The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2013, 25-37

Historical writing without history: The perception and the recording of the past in Ancient Egypt

A. A. Banshchikova

The paper treats the general character of ancient Egyptian apprehension and representation of the country’s history. Egyptians were greatly interested
in their historical past: they created numerous literary compositions on historical topics; included historical fi gures into stories with fully invented novelistic plots; preserved and knew well general schemes of Egyptian history (in the form of king-lists which formed a kind of periodization and provided their readers with knowledge of names and succession of the kings) including theoretical concepts of large historical cycles. Nevertheless they have never created a real history (narratives tracing large periods of time or at least a single reign throughout all its course) because of the specifi c character of their sources: on the one hand, monuments and literary compositions dedicated to various events but irrelevant to the proper place of these events on the timescale, and, on the other hand, Pharaonic king-lists which gave the dynastic timeline on the whole but almost did not include events. Their combination was out of their possibilities or inclinations till the Hellenistic epoch. As a result Egyptian picture of the past was a chain of episodes within rather fi rm frames of general dynastic scheme (but the latter was also liable to modifi cations, transpositions and resulting variability), while these episodes themselves synthesized some elements of real history together with folklore models, belletristic inventions and vast contaminations (stimulated even more by the fact that deeds of many kings were similar to each other and their names were often similar or identical). 

Ancient Egypt, historical writing, king-lists, literature, folklore

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