The Great Edict of Pharaoh Horemheb
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Against Robbing the Poor for Dues
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On Dues for the Harem
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Against Stealing Hides
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A single copy of the Great Edict of Pharaoh Horemheb was found just north of the 10th pylon at Karnak on a stone slab. One third of the text is now lost but enough remains to put together what we read below.

Introduction to the Great Edict of the Reign of Pharaoh Horemheb

His majesty took counsel with his heart [how he might] .... [exp]el evil and suppress lying. The plans of his majesty were an excellent refuge, repelling violence behind ...... [and delivering the Egyptians from the oppressions] which were among them. Behold, his majesty spent the whole time seeking the welfare of Egypt and searching out instances [of oppression in the land]. .... [came the scribe] of his majesty. Then he seized palette and roll; he put it into writing according to all that his majesty, the king himself said. He spoke as follows: "[My majesty] commands ... [concerning all] instances of oppression in the land.

Enactment Against Robbing the Poor of Dues for the Royal Breweries and Kitchens.

If the poor man made for himself a craft with its sail, in order to be able to serve the Pharaoh, L.P.H., [loading it with the dues for the breweries and the kitchens of the Pharaoh, and he was robbed of the craft and] the dues, the poor man stood reft of his goods and stripped of his many labors. This is wrong, and the Pharaoh will suppress it by his excellent measures. If there be a [poor man] who pays the dues of the breweries and kitchens of the Pharaoh, L.P.H., to the two deputies, [and he be robbed of his goods and his craft, my majesty commands: that every officer who seizes the dues] and taketh the craft of any citizen of the army or of any person who is in the whole land, the law shall be executed against him, in that his nose shall be cut off, and he shall be sent to Tharu.

Against Robbing the Poor of Wood Due the Pharaoh

[Furthermore, concerning the impost of wood, my majesty commands that if any officer find] a poor man without a craft, then let him bring to him a craft for his impost from another, and let him send him to bring for him the wood; thus he shall serve [the Pharaoh].

Against Exacting Dues from a Poor Man thus Robbed

[Furthermore, my majesty commands that if any poor man be oppressed by] [robbe]ry, his cargo be emptied by theft of them, and the poor man stand reft of hi[s good]s, [no further exactions for dues shall be made from him] when he has nothing. For it is not good, this report of very great injustice. My majesty commands that restitution be made to him; behold .... .

Against Robbing the Poor of Dues for the Harem or the Gods by the Soldiers

[Furthermore, as for those who] ... and those who bring to the harem, likewise for the offerings of all gods, paying dues to the two deputies of the army and ... [my majesty commands that if any officer is guilty of extortions or thefts], the law [shall be executed] against him, in that his nose shall be cut off, and (he) shall be sent to Tharu likewise. [5]

Against Unlawful Appropriation of Slave Service

When the officers of the Pharaoh's house of offerings have gone about tax-collecting in the towns, to take [katha-plant], [they have seized the slaves of the people, and kept them at work] for 6 days or 7 days, without one's being able to depart from them afar, so that it was an excessive detention indeed. It shall be done likewise against them. If there be any place [where the stewards shall be tax-collecting, and any one] shall hear, saying: "They are tax-collecting, to take katha-plant for themselves," and another shall come to report, saying: "My man slave (or) my female slave has been taken away [and detained many days at work by the stewards;" it shall be done likewise against them.]

Against Stealing of Hides by the Soldiers

The two divisions of troops which are in the field, one in the southern region, the other in the northern region, stole hides in the whole land, not passing a year, without applying the brand of [the royal house to cattle which were not due to them, thereby increasing] their number, and stealing that which was stamped from them. They went out from house to house, beating and plundering without leaving a hide for the people .... Then the officer] of the Pharaoh went about to each one, [to collect the hides charged against him and came to the people demanding] them, but the hides were not found with them (although) the amount charged against them could be established. They satisfied them, saying: "They have been stolen from us." A wretched case is this, therefore it shall be [done] likewise.

When the overseer of the cattle of Pharaoh, L.P.H., goes about to attend to the loan-herds in the whole land, and there be not brought to him the hides of the ... which are on the lists, [he shall not hold the people responsible for the hides if they have them not, but they shall be released by command of his majesty] according to his just purposes. As for any citizen of the army, (concerning) whom one shall hear, saying: "He goeth about stealing hides," beginning with this day, the law shall be executed against him, by beating him a hundred blows, opening five wounds, and taking from him by force the hides which he took.

