Saturday, April 13, 2013

Harkuf and the Dancing Pygmy

A while back I posted about finding an electronic version of James Breasted's history of Egypt, which was the first book I had read on the subject. I still remember how the book brought the subject to life for me many years ago. One of the sections of the book that I have remembered over the years is the story of Harkuf and the dancing Pygmy he brought back from Nubia to the court of Pepi II.

Harkuf had led an expedition south of Egypt and was returning north to the royal court with the Pygmy. Dring the return trip, he received a letter from the child king Pepi II. Harkuf was so proud of the letter that he had a copy of it placed in his tomb.

In the letter, Pepi told Harkuf to "come north to the residence at once. Bring with you this Pygmy...When he goes down with you into the ship, get worthy men to be around him, lest he fall in the water. When he lies down at night, get worthy men to lie around him in his tent. Inspect ten times a night. My majesty desires to see this Pygmy more than the gifts of the mine-land and Punt!"

The thing I love about this letter is  the obvious joy of a child that the letter preserves. So often the study of history can seem dry, but occasionally you get a reminder like this that the kings, generals and politicians who made history were real persons.

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