Monday, October 29, 2012


 I am reading a book on ancient Egypt that I found last week when I came across this interesting little piece on the employment of name and title for the Pharaoh. Although it doesn't answer all of our questions, it does illustrate a few interesting things and I hope that it'll make a bit of sense to those of you that are researching the importance of the name, the prenomen, the nomen, and the title as it's employed by the so-called elites for themselves, as well as for us.

“The word Pharaoh is derived from the two words per aa, Great House. In the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty the phrase was employed for the first time as an honorific manner of referring to the king himself, just as the Sultan of Turkey was called the Sublime Porte (Great Door) or the medieval Emperor of China was called the Grand Khan (Great Palace). For superstitious reasons it was not desirable to use the name of so powerful a person in a direct fashion: a polite circumlocution was preferred. In actual fact Pharaoh bore not but five ‘great names,’ which he assumed on the day of his accession. The list of names and titles, known as titular, followed an invariable sequence. Suitably enough, it began with the Horus name. This name, by which the king was commonly known in early dynastic, consisted of the particular personification of Horus which the king chose for his personal use on earth. This name was often enclosed in a rectangular frame representing a primitive form of the royal palace with a crowned falcon perched on tp. After the Horus name came the Nebty or Two Ladies name, the two ladies in question being the vulture goddess Nekhebet of Upper Egypt and the cobra goddess Buto of Lower Egypt. The title was an ancient one, perhaps assumed by the founder of the First Dynasty to signify that the Two Lands were united in his person. This third name was the Golden Horus name, the significance of which is imperfectly understood. On the Rosetta Stone, dating from the Late Period, the Greek scribe employed the phrase ‘Horus superior to his foes’ to translate the Egyptian title. In the early period the monogram may have symbolized more particularly the victory of Horus over Seth, or even his reconciliation with Seth. Between the Golden Horus name and the fourth name stood a title which reads ‘He who belongs to the Sedge and the Bee’, symbols respectively of Upper and Lower Egypt. The title is thus translated ‘King of Upper and Lower Egypt.’ The fourth name was the prenomen, the king’s principal name, employed upon his monuments and in his documents. From the time of Cheops onwards, with a few Old Kingdom exceptions, it was compounded with the name of the god Ra. Finally there came the namen, preceded by the epithet ‘Son of Ra.’ The nomen usually consisted of the family name of the dynasty or the personal name of the king before his accession to the throne. The prenomen and nomen were enclosed in separate cartouches. “Cartouche’ is the French word for a cartridge, which in its elongated form the Egyptian object resembles. The actual Egyptian words means ‘circle,’ and under the First Dynasty the cartouche was simply the king’s name inscribed within a circular clay seal. Some authorities prefer to describe it as a double thickness of rope with the ends tied together. There may be the symbolic suggestion that the Pharaoah whose name was inside the cartouche governed all that was ‘encircled by the sun,’ the outline of the cartouche representing the diurnal course of the sun across the heavens. A full example of the titular may now be given. The following are the names and titles of the great Tuthmosis III of the Eighteenth Dynasty:
            Horus Strong-bull-arising-in-Thebes, Two Ladies Enduring-of-kingship-likeRa-in-heaven, Golden Horus Powerful-of-valour-and-holy-of-diadems, King of Upper and Lower Egypt Menkheper-Ra (i.e. The-appearance-of-Ra-is-established), Son of Ra, Tuthmosis-beautiful-of-appearance (Tuthmosis, i.e. Thoth-is-born), beloved of Hathor, Lady of the Turqoise.
            The reference to the Lady of the Turqoise was included in this particular example of Tuthmosis III’s titular because it was carved at Sinai by an expedition which brought back from the famous quarries a supply of that coveted stone. Although Pharaoh tended to emphasize the prenomen, it is the nomen which Egyptologists have used to build up their sequence of kings. The manner in which Egyptologists render these royal names deserves a brief comment, for the newcomer to the subject is often bewildered by the wide variety of forms to be found in Egyptological publications. Thus the name Tuthmosis can be found in the form of Tethmosis, Thutmosis, Thotmosis, Thutmose, Thutmase, Thothmes, Thotmes, Tehutimes, Djehutimes and so on. To take another example, Sesostris occurs at Senusert, Senusret and Senwosret. The prime difficulty involved in rendering proper names is to decide whether to accept the Hellenized forms handed down by Manetho and other ancient writers or whether to attempt an approximate transliteration of the original Egyptian. Thus Tuthmosis and Sesostris are the Greek renderings of words which may originally have sounded dimly like Djehutimes and Senwosret. The safest rule would seem to be to use word forms which are clear, euphonious, readily pronounceable and supported by authoritative scholarship. Perverse, pedantic and uncouth word forms are to be avoided. No systemic usage can be agreed upon and the matter must remain one for personal taste and judgement. Anomalies are bound to occur. For example, the present writer, while employing the forms Tuthmosis and Sesostris, does not employ the Hellenized form Sethos for Seti on the ground that it is not so much in general use.[1]

[1] Ancient Egypt. Its Culture and History. J.E. Manchip White

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