Homepage Timeline Maps A-Z index Learning

Old age in Ancient Egyptian literary compositions

Ancient Egyptian literary compositions, like Egyptian formal art, revolve around figures of a youthful and reproductive age. Elders are present as venerable advisers, such as the lector Djedi in the tales on Papyrus Westcar, brought to court at the age of 110 years to perform wonders for the entertainment of king Khufu. Perhaps the most dramatic depiction of advanced age is the passage opening a didactic treatise, the Teaching of Ptahhotep; the high official Ptahhotep wishes to retire in favour of his son, and, in order to convince the king, he describes the afflictions of the elderly in the bleakest terms. In his reply, the king approves the request, but observes that the young need the old, for 'noone can be born wise'. The passage neatly juxtaposes the good and the bad aspects of long life.



Copyright © 2002 University College London. All rights reserved