Reconsideration of “The Biography of Unni”

The examination of the organization, operation, and self-regulation of the early state administration system is an important aspect of the study of ancient civilizations. The origin and selection of officials, especially the origin of the Vizier group who are in charge of the judicial, taxation, administration, engineering and other departments, are related to the limit of the king’s power and the identity construction of the elite group, reflecting the country’s specific The organization and political climate of the bureaucracy during the time period.

The biography of Weni, a minister of the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2345-2181 B.C.), records his career in service to three kings and eventually became the governor of Upper Egypt, emphasizing his wisdom, talent, loyalty and devotion to his work. Merit. Therefore, the image of Uni as a “poor and capable minister” was established, and the academic circles regarded him as a representative of the new class. His long biography is used as central evidence for changes in the origin and appointment of the viziers during the Old Kingdom. According to this, some scholars believe that: During the Old Kingdom period, the bureaucracy group experienced a major change in the Fifth Dynasty (about 2494-2345 BC). At high positions, the principle of selecting officials changed from focusing on “blood relationship” to focusing on “merit”, and a new class of “self-made”, promoted by talent and merit, gradually formed. This point of view has influenced academic discussions on the political changes of the Old Kingdom, the rise and fall of dynasties and other issues. The division of royal power by the expansion of the bureaucracy is regarded as one of the reasons for the decline of royal power and the collapse of the state at the end of the Old Kingdom. New archaeological discoveries have revealed Uni’s prominent family background. His image as a “poor family minister” is self-defeating, and the theory of “self-made” is difficult to establish. However, the significance of this part of the material has not been fully explored, so that the above-mentioned traditional views formed in the early years still dominated the research on the bureaucracy of the Old Kingdom.

This paper analyzes the key material “The Biographical Inscription of Weni” and related archaeological findings in detail, clarifies the previous misunderstanding of this biography and related issues of bureaucratic origin and selection, and reorganizes the vizier in the Old Kingdom. Changes in group origins and factors affecting their selection.

In February 1860, A. Mariette found a stone tablet in the central burial area of ​​Abydos, engraved with the biography of Uni, a minister of the Sixth Dynasty. This slate is 1.1 meters high and 2.7 meters wide. It is yellowish in color. It has been split into two pieces. The edges and corners are mostly damaged. Only the lower left corner is intact. Parts of the lower and lower edges of the slate are missing, and there are several damages to the surface, resulting in several omissions in the text. The characters and figures on the stone slabs are all Yin carvings. The text is written vertically, with a total of 51 lines, the first column of text is to the left, the other columns are to the right, and there is a line of sacrifice formulae from right to left on the top of the slate. On the lower left corner of the slate is engraved the image of Uni. He has short hair and a long skirt. He stands to the right, with his right arm on his chest, his right hand on his left shoulder, and his right elbow on his left hand. 3 The tablet is currently in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (collection number CG 1435).

The actual photos and biographical records of the slate in “The Biography of Uni” have been published many times. Egyptologists worked hard to fill in the missing parts of the biography, and translated the biographical content into French, German, English and other languages. In 1933, K. Sethe made the most accurate and complete account to date based on the photographs taken by E. Grébaut for the biographical slate, and this version became the biographical text commonly used in the academic world. 5 Since then, M. Lichtheim, 6 WK Simpson, 7 and N. Strudwick have all translated the Biography of Unni on the basis of Seser’s writings, The translations are included in their respective collections of selected translations. 1 In the domestic Egyptology circle, Professor Li Xiaodong noticed the important historical value of the Biography of Unni for the first time, and included it in the book “The Essentials of Egyptian Historical Inscriptions”. The first Chinese translation of the book; 2 Professor Guo Dantong provided all the hieroglyphic texts of the biography of Uni in the book “Annotation of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics”, and transcribed, translated and translated the full text. Notes.

