Affairs and Scandals in Ancient Egypt
Translated by David Lorton
"The Egyptians were people of flesh and blood, capable of both greatness and weakness, masters of ambitious projects but also slaves to banal preoccupations. They imposed their vision of the world on their environment, but they were weighed down by the burden of the human condition. In short, they were like any of us. And like ours, their society had its affairs, its scandals, its uncertainties, and its rifts."—from the Preface
Drawing on ancient texts, archaeological reports, and other sources, Pascal Vernus focuses attention on the human failings of the too-often-mythologized Egyptians. Affairs and Scandals in Ancient Egypt treats instances of significant corruption—which, according to Vernus, constitute a crisis of values—in New Kingdom Egypt. His discoveries afford sobering new insights into the tension between stated beliefs and actual behavior in ancient Egyptian civilization. The examples of corruption Vernus describes run the gamut from graverobbing to labor unrest, from embezzlement to palace intrigue.
The first chapter deals with the tomb robberies in the Theban necropolis during the Twentieth Dynasty. The second outlines the economic context and events associated with strikes carried out by the workmen of the royal necropolis. The third chapter uses a certain Paneb as an exemplar of corruption in the area of Thebes. Chapter 4 considers the theft of government property and attempted cover-ups in the Aswan region. The last example may be the most dramatic—the conspiracy in the royal women's quarters in the last year of Ramesses III aimed at affecting the succession to the throne. In the book's final chapter, Vernus analyzes the historical contexts and the main issues surrounding each scandal.