Story of Sinuhe


The Tale of Sinuhe is a work of Ancient Egyptian literature. It is a narrative set in the aftermath of the death of Pharaoh Amenemhat I, founder of the 12th dynasty of Egypt, in the early 20th century BC. It is likely that it was composed only shortly after this date, albeit the earliest extant manuscript is from the reign of Amenemhat III, c. 1800 BC. There is an ongoing debate among Egyptologists as to whether or not the tale is based on actual events involving an individual named Sinuhe, with the recent consensus being that it is most likely a work of fiction.

The tale opens as Sinuhe speaks from his own tomb. Thus the end of the story is already known. Sinuhe dies and is properly buried in Egypt. The tale begins with the death of the king Amenemhat (who we know from the 'Teaching of Amenemhat' was assassinated). Sinuhe at this point is returning from a campaign in Libya with the sons of the king (most notably the future king Senusret I). He overhears a messenger speaking of the death of the king and in a blind panic flees the country. Scholars have attempted to give a reason for this flight but it is impossible to do so. Possibly, the fact that this person was serving in the royal harim and thus might have been liable to have known about any rumour there of plotting against the king may be of importance. Sinuhe was momentarily taken over by the forces of 'chaos,' there was no logic behind his actions. Upon entering Syria, he marries the daughter of an Asiatic chieftain, who adopts him. He later rises to power within his adopted tribe and returns to Egypt at the invitation of Senusret I. The king accepts that Sinuhe had not control over his actions and blames the fallability of the human heart. He himself fears nothing, is like a god incarnate on earth and maintains the order (Ma'at) in Egypt outside of which all life is pointless.


Nobleman and overlord, governor and canal-cutter, sovereign among the Syrians
One known to the king directly, his favourite, the Follower Sanehat
He says:

I am a Follower who follows his lord, a servant of the family-quarters of the king
Of the noblewoman, abounding in favour, King's Wife of Senusret in Khenemsut
King's Daughter of Amenemhat in Qaneferu, Neferu, lady of reverence

Regnal year 30, month 3 of Flood, day 7
The god ascended to his horizon, the dual king Sehetepibra
He fared up to the sky, joining with the sun-disk, divine limbs merging with his creator
The Residence was in silence, hearts in sorrow,
The Double Gate sealed,
The court with head on knees, the nobles in lament

Now His Majesty had sent an army against the Land of the Timehu
With his eldest son as its commander,
The good god Senusret
He was sent to smite the hill lands, to quell the inhabitants of Tjehenu
He was just on his return, and had brought the captives of Tjehenu,
And all the limitless herds

The courtiers of the Palace despatched to the Western reaches,
To inform the King's Son of the turn of events in the Chamber
The envoys found him on the road,
And had reached him at the time of dusk
Not a slight moment did he delay,
The falcon, he flew off with his followers,
Without having his army informed of it

Now there was a despatch with regard to the King's children
who were following him in this army
One of them was summoned
Now I was up, and heard his voice
When he was speaking - I was a short distance away

My heart stopped, my arms crossed, trembling fell through my whole body
I slipped back in starts to seek out a hiding-place,
To place myself between the bushes, to remove the way and its farer
I made my way south
without thinking of approaching this Residence