I. M. Konstantakos, Akicharos. The Tale of Ahiqar in Ancient Greece. Vol.

1: Origins and Narrative Material, Athens: Stigmi Publications, 2008. SUMMARY The Tale of Ahiqar is one of the oldest “international books” in world literature: from early on it circulated widely in the Near East and was translated in various languages, including Greek. An adaptation of Ahiqar has been incorporated in the Aesop Romance (ch. 101-123). But the work had started to infiltrate the Greek world from much earlier times: a Greek translation of it was apparently known to Theophrastus, at the beginning of the Hellenistic period; it has been claimed that already Democritus transcribed the Tale of Ahiqar in Greek, while some of its elements (episodes, narrative motifs, sayings) seem to have influenced Greek texts of the archaic and classical age. The purpose of the present study is to examine the introduction and reception of the Tale of Ahiqar in the Greek world, thus contributing to a broader understanding of the encounter and the exchanges between Greece and the ancient cultures of the East. The first part of the study (The Tale of Ahiqar: origins, content and structure) begins with some preliminary remarks on Ahiqar. The oldest known version of this work, in Aramaic, is preserved in a fragmentary papyrus (late 5th c. B.C.), which was discovered in Elephantine (Egypt), among the remains of the Jewish mercenary colony there. The text consists of two parts: a narrative about Ahiqar᾽s adventures and the “instructions” of the sage (a miscellaneous collection of various kinds of sayings, gathered together at the end). These two parts are separated by a lacuna of four papyrus columns, which presumably contained the end of the narrative (with the rehabilitation of the unjustly persecuted hero) and the beginning of the instructions. The collection of the sayings was most probably presented as Ahiqar᾽s tuition for his adoptive son Nadin, and was loosely connected with the narrative. Some scholars date the composition of the original Ahiqar around 550-500 B.C., quite some time after the end of the NeoAssyrian state, but without sufficient reason. In fact, nothing
1

Arabic. The original Tale of Ahiqar was most probably composed in Aramaic. From early on Ahiqar was translated into other languages. after a synopsis of the plot. and later Old Turkish.C. which were presumably added with the passing of time. The most pristine among all later versions seem to be the Syriac and the various Armenian versions (which probably descend from a Syriac original): these possibly go back to late antiquity. Apparently. and their language (Western Aramaic containing archaic elements and affinities with Canaanite languages) suggests rather an origin from northern Syria. Chapter 1. Russian. Georgian. Luzzatto᾽s theory. papyri.opposes the dating of the work during the last years of the NeoAssyrian empire (late 7th c. that the Elephantine version is an abridgement or an anthology of excerpts from a more extensive original work. The narrative part (written in regular “Imperial Aramaic”. A. is not supported by convincing arguments. Old Church Slavonic.. Fragments of a Demotic Egyptian translation are preserved in 1st c. with some loans from Akkadian) comes from Mesopotamia and reproduces fairly accurately the conditions of the Neo-Assyrian court. During the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times a great number of versions were circulating in various languages (Syriac.3 (Content and plot of the Tale). or at least the form closest to the original among all surviving versions. Ethiopian. Serbo-Croatian.C. which had gradually imposed itself in the Assyrian state by the 7th c. as the common everyday language. B. a collection of sayings. Armenian. offers an analysis of the riddle contest between Ahiqar and 2 . These later versions are more expanded than the Elephantine text and contain many new episodes and details. on the other hand. the translation itself may be considerably older. The Elephantine text (the oldest known version of Ahiqar. compiled in a northern Syrian kingdom early in the 1st millennium B. there it was re-edited and combined with the narrative about Ahiqar᾽s adventures (itself based on earlier legends).).). Rumanian).D. do not point to a specifically Mesopotamian context. some of them had become part of Ahiqar already in the Hellenistic period. was subsequently transported to Assyria (presumably after the Assyrian conquest of Syria in the 8th c. The instructions. written in the original language of the work) must represent the original form of Ahiqar.

