By C. W. Goodwin, M.A.

Read 6th May, 1873.

[Extracted from Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. 2 (1873), 250-63.]

I OFFER to the Society a translation of a Hymn to Amen, from a hieratic papyrus lately published by M. Mariette, being No. 17 of the Boulaq Collection of Papyri. It is not a very long composition, being contained in eleven pages of moderate size, and consisting of only twenty verses. It has the advantage of being nearly perfect from beginning to end, written in a legible hand, and free from any great difficulties for the translator. From the handwriting of the papyrus it may be judged to belong to the XIXth dynasty, or about the fourteenth century B.C. It purports to be only a copy, and the composition itself may be very much earlier. I presume it will be thought interesting to compare this specimen of Egyptian psalmody with some of those in the Hebrew collection, with which it may seem to have some points in common. The recognition of one sole creator and governor of the earth and all its inhabitants, is, we shall find, quite familiar to the Egyptians, whose religious views were little comprehended by the Greek and Roman writers, who until recently were our principal authorities. They were principally struck by the external parts of the Egyptian worship, and particularly by the veneration of sacred animals, which was a sore puzzle to them, and afforded a subject for much ridicule. Probably the well-instructed Egyptians no more worshipped as gods crocodiles, ibises, and cats than the Dutch do storks or than we do the animals in the Zoological Gardens, though they certainly paid them much honour, as religious symbols. The central doctrine in Egyptian religion was Sun-worship. The Sun, with whom [p.251] Amen, the old local god of Thebes, was identified, was looked upon as the source of all being, the father of men and things. This religion appears to have been engrafted upon an older one existing in Egypt in the primaeval period, and which probably consisted in the worship of ancestors, while it also recognised various animals as the tutelary ancestors of certain cities, much as the North-American Indian tribes1 venerate their totems, or beast-ancestors. A trace of this substitution of the solar religion for a prior one is found in our hymn, where Amen the Sun, although celebrated as the creator of all things, is yet said to be begotten by Ptah, the primeval local god of Memphis. This agrees with the account of Manetho, who says that Hephaestus, that is Ptah, was the first (king or god) of the Egyptians, and was celebrated as the discoverer of fire,—from whom sprang the Sun; after whom was Agathodaemon; then Cronos; then Osiris; after Osiris his brother Typhon; and lastly Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris.

This mythological account implies the view that the worship of Ptah and similar local gods was the earliest phase of religion in Egypt; that the worship of the Sun followed, and that the Osirian creed, the salvation of the bodies and souls of men, by identification with the king slain and afterwards exalted to be the judge of the dead, was the last introduced.

The solar creed did not entirely efface the more primitive religion, nor did the Osirian scheme in any way interfere with the adoration of the Sun as the one god of the universe. In the hymn which I am about to read, no mention whatever is made of Osiris, but we find the names of Horus and of Thoth. The two legends of the contest of the Sun with Darkness, and of Osiris with Set, the enemy of truth, were parallel the one to the other, and we find them in the seventeenth chapter of the Ritual placed side by side and identified. In our hymn the solar religion is alone conspicuous, but without being in opposition to or exclusive of the Osirian dogma. The imagery is of a stereotyped kind, [p.252] and in variety and sublimity foils for short of the old Hebrew psalms. Yet there is a certain fervour of adoration which commands respect. The writer seems as though language failed him to express all he felt, and he repeats over and over again the well used epithets which preceding writers had furnished, and most of which had probably been handed down from very early times. We should be able to appreciate them better were we in full possession of the legends to which most of them relate.

The title of "Bull," frequently applied to Amen, is a common epithet, implying youth, strength, and valour; and the phrase "bull of his mother" means, I believe, the valiant son of his mother. In the D'Orbiney Papyrus, Batau is addressed as "bull of the cycle of the gods," meaning, I think, "son of the gods;" and on one of the obelisks Rameses II is called "the bull of Sutech," i.e., the valiant son of Sutech.

In the second verse of our hymn Amen is called "beautiful bull of the cycle of gods," and to call him the son of the gods who is in the same breath styled father of the gods may appear inconsistent, but I have before remarked that the Sun, though here adored as the creator of all things, is yet expressly called "the begotten of Ptah." To the Egyptians there seems to have been nothing unintelligible in this confusion of father and son. Upon the coffin of King Seti I. we find these very words put in the mouth of Ra or Tum:—"I am the son proceeding from the father, I am the father proceeding from his son" (Bonomi, pi. 4, cols. 12, 13, 14, 15, lower range).

