, they were in the field; they stopped for seed corn, and he sent his younger brother, saying, “Haste thou, bring us corn from the farm.” And the younger brother found the wife of his elder brother; [some] one was sitting arranging her hair. He said to her [the wife], “Get up, and give to me seed corn, that I may run to the field, for my elder brother hastened me; be not slow.” She said to him, “Go, open the store, and thou shalt take for thyself what is in thy heart; do not interrupt the course of my hair-dressing.”

The youth went into his stable; he took a large measure, for he desired to take much corn; he loaded it with barley and spelt; and he went out carrying them. She said to him, “How much of the corn that is wanted, is that which is on thy shoulder?” He said to her, “Three bushels of spelt, and two of barley, in all five; these are what are upon my shoulder;” thus said he to her. And she spake with him, saying, “There is great strength in thee, for I see thy might every day.” And her desire was to know him with the knowledge of youth. She arose and took hold of him, and said to him, “Come, lie with me; behold, this shall be to thine advantage, for I will make for thee beautiful garments.” Then the youth became like a leopard of the south in fury at the evil speech which she had made to him; and she feared greatly. He spake with her, saying, “Behold, thou art to me as a mother; thy husband is to me as a father; for he who is elder than I hath brought me up. What is this great wickedness that thou hast said? Say it not to me again. For I will not tell it to any man, that it should 11309 go forth by the mouth of all men.” He lifted up his burden, and he went to the field and came to his elder brother; and they took up their work, to labor at their task.

Now afterwards, at the time of evening, his elder brother was returning to his home; the younger brother was following after his oxen; he loaded himself with all the things of the field; he brought his oxen before him, to make hem lie down in their stable which was in the farm. Behold, the wife of the elder brother was afraid for the words which she had said. She took a pot of fat; she made herself as one who had been beaten by miscreants, in order that she might say to her husband, “It is thy younger brother who hath done this wrong.” Her husband returned in the even, as his manner was every day; he came into his house; he found his wife lying down, ill of violence; she did not put water upon his hands as his manner was; she did not make a light before him; his house was in darkness, and she was lying vomiting. Her husband said to her, “Who hath spoken with thee?” Behold, she said, “No one hath spoken with me except thy younger brother. When he came to take for thee seed corn he found me sitting alone; he said to me, ‘Come, let us lie together; put on thy wig;’2 thus spake he to me. I would not hearken to him: “Behold, am I not thy mother, is not thy elder brother to thee as a father?’ Thus spake I to him, and he feared, and he beat me to stop me from making report to thee, and if thou lettest him live I shall kill myself. Now behold, when he cometh to-morrow, seize upon him; I will accuse him of this wicked thing which he would have done the day before.”

The elder brother became as a leopard of the south; he sharpened his knife; he took it in his hand; he stood behind the door of his stable to slay his younger brother as he came in the evening to let his cattle into the stable.

Now the sun went down, and he loaded himself with all the herbs of the field in his manner of every day. He came; his leading cow entered the stable; she said to her keeper, “Behold, thy elder brother is standing before thee with his knife to slay thee; flee from before him.” He heard what his leading cow had said; the next entered and said likewise. He looked beneath the door of the stable he saw the feet of his elder brother standing behind the door with his knife in his 11310 hand. He put down his load on the ground, he set out to flee swiftly; his elder brother pursued after him with his knife. Then the younger brother cried out unto Ra Harakhti,3 saying, “My good Lord! Thou are he who distinguishest wrong from right.” Ra hearkened to all his complaint; Ra caused to be made a great water between him and his elder brother, full of crocodiles; the one brother was on one bank, the other on the other bank; and the elder brother smote twice on his hands at not slaying him. Thus did he. The younger brother called to the elder on the bank, saying, “Stand still until the dawn of day; when Ra ariseth I shall argue with thee before him, and he giveth the wrong to the right. For I shall not be with thee unto eternity. I shall not be in the place in which thou art; I shall go to the Valley of the Acacia.”

