The Satire of the Trades

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19th Dynasty ostrakon inscribed with part of the Satire of the trades. Turin, Museo Egizio

The Satire of the Trades, also called The Instruction of Dua-Kheti, is a work of didactic ancient Egyptian literature.[1] It takes the form of an Instruction, composed by a scribe from Sile named Dua-Kheti for his son Pepi. The author is thought by some to have composed the Instructions of Amenemhat as well.[2]


It describes a number of trades in an exaggeratedly negative light, extolling the advantages of the profession of scribe. It is generally considered to be a satire, though Helck thought it reflected the true attitude of the scribal class towards manual labourers.[3]

It was written during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, between 2025 and 1700 BC. [4]

The text has survived in its entirety, but extremely corrupted, in the Sallier II Papyrus written during the Nineteenth Dynasty, which is kept at the British Museum. A number of fragments are kept at the British Museum, the Louvre, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and other institutions.[5] It was one of the texts most frequently copied by students during the Ramesside Period.

Use of the Satire in Ben Sira[edit]

This Egyptian tale is referenced by Ben Sira in the Deuterocanonical Book of Sirach at Sirach 38:24–39:11.[6]


  • M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, volume I, 1973, pp. 184-193
  • S. Quirke, Egyptian Literature 1800 BC, questions and readings, London 2004, pp. 121-126

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Katheryn A. Bard, Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.886
  2. ^ I. E. S. Edwards, N. G. L. Hammond, C. J. Gadd, The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press 1975, p.527
  3. ^ W. Helck, Die Lehre des DwA-xtjj, Wiesbaden, 1970
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Disability
  5. ^ Lichtheim, op.cit., pp.184f.
  6. ^ Rollston, Chris A. (April 2001). "Ben Sira 38:24–39:11 and The Egyptian Satire of the Trades". Journal of Biblical Literature. 120 (Spring): 131–139. doi:10.2307/3268597.