Psalms and other wisdom and prophetic books). 2). both of them incorporated in the narrative: the first one (made up chiefly of commandments) is placed near the beginning and presented as Ahiqar᾽s teaching for the education of Nadin. which is here solved by means of a counter-adynaton (so also the seventh problem. while particular single sayings may have had an even longer history. which produces an illusory “sand-rope”.C. as Ahiqar᾽s indictment of his ungrateful adoptive son. 3 . at least in the later versions and in the Aesop Romance). in the later versions the instructions are split in two collections. A Hurrian collection of parables on the subject of ingratitude. In the various versions of Ahiqar the sequence of these riddles differs. cf. Ch. The first problem is a “simile riddle”: Ahiqar must find the aptest simile for the appearance of Pharaoh and his courtiers.Pharaoh (a capital part of the story. similar adynata in ancient Egyptian and Hittite stories). The fifth riddle is an enigma proper. Apparently. the second one (consisting mainly of parables) comes at the end. The fourth problem (“why do the mares of Egypt miscarry. The types of problems set by Pharaoh to the hero are examined in detail. suggests that there was a long relevant gnomological tradition in that area. B. The third problem (building a castle in the air) is an adynaton. as time passed. the need arose to integrate the instructions into the narrative part (see also below. which comes from northern Syria and dates from the 17th c. The second riddle is an “unanswerable question”: Ahiqar must say something that Pharaoh and his entourage have never heard of. when they hear the Assyrian king᾽s stallion neighing in Nineveh?”) is another adynaton. 1. an impossible task. The primary nucleus of the instructions (originating from northern Syria) must have existed as an independent collection at least for a century before its incorporation into Ahiqar.4 (Structure of the Tale: Narrative part and instructions) examines the layout of the work. Some maxims of the Elephantine text find parallels in Biblical works (Proverbs. Unlike the Elephantine version (and presumably the original Ahiqar). vol. sewing up a broken millstone). which occurs in several variants and in many ancient peoples. the famous “riddle of the year”.. though of a different type (“paradoxical statement”. while some problems are omitted. The sixth problem (again an adynaton: making ropes of sand) is solved by means of a clever technical device.

Their autonomous circulation may have continued even after their incorporation into the instructions of the Tale of Ahiqar. outcome. both in the East and in Greece. The opponents contact each other by messenger and written epistle.).2). The relevant ancient stories are discussed in detail. presumably on the basis of older legends. but Enmerkar finds the solutions of the riddles thanks to 4 .while sayings of the later versions occur already in old Akkadian texts (2nd/1st millennium B. no clear victory of the challenged king). The extensive second part of the study (Narrative material of the Tale: The riddle contest and the wise counsellor) is devoted to the examination of the two main themes of Ahiqar. There follows the analysis of the various local tales: a) The Mesopotamian tradition. Ethiopian. At the same time. 2. The oldest surviving example of the riddle contest occurs in a Sumerian poem (Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta = ELA) composed at the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur (21st c. B.g. Arabic and Russian tradition). prize) and its variants: one-way (only one phase. the relationship between the Greek stories and their Asiatic or Egyptian models is also investigated.). in which one of the kings propounds problems to the other) and reciprocal (two phases. with each one of the participants setting in turn riddles to his opponent). General survey of the “riddle contest” theme (2. its basic characteristics (opponents. “riddle contest of the kings” and “disgrace and rehabilitation of the wise counsellor”. Possibly. The riddle contest of the kings (ch.1). the contest already displays the fundamental features which will be standardized in later traditions. Despite some peculiarities (e.C. simple (with the two kings as sole protagonists) and expanded (with assistants offering help and advice to the kings). these two themes were widespread in antiquity.1-2. The contest has the simple form.C. the entire collection of Ahiqar᾽s instructions could be detached from the narrative part and circulate independently (as happened later in the Syriac. A. so as to place the Tale of Ahiqar (and its derivative Aesop Romance) within the broader context of the narrative traditions of the ancient Near East. This means that the sayings of Ahiqar were also disseminated as separate maxims or as parts of other wisdom collections.

sudden 5 . other Sumerian epics about the dispute between Enmerkar and Aratta (Lugalbanda I and II). Stories about the riddle contests of Solomon with the queen of Sheba and with Hiram are contained in Biblical and in ancient Greek sources (see my detailed study in Ελληνικά 54 [2004]). part of a cycle of stories presumably created by followers or disciples of Elisha in the late 8th or the 7th c. in which the conflict takes the form of a real war. The prize (precious materials and workmen of Aratta) has a deeper political meaning (subjugation of the loser. who will be obliged to pay tribute).inspiration from certain gods (who thus foreshadow the wise counsellors of later stories). The intellectual contest is a substitute for armed battle: cf. B.1-19. the Tale of Ahiqar). Both ELA and the story of Solomon and Hiram are based on the same characteristic combination of motifs (riddle contest and exchange of materials for the construction of temples) and display a series of detailed similarities. The task is not overtly propounded as a challenge by the Aramaean king. indicates some influence from the pattern of the riddle contest of kings. but the climactic structure of the magical contest recalls riddle-games of similar layout. but it is regarded as such by the Israelite monarch. and not directly to the renowned healer-prophet. this time in the form of a contest in magic instead of an exchange of riddles. and the prophet Elisha accomplishes the task by virtue of his miraculous powers. In the story of Elisha and Naaman (2 Kings 5. The theme of the riddle contest remained productive in Mesopotamia for a very long time: many centuries later the Tale of Ahiqar must have taken over this theme from current narrative tradition. The contest of kings seems to have been a favourite theme in Sumerian tradition: another epic of the same period (Enmerkar and Ensuḫkešdanna = E&E) contains a comparable confrontation. b) Hebrew and Phoenician stories.C. In E&E the contest is undertaken by the assistants on behalf of their kings (cf. The very fact that the Aramaean sends the leper to the Israelite king.e. Such an influence is also suggested by other details (despair of the challenged king. to some extent. by the old Mesopotamian tradition which starts with the Sumerian epics.) the king of Aram (i. The legend about Hiram may have been influenced. the Syrian-Aramaic kingdom of Damascus) proposes to the king of Israel an adynaton (to cure a leper).

