Euphantus’ Negative Confessions

Category: Ancient Learning > Ethical Maxims

1 Introduction

I am the furthest thing from an expert in Egyptian religion, but when I was looking through Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Animal Food, I came across a little passage (ibid. 4.10) that immediately reminded me of the famous “negative confessions” which each person must endeavor to be able to make at the “weighing of the heart” after death, where they will be unable to lie.

Though there are really only three such negative confessions (far short of the famous list of 42 [off-site link]) in the present text, they and the positive declarations (collectively called apologiai) amount to an interesting collection of ethical principles to live up to.

For the benefit of those who might be able to compare this to Egyptian texts, I have also added the Greek text (ed. A. Nauck) of the apologiai, and introduced some line breaks.

2 Translation

When they (=the Egyptian priests) embalm people of high birth that have died, they remove the stomach and place it in a separate chest, and after the other things which they do concerning (hyper) the corpse, they hold this chest and witness facing the Sun, with one of the embalmers giving a speech on behalf of (hyper) the corpse.

And the speech (logos), which Euphantus translated from his ancestral language (=Egyptian), is as follows:

“O lord Sun and all gods who give life to human beings,
“Receive me and deliver me to dwell with the eternal gods!
“For I have ever revered the gods whom my parents showed me,
“For as long as I lived my life in the lot of those ones (=the living?),
“And always honored those who begot my body.
“And of other human beings,
“I did not kill anyone,
“I did not steal anything entrusted to me,
“I did not do any other pernicious thing.
“But if I transgressed in anything during my life,
”Or have drunk of what was not licit,
”I transgressed not on my own account, but because of these.“

At this, he indicates the chest which the belly is in; and when he has spoken, he throws it into the river, but embalms the rest of the body as something pure. And in this manner, they have thought that they should give justifications (apologiai) to the divine concerning what they have eaten and drunk, and transgressed on account of these things.

3 Greek version of the speech or logos

ὦ δέσποτα ἥλιε καὶ θεοὶ πάντες οἱ τὴν ζωὴν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις δόντες,
προσδέξασθέ με καὶ παράδοτε τοῖς ἀιδίοις θεοῖς σύνοικον.
ἐγὼ γὰρ τοὺς θεοὺς οὓς οἱ γονεῖς μοι παρέδειξαν εὐσεβῶν διετέλουν
ὅσον χρόνον ἐν τῷ ἐκείνων αἰῶνι τὸν βίον εἶχον,
τούς τε τὸ σῶμά μου γεννήσαντας ἐτίμων ἀεί·
τῶν τε ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων <οὐδένα>
οὔτε ἀπέκτεινα
οὔτε παρακαταθήκην ἀπεστέρησα
οὔτε ἄλλο οὐδὲν ἀνήκεστον διεπραξάμην.
εἰ δέ τι ἄρα κατὰ τὸν ἐμαυτοῦ βίον ἥμαρτον
ἢ πιὼν ὧν μὴ θεμιτὸν ἦν,
οὐ δι‘ ἐμαυτὸν ἥμαρτον, ἀλλὰ διὰ ταῦτα.