By G. Maspero

[Extracted from TSBA 5, 1877, 555-62.]

Read 1st May, 1877.


The stele C 14, published by Lepsius (Auswahl, taf. ix), and Prisse d'Avennes (Monuments Egyptiens, pi. vii), has been often alluded to, but never translated. It was found in Abydos by Thedenat du Vent, sold to Cousinery, and then to the Louvre. Champollion, struck by the conformity of style which it offers to the stele 45 in Turin, ascribed it to the XXIst Dynasty, and tried to discover on it the names of king Smendes and king Psousennes (Lettres a M. le due de Blacas, deuxieme Lettre, pp. 114-118). De Rouge thought "it might be considered on the whole as being one of the master-pieces of Egyptian sculpture " (Catalogue des Monuments Egyptiens de la Salle du Rez-de-chaussee, 1849, p. 47, and Rapport adresse a M. le Directeur-general des Musees Nationaux, 1851, p. 17), and his opinion was fully re-echoed by Orcurti. The fact is, the first draught of the hieroglyphics, which was done in red ink, and remains to this day visible, is exceedingly fine, but the carving, although very elaborate, is by no means excellent.

C 14 was erected for a certain [glyphs] Iritisen, in the reign of Mentuhotep, Ra-neb-khemt (XIth Dynasty). Iritisen and his wife [glyphs] Hapu, are figured twice on it. First, in the lower part, sitting together upon one seat, the lady with one arm lovingly put around the neck of her lord, the man raising to his nose an alabastron full of perfumed oil. Before them is a low table, piled with every description of victuals; over them a legend—

"Funereal meal of bread and [p.556] liquor, thousands of loaves, liquors, oxen, geese, all good and pure things, to the pious Iritisen; his pious wife who loves him, Hapu." In the middle register, they are represented standing. Iritisen holds in the left hand the long stick of elders and noblemen, in the right the [glyphs] sceptre; both are making front to a procession of their own family.

"His son, his eldest, who loves him, Usortesen," heads it: then follow[glyphs]. "His son, who loves him, Mentuhotep"' and  [glyphs] his son, who loves him, Si-Mentu"; immediately after whom we find a lady [glyphs], "his daughter, who loves him Qim," and [glyphs] "her son, who loves her, Temnen." There is every reason to think that Si-Mentu had married his sister, and that Temnen was his as well as Qim's child. Usortesen is about to sacrifice a goose to his father, according to rite, and Mentuhotep bears an ox-thigh. The inscription begins with—

"The living Hor, who unites both lands, the lord of diadems, who unites both lands, king of Upper and Lower Egypt (son of Eta, Mentuhotep), overliving;—his true servant, who is in the inmost recess of his heart, and makes his pleasure all the day long, the devout unto the great god, Iritisen."

The formula of proscynem contains some uncommon variations of the usual text. (Line 3:)


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"Proscynem to Osiris (sic) lord of Mendes. Khent-Ament, lord of Abydos, in all his places, that he may give a funereal meal of bread and drink, thousands of loaves, liquors, oxen, geese, linen, clothes, all good and pure things, loaves without number, 1 beer, spirits, 2 cakes of the lord of Abydos, white cream (?) of the sacred cow, 3 on which the Manes 4 like to feed, 5 for the devout unto Osiris and Anubis, lord of the burying grounds, the chief of artists, the [glyphs], Iritisen."

The word [glyphs] is derived from [glyphs] by addition of the formative [glyphs], so that [glyphs] is the [glyphs] man of [glyphs] the man who cuts (lit., scrapes) the hieroglyphics and engraves the scenes on the walls of tombs and temples. In one of the versions of Sineh's life (Inscriptions in the Hieratic and Demotic Characters, pl xxiii, Ostr. 5629, line 2), it is told that [glyphs] the chief sculptor [p.558] will carve in his tomb." Iritisen was more than [glyphs] he drew or painted, [glyphs] as well as carved, [glyphs] and gave himself in consequence the title of [glyphs] "scribe-carver," or more properly "draughtsman and sculptor." He was very proud of his skill, and not shy of praising himself.

The last ten lines of the inscription are filled with an enumeration of his own virtues, and to this vanity we are indebted for the knowledge of what was required then from an Egyptian artist.