similar riddles). a sort of riddle to solve) as an alternative to war. Syriac. it is the propounder of the riddle. The Hyksos king Apophis propounds to the Theban sovereign Seqenenre an adynaton of the type of “paradoxical statement” (cf. In the story of Amaziah and Jehoash (2 Kings 14. c) Further diffusion in Asia. these episodes are also known from other sources.appearance of the assistant-saviour). that wins the contest and gains the prize). The same holds true also of a brief narrative found in Syriac manuscripts. simplifies the riddle contest by eliminating the role of the assistant. however. while the Hyksos are 6 . In Egypt the riddle contest of kings occurs first in a fragmentary narrative (The Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre) on a 13th c.C.g. in the Šāhnāma. B. Setne II below). d) The Egyptian tradition.8-14) one monarch propounds to the other an allegorical parable (i. papyrus. In the lost ending of the story Seqenenre must have won the contest by finding an appropriate counterstatement (counter-adynaton) for Apophis᾽ sophism. above).e. as indicated by many common elements (combination of the riddle contest with the theme of the disgraced counsellor. Buzurjmihr. in accordance with the magical motifs which are dominant throughout the story-cycle about Elisha᾽s miraculous feats (cf. In this story many of the typical elements of the riddle contest are reversed (e. These Persian legends must have been formed during the Sasanian period. Seqenenre᾽s prestige is at stake in this contest: the Theban sovereign will be humiliated if unable to give an answer. the story is written from the viewpoint of the Egyptians. most probably under the influence of Ahiqar (although the reciprocal form of the contests suggests a possible additional influence from other Asiatic narratives). the latter. In both cases Khusrau wins thanks to the help of his wise vizier. The tale of Šimās from the Arabian Nights is also modelled on Ahiqar. Firdawsi. describes the riddle contest of Bahrām Gūr with the Byzantine emperor (reciprocal and expanded with assistants – the Persian High Priest and a Byzantine envoy) and two contests of Khusrau I Anūširvān (with the king of India and with the Byzantine emperor). and Arabic). The solution of the adynaton is achieved by means of the assistant᾽s supernatural powers. and not the addressee. The “riddle contest” theme remained productive until much later times and can be traced in many stories (Persian.

where the relevant tradition was much older. The Theban sovereign may have found the solution by himself. During the New Kingdom there were close contacts between the Egyptians and the peoples of West Asia. other Egyptian stories below). Moreover. which is closely intertwined with the riddle contest: perhaps both themes were derived from an Asiatic narrative tradition.g. see below. is now itself the riddle. An alternative possibility is that a wise assistant pointed out the solution to Seqenenre (cf. Later. resulting in copious exchanges of mythological and other narrative material. A. the narrative emphasizes the religious dissent between the opponents. cf. and behind their conflict we may clearly discern a struggle for power between their patron deities (Amon-Re and Seth/Sutekh). in which they were similarly combined. A stranger from Kush (Nubia) propounds to Pharaoh Ramesses and his courtiers an adynaton (to read a sealed letter. vol. papyrus but going back at least to the Ptolemaic (if not to the Saite) period. 2). The Quarrel contains another typically West-Asiatic theme (the impious king and his punishment. and young Siosiris solves it by virtue of his divinatory powers. by sending the assistant to Seqenenre or by inspiring the helper with the solution. This second possibility is supported by internal indications of the story. but the formulation of his challenge clearly shows that the contest is not simply a personal single combat but a confrontation between two kingdoms (Egypt and Kush). ELA): indeed. e. Amon-Re may still have played a part. the adynaton of the closed casket in the Šāhnāma). the stranger has acted in the past as the representative of the Nubian king in another conflict 7 . The stranger is not expressly introduced as an envoy of the Nubian king (as the typical pattern would require). the riddle contest occurs again in a Demotic Egyptian tale (Story of Setne Khaemwaset and his son Siosiris = Setne II) preserved in a 1st c.D. The “riddle contest” theme probably came to Egypt from West Asia. instead of being the means of communicating the question (as in other stories of this type). aided by his patron god Amon-Re (cf. The letter.depicted as impious oppressors. the need for symmetry in the narrative (Apophis similarly has a team of counsellors who invent the problem for his sake) and the well-known motif of the incompetent courtiers (in numerous Eastern tales this motif standardly prepares the way for the appearance of a more capable counsellor-saviour).