In the original, the beginning of each verse is indicated by rubricated letters. Each verse is also divided into short phrases by small red points. These are indicated in the translation by colons.

A few philological notes, interesting only to the Egyptologist, are added at the end.


Boulaq Papyrus, No. 17.

1. Praise to Amen-Ra: the bull in An (Heliopolis) chief of all gods: the good god beloved: giving life to all animated things: to all fair cattle: Hail to thee Amen-Ra lord of the thrones of the earth: chief in Aptu (Thebes): the bull of his mother in his field: turning his feet towards the land of the south: lord of the heathen, prince of Punt (Arabia): the ancient of heaven, the oldest of the earth: lord of all existences, the support of things, the support of all things.

2. The ONE in his works, single (?) among the gods: the beautiful bull of the cycle of gods: chief of all the gods; lord of truth, father of the gods: maker of men, creator of beasts: lord of existences, creator of fruitful trees: maker of herbs, feeder of cattle: good being begotten of Ptah, beautiful youth beloved: to whom the gods give honour: maker of things below and above, enlightener of the earth: sailing in heaven in tranquillity: King Ra the speaker, chief of the earth: most glorious one, lord of terror: chief creator of the whole earth.

3. Supporter of affair's above every god: in whose goodness the gods rejoice: to whom adoration is paid in the great house: crowned in the house of flame: whose fragrance the gods love: when he comes from Arabia: prince of the dew, traversing foreign lands: benignly approaching the Holy Land (Palestine or Arabia).

4. The gods attend his feet: whilst they acknowledge his Majesty as their Lord: lord of terror most awful: greatest of spirits, mighty in ........: bring offerings, make sacrifices: salutation to thee maker of the gods supporter of the heavens, founder of the earth.

5. Awake in strength Min (Chem) Amen: lord of eternity maker everlasting: lord of adoration, chief in: strong with beautiful horns: lord of the crown high plumed: of the fair turban (wearing) the white crown the coronet (Mahennu) and the diadem (Uati) are the ornaments of his face: he is invested with Ami-ha (?): [p.254] the double crown is his head-gear, (he wears) the red crown: benignly he receives the Atef-crown: on whose south and on whose north is love: the lord of life receives the sceptre: lord of the breastplate (?) armed with the whip.

6. Gracious ruler crowned with the white crown: lord of beams maker of light: to whom the gods give praises: who stretches forth his arms at his pleasure: consuming his enemies with flame: whose eye subdues the wicked sending forth its dart to the roof of the firmament sending its arrows (?) against Naka to consume him.

7. Hail to thee Ra lord of truth: whose shrine is hidden, lord of the gods: Chepra (the creator) in his boat: at whose command the gods were made: Athom maker of men supporting their works, giving them life: distinguishing the colour of one from another: listening to the poor who is in distress: gentle of heart when one cries unto him.

8. Deliverer of the timid man from the violent: judging the poor, the poor and the oppressed: lord of wisdom whose precepts are wise: at whose pleasure the Nile overflows: lord of mercy most loving: at whose coming men live: opener of every eye: proceeding from the firmament: causer of pleasure and light: at whose goodness the gods rejoice: their hearts revive when they see him.

9. Ra adored in Aptu (Thebes): high-crowned in the house of the obelisk (Heliopolis): King (Ani) lord of the New-moon festival: to whom the sixth and seventh days are sacred: sovereign of life health and strength, lord of all the gods: who art visible in the midst of heaven: ruler of men: whose name is hidden from his creatures: in his name which is Amen (hidden).

10. Hail to thee who art in tranquillity: lord of magnanimity strong in apparel: lord of the crown high plumed: of the beautiful turban, of the tall white crown: the gods love thy presence: when the double crown is set upon thy head: thy love pervades the earth: thy beams arise (?) men are cheered by thy rising: the beasts shrink from thy beams: thy love is over the southern heaven: thy heart is not [unmindful of] the northern [p.255] heaven: thy goodness (all) hearts: thy love subdues (all) hands: thy creations are fair overcoming (all) the earth: (all) hearts are softened at beholding thee.

11. The ONE maker of existences: (creator) of maker of beings: from whose eyes mankind proceeded: of whose mouth are the gods: maker of grass for the cattle (oxen, goats, asses, pigs, sheep): fruitful trees for men: causing the fish to live in the river: the birds to fill the air: giving breath to those in the egg: feeding the bird that flies: giving food to the bird that perches: to the creeping thing and the flying thing equally: providing food for the rats in their holes: feeding the flying things (?) in every tree.

