Guidelines for the Ruler

c. 2400 BCE


If thou art a leader and givest command to the multitude, strive after every excellence, until there be no fault in thy nature. Truth is good and its worth is lasting, and it hath not been disturbed since the day of its creator, whereas he that transgresseth its ordinances is punished. It lieth as a (right) path in front of him that knoweth nothing. Wrong-doing (?) hath never yet brought its venture to port. Evil indeed winneth wealth, but the strength of truth is that it endureth, and the (upright) man saith: “It is the property of my father.. . .


The following excerpts come from the instructions of Amenemhet (1991—1962 BCE), who prepared them for his son.


I gave to the poor and nourished the orphan, I caused him that was nothing to reach the goal, even as him that was of account. . ..


None hungered in my years, none thirsted in them. Men dwelt in (peace) through that which I wrought;. . . all that I commanded was as it should be....


These instructions were prepared for King Merikare (c. 2050 BCE) by his father.


Be not evil, it is good to be kindly. Cause thy monument to endure through the love of thee.... Then men thank God on thine account, men praise thy goodness and pray for thine health.. . . But keep thine eyes open, one that is trusting will become one that is afflicted….


Do right so long as thou abidest on the earth. Calm the weeper, oppress no widow, expel no man from the possessions of his father. . . . Take heed lest thou punish wrongfully.


Exalt not the son of one of high degree more than him that is of lowly birth, but take to thyself a man because of his actions.