From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
p Z7
Determ: grains, incense
in hieroglyphs

Kyphi, cyphi, or Egyptian cyphi is a compound incense that was used in ancient Egypt for religious and medical purposes.


Kyphi (Latin: cyphi) is romanized from Greek κυ̑φι for Ancient Egyptian "kap-t", incense, from "kap", to perfume, to cense, to heat, to burn, to ignite.[1][2] The word root also exists in Indo-European languages, with a similar meaning, like in Sanskrit कपि (kapi) "incense", Greek καπνός "smoke", and Latin vapor.[3][4]


According to Plutarch (De Iside et Osiride) and Suidas (s. v. Μανήθως), the Egyptian priest Manetho (ca. 300 BCE) is said to have written a treatise called "On the preparation of kyphi" (Περὶ κατασκευη̑ϛ κυφίων), but no copy of this work survives.[5][6] Three Egyptian kyphi recipes from Ptolemaic times are inscribed on the temple walls of Edfu and Philae.[7]

Greek kyphi recipes are recorded by Dioscorides (De materia medica, I, 24), Plutarch[8][6] and Galen (De antidotis, II, 2).[7]

The seventh century physician Paul of Aegina records a "lunar" kyphi of twenty-eight ingredients and a "solar" kyphi of thirty-six.[citation needed]


The Egyptian recipes have sixteen ingredients each. Dioscorides has ten ingredients, which are common to all recipes. Plutarch gives sixteen, Galen fifteen. Plutarch implies a mathematical significance to the number of sixteen ingredients.[7]

Some ingredients remain obscure. Greek recipes mention aspalathus, which Roman authors describe as a thorny shrub. Scholars do not agree on the identity of this plant: a species of Papilionaceae (Cytisus, Genista or Spartium),[7] Convolvulus scoparius,[7] and Genista acanthoclada[9] have been suggested. The Egyptian recipes similarly list several ingredients whose botanical identity is uncertain.[citation needed]

The manufacture of kyphi involves blending and boiling the ingredients in sequence. According to Galen, the result was rolled into balls and placed on hot coals to give a perfumed smoke; it was also drunk as a medicine for liver and lung ailments.[7]

Dioscorides (10 ingredients)[edit]

Plutarch (+6 ingredients)[edit]

Galen (+5 ingredients)[edit]

Egyptian (+6 ingredients)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E. A. Wallis Budge (1920), "kap-t", Egytian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, vol. 2, John Murray, p. 786b
  2. ^ Heinrich Brugsch (1868), "kep, kepu", Hieroglyphisch-demotisches Wörterbuch, vol. 4, Hinrich, p. 1492
  3. ^ August Fick (1871), "kvap, kap", Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der Indogermanischen Sprachen (2nd ed.), Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, p. 52
  4. ^ Monier Williams (1872), "कपि", A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Clarendon Press, p. 202a
  5. ^ E. A. Wallis Budge (1902), A History of Egypt, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, p. 129
  6. ^ a b Leonhard Schmitz (1849), "MANETHO", in William Smith (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. 2, Murray, pp. 915a–916a
  7. ^ a b c d e f Victor Loret (1887), "Le kyphi, parfum sacré des anciens égyptiens", Journal asiatique, 10 (juillet-août): 76–132
  8. ^ Plutarch (1936), De Iside et Osiride (§80), in Moralia. with an English Translation by. Frank Cole Babbitt., Harvard University Press.
  9. ^ Immanuel Löw (1881), Aramäische Pflanzennamen, Engelmann, p. 341