12. Hail to thee for all these things: the ONE alone with many hands: lying awake while all men lie (asleep): to seek out the good of his creatures: Amen sustainer of all things: Athom Horus of the horizon (Harmachis) homage to thee in all their voices: salutation to thee for thy mercy unto us: protestations to thee who hast created us.

13. Hail to thee say all creatures: salutation to thee from every land: to the height of heaven, to the breadth of the earth: to the depths of the sea: the gods adore thy majesty: the spirits thou hast created exalt (thee): rejoicing before the feet of their begetter: they cry out welcome to thee: father of the fathers of all the gods who raises the heavens who fixes the earth.

14. Maker of beings, creator of existences: sovereign of life health and strength, chief of the gods: we worship thy spirit who alone (?) hast made us: we whom thou hast made (thank thee) that thou hast given us birth: we give to thee praises on account of thy mercy to us.

15. Hail to thee maker of all beings: lord of truth father of the gods: maker of men creator of beasts: lord of grams: making food, for the beast of the field: Amen the beautiful bull: beloved in Aptu (Thebes): high crowned in the house of the obelisk (Heliopolis): twice turbaned in An: judge of combatants in the great hall: chief of the great cycle of the gods.


16. The ONE alone without peer: chief in Aptu: king over his cycle of gods: living in truth for ever: (lord) of the horizon, Horus of the East: he who hath created the soil (with) silver and gold: the precious lapis lazuli at his pleasure: spices and incense various for the peoples: fresh odours for thy nostrils: benignly come to the nations: Amen-Ra lord of the thrones of the earth: chief in Aptu: the sovereign on his throne (?).

17. King alone, single (?) among the gods: of many names, unknown is their number: rising in the eastern horizon setting in the western horizon: overthrowing his enemies: dawning on (his) children daily and every day: Thoth raises his eyes: he delights himself with his blessings the gods rejoice in his goodness who exalts those who are lowly (?): lord of the boat and the barge: they conduct thee through the firmament in peace.

18. Thy servants rejoice: beholding the overthrow of the wicked: his limbs pierced with the sword (?): fire consumes him: his soul and body are annihilated.

19. Naka (the serpent) saves his feet (?): the gods rejoice: the servants of the Sun are in peace: An (Heliopolis) is joyful: the enemies of Athom are overthrown and Aptu is in peace, An is joyful: the giver of life is pleased: at the overthrow of the enemies of her lord: the gods of Kher-sa make salutations: they of the Adytum prostrate themselves.

20. They behold the mighty one in his strength: the image of the gods of truth the lord of Aptu: in thy name of doer of justice: lord of sacrifices, the bull of offerings: in thy name of Amen the Bull of his mother: maker of men: causing all things which are to exist: in thy name of Athom Chepra (creator): the great Hawk making (each) body to rejoice: benignly making (each) breast to rejoice: type of creators high crowned: ..... (lord) of the wing: Uati (the diadem) is on his forehead: the hearts of men seek him: when he appears to mortals: he rejoices the earth with his goings forth: Hail to thee Amen-Ra lord of the thrones of the world: beloved of his city when he shines forth. Finished well, as it was found {in the original).


Notes to Boulaq Papyrus, No. 17.

Page 1, line 2. [glyphs] "giving life to all animated things." The word [glyphs], I means originally "warmth"; whence it has the secondary sense of refreshment or encouragement. Thus in 1 Anast. 17/2 [glyphs] "thou givest refreshment (or encouragement) to the labourers." Here, however, the word must have a different meaning, namely, that which is nourished or has animal warmth. One cannot be far wrong in translating it "animated things."

Page 1, line 3. [glyphs] "Ka-ma-t-ef" "bull of his mother." This phrase, translated by Champollion and others "husband of his mother," probably means "valiant son of his mother." In line 5 we find the epithet [glyphs] "society of gods," which may mean "fair son of the gods." The same epithet is applied to Batau in the story of the Two Brothers.

Page 1, line 4. [glyphs] "land of the Matau," It is not known exactly where the nation of the Matau was. These people were in early times introduced into Egypt as mercenaries, and their name became synonymous with soldiers, whence the Coptic lljtoi. In the papyrus 2 Sall. 2/10, Amenemha I. says that he employed the Matau. In our papyrus the word seems used for foreigners or surrounding nations generally, and we may translate it "heathen."

