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General Chat Rules

  1. Watch your language. There are some words allowed (such as the general ones: ass, damn, hell, piss, wench), but not the overtly offensive (such as c***, f***, n*****, mostly if it's applied in a way meant to offend someone.).
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Ancient Tweaks

  1. Slavery - Historically it was encouraged and popular during this time, but for here it is discouraged and frowned upon. Those within the Palace do not have any slaves, and someone within a type of power (I.E. Head Architect) might have one or two but would be spoken about in gossips.
  2. Independence - Historically, Egypt was not fully independent. This is being tweaked to avoid any kind of conflict. This means Egypt is still at the height of their power, influence, and culture. The main RP is to be in Egypt, but you are free to be other historic figures - this is NOT CRP.
  3. Timeframe - Cleopatra died roughly in 30 BC, and my character is 24, meaning I am going to shift Cleopatra's time further, so the time currently is till in the BC's, moreso 28 BC if it is necessarily needed.
  4. Any sexual act is not to be explicitly depicted in the roleplay. Yes, they were not shy in Ancient times but that does not mean we will behave as such in a public manner.

~To be edited as needed~



Ancient Laws

The basis of the ancient Egyptian legal system was Maat.

Maat was more of a concept than a goddess – she was the representation of truth, justice and order (both cosmic and social).

In fact, during the weighing-of-the-heart ceremony, the deceased were judged by having their hearts weighed against Maat’s feather of truth, checking whether they had conducted themselves honorably during life.

If their hearts were found heavier, they were damned to eternal oblivion.

One way to know what kinds of things ancient Egyptian society saw as wrong or immoral is to read through the 42 Declarations of Innocence, also called the Negative Confessions of Maat.

Through them, the deceased proclaimed as evidence that he/she conducted their lives with integrity.

They are like an ancient Egyptian version of the Ten Commandments. These declarations varied slightly from individual to individual, but here is a sample from the Papyrus of Nu:

I have not committed sins against men. I have not opposed my family and kinsfolk. I have not acted fraudulently in the Seat of Truth. I have not known men who were of no account. I have not wrought evil. I have not made it to be the first [consideration daily that unnecessary] work should be done for me. I have not brought forward my name for dignities. I have not [attempted] to domineer servants. [I have not belittled God]. I have not defrauded the humble man of his property. I have not done what the gods abominate. I have not vilified a slave to his master. I have not inflicted pain. I have not caused anyone to go hungry. I have not made any man to weep. I have not committed murder. I have not given the order for murder to be committed. I have not caused calamities to befall men and women. I have not plundered the offerings in the temples. I have not defrauded the gods of their cake-offerings. I have not carried off the fenkhu cakes [offered to] the Spirits. I have not committed fornication. I have not masturbated [in the sanctuaries of the god of my city]. I have not diminished from the bushel. I have not filched [land from my neighbour’s estate and] added it to my own acre. I have not encroached upon the fields [of others]. I have not added to the weights of the scales. I have not depressed the pointer of the balance. I have not carried away the milk from the mouths of children. I have not driven the cattle away from their pastures. I have not snared the geese in the goose-pens of the gods. I have not caught fish with bait made of the bodies of the same kind of fish. I have not stopped water when it should flow. I have not made a cutting in a canal of running water. I have not extinguished a fire when it should burn. I have not violated the times [of offering] the chosen meat offerings. I have not driven away the cattle on the estates of the gods. I have not turned back the god at his appearances. As pharaohs were thought of as reincarnations of gods on Earth, they had the privilege to decree certain rules and laws. They would add to or change somewhat the laws formed previously.

But still, as free as they were to do so, they were responsible for upholding the laws of the gods, including those of Maat. Some would also wear emblems of the goddess as a show of this. After the pharaoh, the vizier was in charge of ancient Egyptian law and was given the title of Priest of Maat. Later, during the New Kingdom, judges and high officials would wear images of the goddess as well.

Ancient Egyptian law and order were not separate from the overall administrative system. In fact, there were no designated court-houses or a person whose sole role was to be a judge.

Officials that had other administrative positions carried out legal duties alongside their other work.

In some important cases, officials would come together in a concentrated effort, such as in the trial of the harem conspiracies.

As there were no set rules written, the system was more like a common law system where legal decisions were made on a case-by-case basis. It seems also to be how the pharaoh would adjust ancient Egyptian law, depending on what he saw as necessary changes to the legal affairs of his time.

Under Maat’s universal justice it was a given that all ancient Egyptians were dealt with equally in the eyes of the law, and so even the rich or elite were not exempt from the harshest of punishments for their crimes.

Though it must be stated that slaves were put in a different legal category.

Another loophole was how sometimes the family of a convicted criminal would be exposed to punishment as well, such as being exiled.

Ancient Egyptian police were charged with the role of keeping the peace and calm and apprehending criminals. Though, like other law enforcement officials, their roles were sometimes quite loosely defined. During the Ptolemaic Period, ancient Egyptian law was still operating alongside ancient Greek law. But when the Romans came, they imposed their laws as the sole legal system in the country.

This was especially constricting for ancient Egyptian women, who had enjoyed more freedoms and independence than their Greek or Roman counterparts. And so when Roman law became the only law, the rights they had enjoyed were taken away.

The judicial system was not a separate entity from the ancient Egyptian government. Egyptians did not have professional judges. In fact there was no word for judge in the Egyptian language. Even though no book of laws from ancient Egypt have been found, court records show that Egyptian law was usually based on a common-sense approach. In fact Egyptian law encouraged reaching agreements to resolve conflicts rather than sticking to a complicated set of laws.

The New Kingdom had a council of elders called kenbet. They were responsible for court cases involving small claims and minor disputes. The elders were from regional governments and priests whose official rank in the temples entitled them to be judges. The ancient Egyptian judicial system also had a ÒGreat KenbetÓ which the vizier or pharaoh chaired and the members were high-ranking officials. Usually more serious cases involving murder, major land transactions and tomb robbery were heard at this court. Plaintiffs and defendants represented themselves and much like today, swore an oath that they told the truth. Egyptian women were also allowed to seek justice, and like men could have their day in court.

