writings of ancient egypt

Writings From Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson

I have to preface this review by saying that ever since I was taught about the ancient Egyptians in school I have been fascinated. I collect any book, watch any documentary, and even have the eye of Horus tattooed on my skin. This time in history seems other worldly to me; with its riches, elaborate burial rituals, tragic young Kings, and some the most beautiful and famous Queens in history. I’m an ancient Egyptian nerd.

When I saw ‘Writings from Ancient Egypt’ appear on my Facebook timeline, I clicked, bought, and had my mum ship it out to me. I am no academic though, and on first glance I thought it may be a little too much for me, but this book is designed for the general reader and history geek (phew!). I’m surprised there hasn’t been book like this readily available until now. There are many, many books on the works of ancient Greek and Roman writers, but the Egyptians seem to have lucked out. Which is surprising when becoming a scribe in these times was a pretty big deal; you got access to the grand households, earnt the respect of your peers, and rose up the class system.  Did you know that today there are only about 1,000 people in the world who are able to comprehensively translate hieroglyphics, how can that be?

Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson sets out ‘Writings from Ancient Egypt’ with a comprehensive introduction so you know exactly what you are in for. The book starts with the origins of hyroglyphics and writing itself; logging stock, land, and treasures of the Kings. Then moves onto translating some of the intricate inscriptions which have survived over four thousand years (let that sink in for a second). These inscriptions tell of grand battles, powerful masters, coronations and rites. Then towards the end of the book there is a useful glossary of deities, which I referred to often.

Wilkinson has chosen a mixture of the more popular inscriptions on temple walls and stones, to rarer, more mundane carvings, which give an insight into what life was like. The Gods rule the Egyptians over these ancient times and Osiris, Horus and Anubis, are just some of the deities revered heavily and believed to be the source of power to Kings and Queens.

writings of ancient egypt

‘Writings from Ancient Egypt’ dedicates a sizeable chuck to scriptures about great battles in Gaza and Syria. Poignant for me as a reader. Just how far have we developed as civilisations? Or, are we fighting the same wars, over the same land, just with more dangerous weapons? Is this fighting now in our genes, repeated over thousands of years? I also particularly liked the translations of the hymns and the obituaries of men of stature in the community. They really were a narcissistic, self indulgent bunch leaving tales of their great conquests and contributions to the Kings they served. However,these texts should not be taken as fact. They are of course the ‘press releases’ of loyal aides and supporters. This aside, you still get a real sense of the people, the culture, and the beliefs of this great ancient civilisation which has intrigued me since I was little.

A book I loved to read and will no doubt pick up from the bookshelf time and again. Buy this for any lover of the written word, or history geek. Oh, and did you notice they all had excellent fringes? 😉

Buy Writings from Ancient Egypt from Booktopia today!


The Book Jacket

A collection of rare texts from Ancient Egypt, newly translated for this essential edition

The fascination that Ancient Egypt holds in our minds has many sources, but at the heart of it lie hieroglyphics. This extraordinary writing system was for many years seen as the ultimate puzzle, before finally being cracked in the 1820s. Preserved carved in stone or inked on papyri, hieroglyphic writings give a unique insight into an awe-inspiring but also deeply mysterious culture.

For this collection, Toby Wilkinson has translated a rich selection of pieces, ranging from accounts of battles to hymns to stories to royal proclamations. Entertaining and revelatory, this is an essential resource for studying one of humankind’s great civilizations.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.