Page 1, line 5. [glyphs]  This phrase, which occurs again in p. 9, line 3, is difficult to explain unless we give to [glyphs] ma, a very different meaning from that which it usually has, viz., like, equal. It appears rather to mean single, alone, without equal. The phrases with which it is coupled, viz. [glyphs] "alone in his [p.258] works," and [glyphs] " king alone," indicate this. It is possible that the word may be thus used in the mysterious passage in the Ritual, chap. 17, line 47, where the name of Ma or Mau (i.e., the Cat) given to the Sun is thus explained:—"The Sun is called Ma (Cat) according to the saying of Sa (the genius of wisdom) [glyphs] i.e. He is unique ([glyphs] ma) amongst the things which he hath made, therefore his name shall be Mau (Cat)."

Page 1, line 7. [glyphs], "wood of life." The word [glyphs] ankhu, means flowers or garlands. But we must probably take [glyphs] the determinative of vegetation as belonging not to [glyphs] alone, but to the whole group [glyphs] "wood of life," which means a fruit-bearing tree, furnishing food to man. The phrase occurs again, p. 6, line 4.

Page 1, line 7. [glyphs] "begotten of Ptah." This accords with Manetho's account of the gods who first reigned over Egypt, Ptah or Hephaestus being the first, and after him Ra, the Sun, his son.

Page 2, line 2. [glyphs] We here have the expression [glyphs] applied to the king Ra, ruler of both lands, and the ordinary translation "justified" is inapplicable. I refer to the excellent dissertation of the late M. Deveria, in the "Recueil des travaux relatifs a la philologie et l'archeologie Egyptiennes et Assyriennes," Vol. I, p. 10, for the explanation of this word, which means truth-speaking, and thence persuasive and triumphant in argument or contest. In this sense the epithet is applicable to the Sun, the lord of light, the bringer to light of all obscure or doubtful things and exposer of all falsity. "Triumphant" is a good translation of this word.


Page 2, line 3. [glyphs] The word [glyphs], is preserved in the Coptic twojp sustinere. It occurs again in our papyrus, p. 4, [glyphs] It would seem to mean here "to prosper, to forward, to support, maintain." In the translation I have adopted the word "support."

Page 2, line 4. [glyphs] and [glyphs] the great house of the Ancient, and the great house of Flame, appear to be merely mythological and symbolical names, and not to belong to any earthly localities. See Brugsch Geog. pp. 296, 297, and L. B. D., cap. 141, 20.

Page 2, line 5. [glyphs] khenkhen, has here an unusual determinative, either a dog or a jackal. The word occurs with its ordinary determinative [glyph] in p. 10, line 3. The meaning is, according to Brugsch Lex., p. 1095, "to have access to." The determinative dog, seems to indicate the meaning "to follow like a dog."

Page 3, line 2. [glyphs] men kar-ti. The word kar-ti for horns, as the determinative indicates, is new to me.

Page 3, line 3. [glyphs] the word kama-tuf is unknown to me, but according to the context it should mean "he is crowned or invested with." The name of the diadem or robe is ami-ha, which means "belonging to the house." I do not recollect seeing the title elsewhere, but similar compounds with [glyphs] "belonging to," are very numerous.

Page 3, line 5. [glyphs] The word maks, determined by a stone or parallelogram-shaped object, is new to me, and perhaps means a breast-plate.

Page 3, line 7. [glyphs] "sending its dart to the roof of the firmament." The word translated "roof" is [glyphs] skhap, but the initial [glyphs] [p.260] [glyphs] khap. It occurs in Leyden Papyrus 344 revers, [glyphs] p. 6, line 8. [glyphs] "she whose flame is in the vault of the firmament." The word corresponds to the Coptic kehp, or khpe camera, fornix. khpe-P-------rwĄ is the palate or roof of the mouth. This explains the determinatives [glyphs] the tongue, and [glyph] the figure with hand to mouth, which are added to [glyphs] khap. The primitive meaning is evidently "the palate." Cicero, de Natura Deorum, quotes from Ennius the expression "coeli palatum," for the vault of heaven. The word occurs again in our papyrus, p. 6, line 5, [glyphs] "the vault of heaven"; and in p. 9, line 7, we have the verb [glyphs] skhap to taste.

Page 4, line 3. [glyphs] "Thou hearest the supplication of him who is in misery." The word [glyphs] nemhu means "weak, poor, or low." With the causative prefix [glyphs], it means to humiliate or oppress. In the present passage, it may mean self-abasement, and hence the humble cry of supplication. [glyphs] hutennu, is a word of rather rare occurrence, and must mean torture or misery, L.B.D. 40,3, [glyphs] "thou art punished in the place of torture," 2 Sall, 9/5 [glyphs] "Do thou love it (learning), (for it) wards off misery." In each of these cases the determinative is a different one. For the closely related word [glyphs] bandit, robber, see Brugsch Lex. p. 445.