The ancient Egyptians viewed men and women, including people from all social classes except slaves, as essentially equal under the law, and even the lowliest peasant was entitled to petition the vizier and his court for redress. Both men and women had the right to own and sell property, make contracts, marry and divorce, receive inheritance, and pursue legal disputes in court. Married couples could own property jointly and protect themselves from divorce by agreeing to marriage contracts, which stipulated the financial obligations of the husband to his wife and children should the marriage end. The head of the legal system was officially the pharaoh, who was responsible for enacting laws, delivering justice, and maintaining law and order, a concept the ancient Egyptians referred to as Ma'at. Although no legal codes from ancient Egypt survive, court documents show that Egyptian law was based on a common-sense view of right and wrong that emphasized reaching agreements and resolving conflicts rather than strictly adhering to a complicated set of statutes. Local councils of elders, known as Kenbet in the New Kingdom, were responsible for ruling in court cases involving small claims and minor disputes.

More serious cases involving murder, major land transactions, and tomb robbery were referred to the Great Kenbet, over which the vizier or pharaoh presided. Plaintiffs and defendants were expected to represent themselves and were required to swear an oath that they had told the truth. In some cases, the state took on both the role of prosecutor and judge, and it could torture the accused with beatings to obtain a confession and the names of any co-conspirators. Whether the charges were trivial or serious, court scribes documented the complaint, testimony, and verdict of the case for future reference. Punishment for minor crimes involved either imposition of fines, beatings, facial mutilation, or exile, depending on the severity of the offense. Serious crimes such as murder and tomb robbery were punished by execution, carried out by decapitation, drowning, or impaling the criminal on a stake. Punishment could also be extended to the criminal's family. Beginning in the New Kingdom, oracles played a major role in the legal system, dispensing justice in both civil and criminal cases. The procedure was to ask the god a "yes" or "no" question concerning the right or wrong of an issue. The god, carried by a number of priests, rendered judgment by choosing one or the other, moving forward or backward, or pointing to one of the answers written on a piece of papyrus or an ostracon.

Ma'at, unlike Hathor and Nephthys, seemed to be more of a concept than an actual goddess. Her name, literally, meant 'truth' in Egyptian. She was truth, order, balance and justice personified. She was harmony, she was what was right, she was what things should be. It was thought that if Ma'at didn't exist, the universe would become chaos, once again! For the Egyptian believed that the universe was above everything else an ordered and rational place. It functioned with predictability and regularity; the cycles of the universe always remained constant; in the moral sphere, purity was rewarded and sin was punished. Both morally and physically, the universe was in perfect balance.

Because of Ma'at, the Egyptians knew that the universe, that everything in the universe, worked on a pattern, just as, later on, the Greeks called the underlying order of the universe logos (meaning, order, pattern). Egypt, then, was seen to be nothing without Ma'at.

Ma'at was reality, the solid grounding of reality that made the Sun rise, the stars shine, the river flood and mankind think. The universe itself, all the world around them, was sacred in the ancient view. "Ethics" is an issue of human will and human permission. It is a function of the human world of duality. What is "ethical" for one group is sin for another. But Ma'at, the reality that made all groups what they are is transcendent of ethics, just as a rock or a flower is amoral, a-ethical, without "truth or falsehood." How can a flower be "false" or "ethical." It just is. How can the universe be "ethical or moral, right or wrong"? It simply is. That is Ma'at.

Despite being a winged goddess (like Nephthys), she was judge at the Egyptian underworld at the Halls of Ma'ati or Halls of the Double Ma'at.

The dead person's heart was placed on a scale, balanced by Ma'at herself, or by the Feather of Ma'at (her symbol that she wore on her head was an ostrich feather).

Thoth (god of writing and scribes) weighed the heart... if the deceased had been found to not have followed the concept of ma'at during his life (if he had lied or cheated or killed or done anything against ma'at) his heart was devoured by a demon (she was called Ammut - Devouress of the Dead) and he died the final death. If the heart weighed the same as Ma'at, the deceased was allowed to go on to the afterlife. In life, it was the pharaohs' duty to uphold ma'at. "I have done Ma'at" has been spoken by several pharaohs, as well as being called "beloved of Ma'at".

The ruler who forcibly emphasizes his adherence to Maat on his monuments in Akhenaten the very king whom later pharaohs considered to have deviated immensely from her laws.

Ma'at, as would be logical, was also was the justice meeted out in ancient Egyptial law courts. It is likely that a "Priest of Ma'at" referred to people who were involved in the justice system, as well as being priests of the goddess herself. There is a small temple dedicated to Ma'at (in ruins) at Karnak. The temple is inside Precinct of Montu, the smallest of three enclosures at Karnak. The temple seems to have been built by Hatshepsut, then reconstructed by Thuthmose III. Ma'at did not exist until Ra rose from the waters of Nun (various gods and goddesses of Chaos). She was known as a Neter goddess, and as such, was described as a daughter of Ra. But without Ma'at, Egyptians believed that Nun would reclaim the universe. She was also thought to be the wife of Thoth, moon god and god of the wisdom.

