The Ghost of Amenemhat – Philippe de Felice

In this essay, Philippe de Felice surveys one of the masterpieces of ancient Egyptian literature, “The Instruction of Amenemhat”, dating from c. 1920 BCE, which describes the assassination of Pharaoh Amenemhat I, the founder of the 12th dynasty (1938–c. 1756 BCE). The murder in the palace inspired one of the first and most dramatic poems of world literature, in which the ghost of the murdered pharaoh warns his son and successor to be wary of dark treachery. It became one of the most enduringly popular works in ancient Egypt, recited in public performances for centuries. As Philippe de Felice explains, apart from being a startlingly emotional poem of regret and revenge, the Instruction’s was also has a subtle political message: Amenemhat was in fact a usurper and the astonishing purpose of the poem was to reinforce the legitimacy of the rule of his son Senwosret, one of the greatest rulers of Ancient Egypt. It is one of the earliest examples of propaganda in world political literature.

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Philippe de Felice Bio

Philippe de Felice is of Swiss origins and was born in Zurich in 1954. He received a cosmopolitan education in Swiss, French and English schools, and then studied at Florence University and Oriel College Oxford (where he graduated with First Class Honours in History and French in 1976). He later qualified as a Barrister and followed a career in international law, working on aid projects for the United Nations, on EU affairs for the Commission and the UK government, and most recently in private practice.

He has travelled widely in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

He now lives in London with his wife and three children. Entertaining Mona Lisa is his first collection of stories. He is currently working on a novel and a series of studies on how humans have chosen to express themselves throughout the ages, from prehistoric caves to the internet era.

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