Ancient Egypt
The Tale Of Truth And Falsehood Image Credit: Ancient Egypt
The Tale Of Truth And Falsehood Image Credit: Ancient Egypt

The Tale Of Truth And Falsehood

In the fifth in a series of articles exploring myths and tales from ancient Egypt, Dr Joyce Tyldesley introduces us to two brothers with very different characters.

Joyce Tyldesley

The Tale of Truth and Falsehood is preserved on theNineteenth Dynasty hieratic Papyrus ChesterBeatty II. This was purchased in Luxor, and is now housed in the British Museum (EA 10682,1). Truth and Falsehood are brothers, but they are far from friends. They have a relationship rotten with one-sided sibling rivalry reminiscent of the relationship between the god Osiris and his jealous brother Seth. Their story is an elaborate allegory dealing with the restoration of justice, or ma’at. However, several real locations are specified in the story. The copper-rich Mount El is unknown, but Coptos (modern Qift) is in Upper Egypt, Kel is a Nubian province, and ‘Amun’s Isle’ is the Delta site of Tell elBalamun.

Unfortunately the beginning of the papyrus is lost, and the opening section of the surviving text is riddled with gaps. We are therefore not able to read how the devious Falsehood lent his honest but naive brother Truth a precious dagger. Truth has failed to return the dagger, and so Falsehood has denounced him before the court of the gods. As we join the trial, Falsehood is describing his lost property in very exaggerated terms ...

The Story “... All the copper of Mount El went into its blade; all the timber in the Coptos wood went into its haft. Its sheath was the size of a rock-cut tomb; its belt was sewn from the hides of the herd of Kel. Truth has deliberately lost my valuable dagger. L

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