Prophecy of Neferti
The Prophecy of Neferti is an Ancient Egyptian discourse text set in the reign of the 4th dynasty Old Kingdom king Snofru (c.2550 BC), but was actually written during the early 12th dynasty (c.1991 – 1786 BC). The text is a pseudo-prophecy, i.e. one written after the event. It was published by Vladimir Golenishchev and stored in the Hermitage Museum.
In Neferti, King Snefru holds court and a sage is introduced to entertain him with 'choice words'. The sage, called Neferti, asks him whether he wishes to hear about the past or the future, and the king chooses the future. Neferti then goes on to describe at some length a vision of a future Egypt riven with chaos, where all social and natural norms are inverted. Towards the end of the text, Neferti predicts the advent of a future king, called Ameny, who will restore order to the country.
The text has often been interpreted as a classic piece of Egyptian royal propaganda, since the saviour king 'Ameny' is generally interpreted as an oblique reference to the name of the first king of the 12th dynasty, Amenemhat I. Amenemhat I was not closely related to his predecessor, and his reign began in unsettled conditions. The Prophecy of Neferti can therefore be read as a political justification for his new dynasty. However, the chaotic descriptions of the text are more generally related to the broader Egyptian literary tradition of pessimistic laments, such as also occur in the 'Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All'. William K. Simpson, a professor emeritus of Egyptology at Yale University, states that Neferti can be classified as belonging to a "literature of pessimism" where the world is chaotic and therefore society's values are in need of restructuring, which is contrasted by the "literature of propaganda," embodied in such works as Loyalist Teaching, where the virtues of the king are extolled.
An extract from the text, predicting the arrival of a saviour king:
|“||Then a king will come from the South,
- Simpson (1972), 7-8.
- Translation in R. B. Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems. Oxford World's Classics, 1999.
- Stephen Quirke: Egyptian Literature 1800BC: Questions and Readings, London 2004, 135-139 ISBN 0-9547218-6-1 (translation and transcription)
- Lloyd, Alan B. 2000. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, edited by Ian Shaw. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
- The Prophecies of Neferti English translation
- Simpson, William Kelly. (1972). The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, and Poetry. Edited by William Kelly Simpson. Translations by R.O. Faulkner, Edward F. Wente, Jr., and William Kelly Simpson. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-01482-1.
- Younis, sobhy, Itj-towy and the prophcies of Neferti, GM 195 (2003), pp. 97ff.