The Teaching for King Merykara
The Teaching for king Merykara is a literary composition in Middle Egyptian, the classical phase of the Egyptian language, probably of Middle Kingdom date (2025-1700 BC). In it, the author has a king of Egypt address his son, the future king Merykara, advising him how to be a good king, and to avoid evil deeds. Merykara is the name of a king of Dynasty 9 or 10, the line or lines of kings who ruled northern Egypt during a period of division, the First Intermediate Period (about 2150-2025 BC). Perhaps this allowed the author of this composition greater freedom in describing the limits of royal authority, than might have been possible in referring to kings of a unified Egypt; the Teaching for King Merykara is effectively a treatise on kingship, in which both good and evil aspects of government and military conflict are described. Here, in stark contrast to the continual recycling of architectural blocks, the king is instructed to quarry new stone, not reuse old monuments; the reality of reuse is acknowledged, but the ideal of new work is commended. Similarly, the destruction of a sacred territory at Abydos is recorded; the king expresses remorse, as if accepting responsibility for the unthinkable that must have recurred throughout history - sacrilege in the name of the ruling king. These contrasts of real and ideal make the composition a reflection on power unparalleled in Ancient Egyptian writing.
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