Egyptian law was based on a common sense view of right and wrong, following the codes based on the concept of Ma'at. Ma'at represented truth, order, balance and justice in the universe. This concept allowed that everyone, with the exception of slaves, should be viewed as equals under the law, regardless of wealth or social position. However, when punishment was carried out, often the entire family of the guilty suffered as well. For example, when individuals were sentenced to exile, their children were automatically outlawed along with them. If a relative deserted from military service, or defaulted on the labor demands of the state, the entire family might be imprisoned. A gold Ma'at pendant which is currently in the British Museum was probably more or less an official badge of legal officials. Some statues of high officials from the Late Period are shown wearing such a pendant. During the Greek period, Greek law existed alongside that of the Egyptian law, but usually these laws favored the Greeks. When the Romans took control of Egypt, the Roman legal system which existed throughout the Roman empire was imposed in Egypt. However, prior to the Greek period, ultimately it was the king as a living god who was the supreme judge and lawmaker. Of course much of this power was delegated to others. The legal and administrative systems seem not to have been well defined, and so at times anyone in an authoritative position may have made legal judgements. We know that the king's viziers often acted as judges, and theoretically, anyone with a legal problem could bring a case before a vizier, though arranging such an audience with busy, important government officials may have at times been difficult. But more specifically, we believe that the title, Overseer of the Six Great Mansions, refers to our modern equivalent of a magistrate. Mansions probably refers to the main law court in Thebes, though we believe there were other major courts in Egypt. Minor cases were tried by a local council of elders and each town or village had its own local kenet in charge of legal proceedings. Such cases usually involved minor problems, such as default on loans. Still, the most important matters were probably reported to the king who would then decide the case and the proper justice. An interesting variation was that sometimes judgements were made by divine oracles rather than by human officials. For example, in Deir el-Medina the deified founder of the village was often asked to decide cases. While it is impossible to know exactly how this worked, we seems that a document was made for both sides of the case, and put on either side of a street. Whichever side the god's image inclined towards was rendered the winner. Also, specifically during the 21st Dynasty (1069-945 BC), law was given though the oracle of Amun. Documentation on prior cases were recorded and retained, and like our own modern legal systems, these court documents were used as precedent for current cases. Some of these documents remain, and are some of our best evidence of how the ancient Egyptian legal system functioned. An example of such documentation is the record of the famous trial of the tomb robbers, recorded on the Leopold II - Amherst Papyrus.This document, now in the British Museum, records the robbery of tombs during the reigns of Ramesses IX and Ramesses XI. The thief Amenpanufer confesses before Ramesses IX that "We went to rob tombs in accordance with our regular habit, and found the pyramid tomb of King Sekhemreshedtawdy....". While the papyrus documents the thief's guilt, it does not provide the actual punishment. We also have the Salt Papyrus, which is a petition of the workman Amennakhte denouncing the crimes of the foreman Paneb, another papyrus that documents tomb robbery. Tomb robbery was considered to be one of the most heinous crimes. Of course, there are any number of other documented legal proceedings. From these, we know of the punishment in criminal proceedings. For example, from court documents at Deir el-Medina, we know that punishment for stolen or embezzled goods might be as simple as the return of the goods with a fine of twice their value. Simple corporal punishment could involve a hundred strokes of the cane and in more serious cases, 5 bleeding cuts added, or brands as a sign of permanent dishonor. The Pharaoh himself might very well decide the most important criminal cases, or at other times he might appoint a special commission with full authority to pass judgement. Depending on the severity of the case, being exiled to Nubia or the Western Oasis, or sent to to labor in the distant mines or quarries was not uncommon. Some crimes were punished with mutilation consisting of cutting off a hand, tongue, nose or ears. In extreme cases, capital punishment was inflicted by implement on a stake, burning alive, drowning or decapitation. Because the guilty had violated Ma'at, it was also assumed the individual would suffer failure, poverty, sickness, blindness or deafness, with the final settlement awaiting in the Court of the Dead. It should be noted that, while ancient Egyptian punishment is often seen as barbaric, there was some support of basic human rights. For example the pharaoh Bocchoris suppressed imprisonment for debt. Probably one of the most famous cases is that of the the Eloquent Peasant (the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant), which examines a poor man's search for justice from high officials and the king himself. This particular story was widely told in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2055-1650) and illustrates the point that even the problems of common peasants were considered important. Although males dominated the legal system in ancient Egypt, records indicate that females enjoyed considerable rights under the law. Upon an individual's death, property was often divided equally among both male and female children. Woman could own and bequeath property, file lawsuits, be witnesses in court and file for divorce. Children and the poor had considerable legal rights, and even slaves were allowed to own property under certain circumstances. Prior to the 7th century BC most contracts and deeds were oral, but with the advent of the Demotic script, many legal transactions were required to be written, and these documents give us a better picture of legal proceedings. A plaintiff was required to bring suit, and if the case was deemed to have validity, the defendant would be ordered to appear before the court. There were no legal advocates, so both parties would present their own arguments. While witnesses were sometimes called, the judge would usually rule on the grounds of documentary evidence and the testimony of each party. In many respects, the ancient Egyptian laws remain with us today. The Greek lawgiver Solon visited Egypt in the 6th century BC, studied their law and adapted many aspects of it into the legal system of Athens. During Egypt's Greek period, Egyptian law continued to influence the separate Greek legal system. When the Romans took Egypt, their legal system was effected by both the Greeks and Egyptians, and today, we continue to implement a number of aspects of Roman law.

Although there were differences in how members of the various social classes were treated and judged, neither riches nor nobility raised a person above the law. High treason committed by powerful noblemen and officials was severely dealt with. Judges and tax collectors abused their powers, above all during times of unrest, and scribes sometimes falsified cadastral data; if they were caught, their punishment could be savage.

As the existence and proper functioning of the state depended on their activities, resisting state officials doing their duty or bribing them had to be suppressed at any cost, as had perjury, false accusations and statements and undue influence on judicial procedure. Misbehaviour had to be punished, honour upheld, peace between neighbours kept, and people's lives and property protected. Not reporting a felony was a crime in itself:

The great criminal, Weren, who was butler. He was brought in because of his hearing the words from the chief of the chamber, and when he had [withdrawn from] him he concealed them and did not report them. He was placed before the nobles of the court of examination; they found him guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.(edited) After collaborating for four years, Amenpenofer, a builder working for Amenhotep, High Priest of Amen-Re Sonter, and seven other builders, woodworkers, farmers and a boatman, decided to break into the pyramid of Sobekmesef. With their metal tools they cut a passage into the pyramid's underground chambers, removed all the obstacles and reached the sarcophagi of the queen and king. They opened the lids and the inner gilded wooden coffins, collected the golden face masks, jewellery, amulets, weighing 160 deben (about 14.5 kg) and burned the remains. They divided the loot into eight parts and were rowed back over the Nile by the boatman.

Whether he couldn't keep quiet, his sudden wealth was noticed, or they had been observed, Amenpenofer was arrested by the city guards and brought to the office of Peser, prince of the city. He bribed a scribe with his twenty deben of gold and was released without being charged. On his return, his associates agreed to redistributing the remaining 140 deben of gold. They continued their raids until they were finally arrested. And they were not the only ones to do so. As the thief remarked

Many sons of this people rob the graves just as we do and are not less guilty than we are. The robbers returned with the investigating judges to the pyramids they had robbed. They agreed to reveal all the names of the gang to their master, the High Priest of Amen, but when they were brought before him, only three of the eight were left. The judges requested of the High Priest to apprehend the fugitives.