against Pharaoh. in compliance with the Egyptian literary taste of that period. In the fictionalized story the historical war is turned into a riddle contest. to safeguard the trade routes towards the East. it is not necessary to suppose that the 8 . and his successors continued the war. whether in Solomon᾽s own age or in later periods (see my study in Ελληνικά 54 [2004]). For example: a) The Sumerian epics echo the quarrels of the Sumerians with the mountain populations of western and north-western Iran during the Third Dynasty of Ur. who dominated Lower Egypt (16th c. Šulgi and his successors took particular care of the temples of Inana in Uruk and Enki in Eridu – the very same temples that Enmerkar wishes to build and decorate. B. b) The stories about the contests of Solomon are inspired by the diplomatic and commercial relations of Israel with Arabic and Phoenician kingdoms. B. 29 [2005]).F.). The riddle contest is combined with a contest in magic and enriched with many fantasy motifs. One story from the long interval in-between (the riddle contest between Amasis and the king of Kush) can be reconstructed from its Greek adaptation (in Plutarch᾽s Banquet of the Seven Sages. The story about Elisha reflects the conflicts between Israel and Aram-Damascus during the 9th and the first half of the 8th c. finally expelling the Hyksos from Egypt. Setne II carries on the old Egyptian tradition of the Quarrel: apparently.C. the relations or conflicts between the creator people and a neighbouring or enemy state. viz. The objective of those wars was. while fighting against the Hyksos. c) The Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre reflects the struggle of the sovereigns of Thebes against the Asiatic Hyksos conquerors. which adored tales about magic and the supernatural. the theme of the riddle contest took roots in Egypt. and the present competition is a continuation and extension of that past conflict. Many of the above stories reflect historical circumstances. among other things.C.g. through which valuable raw materials were imported to Mesopotamia (it is such materials that Enmerkar is ardently seeking in the epics). remaining there too alive and productive over many centuries. see my detailed studies in C&M 55 [2004] and WJA N. The historical king Seqenenre Tao was slain in battle. these are symbolically expressed through the intellectual contest of the kings. This conclusion is supported by other correspondences too: e.

when relations between Egypt and the Nubian kingdom were very tense (see in detail my study in C&M 55 [2004]). The historical circumstances of the Saite period are projected back to the glorious times of Ramesses II and Thutmose III. it seems probable that a rudimentary form of the riddle contest (brief enough. not e. a real war with Egypt (so Hausrath). The following chapter (2. but all their expansions can be traced back to a primary nucleus of the Aramaic composition (see e. But the rivalry with an independent Kush points rather to the period of the 26th (Saite) Dynasty.lost ending of the narrative described an actual war between the two kings. The same historical circumstances are reflected also in the contest between Amasis and the king of Kush. while the embedded tale of the sealed letter takes place in the time of Thutmose III. Ahiqar᾽s final restoration must have had a rationale.g.2. the intrigues of Nadin and the hiding of the condemned sage). through large-scale conquests and building activity there. they claim that the folktale character of the contest does not fit the sober and realistic tone of the Aramaic version. Some scholars maintain that the riddle contest was not included in the Elephantine text (from which all the relevant part of the narrative has been lost). The later versions never replace an element of the older Aramaic text with something entirely different.g. Esarhaddon᾽s problem must have been of an intellectual nature. So. However. so as to be accommodated within the four lost papyrus 9 . The later versions contain many additions by comparison to the Elephantine text. because those Pharaohs had become legendary in the Egyptian tradition and because they had particularly connected their names with Nubia. The remains of the Elephantine narrative (in which various personages predict that king Esarhaddon will need again Ahiqar᾽s counsel) foreshadow an episode which must have resembled the spiritual contest of the later versions. d) Setne II is set in the court of Ramesses II (whose son was the historical Khaemwaset). The riddle contest in the Tale of Ahiqar) examines the contest of Ahiqar in greater detail. the childlessness motif. because Ahiqar is not a military officer but a court sage. as in all ancient tales of disgrace and rehabilitation (in such tales the condemned sage is standardly restored because the king faces some unexpected problem and needs the sage᾽s intellectual abilities to solve it).