Page 5, line 2. [glyphs] "The king, lord of the first day of the month, to whom the 6th and 7th days are sacred." The sign which I transcribe [glyphs] is the hieratic form of the numeral nine, which here replaces the usual form [glyph], nine, in [p.261] the expression [glyphs] the name of the first day of the month. See Brugsch, Materiaux pour servir a la reconstruction du Calendrier des anciens Egyptiens (Plate IV. A, 1). The name appears to mean the festival of the Paut or Ennead (of gods).

Page 5, line 3. [glyphs]. The words [glyphs] au kar are unintelligible to me, and the text is apparently faulty.

Page 5, line 7. [glyphs] The word [glyphs] means "to sink down with fatigue." See Brugsch Lex. p. 446. The meaning of the passage appears to be, "the cattle shrink from thy beams." In page 6, line 1, we have the causative form in the sense of "subdue." By a transposition, perhaps accidental, of the letters, it is written [glyphs] instead of Page 6, line 3. [glyphs] Frequent allusions are made in the texts to the production of created things from the eyes of Ra or of Horus. Noxious things were supposed to be produced from the eye of Set or Typhon.

Page 6, line 4. [glyphs] menmen, animals, cattle. In the papyrus this word is determined by five figures of beasts, the ox, the goat, the ass, the hog, and the sheep, the principal domesticated animals of the Egyptians.

Plate 6, line 5. [glyphs] we should read here for [glyphs], which has no meaning: [glyphs] winged, or flying. The ideograph [glyphs] must be taken for [glyphs] apt, bird. Such an omission of the phonetics is very unusual in hieratic, and is probably an error of the copyist.

Page 6, line 7. [glyphs] The word [glyphs] kai, determined by a bird, is of doubtful [p.262] meaning. [glyphs] determined by an angle of land, means a meadow or high land; and perhaps this meaning may belong to the word in this place, though we should rather expect some living thing to be mentioned.

Page 8, line l. [glyphs] "adoration to thy spirit, thou who hast created us." The word [glyphs] ma is used in an unusual way here. See the note on p. 1, line 5. Perhaps here we might translate "thou who alone has created us."

Page 9, line 6. [glyphs] The word [glyphs] seems to be connected with [glyphs] (Brugsch Lex. p. 911), and may mean depression, or the state of being cast down. The lock of hair is determinative of the idea of grief, mourning.

Page 9, line 7. [glyphs] We have here the verbal form of [glyphs] the palate (see note to p. 3, line 7), with causative [glyph] prefixed. The meaning may be to taste, "The sword tastes his limbs." Compare the use of the word [glyphs] tep, to taste, in such phrases as [glyphs] (3 Sall, 4/8), "I will cause my hand to taste them."

Page 10, line 1. [glyphs] "His soul is consumed with his body." The word [glyphs] ba, soul, followed by [glyphs], the symbol of mortality and destruction, is remarkable. The group is found in L.B.D. 17, 37, in Leyden Pap., 348 2/2, and in a passage from Description d'Egypte, V, 40, quoted by M. Brugsch, Lex. p. 1642. It also occurs passim in Berlin Pap. III. It expresses the mortal or destructible part of man's soul. The divine or immortal soul is expressed by [glyphs] with the determinative of deity. 2 Sharpe, Egyp. Insc. 76 M, 15, 21.


Page 10, line 6. [glyphs] "Lord of food, bull of offerings." The word ka ''bull," is here (see note on p. 1, line 3) used in a very in definite sense. "Bull of offerings" means only "he to whom offerings are made." Ka, bull, is here in parallelism with [glyphs] neb, lord, and is used exactly in the same way; the phrase "lord of food" meaning nothing more than "he who is fed." The Hebraist will remember such expressions as lord of the wing, i.e. winged, lord of the horns, i.e. horned, and a variety of others. The Egyptians used [glyphs] neb, lord, precisely similarly, and a considerable number of such phrases could be produced. It is worthy of remark that in many inscriptions of the Ptolemaic and Roman times [glyphs] is used to express the sound neb, not however in its sense of "lord," but in the adjective sense, all.


1  See Diodorus Siculus, Book I, cap. 90, for an explanation of Animal worship.