Now when the earth lighted and the second day came, Ra Harakhti shone out, and each of them saw the other. The youth spake with his elder brother, saying: — “Wherefore camest thou after me to slay me wrongfully, when thou hadst not heard my mouth speak? For I am thy younger brother in truth; thou art to me as a father; thy wife is to me even as a mother: is it not so? Verily, when I was sent to bring for us seed corn, thy wife said to me, ‘Come lie with me.’ Behold, this has been turned over to thee upside down.” He caused him to understand all that happened with him and with his wife. He swore an oath by Ra Harakhti, saying, “Thy coming to slay me wrongfully, having thy spear, was the instigation of a wicked and filthy one.” He took a reed knife and mutilated himself; he cast the flesh into the water, and the silurus swallowed it. He sank; he became faint; his elder brother chided his heart greatly; he stood weeping for him loudly, that he could not cross to where his younger brother was, because of the crocodiles. The younger brother called unto him, saying, “Whereas thou hast devised an evil thing, wilt thou not also devise a good thing, or such a thing as I would do unto thee? When thou goest to thy house thou must look to thy cattle; for I stay not in the place where thou art, I am going to the Valley of the Acacia. Now as to what thou shalt do for me: verily, understand this, that things shall happen unto me; namely, that I shall draw out my soul, that I shall put it upon the top of the flowers of the acacia; the acacia-tree will be cut down, it shall fall to the ground, and 11311 thou shalt come to seek for it, and if thou passest seven years searching for it, let not thy heart sicken. Thou shalt find it; thou must put it in a cup of cold water that I may live again that I may make answer to what had been done wrong. Thou shalt understand this; namely, that things are happening to me, when one shall give to thee a pot of beer in thy hand it shall foam up: stay not then, or verily it shall come to pass with thee.”

He went to the Valley of the Acacia; his elder brother went to his house; his hand was laid on his head; he cast dust on his head; he came to his house, he slew his wife, he cast her to the dogs, and he sat in mourning for his younger brother.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, his younger brother was in the Valley of the Acacia; there was none with him; he spent the day hunting the game of the desert, he came back in the even to lie down under the acacia, the topmost flower of which was his soul.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, he built himself a tower with his hand, in the Valley of the Acacia; it was full of all good things, that he might provide for himself a home.

He went out from his tower, he met the Ennead of the gods,4 who were going forth to arrange the affairs of their whole land. The Nine Gods talked one with another, they said unto him: “Ho! Bata, Bull of the Ennead of the gods, art thou remaining alone, having fled thy village from before the wife of Anpu thy elder brother? Behold, his wife is slain. Thou hast given him an answer to all that was transgressed against thee.” Their hearts were sad for him exceedingly. Ra Harakhti said to Khnumu,4 “Behold, frame thou a wife for Bata, that he may not sit alone.” Khnumu made for him a mate to dwell with him. She was more beautiful in her limbs than any woman who is in the whole land. Every god was in her. The seven Hathors came to see her: they said with one mouth, “She will die a sharp death.”

He loved her very exceedingly, and she dwelt in his house; he passed his time in hunting the game of the desert, and brought what he took before her. He said, “Go not outside, lest the sea seize thee; for I cannot rescue thee from it, for I 11312 am a woman like thee: my soul is placed on the top of the flower of the acacia; and if another find it, I shall be vanquished by him.” He explained to her all about his soul.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, Bata went to hunt as his daily manner was. The girl went to walk under the acacia which was by the side of her house; the sea saw her, and cast its waves up after her. She set out to run away from it; she entered her house. The sea called unto the acacia, saying, “Oh, catch hold of her for me!” The acacia brought a lock from her hair, the sea carried it to Egypt, and dropped it in the place of the washers of Pharaoh’s linen. The smell of the lock of hair entered into the clothes of Pharaoh. They were wroth with Pharaoh’s washers, saying, “The smell of ointment is in the clothes of the Pharaoh.” The men were rebuked every day; they knew not what they should do. The chief of the washers of Pharaoh went down to the seaside; his soul was black within him because of the chiding with him daily. He stopped and stood upon the sandy shore opposite to the lock of hair, which was in the water; he made one go in, and it was brought to him; there was found in it a smell, exceeding sweet. He took it to Pharaoh; the scribes and the wise men were brought to Pharaoh: — “This lock of hair belongs to a daughter of Ra Harakhti; the strain of every god is in her; it is a tribute to thee from a strange land. Let messengers go to every foreign land to seek her: as for the messenger who shall go to the Valley of the Acacia; let many men go with him to bring her.” Then said his Majesty, “Excellent exceedingly is what we have said;” and the men were sent.