Against Connivance of Dishonest Inspectors with Thievish Tax-Collectors, for a Share of the Booty

Now, as for the other instance of evil which the [official staff were accustomed to commit, when they held inspection] in the land, of that which happened [against the law], [the table-scribe of] the queen and the table-scribe of the harem went about after the official staff, punishing them and investigating their affair ...... of the one who sailed down-or up-river. One investigated it among the officials in the time of the King Menkheperre (Thutmose III). Now, when the one who sailed down-or up-river whom they took; and when [the superior officials of] [the king], Menkheperre, went about [after these officials] each year, [that they might make an] expedition to the city, and that these superior officials might come to these officials, saying: "Give thou [to us] the consideration for the careless expedition;" then, behold, the Pharaoh, L.P.H., made the expedition at the feast of Opet [10] each year without carelessness. One prepared the way before the Pharaoh [and questioned the local magistrate, wherever he] landed, [concerning the corrupt official] causing him to ......what he (the corrupt official) was like. As for one who goes about again, afterward, to seek the consideration ......, then these officials shall go about with the expedition concerning the affairs of these poor people ...... My majesty commands to prevent that one shall do thus, beginning with this day ..... the landing; he is the one against whom one shall prosecute it.

Against Stealing Vegetables Under Pretense of Collecting Taxes

Likewise the collection of vegetables for the breweries [and kitchens of the Pharaoh and] ..... [Extortion was practiced, and the officials plundered] the poor, taking the best of their vegetables, saying: "They are for the impost [of the Pharaoh]." [Thus they] robbed the poor of their labors, so that a double [impost was levied. Now, my majesty commands that as for any officials who come to] collect vegetables [for] the impost of Pharaoh, L.P.H., in the arbors, and the .... houses of the estates of Pharaoh, L.P.H., and the ... of Pharaoh which contain vegetables, (concerning whom) one shall hear, saying: "They ... for any ... of any citizen of the army, or [any] people, [beginning with this day, the law shall be executed against them] ...... transgressing commands.

Enactments Too Fragmentary for Analysis

Now as far as these officials of the herds, who go about ...... in the southern region or the northern region collecting grain from the [citizens] of the city .... going about .... in the southern region or northern region collecting ... from the poor ... .

......... going about taking possession to bring every citizen, to cause them to see ... (concerning whom) one shall hear, (saying) ".... a crime, .... collection of the harem who go about in the [towns tax-collecting] ...... the ... of the fishermen .... carrying the ..... .

Narratives of the King's Reforms, Containing also an Enactment against Corrupt Judges

Appointment of Two Judges

I have improved this entire land ...... I have sailed it, as far as south of the wall, I have given ..., I have learned its whole interior, I have traveled it entirely in its midst, I have searched in .... [and I have sought two officials] perfect in speech, excellent in good qualities, knowing how to judge the innermost heart, hearing the words of the palace, the laws of the judgment-hall. I have appointed them to judge the Two Lands, to satisfy those who are in ...... . [I have given to each one] his seat; I have set them in the two great cities of the South and the North; every land among them cometh to him without exception; I have put before them regulations in the daily register [of the palace] ........ I have directed [them] to the way of life; I led them to the truth, I teach them, saying: "Do not associate with others of the people; do not receive the reward of another, not hearing .... . How, then, shall those like you judge others, while there is one among you committing a crime against justice.

Now, as to the obligation of silver and gold ....... [my] majesty remits it, in order that there be not collected an obligation of anything from the official staff of the South and North.

Punishment of Bribery

Now, as for any official or any priest (concerning whom) it shall be heard, saying: "He sits, to execute judgment among the official staff appointed for judgment, and he commits a crime against justice therein;" it shall be against him a capital crime. Behold, my majesty has done this, to improve the laws of Egypt, in order to cause that another should not be ........... .

Appointment of Local Courts

[Behold, my majesty appointed] the official staff of the divine fathers, the prophets of the temples, the officials of the court of this land and the priests of the gods who comprise the official staff out of desire that they shall judge the citizens of every city. My majesty is legislating for Egypt, to prosper the life of its inhabitants; when he appeared upon the throne of Re. Behold, the official staffs have been appointed in the whole land ... all ... to comprise the official staffs in the cities according to their rank.