perhaps in the Tobit version the Assyrian king᾽s opponent in the riddle contest was not the Pharaoh of Egypt but the king of Elam.columns) was included in the Elephantine version.) the contest has acquired the fully developed form of the later versions. The contest of the original Ahiqar may have contained only one problem (cf. without examples of riddles. there does not seem to have been space enough on the papyrus for a description of the journey. which seems to derive from an independent tradition). Armenian) contain an abridged form of the contest. just like the later versions. B. but it may give us an idea about the possible form of the brief contest in the original text. the very old adynaton about the stallion and the mares (a variant of which occurs in the Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre) or the popular riddle of the year (but not the castle in the air. The expansion of the riddle contest (as also of the rest of the narrative) began from early on.C.D. More recent versions of Ahiqar (Old Turkish. A. Ahiqar᾽s journey to Egypt probably belongs to the adventurous additions of the later versions: it would have been hardly economical for the hero to travel only for one riddle. B. Already the version of Ahiqar used by the author of Tobit (3rd/2nd c. So. Tobit also mentions a journey of Ahiqar to Elymais (2. This summary is clearly the product of a secondary abridgement of the full version.C. The fragments of the Demotic Egyptian translation contain one of the additional episodes (concerning Nadin᾽s intrigues). Elymais) are presented as enemies of Assyria. Another possibility is that the original Ahiqar made only an indefinite mention of riddles. the Biblical narrative about the queen of Sheba and the Hellenistic stories about Solomon and Hiram). The later adaptations expanded the contest with picturesque details and fantastic elements. 10 . some derivative Persian and Indian narratives). without any specific example (cf. in addition. The historical circumstances of the Neo-Assyrian state would equally justify both these scenarios. which is described in a few sentences.-2nd c. In Ahiqar both Egypt and Elam (= Gk.) included Ahiqar᾽s underground hiding-place and possibly two collections of instructions.g.10): this may be identical with the sage᾽s journey to the opponent᾽s land for the riddle contest (in the later versions the destination of this journey is Egypt). In the Aesop Romance (late 1st c. e.

Later contest narratives characterized by the same phenomenon (Setne II. personal names and titles etc. In this manner the political nature of the confrontation is markedly brought out: the intellectual contest is a substitute of war (cf. the predominance of the assistant seems to be an innovation of Ahiqar (although the Sumerian E&E is an forerunner in this respect). The tribute and the 11 . 165 but of questionable historical value) or the Grand Exorcist Adad-šumuuṣur.In the contest of Ahiqar (a “frame-narrative” for a long series of riddles) the assistant plays the leading role. e. recent folktales) have been directly or ultimately influenced by the Tale of Ahiqar. finally conquering the whole of Egypt and putting an end to the reign of the Kushite Dynasty. Esarhaddon invaded Egypt. Old Turkish) Pharaoh threatens to invade Assyria. ELA and later Jewish and Muslim reworkings of the story about the queen of Sheba). The prize of the contest varies in the different versions of Ahiqar: usually it consists in tribute paid by the loser to the winner (a clear demonstration of political submission). In the same way. The Kushite monarchs resisted the Assyrian invaders.g. taking his king᾽s place in the contest. Ahiqar᾽s expedition to Egypt and his triumph there (which had become part of the Tale of Ahiqar by the Hellenistic period) probably echo the Assyrian invasions and battle victories in Egypt. Afterwards.). The contest of Ahiqar is a fictionalization of those historical conflicts. who is the protagonist of the whole work. For this reason. Ahiqar may be based on a historical official of the NeoAssyrian state. the court sage Mannu-kima-Enlil-ḫatin (with whom Ahiqar is identified in a tablet. imposing tribute and taking much booty. The Tale of Ahiqar reproduces fairly accurately the Assyrian court environment (historical conditions. and Ashurbanipal continued the war. Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. if his riddles are not solved. dated A. while the king himself remains marginal to the main action. Egyptian forces helped the cities of Philistia and Phoenicia in their rebellion against Sennacherib. the riddle contest of Ahiqar reflects historical tensions between Assyria and Egypt (under the reign of the Kushite kings of the 25th Dynasty) in the years of Sennacherib and his successors.D. This fits the overall plot and structure of the narrative: the riddle contest is entwined with the central theme of the disgrace and rehabilitation of the vizier. In certain versions (Armenian. occupying Memphis. stories about Buzurjmihr.

2. but later he wins the royal favour back. The kings of the 25th Dynasty (actually Nubian conquerors of Egypt). who were the opponents of the Assyrian kings. the “ungrateful beneficiary” (cause of the disgrace) and the riddle contest (cause of the rehabilitation). but “kings of (Egypt and) Kush” (emphasis is placed on their foreign origins for reasons of propaganda). the “disgrace and rehabilitation of the counsellor”. An ungrateful person may have contributed to the fall of the sage (just as in Ahiqar the disgrace is caused by the ungrateful beneficiary). B. who had no knowledge of Egyptian history. Disgrace and rehabilitation of the counsellor (ch. did not understand this term and transformed the opponent into plain “Pharaoh”. because he offers to the monarch useful advice in a difficult situation. in Ahiqar the contest is entwined with other themes within a broader and more complex narrative whole. which most probably goes back to the end of the 3rd millennium B. B.3). A Sumerian saying (from a bilingual tablet with Akkadian translation).). The most important of these themes. serves as the narrative backbone of Ahiqar: with this theme are bound the other two main themes of the work. The present study offers a survey of the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme in ancient traditions: a) The Mesopotamian tradition. The later redactors. Possibly in the original Ahiqar too Esarhaddon᾽s opponent would have been called “king of Egypt and Kush”. Since both in the contest and in the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme the protagonist is a wise counsellor. are not styled “Pharaohs” or “kings of Egypt” in Assyrian sources. in the Akkadian Poem of the righteous sufferer (16th-12th c. Later. By contrast to earlier narratives. as in the historical Assyrian sources. the connection of the two themes was easy. which seems to be due to the machinations of other 12 . seems to presuppose a known narrative (as a moral presupposes its fable): a wise counsellor loses the favour of his king (perhaps because of his unpleasant admonitions)..C. in which the riddle contest is the sole or the main theme. giving to their narrative the historical indetermination of a folktale.C. the hero᾽s misfortunes include the loss of the royal favour.other riches gained by the winner of the riddle contest recall the tribute and the booty taken by Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal from the conquered Egyptian land.