When the days were multiplied after these things, the people who went abroad came to give report unto the king: but there came not those who went to the Valley of the Acacia, for Bata had slain them; he spared one of them to give a report to the king. His Majesty sent many men and soldiers as well as horsemen, to bring her back. There was a woman among them, into whose hand was put every kind of beautiful ornaments for a woman. The girl came back with her; there were rejoicings for her in the whole land.

His Majesty loved her exceedingly, and raised her to be a princess of high rank; he spake with her that she should tell concerning her husband. She said to his Majesty, “Let the acacia be cut down, and let one chop it up.” They sent men 11313 and soldiers with their weapons to cut down the acacia; they came to the acacia, they cut the flower upon which was the soul of Bata, and he fell dead upon the instant.

Now when the earth lighted and the second day came, the acacia was cut down. And Anpu, the elder brother of Bata, entered his house; he sat down and washed his hands: one gave him a pot of beer, it foamed up; another was given him of wine, it became foul. He took his staff, his sandals, likewise his clothes, with his weapons of war; he set out to walk to the Valley of the Acacia. He entered the tower of his younger brother; he found his younger brother lying on his bed; he was dead. He wept when he saw his younger brother verily lying dead. He went out to seek the soul of his younger brother under the acacia tree, under which his younger brother used to lie in the evening. He spent three years in seeking for it, but found it not. When he began the fourth year, he desired in his heart to return into Egypt; he said, “I will go to-morrow;” thus spake he in his heart.

When the earth lighted and the second day came, he went out under the acacia, and set to work to seek it again. He found a seed-pod. He returned with it. Behold, this was the soul of his younger brother. He brought a cup of cold water, he dropped it into it: he sat down, as his manner of every day was. Now when the night came his [Bata’s] soul absorbed the water; Bata shuddered in all his limbs, he looked on his elder brother; his soul was in the cup. Then Anpu took the cup of cold water in which the soul of his younger brother was; he [Bata] drank it, his soul stood again in its place, he became as he had been. They embraced each other, and they spake with one another.

Bata said to his elder brother, “Behold, I am to become as a great bull, with all the right markings; no one knoweth its history, and thou must sit upon his back. When the sun arises we will go to that place where my wife it, that I may return answer to her; and thee must take me to the place where the king is. For all good things shall be done for thee, and one shall lade thee with silver and gold, because thou bringest me to Pharaoh; for I become a great marvel, they shall rejoice for me in all the land. And thou shalt go to thy village.”

When the earth lighted and the second day came, Bata became in the form which he had told to his elder brother. And Anpu 11314 his elder brother sat upon his back until the dawn. He came to the place where the king was; they made his Majesty to know of him; he saw him, and he rejoiced exceedingly. He made for him great offerings, saying, “This is a great wonder which has come to pass.” There were rejoicings over him in the whole land. They loaded him with silver and gold for his elder brother, who went and settled in his village. They gave to the bull many men and many things, and pharaoh loved him exceedingly above all men that are in this land.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, the bull entered the place of purifying; he stood in the place where the princess was; he began to speak with her, saying, “Behold, I am alive indeed.” She said to him, “Who then art thou?” He said to her: “I am Bata. Thou knewest well when thou causedst that they should cut down the acacia for Pharaoh, that it was to my hurt, that I might not be suffered to live. Behold, I am alive indeed, being as an ox.” Then the princess feared exceedingly for the words that her husband had spoken to her. And he went out from the place of purifying.

