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The story of Wedjahor-Resne


The naophoros of Wedjahor-Resne. Musei Vaticani, Roma (Italy). Photo Marco Prins.
The naophoros of Wedjahor-Resne (Musei Vaticani)
The following Egyptian inscription was written over a naophoros-statue, i.e., a statue representing a man carrying ('phoros') a small shrine ('naos') with an image of a god. In this case, the god can be identified with Osiris, the ruler of the Underworld. The text commemorates all pious acts of the carrier, an important courtier named Wedjahor-Resne or Udjahor-Resnet. The statue, which is about 70 centimeters high, was brought to Italy by the Roman emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138), who kept it in his villa at Tivoli. Currently, it is displayed in the Egyptian department of the Vatican Museums.

Wedjahor-Resne was not only the pharaoh's personal physician, but was also responsible for the royal navy. In 526 BCE, king Amasis died and was succeeded by his son Psammetichus III. During the transitional period, the Persian king Cambyses attacked Egypt and defeated his unprepared enemies near the Pelusian branch of the Nile.

It is probable that Wedjahor-Resne defected to the Persians at some stage before or during this war, because nothing is known about naval operations, although the Egyptians owned a large navy. The Greek historian Ctesias of Cnidus, who is not known for his reliability but may for once have had access to reliable information, explicitly mentions a traitor, although his name is Combaphis (Persica, §10). It should be noted that an ally of Egypt, the Greek leader Polycrates of Samos, allowed himself to be bribed away.

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Cartouche of Cambyses.
Mesuti-Ra Cambyses

When Cambyses had taken the Egyptian capital Memphis, he was recognized as the new pharaoh. Wedjahor-Resne was reinstated in almost all his former functions and helped Cambyses behave like a true Egyptian king. For example, he persuaded Cambyses to direct the Persian garrison in the holy city of Sais to another camp, making sure that the ancient sanctuary of Neit, the mother of the supreme god Ra, and the shrine of Osiris were purified. Wedjahor-Resne also composed Cambyses' new royal name, Mesuti-Ra ('born of Ra').

Cambyses left Egypt in the spring of 522, taking Wedjahor-Resne with him as his physician. Unfortunately, the king had an accident on his way back, and his doctor was unable to cure him. After Cambyses' death and a violent civil war (described in the Behistun Inscription), Darius became king. The new ruler allowed Wedjahor-Resne to return home and ordered him to supervise the medical schools -the 'houses of life'- that had been destroyed (by Cambyses?). Since the text does not mention Darius' visit to Egypt in 519/518, it is likely that the naophoros-statue was made soon after Wedjahor-Resne's return.

His tomb has been discovered in 1995 at Abusir. Except for two damaged sarcophagi, little was found in the burial chamber. Yet, it seems that the owner of the tomb died in c.515.

It is interesting to note that in c.340 BCE, Wedjahor-Resne seems to have been venerated as a more or less holy person in Memphis.


Map of Egypt at the end of the sixth century BCE. Design Jona Lendering. Lower Egypt