). 37-38) the king needs the advice of the imprisoned prophet concerning the war against the Babylonians (cf. however. widely diffused narrative substratum. but no direct relation seems to exist between the two narratives: rather. just as Ahiqar saves Assyria by solving Pharaoh᾽s riddles. the theme becomes popular in stories of the Persian and the Hellenistic period. the Egyptian threat of war in some versions of Ahiqar). not with the king. Here the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme is not the main focus of attention but one of the constituents of the hero᾽s adventures. in order to integrate the theme into the broader narrative about Joseph᾽s adventures.courtiers. this adaptation of the disgrace theme is necessary. In the story of Joseph (Genesis 37 and 3941) the sage is initially sold as a slave to a royal official and falls into disfavour with this official. the scorned wife of the master in the story of Joseph) and to the rationale of the rehabilitation: Joseph interprets prophetic dreams. b) Hebrew stories. they have presumably grown from the same. they both draw on a common narrative tradition.C.C. The prophet᾽s imprisonment is again due to the false accusations of court officials. Later on. and his rehabilitation takes simply the form of more humane conditions of confinement. In Daniel 1-2 the 13 . are not much later than the Tale of Ahiqar. the hero regains his privileges and honours. Afterwards. in the end. the king comes to the fore and the theme resumes its regular form: Pharaoh faces a problem (enigmatical dreams) which only Joseph is capable of solving.) or approximately contemporary with it (if formed during the 7th/6th c. which are much like riddles (they belong to the type of “pictureriddle” or visual enigma). This story bears striking similarities to the Tale of Ahiqar with regard both to the cause of the disgrace (slander from a treacherous person – the ungrateful adoptive son in Ahiqar. The story of Joseph is older than Ahiqar (if going back already to the 10th/9th c. B. and thus saves Egypt from disaster. and so the sage is released from prison and achieves high office. which narrate the adventures of Jewish sages under foreign (Babylonian or Persian) rule. In the stories about the prophet Jeremiah (Jer.). These stories. however. formed in the period after the fall of Jerusalem (587/6 B. This indicates that the combination of the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme with the solving of riddles or similar problems was widespread in the ancient traditions of the East.

In Tobit 1-2 the fall of the hero is combined with a change of monarch (the sage served successfully the father. this is clearly an imitation of the Tale of Ahiqar. but Daniel manages to interpret it and gains many honours. as in Daniel 1-2). c) Egyptian echoes. Other intertextual games or allusions to Ahiqar also indicate the debt of Tobit to that work. which end with a collection of maxims addressed to the sage᾽s son. Bel and the dragon): but in these latter cases the restoration is due not to any service to the king but to a divine miracle. Cyrus or an unnamed Babylonian king. it enriches the traditional theme with fantasy motifs. in this way. but need not have been influenced by it. which begins with the story of Joseph. The “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme occurs in Egyptian literary works of Ptolemaic and Roman times. The Story of Hihor the magician combines the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme with the adventures of a sorcerer. The author of Tobit duplicated the initial motif of Ahiqar in order to replace the riddle contest.13-14) is apparently based on a current narrative of the same kind. Mordecai). This episode strongly recalls the story of Joseph (the dream is again a kind of “picture riddle”). which saves the condemned sage and provokes the awe of the monarch (a variant presumably created for theological purposes). which extends to an entire group of people. Daniel 6. which were 14 . probably under the influence of Ahiqar (which seems to have been fairly widely known in Late Period Egypt). The sequence of disgrace and rehabilitation is repeated in Daniel᾽s career under other monarchs (Darius. The same motif is used to explain Tobit᾽s rehabilitation. In the Instructions of ‘Onchsheshonqy. As for the other Jewish stories (Daniel. just like the Tale of Ahiqar. The story of Mordecai in Esther offers another variation of the typical pattern (generalized disfavour. the theme has been curtailed: the rehabilitation is omitted. but falls into disfavour with his son and successor). they derive from an old Hebrew tradition of similar narratives. because the latter were unable to interpret an enigmatic dream of the king. because the incident of the disgrace is by itself sufficient as a narrative frame for the maxims. A saying in Ecclesiastes (4.title-hero is in danger of being put to death together with Nebuchadnezzar᾽s other court sages. which did not suit the context of his own story. they too present similarities with Ahiqar. which is brought about by a new change of monarch and the consequent amnesty.