His Majesty was sitting, making a good day with her: she was at the table of his Majesty, and the king was exceeding pleased with her. She said to his Majesty, “Swear to me by God, saying, ‘What thou shalt say, I will obey it for thy sake.’ ” He hearkened unto all that she said. And she said, “Let me eat of the liver of this bull, because he will do nothing;” thus spake she to him. He was exceedingly vexed at that which she said, the heart of Pharaoh was grieved exceedingly.

Now when the earth lighted and the second day came, there was proclaimed a great feast with offerings to the ox. The king sent one of the chief butchers of his Majesty, to have the ox sacrificed. Afterwards it was caused to be sacrificed, and when it was in the hands of the men, it shook its neck, and threw two drops of blood over against the double door of his Majesty. One fell upon the one side of the great door of Pharaoh, and the other upon the other side. They grew as two great Persea trees; each of them was excellent.

One went to tell unto his Majesty. “Two great Persea trees have grown, as a great marvel for his Majesty, in the night, by the side of the great gate of his Majesty.” There was rejoicing for them in all the land, and there were offerings made to them.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, his 11315 Majesty was adorned with a blue crown, with garlands of flowers on his neck; he was upon the chariot of electrum; he went out from the palace to behold the Persea trees: the princess also went out with horses behind Pharaoh. His Majesty sat beneath one of the Persea trees, and it spake thus with his wife: — “Oh thou deceitful one, I am Bata; I am alive, though I have suffered violence. Thou knewest well that the causing of the acacia to be cut down for Pharaoh was to my hurt. I then became an ox, and thou hadst me slain.”

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, the princess stood at the table of Pharaoh, and the king was pleased with her. She said to his Majesty, “Swear to me by God, saying, ‘That which the princess shall say to me I will obey it for her.’ Thus do thou.” and he hearkened unto all that she said. She said, “Let these two Persea trees be cut down, and let them be made into goodly timber.” He hearkened unto all that she said.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, his Majesty sent skilful craftsmen, and they cut down the Persea trees of Pharaoh, while the princess, the royal wife, stood by and saw it. A chip flew up and entered into the mouth of the princess; and she perceived that she had conceived, and while her days were being fulfilled Pharaoh did all that was in her heart therein.5

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, she bore a male child. One went to tell his majesty, “There is born to thee a son.” They brought him [i.e., the child, to the king], and gave to him a nurse and servants; there were rejoicings in the whole land. The king sat making a good day; they performed the naming of him, his Majesty loved him exceedingly on the instant, the king raised him to be the royal son of Kush.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, his Majesty made him heir of all the land.

Now when the days were multiplied after these things, when he had fulfilled many years as heir of the whole land, his Majesty flew up to heaven. There was command given, “Let my great nobles of his Majesty be brought before me, that I may make them to know all that has happened to me.” And they brought to him his wife, and he argued with her before them, and their case was decided. They brought to him his 11316 elder brother; he made him hereditary prince in all his land. He was thirty years King of Egypt, and he died, and his elder brother stood in his place on the day of burial.

Excellently finished in peace, for the Ka of the scribe of the treasury, Kagabu, of the treasury of Pharaoh, and for the scribe Hora, and the scribe Meremapt. Written by the scribe Anena, the owner of this roll. He who speaks against this roll, may Tahuti be his opponent.



1  This has been called “The Oldest Story in the World,” but the previous selection probably antedates it by more than a thousand years.

 2  The Egyptians shaved their heads and wore wigs as a matter of cleanliness in a hot climate.

 3  The sun.

 4  Ra Harakhti was the chief of this Ennead. Khnumu, one of his companion gods, was the craftsman, sometimes represented as fashioning mankind upon the potter’s wheel.

 5  I. e., in the matter of the trees.

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