The King's Audiences and Largesses

.... They went around ... times a month, which he [made] for them like a feast; every man set down at a portion of every good thing, of good bread, and meat of the storehouses, of royal provision .....; their voices reached heaven, praising all benefits ... the heart of all the soldiers of the army. [The king appeared to the people] ... throwing (gifts) to them from the balcony while every man was called by his name by the king himself. They came forth from the presence rejoicing, laden with the provision of the royal house; yea, they too [grain-heaps] in the granary, every one of them [bore] barley and spelt, there was not found one who had nothing .... their cities. [If they did not complete the circuit therein within three days, [....] their khetkhet-officers hastened after them to the place where they were immediately. They were found there .....

Laudation of the King and Conclusion

Hear ye these commands which my majesty has made for the first time governing the whole land, when my majesty remembered these cases of oppression which occur before this land. [15]

Discussion: Chronologically helpful information comes to us from the inscriptions of Horemheb dealing with the appointment to his office. We quote:

"Behold, the god exalted his son before all the land, he desired to extend his steps, until the coming of the day of his receiving his office, that he might give ....... of his time. The heart of the king was satisfied with his affairs; (he) rejoiced at his choice; he appointed him to be chief (r'-hry) of the land, to administer the laws of the Two Lands as hereditary prince of all this land; he was unique, without his second. The plans ..... . [He astonished] the people, by that which came out of his mouth. When he was summoned before the king, the palace, it began to fear. When he opened his mouth, when he replied to the king, he pleased him with that which came out of his mouth. The only excellent one, without [his second] ..... . His every plan was in the footsteps of the Ibis (Thoth). His decisions were in accord with the Lord of Hesret; rejoicing in accustomed usage like Thoth, please of heart therewith like Ptah. When he woke in the morning, he presented her due; the way ..... his affairs. As for one who walks in her way, it is she who protects him on earth forever."[17]

Breasted comments that the name of the king in this passage is not mentioned but seems to assume it was Ikhnaton (Akhnaton) or else the teenager king Tutankhamen. [18]

In our opinion speaking of Akhnaton or Tutankhamen in terms of being summoned and in fear, anxiously awaiting what he would say, seems out of character from everything else we know about these two monarchs but it fits the person of Sennacherib, King of Assyria. [20] Since, according to inscriptions of Horemheb, the time before he became king he refers to as `wicked rule' seems incongruous unless the king who ruled Egypt was not a native ruler. The passage quoted indicates that the rule of Horemheb was that of a king who was selected to administer Egypt by the decree of a foreign king. The Great Edict is a manifest documentation for his policies to keep order in the state, "... to administer the laws of the Two Lands ...".

Some overall similarities in royal self descriptions between Assyrian and Egyptian Sources
Sennacherib Introduces Himself on Tyler Prism Horemheb Introduces Himself in Great Edict
1. "The wise ruler,

2. favorite of the great gods,
3. guardian of the right,
4. lover of justice,

5. who comes to the aid of the needy,

6. who turns to pious deeds,

7. perfect hero,
8. mighty man,
9. first among the princes,
10. the flame that consumes the insubmissive..."

1. "His majesty took counsel with his heart [how he might] .... [exp]el evil and suppress lying.
2. The plans of his majesty were an excellent refuge,
3. repelling violence behind ......
4. [and delivering the Egyptians from the oppressions] which were among them.
5. Behold, his majesty spent the whole time seeking the welfare of Egypt
6. and searching out instances [of oppression in the land]. .... [came the scribe] of his majesty.
7. Then he seized palette and roll; he put it into writing
8. according to all that his majesty,
9. the king himself said.
10. He spoke as follows: "[My majesty] commands ... [concerning all] instances of oppression in the land."
The type of penalties inflicted on offenders was unlike any Egypt had practiced before this time but they are well known from Assyrian documents. Sennacherib wrote in the annals of his 8th campaign against Elam: "With sharp swords I cut off their noses." [40]

Notes and References

[5] For a discussion on the location of Tharu and Avaris, see Alan Gardiner in `The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 3' (1916), p.101.

[10] For an illustrated and mapped demonstration of the Opet Festival see National Geographic Great Peoples of the Past - The Egyptians, Supplement to April 2001.

[15] Breasted, `Records', Vol. III, Sec. 25.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid. Sec. 22.

[20] See also about the character of Sennacherib in our paper on Judith.

[40] Luckenbill, `Records of Assyria', Vol. II; While punishments inflicted upon prisoners and those meted out on prisoners of war are not strictly comparable, we should remember that Egypt, under Horemheb, was in the position of a subject country, and therefore under a form of martial law. See also Lorton, `The Treatment of Prisoners in Ancient Egypt', p. 56.

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