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Iritisen begins by telling "that he knows the mystery of the divine word," and that "he is an artist skilled in his art." The three following verses are intended to support this general assertion of excellency. "I know," saith he, "what belongs to it, the sinking waters, the weighings done for the reckoning of accounts, how to produce the form of issuing forth and coming in, so that the member go to its place." Every word, when strictly analysed, seems to yield two different meanings. In a material sense, Iritisen is only thinking of his personal ability in drawing scenes of civil and domestic life, the rising and sinking of inundation such as is often represented on the walls of tombs, the weighing by scribes of tributes brought by townspeople or husbandmen, the motion of a man through the various stages of walking, so that each individual member be not out of line, but sit well in its place. In a mystical sense, the whole is an allusion to various chapters in the Book of the Dead. Chapter cx, for instance, is a picture of the Egyptian Elysium, with its fields of wheat and barley, its canals and pools of fresh water filled by the celestial Nile. Chapter cxxv has a description of how they weigh the heart of man and reckon human deeds before the infernal jury. The performing of rites which cause the dead to issue forth and come in, and make every member go to its place," is a summary of more than twenty chapters (xxi-xxx, lxiv-lxxvi, [p.560] cxvii-cxxvii, &c.), in which the Osiris is ordered to enter several places and to come out of them at his liking, and has the use of his members given hack to him, so that every one of them be not taken away from him, but "go to its place."

"I know the walking of an image of man. the carriage of a woman, the two arms of Hor, the twelve circles (cerchi) of the blasphemers, the contemplating, the eye without a second which affrights the wicked, the poising of arm to bring the hippopotamus low. the going of the runner." If we take the material sense, this second verse is only the continuation and development of the last sentence in the first. Iritisen tries to particularise some of the shapes he was able to give his figures, the peculiar bearing of a standing statue [glyphs] the carriage of a walking woman [glyphs].

Then, passing to divine subjects, he could make the two arms of Horus, paint the twelve circles of the Egyptian Hades, through which Ra has to sail during the night, from the moment he disappears into the Ro-Peqer ([glyphs] or [glyphs]), west of Abydos, to the moment he arises again in the east, represent the scenes of adoration to Ra, in which the actors were spirits in human shapes, with heads of hawks or jackals, and cynocephali. The last two mentioned would refer to hunters pursuing the hippopotamus and to running men, or to Horus poising the javelin before killing the hippopotamus, and to Ra, "the runner which no one is able to catch in the morning of his births." If we take the mystical sense, we must apply for interpretation to the funereal papyri which bear the title of "Book of knowing what there is in the Lower World," good specimens of which have been translated or published by Dr. Birch and M. Pierret. Then the "walking of an image," the "carriage of a woman," and the "two arms of Hor," would be the transcription in words of the picture which represents two human arms belonging to an invisible body, and holding various figures, the most conspicuous of which are a standing mummy [glyphs] and a woman [glyphs]. The twelve hours of night, the adora- [p.561] tions of Ra by Osiris, would be alluded to in what follows. [glyphs] would be referred to the Sun, as in the first interpretation.

For the last verse, "I know the making of amulets [which enable] us to go without any fire giving its flame, and without our being washed away by water," we could suppose that Iritisen praises his skill in devising real amulets to preserve the living from real flames and water, or pretends to know the charms that save the dead from the flames and waters of the underworld.

Both meanings being admissible, I think that both meanings must be admitted at once. I have often remarked that Egyptian writers delight in ambiguities of diction. They were fond of putting words that could be interpreted in two different ways or more, and took care that every sentence following these words might be construed with one of the meanings as well as the other one. Iritisen tells us at the beginning that he is initiated "to the mystery of the divine word," and that he is an artist: the same words are used all through the inscriptions to express both facts. I have tried to transfer the double meaning of the original in our modern tongues, and to give a translation which may be interpreted both ways.

"I know the mystery of the divine Word, the ordinances of the religious feasts, every rite of which they are fraught, I never strayed from them; I, indeed, am an artist wise in his art, a man standing above [all men] by his learning.

1. "I know what belongs to it, the sinking waters, the weighings done for the reckoning of accounts, how to produce the form of issuing forth and coming in, so that a member go to its place.
2. "I know the walking of an image of man, the carnage of a woman, the two arms of Hor, the twelve circles of the blasphemers, the contemplating the eye without a second that affrights the wicked, the poising of arm to bring the hippopotamus low, the going of the runner.


3. "I know the making of amulets, that we may go without any lire giving its flame, or without our being washed away by water! Lo! there is no man excels by it but I alone and my eldest legitimate son: God has decreed him to be excellent in it; and I have seen the perfections of his hands in his work of chief-artist in every kind of precious stones, from gold and silver even to ivory and ebony!
"Funereal meal of bread and liquors! Thousands of wine, loaves, oxen, geese, linen, clothes, all good and pure things, to the devout Iritisen-the-wise, son of dame Ad."