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The Story of Sinuhe

This is the tale of an Egyptian palace official called Sinuhe, 'son of the sycamore'. When war was waged against the Libyans, he accompanied the royal army, which was commanded by Sesostris, the son and chosen heir of the pharaoh Amenemhat I, first pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty.
The old king died suddenly, possibly killed by conspirators. When news of this reached Sesostris, who quickly returned to claim his throne, Sinuhe fears strife and flees to build a new life in exile under a ruler in Syria. At the height of his powers he is challenged to a duel by a Syrian champion: Sinuhe kills his opponent in the duel, and begins a period of peace. At the approach of old age, he feels driven to return home to end his days, and be buried, as an Egyptian. The reigning king of Egypt invites him back, and he returns to the palace he had left years earlier. He has learned what it means to be an Egyptian, and he has become an Egyptian again - but can he, or his audience, really be the same after this voyage of self-discovery?

The story of the adventures of Sinuhe is considered by Egyptologists as one of the most famous works and a prime example of Egyptian literature from Pharaonic times. Written in the Middle Kingdom, this autobiographic narrational character is based in the chronological setting the reigns of Sesostris I (12th dynasty, about 1958-1913 B.C.). It also had great success in the New Kingdom, when it appeared among the studied texts and copied in the schools of the scribes. It was especially used during Ramesside times (19th-20th dynasty).

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Copyright © 2001 J. J. Hirst. All rights reserved. (for all new material and corrections)
* are Copyright 2000 University College London. All rights reserved.