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The papyrus of Wenamun



Commissioned by the high priest of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, to procure cedar wood required for the construction of the boat of Amon, Wenamun arrives to Byblos where he awaits to be received by the king. Unfortunately, on the way, he was attacked and stripped of his credentials and gifts.




When morning came he sent and had me brought up, when the divine offering occurred in the fortress wherein he was, on the shore of the sea. I found him sitting in his upper chamber, leaning his back against a window, while the waves of the great Syrian sea beat behind him.

Then I said to him: "Amon bless thee !"
He said to me: "How long is it until this day since you left the abode of Amon?"
I said: "Five months and one day, until now."
He said to me, "Behold, if thou art true? Where is the document of Amon which should be in your hand? Where is the letter of the High Priest of Amon that should be in your hand?"
So I said to him: "I gave them to Nesubenebded [Smendes] and Tentamon."
Then he was very wroth, and he said to me: "Now behold, the writing and the letter are not in thy hand! Where is the ship of cedar, which Nesubenebded gave to thee? Where is its Syrian crew? He would not deliver thy business to this ship-captain to have thee killed, that they might cast thee into the sea? From whom would they have sought the god then? And thee, from whom would they have sought thee then?"

So spake he to me. I said to him: "There are indeed Egyptian ships and Egyptian crews, who sail under Nesubenebded, (but) he hath no Syrian crews."
He said to me: "There are surely twenty ships here in my harbor, which are in connection with Nesubenebded, and at this Sidon, whither thou also wouldst go, there are indeed fifty ships also which are in connection with Berket-El and sail to his house."

Then I was silent in this great hour. He answered and said to me: "On what business hast thou come hither?"
I said to him: "I have come after the timber for the great and august boat of Amon-Re, king of gods. Thy father did it, thy grandfather did it, and thou wilt also do it." So spake I to him.
He said to me: "They did it, truly. If thou give me something for doing it, I will do it. Indeed, my agents transacted the business; the Pharaoh, L. P. H. [Life, Prosperity, Health], sent six ships, laden with the products of Egypt, and they were unloaded into their storehouses. And thou also shall bring something for me."

He had brought in the journals of his fathers, and he had them read before me. They found 1000 deben of silver of every kind of things, which was in his book.

He said to me: "If the ruler of Egypt were the owner of my property, and I were also his servant, he would not send silver and gold, saying: 'Do the command of Amon.' It was not the payment of tribute which they exacted of my father. As for me, I am myself neither thy servant nor am I the servant of him that sent thee. If I cry out to the Lebanon, the heavens open, and the logs lie here on the shore of the sea. (…)"
So I said to him: "(…) There is no ship upon the river, which Amon does not own. For his is the sea, and his is Lebanon of which thou sayest, 'It is mine.' (…) while thou standest and bargainest for the Lebanon with Amon, its lord. (…)"

He gave my letter into the hand of his messenger. He loaded in the keel, the head of the bow and the head of the stern, with four other hewn timbers, together seven; and he had them taken to Egypt.

His messenger went to Egypt, and returned to me, to Syria, in the first month of the second season. Nesubenebded and Tentamon sent: 4 jugs and 1 vessel of gold, 5 jugs of silver, 10 garments of Royal linen, 10 bales of good linen from Upper Egypt, 500 rolls of papyrus, 500 of ox-hides, 500 rope (coils), 20 measures (sacks) of Lentil, 30 measures (baskets) of fish. And she sent me: 5 garments of linen, 5 bales of linen, 1 measure of lentils, 5 measures of fish.

The prince rejoiced, and detailed 300 men and 300 oxen, placing overseers over them, to have the trees felled. They spent the winter therewith. In the third month of the summer they dragged them to the shore of the sea.

(background: bas-relief detail representative the transporting of the Lebanese cedar wood.)


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