Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hints of What We are Missing

Friedhelm Hoffmann and Joachim Quack in their invaluable collection, Anthologie der demotischen Literatur, spend some time reconstructing what we know of Egyptian narratives that appear only in scattered fragments but do not have enough material for contiguous translation. Among these collections they note a particular interest in narratives circulating in the Greco-Roman period (332 B.C.-A.D. 314) about events in the Middle Kingdom (2000-1800 B.C.) One of these narratives has Sesostris (which?) invading Arabia, "India, Libya, Ethiopia, Asia, and even Europe." (p. 177). We have no contemporary records of any of these conquests, but they seem to have been considered history in the Greco-Roman period. These fragments provides hints of the literature that circulated in Egypt and their own memories of their glorious past. It provides us with a sense of the immense amount of material about the past that we are missing.