Perhaps some eastern narrative similar to the story of Joseph became known to the Greek world from early times and influenced the formation of the Greek tale of Melampus. d) Greek stories.. so as to be connected with the hero᾽s previous adventures. by means of which he deals with a kind of infertility (barrenness of the land in the story of Joseph. Greater Heoiai and Catalogue of Women). is followed by a second chance before the king himself. 129-132) the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme has once again been adapted in the beginning. thanks to which the king becomes aware of the sage᾽s powers. the theme resumes its regular form: difficult situation and dire need of the king. and he is thrown in gaol because he attempted to steal the king᾽s oxen. Initially a doctor at the service of the great Polycrates. the Hesiodic poems Melampodia. Melampus is initially an independent seer. since the Odyssey presupposes it as well-known to the audience (cf. but it was doubtless fully fledged already in the 8th c. In both these tales the sage becomes useful to the monarch thanks to his divinatory powers. Democedes suddenly becomes a slave of a satrap of Darius (instead of a fall into disgrace with the monarch. rehabilitation and honours for the wise saviour. This variation is produced in order to accommodate the theme into the broader cycle of Melampus᾽ adventures. In both tales the imprisoned hero is well looked after by a kind guardian. The demonstration of the abilities of both sages follows a similar bipartite pattern: a first display in gaol. impotence and sterility of the king in that of Melampus). which already included the very old story about the stealing of the oxen (cf. In the novella of Democedes in Herodotus (3. but it presents many striking analogies to eastern narratives. The “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme occurs also in Greek tales. especially to the story of Joseph. The story of Melampus is older than Ahiqar. The story of Melampus the seer first appears in full form in Pherecydes (and then in later mythographers and scholiasts). we have 15 . not a counsellor of the king of Phylace. service rendered by the sage. which bear significant similarities to the eastern examples: possibly the theme came to Greece from the East. as a result of the first demonstration. the similar treatment of the riddle contest in Setne II).125.popular in the Egyptian literature of that period (cf. a similar process in the story of Joseph). In the following parts of the story.

Ahiqar. imitating other tales of the same kind. Griffiths᾽ arguments are not binding and his theory is marred by contradictions (e. Daniel 2). on the basis of late Ramesside legends). papyrus but presumably composed around the 8th-6th c. the change of monarch in Ahiqar and Tobit) and is due to the intrigues of an official (cf. Joseph).C. the story supposedly 16 . Herodotus᾽ narrative about Democedes is full of novelistic and folktale elements. B. Herodotus must have heard the story in South Italy (several details betray indeed a South-Italian origin). in accordance with the realistic character of the mature Greek novella). the creators of the story must have introduced into it the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme. because someone remembers him by chance (cf. The saviour appears after all the other wise men of the king have failed (cf. If so.here a fall from prosperity into misfortune). but in the end he is acquired by the Persian king himself.g. with the purpose of clearing the famous doctor᾽s name from the suspicion of a pro-Persian attitude. Joseph). It is difficult to prove a direct influence of the tale of Merire on that of Democedes. Mordecai. which had presumably spread over the Greek world from old times. Melampus). In this case too there are many analogies to the Asiatic narratives about disgrace and rehabilitation. which was widely diffused in the eastern Mediterranean. The sage᾽s fall into misfortune is combined with a change of master (cf. Ahiqar. However. he helps the king in a difficult situation and becomes the king᾽s intimate (cf. Democedes appears before the king in a miserable state. Griffiths has argued that the story was formed after Democedes᾽ death. who cured it by divinatory and magical means: the story of Democedes rationalizes the myth of Melampus. Both tales display a common sequence of events and many similar points of detail. probably from descendants or colleagues of Democedes. The monarch᾽s problem is a sickness (cf. Daniel. but both stories may well have drawn on a common stock of narrative material. and finally convinces the king to pardon the incompetent counsellors (cf. in the years after the Persian wars. Joseph). because of his long captivity (cf. which Democedes cures thanks to his medical and pharmaceutical knowledge (by contrast to Melampus. Especially striking are the similarities between the novella of Democedes and the Egyptian narrative about the magician Merire (preserved on a 6th/5th c. Ahiqar). Daniel). Joseph.