The mother of Amenpenofer was exiled to Nubia and the builder himself rearrested a few months later and brought to court. Not just common people committed tomb robberies. Times were difficult during the late Ramesside period. The administration was in disarray and salaries rarely paid on time, if at all. Social upheaval and civil war brought with them sharp price rises. It is no wonder that scribes and priests took part as well in this "redistribution of wealth". One such gang included a priest named Pen-un-heb, and four Holy Fathers of the God, Meri and his son Peisem, Semdi and Pehru. They began by stealing the golden necklace of a statue of Osiremire Sotepenre, which after melting left them with four deben and six kit of gold. The old Meri divided the loot among them. Another gang of priests, scribes and herdsmen robbed the House of Gold of Osiremire Sotepenre. The priest Kaw-karui and four of his colleagues occasionally removed some gold with which they bought grain in town. A herdsman after threatening the priests, received a bull they had bought for five kit (about 45 grammes) of gold. A scribe, Seti-mose, who overheard their quarrel, blackmailed them and extorted four and a half kit of gold. While the sources are very eloquent when the state and its institutions as incorporations of Maat were the victims of criminal behaviour, much less is known about what happened if the injured party was a private person. Homicides must have been committed, yet written evidence concerning or even literary mention of murder are rare. Paneb, a foreman at Deir el Medina, is described as having killed someone, and the possibly fictional Pediese was attacked and left for dead and members of his family were murdered. But these excesses of violence do not appear to have been prosecuted let alone punished by the state, even though the authorities were informed. It has been suggested that 'private' homicides were dealt with by feuds, though there is even less evidence for that than for the murders themselves.

Armed with staffs, policemen guarded public places, at times making use of dogs or, probably more rarely, of trained monkeys. Necropoles had their own guards who were supposed to prevent tomb robberies. There were periods of time when they were spectacularly unsuccessful at doing their job. The prevention of crime and apprehension of criminals was the duty of local officials and police forces. They opened investigations following complaints by citizens:


To Polemon, epistates of Kerkeosiris, from Tapentos daughter of Horos, of the same village. An attack was made upon my dwelling by Arsinoe and her son Phatres, who went off with the contract relating to my house and other business documents. Therefore I am seriously ill, being in want of the necessaries of life and bodily ...(edited) They collected clues against suspects by interrogating them and their acquaintances, checking public records, organizing reenactments and applying physical coercion, generally in the form of beatings.

Then, as is still the fact today, most crime was of the petty variety, but in a society where most people lived much closer to the edge of abject poverty, even small thefts might be a serious matter. A memorandum describes such a robbery:

perpetrated by the workmen of Nakhu-m-Maut. They went into my house, stole two large loaves and three cakes, spilt my oil, opened my bin containing the corn, stole Northern dehu-corn. They went to the house in the wharf, stole half the killesteis (a kind of acid bread) yesterday [baked], spilt the oil. In the third month of the Shemu-season, the 12th day, during the crown feast of king Amen-hotep, l.h.s., they went to the granary, stole three great loaves, eight sabu-cakes of Rohusu berries ..... They drew a bottle of beer which was [cooling] in water, while I was staying in my father's room. My Lord, let whatsoever has been stolen be given back to me.(edited) Better connected people or those, whose pleas had been ignored by the local authorities, might petition regional officials or even the king himself:


To King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, his sister, the mother-loving gods, greeting. From Petesouchos son of Petos, Crown cultivator from the village of Oxyrhyncha in the division of Polemon in the Arsinoite nome. I live in Kerkeosiris in the said nome, and there belongs to me in the aforesaid village of Oxyrhyncha a house inherited from my father, possessed by him for the period of his lifetime and by myself after his decease up to the present time with no dispute. But Stratonike daughter of Ptolemaios, an inhabitant of Krokodilonpolis in the aforementioned nome, mischievously wishing to practise extortion on me, coming with other persons against the aforesaid house, forces her way in before any judgement has been given and ... in the village about ... the house, coming in and laying claim to it wrongfully. I therefore pray you, mighty gods, if you see fit, to send my petition to Menekrates, archisomatophylax (archbodyguard) and strategos (commander), so that he may order Stratonike not to force her ways into the house, but, if she thinks she has a grievance, to get redress from me in the proper manner. If this is done, I shall have received succour. Farewell.(edited) After an interrogation suspects whose guilt was apparent were either held until trial or ordered by the police to make amends. The first recorded tomb robberies occurred in the 14th year of the reign of Ramses IX. The governor of the necropolis, the prince of Kher, who had under his command the mejeyiw (Medjay) and a large body guard did nothing to prevent the looting. Peser, prince of the city, wrote a memorandum concerning this scandal to the committee of high officials. Pew-re, prince of Kher, was forced to appoint a commission of inquiry (qnb.t aA.t, a great court), which concluded that not all of Peser's claims were founded; the grave of Amenhotep I which had been reported defiled, was still intact. Other royal tombs, such as Sobekmesef's, had been robbed. In others attempts had been made to break in but failed. The conditions in the graveyard of non-royal persons were much worse. All the tombs had been broken into, the sarcophagi smashed and anything of value stolen. A few suspects were arrested and the protocols of their interrogation by Pew-re sent on to the commission. The members of the commission were unhappy with these results, as they exposed their own dereliction of duty, and more important to them than catching the criminals, was getting rid of the whistle-blower, Peser, who threatened to notify the pharaoh himself and have them arrested. They set up a trap by sending him Bekheru, a metal smith, who confessed wrongly to having robbed the Residences of the Rulers. The prince of Kher started an investigation following Peser's accusation of Bekheru, which proved the utter groundlessness of Peser's charges. The commission published its conclusions:

We have investigated the places which according to the prince of the town were defiled by the workers of the House of Osiremire-Myamun. We have found them whole, untouched by any hand. We conclude and uphold that all the charges are lies. They discharged the workers who belonged to the Chief Prophet of Amen-Re Sonter, one of Peser's main suspects, and charged Peser himself with fraud.


As the robberies went on unabated another commission was set up by Ramses IX, which consisted of the vizier, the royal majordomo, the treasurer, two canopy carriers, heralds and scribes. They interrogated the herdsman Bukhef, who revealed the names of six accomplices after some talking to. This did not satisfy the commission who had him flogged. When he answered their question as to how they had entered the grave by claiming that it had been broken into previously, he was beaten again until he promised to disclose all. Another thirteen people were mentioned, who were then arrested and interrogated. Reliefs show prisoners tied to a stake and being flogged. There were three kinds of beatings used to achieve a confession, (bejena, nejena and menini). It was generally the back that was beaten, but legs and arms were flogged as well. Another means of persuasion was the threat to be exiled to Nubia, having body parts amputated or being tortured on the wood. ometimes investigations did not lead to a proper trial in court, but to liquidation. During the 21st dynasty General Piankh sent an order to his agent Payshuuben:

I've taken note of all matters you wrote about. As for the mention you made of this matter of these two policeman saying, 'They spoke these charges,' join up with Nodjme and the scribe Tjaroy as well and send word and have these two policemen brought to my house and get to the bottom of their charges in short order and kill [them] and throw them [into] the water by night -- but don't let anybody in this land find out about them!

Justice, represented by Maat, the goddess of the World Order, lay with the gods and was immanent and retributive, both in the here-after as in this world. The pharaohs as living gods were the source and executors of justice. The viziers, substituting the kings as chief justices, wore the title of Priest of Maat, Hm-nTr-MAa.t, as did many other high officials. On the basis of some Late Period statues of high officials wearing necklaces with amulets of Maat and a passage in Diodorus' Historical Library, it has been suggested that pendants of the goddess of justice were a kind of a badge of office.

The administrative tools for achieving justice among humans were the laws and ordinances: Thou art Re, thy body is his body. There has been no ruler like thee, (for) thou art unique, like the son of Osiris, thou hast achieved the like of his designs Isis [hath not loved] a king since Re, except thee and her [son]; greater is that which thou hast done than that which he did when he ruled after Osiris. The laws of the land proceed according to his position..... Amenkhau, a commoner, expressed this principle in less exalted words in his testament, though this may have been based not on a specific pharaonic decree but on customary law, identified with Maat and the will of Pharaoh: For Pharaoh has said: "Each one should do as he wishes with his property." Some of these powers, judicial and even occasionally legislative, the pharaohs delegated to their representatives, their viziers and judges, who exercised them as part of their official administrative functions.

Apparently, Egyptian law was common law, based on custom and judicial precedent. Enacting new laws or changing old ones was part of the pharaoh's prerogatives. These royal decrees were seemingly often the king's responses to appeals by persons or institutions with grievances. The legal codes such as the Demotic Legal Code of Hermopolis West were guidelines rather than law compilations in the modern sense. They were collated by priests and kept in their archives. Statute books, rolls of leather, which were sometimes used for official documents rather than the less enduring papyrus, were seemingly in daily use:(edited) As for every act of this official (i.e. Rekhmire), the vizier while hearing in the hall of the vizier, he shall sit upon a chair, with a rug upon the floor, and a dais upon it, a cushion under his back, a cushion under his feet, a ... upon it, and a baton at his hand; the 40 skins [15] shall be open before him. In the same inscriptions the vizier was also exhorted to hear every petitioner according to this law which is in his hand.

Under the Ptolemies a second, Greek legal tradition was introduced and cases were decided according to the language in which they were heard. Women, favoured by Egyptian traditions which gave them more rights and freedom than the restrictive Greek customs, did better under the Demotic than the Greek laws. Ptolemy II integrated a Greek translation of the Jewish Torah into the official code, which was applicable for Jewish subjects.

During the Old Kingdom there were seemingly no professional judges. Cases were tried before tribunals of scribes and priests appointed for the purpose, with high officials - sometimes one or even both of the viziers [1] - presiding. Throughout pharaonic history, the justice system remained part of the executive; and many official positions had executive and judicial aspects. His majesty appointed me Judge over Hierakonpolis. ... because his heart was more filled with me than with any other of his servants. I listened to matters, being alone with the Chief-judge, the vizier, concerning every secret and [every case] connected with the name of the king, with the royal harem and the 6 great houses. The title of judge was of great significance to its holder. In the tomb of Mehu, a fifth dynasty judge, inscriptions describe him as zAb (judge), Priest of Maat, the Goddess of Truth, Eldest One of the Hall and Secretary of the Secret Decisions of the Great Judgment Court. Judging became a profession [21] and similar to other professions in Egypt, administering the law ran in families. The father was followed by the son unless something extraordinary happened. The supervisor of the ruler's table, Sebek, deceased. His son, the judge Nemu. His son, the judge [Kirdis]. His wife, the king's ornament Yusni. His wife Nubyiti. (his) daughter Nubenib. His brother, the judge Khnummose. His son, the judge Bebiseneb. His son, the judge Khnum. His son, the judge Merikhnum. His son, the judge Hor. Judges, like other officials, could only be impartial if they were not economically dependent on anyone. It was a king's duty to see to it that they did not become corruptible:

Make your magnates great, that they may execute your laws; one who is rich in his house will not be one-sided, for he who does not lack is an owner of property; a poor man does not speak truly, and one who says, "Would that I had," is not straightforward; he is one-sided toward the possessor of rewards. The road to some kind of justice was sometimes long and arduous. Bribery or flattery might sway a judge and replace sound legal argumentation. The fictive Tale of the Eloquent Peasant describes how Hunanup, a peasant, brought a complaint against Djehuti-nekht . His case was a bit weak as he had no witnesses, so he sought to ingratiate himself with the judge Meruitensi:

Chief steward, my lord, you are greatest of the great, you are guide of all that which is not and which is. When you embark on the sea of truth, that you may go sailing upon it, then shall not the.........strip away your sail, then your ship shall not remain fast, then shall no misfortune happen to your mast then shall your spars not be broken, then shall you not be stranded---if you run fast aground, the waves shall not break upon you, then you shall not taste the impurities of the river, then you shall not behold the face of fear, the shy fish shall come to you, and you shall capture the fat birds. For you are the father of the orphan, the husband of the widow, the brother of the desolate, the garment of the motherless. Let me place your name in this land higher than all good laws: you guide without avarice, you great one free from meanness, who destroys deceit, who creates truthfulness. Throw the evil to the ground. I will speak hear me. Do justice, O you praised one, whom the praised ones praise. Remove my oppression: behold, I have a heavy weight to carry; behold, I am troubled of soul; examine me, I am in sorrow. Eight times he repeated his obsequious pleas before judgment was given in his favour or rather

His majesty said, "Pass sentence yourself my beloved son!"

which, as it seems, Hunanup did, helping himself to part of Djehuti-nekht's estate.

Getting justice was often difficult, and it was rarely cheap. There were attempts to bring relief to those who could barely help themselves, but the expenses seem to have weighed heavily on some:

Amun, lend your ear to the lonely in court, He is poor, he is not rich; For the court extorts from him: "Silver and gold for the clerks, Clothes for the attendants!" Might Amun appear as the vizier, To let the poor go free; Might the poor appear as the justified, And want surpass wealth! The king, or in the ordinary run of life his stand-in, the vizier, was at the top of the judicial hierarchy. There were courts at different levels; the highest were the Six Great Houses with the vizier carrying the title of Chief of the Six Great Houses

.... chief of the six courts of justice, judging the people and the inhabitants, and hearing causes; to whom the great come bowing down, and the whole land, prone upon the belly .... By the New Kingdom these Six Great Houses whose composition changed but little, had been replaced by new courts whose members changed frequently, and Chief of the Six Courts was little more than an empty title.

The Tribunal of Thirty, the mabA.yt, was on the one hand a court in the afterworld created by Re,

Then Re spoke to the One Who was in his Time (i.e. the one in charge): "Receive the spear, the inheritance of mankind!" That was the coming into being of the Court of Thirty by the One Who was in his Time. Judges and officials, even the lowliest among them, commanded a great deal of respect from ordinary Egyptians, as it was in their power to decide their fate, be it a beating or the confiscation of their property.

While many judges tried to act according to moral precepts

Forget not to judge justice. It is an abomination of the god to show partiality. This is the teaching. Therefore, do you accordingly. Look upon him who is known to you like him who is unknown to you; and him who is near the king like him who is far from his house. Behold, a prince who does this, he shall endure here in this place. and most claimed to have

done what people will praise, what is right in the eyes of the gods. I gave bread to the hungry, I satisfied the possessionless soul. quite a few, above all during periods of civil unrest and uncertainty, were corrupt. Horemheb saw this clearly:

Know that they will not show mercy and be compassionate on the day they will judge the poor.


He was aware that the scribes and tax collectors of his day were oppressing the populace, robbing both them and the royal treasury. And when people appealed to the courts, these were often venal and bribed to acquit the guilty and condemn the innocent. Some of Horemheb's strict measures were aimed against these dishonest officials: The noses of convicted judges were to be cut off and they were to be sent to Tharu (Sile). Under Ramses III a similar fate befell two officials who had received the king's instructions and two officers who had probably been in charge of the gaol. They had associated with women accused of participating in the Harem Conspiracy making a beer-house, i.e. partying. The butler Pebes could not bear the shame of having nose and ears cut off and committed suicide. It seems that attempts were made during the reign of Seti to protect not only rich temples but also the poor as the partially extant story of the peasant Menet-hamlekh proves. From discoveries made at Deir el Medine we know that there were also workers' or citizens' courts similar to juries, where foremen, artisans, scribes and workers sat in judgment over their peers at least from the New Kingdom onwards. These kenbet (qnbt) generally dealt with minor offenses. In complicated cases where a decision could not be reached, oracles were appealed to.

The punishments these courts could impose ranged from fines to beatings and, perhaps worst from the standpoint of the offender, to the elimination of his name from the tombs he was working on. He thus lost his hope for eternal life which was dependent on the continued existence of his name.

The differences between the administration of civil and criminal law were significant. In criminal cases, where the state was the prosecutor, there seems to have been an initial presumption of guilt, and trials were conducted accordingly. Crimes against the state, the king, the gods, and against the person, such as murder and bodily harm, were prosecuted by the state, while victims of robbery, theft, and apparently sexual aggression had to bring their cases before the court themselves. The Egyptian obsession for keeping records was often useful against criminals. One could not own slaves without registering them with the authorities. The problem for the judge was to discover the source of the money. A resident of Thebes, Ari-Nofer was asked: What do you say about the silver your husband Penhesi brought home? To which she replied: I did not see it. The question How were the slaves bought that were with him? she answered with I did not see the silver with which he paid their price. When he was on the way, they were with him. She explained the source of the silver which Penhesi left with Sobekmesef by saying I acquired it with the barley during the year of the hyaenas, when there was a famine. And no wrong-doing on her part could be proved. Beatings, certainly of common criminals, were a tried and proven way for eliciting if not the truth then at least a confession.

Amenpenofer, a New Kingdom grave robber, was beaten until he admitted to having committed further robberies, among them in the tomb of the Third Prophet of the God with four associates previously unknown to the authorities. The threat of a beating or mutilation was sometimes hoped to prevent false witness

The tribunal of judges said to the woman Iry-nofret: 'Take the oath of the Lord with the words: "Should witnesses be brought up against me that any property belonged to the woman Bak-Mut within the silver which I gave for this servant and I concealed it, I shall be (liable) to 100 blows, while I am deprived of her." ' .... and they took the oath of the Lord as well as the oath of the god, with the words: 'We shall speak truthfully; we shall not speak falsely. Should we speak falsely, the servants shall be taken away from us.' The field laborer Pay-Kharu, son of Pesh-nemeh, was brought. He was examined by beating with the stick and his feet and hands were twisted. He was given the oath by the Ruler on pain of mutilation not to speak falsehood. Even witnesses not accused of any wrong-doing were at times beaten. Nesuamon, a priest, and Wenpehti, both sons of accused tomb robbers and at the time of the alleged crimes both children, were examined by beating with a rod and Wenpehti, who was merely a weaver, received a bastinado to his feet and hands. The confession was the base for a conviction. Circumstantial evidence, witnesses and torture were means for achieving this confession. When the accused despite everything refused to confess, he was sometimes given the opportunity to have a witness speak in his favour, or as happened more rarely, he was released. A man called Amenkhau who was accused of having committed robbery in the necropolis steadfastly refused to admit any guilt

I haven't seen anything. Whatever I've seen you have heard from my mouth.

He was found to be not guilty and was released.

Hori, a standard bearer and seemingly one of the judges at the Harem Conspiracy trials under Ramses III, was tried for having had connections with the accused. He was dismissed; punishment was not executed upon him and remained in office. In the records he continues to be given the epithet great criminal, but this seems merely to have been the equivalent of the modern "the accused". Judgments were based on written and oral evidence. Documents were generally composed by official scribes and the names of those who had witnessed the signing were appended. Witnesses gave testimony under oath.

Judges were expected to be impartial, be neither too severe nor too lenient: Beware of that which is said of the vizier Kheti. It is said that he discriminated against some of the people of his own kin in favor of strangers, for fear lest it should be said of him that he favored his kin dishonestly. When one of them appealed against the judgement which he thought to make him, he persisted in his discrimination. Now that is more than justice.(edited)

During the New Kingdom the priesthood arrogated to themselves some of the judicial powers belonging to the royal administration. This took the form of oracles with the statue of the god choosing between two alternative papyri, as in the case of a supervisor accused of embezzlement.

O Amon-Re, king of gods], my good lord; it is said that there are no matters which should be investigated in the case of Thutmose, triumphant, son of Sudiamon, triumphant, the major-domo

and

O Amon-Re, king of gods], my good lord; it is said that there are matters which should be investigated in the case of Thutmose, triumphant, son of Sudiamon, triumphant, the major-domo. The two papyri were placed in front of Amen's statue, which twice pointed out one of them, thus acquitting Thutmose, who was reinstated and given further honours. The choice of the god may have been made manifest by the statue recoiling a few steps if the answere was negative, or by advancing if affirmative. Other ways have been proposed based on the word used, hnn, interpreted as "inclining the head".

Typically the questions - or statements to be approved of - put to oracles were probably even more succinct. Ostraca have been found containing simple questions, many of which were personal rather than part of a judicial inquiry:

Are they true, those things? Will Seti be appointed priest? Is it him who has stolen this mat? Were they stolen by the people of the royal tomb? Decisions of one oracle could be appealed against before another. This led Ahmose II, who had been a rebellious lad in his youth to have doubts as to the competence of some gods' oracles at least:

... when finally he (i.e. Ahmose II) became king he did as follows: as many of the gods as had absolved him and pronounced him not to be a thief, to their temples he paid no regard, nor gave anything for the further adornment of them, nor even visited them to offer sacrifice, considering them to be worth nothing and to possess lying Oracles; but as many as had convicted him of being a thief, to these he paid very great regard, considering them to be truly gods, and to present Oracles which did not lie. During the Graeco-Roman period the god was generally addressed in a more elaborate way, including a salutation, the question, and a concluding supplication such as "Reveal it to me".

Unless it was a public holiday on which the god emerged from his temple, access to the oracle was difficult as laymen were not allowed inside the sanctuaries. In the late New Kingdom a petitioner was in a hurry to have an issue decided upon, but encountered obstacles when he tried to get himself heard:

When I was looking for you (the god) to tell you some affairs of mine, you happened to be concealed in your holy of holies, and there was nobody having access to it to send in to you. Now, as I was waiting, I encountered Hori, this scribe of the temple of Usermare-miamon (Ramesses III's mortuary temple), and he said to me, "I have access." So I am sending him in to you... The petitioner continued complaining that the business of others had been dealt with, but that it seemed to him as if the god were confined in the netherworld for a million years.

Unlike other nations in the Near East, Egypt appears not to have known trials by ordeal, in which the accused in a criminal trial or the contestants in a civil litigation underwent an ordeal (often held in a river), the winner of which was supposed to be favoured by the gods and therefore in the right. Some have claimed that the contests in the myth of the Contendings of Horus and Seth in which the two gods are pitted against each other in order to decide who should succeed Osiris as ruler over Egypt, point to the possibility of there having existed trials by ordeal in prehistoric times.

Just as their gods in the Afterlife were weighing the souls of the dead and meting out eternal justice, the Egyptians dealt quite pitilessly with criminals in this life too. Officials who had been remiss in their duties were removed. Teti was nomarch of Coptos and was informed against by the lay priests of Min

An evil thing is about to happen to this temple. Foes have been [stirred up] by, a curse to his name! Teti, son of Minhotep. Cause him to be deposed from the temple of my father, Min; cause [him to be] cast out of his temple office, from son to son, and heir to heir; [...] upon the earth; take away his bread, his [food], and his joints of meat. His name shall not be remembered in this temple, according as it is done toward one like him..... Officials who might plead for leniency for Teti were threatened with the impounding of their own belongings. Other crimes were punished with restitution of stolen property, fines, confiscation, imprisonment, forced labour, beatings, mutilation, banishment, or death.

List of property stolen by the servant of the charioteer Pakhary. 1 wash-basin of bronze amounting to 20 deben, making a penalty of 40 deben ; 1 vessel of bronze amounting to 6 deben, making a penalty of 18 deben ; 1 spittoon of bronze amounting to 6 deben, making a penalty of 18 deben ; 1 vessel of bronze amounting to 3 1/2 deben, making a penalty of 10 1/2 deben ; 1 vessel of bronze amounting to 1 deben, making a penalty of 3 deben ; 2 garments of fine Upper Egyptian linen of first quality, making a penalty of 6; 2 garments of fine Upper Egyptian linen, making a penalty of 6; 1 shirt of fine Upper Egyptian linen, cast off, making a penalty of 3; 17 hunks of yarn, making a penalty of 51; 1 ... making a penalty of 3. The peace treaty between Ramses II and the Hittite king Hattusili III specifically protected extradited persons from some punishments: let no injury be done to his eyes, to his ears, to his mouth, nor to his feet. It is even possible that relatives were at times held responsible for the deeds of an individual; the same treaty forbids any reprisals against family members: Let not his house be injured, nor his wives, nor his children.

The harsher punishments were only meted out by the vizier or the king himself. In a tale about magic Khufu, who had heard that someone called Djedi knew how to rejoin a severed head

... said, "Let a criminal who is in gaol be brought to me and his sentence be executed!"

in order to satisfy his curiosity. If Djedi could not rejoin the head, no harm would have been done, as the criminal's sentence had been executed.(edited) In his Great Edict Horemheb laid down some severe penalties in an attempt to curb official corruption. Anybody guilty of preventing the free traffic on the Nile for instance was to have his nose cut off and be exiled to Tharu, called Rhinocolura by the Greeks for this reason, a town in the Sinai desert on the shores of the Mediterranean. The theft of hides was punishable by 100 blows and five open wounds. This was also the penalty for military men guilty of extortion from the common people. Corrupt magistrates were guilty of a great crime of death.

Seti I tried to prevent officials from requesting illegal corvée work from the staff at his temple at Abydos and confiscating the trading goods from Nubia carried on the Nile. They were to be given 100 lashes, had to return the stolen goods and pay fines worth a hundred times the amount of their theft. Disfigurement, like the cutting off of ears, and enslavement were also imposed.


The death penalty was imposed for crimes against the state, i.e. the king and the divine order he stood for; the conspirators against Ramses III were consequently dealt with harshly. Some were executed, others–according to the records–were forced to commit suicide, and some were mutilated. And they set him (Paibekkamen, the major-domo) in the presence of the great officials of the place of examination and they examined his crimes and found that he had committed them. And his crimes took hold of him, and the officials who examined him caused his punishment to cleave to him. Executions took the form of impalement, giving on top of the stake, a slow and painful death. It seems that in normal times the pharaoh was informed of death, and possibly also of lesser, sentences, as Ramses III gave specific orders to the court trying the conspirators to execute punishments without referring to him.

Death sentences were rare in Egypt compared with other ancient societies. For the killing of another person the death penalty was deemed appropriate, but at times it was apparently punished by a lesser sentence. Seemingly no distinction was made between premeditated murder and unpremeditated manslaughter.

Then the High Priest of Amon, Menkheperre triumphant, went to the great god, saying: "As for any person, of whom they shall report before thee, saying, 'A slayer of living people [...] (is he);' thou shalt destroy him, thou shalt slay him." Then the great god nodded exceedingly, exceedingly. Tax evasion was of serious concern to the authorities as were attempts to dodge the compulsory corvée work, on which the proper flow of the Nile waters and the upkeep of the temples and palaces depended.

It was Amasis too who established the law that every year each one of the Egyptians should declare to the ruler of his district, from what source he got his livelihood, and if any man did not do this or did not make declaration of an honest way of living, he should be punished with death. Burning, which may have been used to punish the most serious offences such as crimes against state and temple institutions, would have had implications for the eternal life of the criminal. Without a body the deceased could not pass the tests before him and achieve eternal life. Similarly, impalement may have bound ba and shadow of the deceased to the ground of execution, making them unable to follow the body, when it was disposed of.


Sometimes posthumous punishment was meted out as in the case of King Teti's bodyguards who, according to Manetho, assassinated the pharaoh. Grave inscriptions and names were erased, in some representations the noses and feet were destroyed, and Teti's chief armourer was removed from his tomb and replaced by a female bodyguard. The loss of his grave might befall a convicted criminal. According to the The Loyalist Instructions while those who were in the king's good graces would be well provided spirits, there would be no tomb for anyone who rebels against His Majesty, and his corpse shall be cast to the waters. In a 5th dynasty relief at Abusir the feet and arms of the bearers of offerings were hacked out, probably to prevent them from carrying sustenance to the deceased.


Pentawer, the son of Ramses III, who was involved in a harem conspiracy was, according to Judicial Turin Papyrus, forced to take his own life. Scientists think that they have identified his corpse and do not exclude the possibility that he was strangled. His corpse was not mummified but simply wrapped in a goatskin, which would have caused him all sorts of problems in the after life. Retribution wasn't harsh - or considered to be so - all the time. According to Herodotus Shabaka's rule was just and the punishments he imposed measured

The Ethiopian was king over Egypt for fifty years, during which he performed deeds as follows:--whenever any man of the Egyptians committed any transgression, he would never put him to death, but he gave sentence upon each man according to the greatness of the wrong-doing, appointing them to work at throwing up an embankment before that city from whence each man came of those who committed wrong.

Not many examples of royal clemency during the early periods of Egyptian history have come down to us, and the little evidence we have is mostly indirect or literary: Sinuhe received a pardon and was allowed to return home from exile. When he reached the Horus Road, a region on the eastern border, he was picked up by a troop of soldiers who took him by ship to Itjtawy. Sinuhe prostrated himself in front of his king, who made a remark about Sinuhe's changed appearance attributing it to his having lived among Asiatics. After songs of praise had been sung invoking the Golden One, Goddess of Joy, the plea was uttered that Sinuhe might be forgiven as he had committed his deed without forethought. Sinuhe left the palace a free man, and lived in the house the king had given him.

Nebkheperure-Intef, one of the ephemeral Second Intermediate Period kings, vented his wrath against the nomarch Teti accused of plotting against him in his Coptos Decree As for any king or any ruler, who shall be merciful to him, he shall not receive the white crown, he shall not wear the red crown, he shall not sit upon the Horus throne of the living, the two patron goddesses shall not be gracious to him as their beloved. He also threatened anybody appealing for mercy for Teti with dire consequences. Given the vindictiveness of this inscription one wonders whether Teti managed to escape with his life. But the verbal virulence may have been caused by the fear that a successor or competitor might be quite likely to pardon the rebel.

In the early Macedonian-Greek period a certain Psenamunis was sentenced to death and Absenhy writes to Kolanthion and begs him to appeal to the oracle of Amen at Ptolemais on his behalf:

Absenhy (sends) greetings to Kolanthion there before Pshai-hu, the Agathos Daimon (protective deity) of Ptolemais. Leon sends many greetings to you. Psenamunis, son of Tryphon, is incarcerated in prison. For many days he has been beaten on hands and feet. They say: "Today or tomorrow they will come to kill him." We have not ascertained if he is already dead or if he is still alive. Perform the cult service and ask a question concerning him before (the oracle of) Amen, as follows: "Will he escape the circumstances he is in? Will they be far from him (i.e. will he be pardoned)?" And ask (furthermore) as follows: "All the adverse circumstances he is in, is it you (i.e. Amen) who has something to reproach him?" Also question him (Amen) in order to find out, as follows: "Will he (Psenamunis) live or die in prison where he is?" Take care to let us know about the oracle's answers concerning him as fast as possible, for his life's breath is in danger. There may have been a general amnesty on the occasion of the accession to the throne of a pharaoh as the Ptolemaic Instruction of Ankhsheshonq or a paean to Ramses IV seem to suggest:

Those who hungered are sated and glad Those who thirsted are filled with drink Those who were naked are clad in the finest linen Those who were dirty shine Those who were in captivity are freed Those who were in fetters rejoice though, while Those who fled have returned to their cities are mentioned, there is no reference to those sent into exile.

Among the measures announced on the Rosetta Stone by Ptolemy V Epiphanes, c.210-180 BCE, was a decree freeing some prisoners ... those who were in prison and those who were under accusation for a long time, he has freed of the charges against them ... and towards the end of his reign Ptolemy VIII decreed: King Ptolemaios and Queen Kleopatra the sister and Queen Kleopatra the wife proclaim an amnesty to all their subjects for errors, crimes, accusations, condemnations and charges of all kinds up to the 9th of Pharmouthi of the 52nd year, except to persons guilty of wilful murder or sacrilege. The priesthood, again using the oracle, also gave pardons to offenders. When the statue of Amen was asked whether the banishment to a desert oasis of some convicts should be shortened, it nodded in agreement. By way of the oracle new laws could be enacted, thus banishment was abolished as a punishment under the 21st dynasty:

Then he (i.e. the High Priest of Amen, Menkheperre) went again to the great god, saying: "O my good lord, thou shalt make a great decree in thy name, that no people of the land shall be [banished] to the distant region of the oasis, nor ..... from this day on." Then the god nodded exceedingly. He spake again, saying: Thou shalt say it shall be made into a decree upon a stela ... in thy [..], abiding and fixed forever.

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