Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ramses III and the Harem Conspiracy: Papyrus Rollin

The recent news report (on which see here) that concluded that Ramses III had indeed been assassinated shows that the documents of that affair are not well enough known. There are four main documents. The Juridical Papyrus of Turin, Papyrus Lee, Papyrus Rollins, and Papyrus Rifaud. Papyrus Rollin reads as follows:
It came to pass that he was making potent scrolls for repelling and confusing and making wax figurines and some poisons to weaken the limbs of people. They were administered by Pabakamun, whom Pre did not allow to act as steward, and the other great enemies. They said, "Let them come," and they were allowed to approach. When he was allowed to enter, he did the evils which Pre did not allow to obtain success, and he was examined and the truth of all his crimes and all the evil that his heart invented to do was revealed. The accusations of all the things that he did with the other great enemies like him were true. The things he had done were capital felonies and great abominations in the land. When he understood the capital felonies that he had committed, he killed himself.
The principle conspirator is mentioned again in the Turin Juridical Papyrus. In both cases his name is given as a dysphemism (on which see here).

There are accounts of three harem conspiracies from ancient Egypt. The first is the assassination of Amenemhet I. The second is the assassination of Ramses III. The third is the (possibly fictional) assassination attempt reported in Onchsheshonqy.

The penalty here under Ramses IV is different than that administered in Onchsheshonqy. In the time Ramses III the conspirators are allowed to kill themselves. Not so in Onchsheshonqy, were they are put to death by being burned. We do not know how they were put to death in the time of Sesostris I, but in other cases, he is known to have sacrificed them ending with burning them (on which see here). So the conspiracy which killed Ramses III seems to have been the unusual one with the conspirators allowed to kill themselves.