• Four sources containing love poems are known
• P. Chester Beatty I - Deir el-Medinah
• P. Harris 500 – casket in Ramesseum?
• P. Turin frag. 1996 (cat. 1966) – Deir el-Medinah
• Cairo Museum Vase frag. 1266 + 25218 – Deir el-Medinah?
• New development in 19th Dynasty? Why?
• Insight into courtship/emotions/erotic life?
• Women’s voices and experiences?
Aspects of Love Poetry
• Form: direct first person speech of young man/woman
• Monologue addressed to one’s own heart
• First Chester Beatty Cycle alternate’s male/female speakers
• Terms of endearment: ‘brother’ & ‘sister’
• “style, prosody, and choice of words, all bear the stamp of deliberate, literate artistry.” Lichtheim,
Anient Egyptian Literature II, p. 181
• Social Context
• Egyptian women were not secluded
• “Most marriages in ancient Egypt were arranged” Watterson, Women in Ancient Egypt p. 57
• Exceptions: Story of Ahwere and Neneferkaptah
• Young marriage: ♂ 15 and ♀ 12 ; Ankshehonq advises men to marry at 20
• Connections to Hathor cult
• “Sayings of the great happiness”
• “Sweet sayings”
• “Delightful, beautiful songs of your beloved sister as she comes from the fields”
• “Songs of delight”
• Performance: Likely sung in elite banquets (Fox, The Song of Songs and the Ancient
Egyptian Love Songs); cf. harpist’s songs with message to “make merry”
• Collection: “made by a scribe of the necropolis, Nakht-Sobk”
• Ancient Near East: Israelite Song of Songs, Mesopotamian sacred
• Wisdom literature:
“When you prosper, set up a household for yourself. Love your wife
passionately, as is proper. Fill her belly, clothe her back. Soothe her
body with perfumed oil. Gladden her heart as long as you live, for she
is a fertile field for her lord… never contend with her in court… and
keep her from gaining the upper hand!” - Instruction of Ptahhotep
• Letters to the dead:
“Send the message and say to her, since you are close to her: 'How are
you doing? How are you?'... 'Woe, gracious faced one, there is no-one
like her.‘ - Letter from Deir el Medina scribe, Butehamun, to the coffin
of his dead wife, Ikhtay
• Love magic
• Turin erotic papyrus?