The same combination is found in the story about the Indian king Nanda and the wise Śakaṭāla (in the Sanskrit collection Śukasaptati) and in other Indian tales. The riddle contest between Khusrau and the Byzantine emperor is combined with the “disgrace and rehabilitation” theme. The name of king Nanda itself recalls that of Ahiqar᾽s ungrateful adoptive son (Nadin/Nadan) and thus betrays the dependence of the Indian story on the Tale of Ahiqar. In that case. as a narrative theme. It is precisely people like Democedes. The parallels between later versions of Ahiqar and Buddhist or Jainist stories concern motifs which were introduced into Ahiqar at later times.exonerating Democedes from the suspicion of being pro-Persian ends up presenting him as the prime instigator of the Persian wars). that the Tale of Ahiqar was modelled on an Indian narrative. But their arguments have been severely criticized. i. Democedes himself will have modelled his story on tales of disgrace and rehabilitation. providing the occasion for Buzurjmihr᾽s rehabilitation (as in Ahiqar). Formerly. people who remained and worked for a long time in the Achaemenid empire. The legends about Buzurjmihr must have been formed in the late Sasanian period.e. who narrated his adventures. The political situation in India was no more favourable to the 17 . and thus have no significance with regard to the provenance of the original work.4. The Tale of Ahiqar and Indian stories) examines the relationship between Ahiqar and some similar Persian and Indian narratives. enriching them with imaginary episodes. that must have played a crucial part in the introduction of eastern narrative material into the Greek world. in a sensational manner. after his homecoming. The final chapter (2. It cannot be excluded that the core of the story goes back to Democedes himself. some scholars (Benfey and his followers) believed that the original homeland of all stories of this type is India. and more generally that the riddle contest of the kings. The fact that the story of the Śukasaptati is simpler does not make it necessarily the primary one: it may well have been produced by simplification of an originally more complex narrative — the purpose being to adapt this narrative to the peculiar context and character of the Śukasaptati collection. is of Indian provenance. which he could easily have heard during his sojourn in the East.

g. Egyptian collections of instructions attributed to viziers or courtiers etc. Mesopotamian king-lists and chronicles. Prophecies of Ipuwer. foreign monarchs depicted in the Old Testament).C. Westcar Papyrus. Examples are given from the Mesopotamian. were present in the Mesopotamian tradition from very early times (late 3rd millennium B. it was under the influence of this well-known pattern that the expanded form of the riddle contest must have arisen from the simple one. both fictional (Prophecies of Neferti. Famine Stela. Appendix 1 examines the coupling of a king with a wise vizier or counsellor. disgrace and rehabilitation. all three themes. who reproduces and reverses the figure of Nadin). Sumerian and Babylonian sayings. Buzurjmihr᾽s young relative. Hebrew and Egyptian tradition: E&E. b) The king is surrounded by a council of courtiers: again. E&E. tragedy and Herodotus (see in detail my study in Eikasmos 18 [2007]). which narrate Pharaoh᾽s exploits in a literary manner full of novelistic motifs). Therefore. Demotic tales about Amasis. with Iran as an intermediary station: the Persian legend of Buzurjmihr is also modelled on Ahiqar. and in Egyptian texts. Prophecies of Neferti. Saul. David. examples are traced in Sumerian and Akkadian poetry (ELA. Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre. The pattern may take two forms: a) The king is connected with a single counsellor.). enjoyed a long and rich life in West Asia. Setne II) and historical or chronographical (royal inscriptions and chronicles. which make up the basic framework of Ahiqar (riddle contest. it seems much more probable that Ahiqar was formed in West Asia.development of the “riddle contest” theme than the conditions in other parts of Asia or in Egypt. a pattern widespread in the narrative traditions of the East. epics about Gilgamesh). Rehoboam. From there the story of Ahiqar travelled eastward to India.g. Moreover. Bentresh Stela. ungrateful beneficiary). The couple of king and counsellor occurs also in the Greek tradition. Hezekiah. as indicated both by its combination of themes and by various details (e. and needed only to be combined in a particular manner in order to form the plot of Ahiqar. in Hebrew tradition (Ahab. making use of this age-old native narrative material. story of Merire. e. in epic. 18 . Tale of the two brothers.

the description of the World of the Dead contains the Greek motifs of Tantalus and Ocnus). it could have influenced the Demotic narrative about Setne.Appendix 2 investigates the relationship between the Tale of Ahiqar and Setne II. but it may also have incorporated exogenous elements (the same applies to other episodes of the Demotic narrative: e. the contest provides the framework for the second part of the narrative and is combined with the motif of childlessness at the beginning. Firstly. the king᾽s assistant is the protagonist of the entire work and plays also the main part in the riddle contest. while the king remains in the margin of the action (again by contrast to the older Egyptian tradition and in accordance with the Tale of Ahiqar). whether in the early stages of its development (during the Saite period) or in its final formation (during the Ptolemaic age). just as in Ahiqar. The riddle contest of Setne II carries on an old tradition of Egyptian narratives.g. 19 . the riddle contest is combined with other important narrative themes and used as a constituent within a greater narrative whole (this is precisely the difference between Setne II and the older Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre). Ahiqar could easily have spread from the Jewish community of Elephantine to the broader Egyptian population already in pre-Christian times. In addition. Two features in particular indicate the influence of Ahiqar. Secondly. If so.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful