Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

Page: 95

Greatly cheered by this dream, Setnau called upon those of the army who would follow him, and they camped at Peluce, a main approach into Egypt. Not only soldiers followed him, but merchants, artisans, and men of the street.

[Pg 220]

Now when the Assyrians besieged the town, as they lay encamped about the field rats during the night gnawed and devoured all the quivers, bows, and fittings of shields of the invaders, so that, on the morrow, when they would have given battle, behold! they were weaponless. Thus disarmed, many of the hosts fled and many perished.

And now in the temple of Vulcan stands a stone image of the god, bearing in his hand the figure of a rat. And the legend inscribed thereon runs, "Who beholds me beholds God."

The Peasant and the Workman

A tale of the Ninth Dynasty, which from the number of copies extant would seem to have been very popular, relates how a peasant succeeded in obtaining justice after he had been robbed. Justice was not very easily obtained in Egypt in those times, for it seems to have been requisite that a peasant should attract the judge's attention by some special means, if his case were to be heard at all. The story runs thus:

In the Salt Country there dwelt a sekhti (peasant) with his family. He made his living by trading with Henenseten in salt, natron, rushes, and the other products of his country, and as he journeyed thither he had to pass through the lands of the house of Fefa. Now there dwelt by the canal a man named Tehuti-nekht, the son of Asri, a serf to the High Steward Meruitensa. Tehuti-nekht had so far encroached on the path—for roads and paths were not protected by law in Egypt as in other countries—that there was but a narrow strip left, with the canal on one side and a cornfield on the other. When Tehuti-nekht saw the sekhti approaching with his burdened asses, his evil heart coveted the beasts and the goods they[Pg 221] bore, and he called to the gods to open a way for him to steal the possessions of the sekhti.

This was the plan he conceived. "I will take," said he, "a shawl, and will spread it upon the path. If the sekhti drives his asses over it—and there is no other way—then I shall easily pick a quarrel with him." He had no sooner thought of the project than it was carried into effect. A servant, at Tehuti-nekht's bidding, fetched a shawl and spread it over the path so that one end was in the water, the other among the corn.

When the sekhti drew nigh he drove his asses over the shawl. He had no alternative.

"Hold!" cried Tehuti-nekht with well-simulated wrath, "surely you do not intend to drive your beasts over my clothes!"

"I will try to avoid them," responded the good-natured peasant, and he caused the rest of his asses to pass higher up, among the corn.