Translation

  1. Offering by the king to [the god] Osiris-Hemag: thousands of bread and beer, beef and birds and all other things good and pure, for the ka of a man honored with the gods of the province of Sais, the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne.
  2. Offering by the king to Osiris, who lives in Khet-Bjet: a funeral offering of bread and beer, beef and birds, alabaster vases and garments, incense and perfumes and all other good things, for the ka of a man honored by the gods of the province of Sais, the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne.
  3. Oh Osiris, Lord of Eternity! The chief physician
  4. Wedjahor-Resne keeps you in his arms to
  5. protect you. May your ka order that people do all kinds of useful things to him
  6. because he stands guard behind your eternal shrine.
  7. This man honored with the great [goddess] Neit, the mother of the god [Re], and with the gods of Sais, the prince, the royal chancellor, the unique companion,
  8. the one truly known and loved by the king, the scribe, the inspector of the scribes of the dedet-court, the first among the great scribes of the prison, the director of the palace,
  9. the admiral of the royal navy of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Khnemibre [Amasis], the admiral of the royal navy of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
  10. Ankhkaenre [Psammetichus III], Wedjahor-Resne, son of the director of the castles, khrjep-priest, renep-priest, khepetwedet-priest, prophet of Neit, who is the head of the province of Sais Peftuôneit,
  11. says: 'The great king of all foreign countries Cambyses came to Egypt, taking the foreigners of every foreign country with him. When he had taken possession of the entire country,
  12. they settled themselves down therein, and he was made great sovereign of Egypt and great king of all foreign countries. His Majesty appointed me his chief physician
  13. and caused me to stay with him in my quality of companion and director of the palace, and ordered me to compose his titulary, his name as king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Mesuti-Ra [born of Ra]. And I made sure that His Majesty knew of the greatness of Sais,
  14. which is the seat of the great Neit, the mother who brought forth Re, and who unveiled birth when birth did not exist. [And I made sure that His Majesty knew] the significance of the temple of Neit, which is the sky in all its dispositions, and knew the greatness of the castles of the Red Crown
  15. and all the gods and goddesses who live there, and knew significance of the greatness of Khet-Bjet, which is the dwelling of the sovereign, the lord of heaven [Osiris], and knew the greatness of the Resenet and the Mekhnet, of the dwelling of Re and the dwelling of Atum, which are the mysteries of all gods.'
  16. The man honored with his town's god [Osiris] and all other gods, the prince, the royal chancellor, the unique companion, the one truly known and loved by the king,
  17. the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, son of Atemirtis, says: 'I made a petition
  18. to His Majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Cambyses concerning the many foreigners billeted on the temple of Neit
  19. that they should be driven thence, so that the temple of Neit was restored to its former greatness. And His Majesty ordered that all the foreigners
  20. who were living in the premises of Neit should be driven out, that all their houses and all their garbage should be thrown out of the temple, and that
  21. all their baggage should be carried away from its premises, His Majesty ordered the purification of the temple of Neit and its restoration to the people
  22. [lacuna] and the schedule of the priests. His Majesty ordered to restitute the revenues of the wakf-estate to the great Neit, the mother of the god, and to the gods of Sais. His Majesty ordered
  23. to conduct all their festivities and all their processions as they had always been. His Majesty ordered these things because I had informed him about the greatness of Sais, which is the town where all gods have placed their eternal thrones.'
  24. The man honored with the gods of Sais,
  25. the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, says: 'The king of Upper and Lower Egypt Cambyses came to Sais. His Majesty came to the temple of Neit in person. Like all kings before, he prostrated himself before Her Majesty [Neit]. Like all good kings, he made a large sacrifice
  26. of all good things to the great Neit, mother of the god, and to all great gods of Sais. His Majesty did this because I had informed His Majesty about the greatness of Her Majesty,
  27. who is the mother of Re himself.'
  28. The man honored with Osiris-Hemag,
  29. the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, says: 'His Majesty did all useful things in the temple of Neit. Like all kings before him, he established libations to the lord of eternity in the interior of the temple of Neit.
  30. His Majesty did this because I had informed His Majesty about all useful things which had been done in the temple by all kings because of the greatness of this temple, which is the eternal dwelling of all gods.'
  31. The man honored with the gods of the province Sais, the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, says: 'I restored the revenues of the wakf-estate of the great Neit, the mother of the god,
  32. for eternity, as per His Majesty's orders. I established [new and] pious funds for Neit, the mistress of Sais, like a servant
  33. excelling his master does. I am the benefactor of my city: I have saved its inhabitants from the very large troubles
  34. which had come over the whole country and which had not yet existed before in this country. I defended the meek
  35. against the powerful; I saved those who were afraid after an accident had happened to them; I gave them all useful things
  36. when they were unable to take care of themselves.'
  37. The man honored with his town's god, the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, says: 'I am honored by my father, praised by my mother,
  38. trusted by my brothers. As per His Majesty's orders, I established them in the function of prophet and gave them a fief
  39. for eternity. I made a fine tomb for those who had no tomb. I nourished all their children. I made their houses strong. I did
  40. all useful things for them, like a father does for his children, when trouble came over
  41. this province, when very large troubles came
  42. over the country as a whole.'
  43. The prince, the royal chancellor, the unique companion, the prophet of the one who lives with them, the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, son of Atemirtis, says: 'His Majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Darius (may he live forever!) sent me back to Egypt, while His Majesty was in Elam, having become great king of all foreign countries and great sovereign of Egypt, ordering me to restore the Houses of Life
  44. and the [lacuna] after they had been ruined. The foreigners carried me from country to country until we reached Egypt, as per orders of the lord of both countries [Upper and Lower Egypt]. I did what His Majesty had ordered. I provided the [Houses of Life] with students, all sons of fine people; there were no sons of  common men. I placed them under the direction of all teachers
  45. [lacuna] all their works. His Majesty ordered to provide them with all necessary means to ensure that they could do their work. [Consequently], I gave them all they needed and all the scribes' accessories, as it had always been. His Majesty did this, because he knew how useful this art can be to survive illness and to ensure that the names of the gods, their temples, the revenues of their wakf-estates and their rituals are remembered for eternity.'
  46. The chief physician Wedjahor-Resne, says: 'I was honored by all my masters for all my life. They gave me golden ornaments and all kinds of useful things.'
  47. The man who was honored with Neit, says: 'Oh great gods of Sais,
  48. remember all merituous actions done by the chief physician Wedjahor-Resne. Ensure that all kinds of useful things are done for him and ensure that his good reputation will remain unshattered in this country for ever.'
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2001
Revision: 20 January 2007
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