The full text of the Biography of Uni is in the first person. ) and Merenre (reigned from about 2287 BC to 2278 BC), a chronological account of the services of the three kings, recording a series of tasks completed by the master for the king. The author sorts out Unni’s political and military activities and the changes in his position titles as follows:

Unni’s career as an official began as a warehouse manager during the reign of Taiti. 4 During the reign of King Pippi I, Uni gained the king’s great trust and was entrusted many times with important tasks far exceeding his rank, thus achieving a leap in his career. During the reigns of Pipi I and Merella, Uni participated in a wide variety of political and military activities, involving both public and private services to the king. In terms of the king’s private services, Uni escorted the king and transported the stones needed for the king’s funeral supplies; in the country’s public services, Uni participated in judicial, military, engineering and administrative management, and went deep into almost all aspects of state management. After the description of each task, the biography ends with a high rating in Uni’s tone. These boastful evaluations contrasted the king’s trust earned by Unnie and other officials to demonstrate the king’s high level of satisfaction with Unnie’s ability and loyalty, and underscored the appreciation of Unnie by the two kings, Piper I and Merilla. , trust and favor far beyond its peers. In addition, the biography about the reign of Pippi I makes extensive use of the phrase “Although I am only… But His Majesty appointed me…because I am so good and loyal in His Majesty’s heart…”. Such sentences contrast the lowness of Uni’s official position with the secrecy and crux of the mission that the king entrusted him with, to highlight that the king’s loyalty to Unni, despite his position and status was not sufficient to participate in the activities recorded in the biography. Trust and favor for quality and service ability. Under Merila, the king still reused Uni and assigned him to collect taxes and recruit labor for the king in Elephantine, Ibhat, Hatnub and other areas in Upper Egypt. and tasks of various resources. Eventually, Uni rose through the ranks and was appointed governor of Upper Egypt, becoming a member of the true senior bureaucracy.

As far as the text is concerned, the Biography of Unni seems to provide academia with a case in which ancient Egyptian officials relied on their own administrative abilities and loyal qualities to gain the king’s favor, make meritorious deeds, and continue to climb the career path. However, the relaunched archaeological survey of the central burial area of ​​Abydos in 1995 brought a “second chance” of Uni.

The central burial area of ​​Abydos is littered with rubbish and difficult to clean, and has been neglected since Mariette’s 1860 excavation. Since 1995, the Kelsey Museum of the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania-Yale-NYU joint archaeological team, led by J. Richards, have begun an archaeological survey of the central Abydos burial area. . Based on the topographic maps, pottery analysis and other results obtained during the two archaeological seasons in 1995 and 1996, the archaeological team found that a large number of pottery from the Sixth Dynasty and the ruins of a mud-brick mastaba tomb (a sacrificial building on the ground) were similar to Mariette 100 The archaeological results from more than a year ago are consistent. As a result, the archaeological team determined the location of Uni’s tomb. The tomb of Uni is a rather magnificent mud-brick building. The size of the bricks is among the best in the history of the Abydos area. At present, there are only about 5 meters of walls around the tomb, and the thickness is about 3.5 meters. 30 meters long. Another important discovery is that the two colored relief fragments are put together to show the words “Elder Unni”. There is also a fragment inscribed with “the true governor of Upper Egypt”, which is the highest title of Unni mentioned in the Biography of Unni. The archaeological team also found a small limestone statue of Uni in his childhood, with the inscription “Noble Uni” on the statue. A damaged false door is engraved with the name given by the king to Uni, “Nefer-Neht-Merre-Ra,” and the title of “Justice and Vizier.” Most importantly, the archaeological team found a nearly 2-meter-high limestone gatepost on the east side of Uni’s tomb, with inscriptions dedicated to Vizier Iww and some male relatives offering sacrifices for Iww. One of the men is labeled “His eldest son, Governor of Upper Egypt, Unni the Elder”. These are all information that is not recorded in the biographical text. In the biographical text, Uni’s career ended as “Voice of Upper Egypt”. 5 However, the archaeological results of the tomb show that: Uni was further promoted to “the justice and the vizier” after this. Why doesn’t the biographical text record Unni’s title of “Justice and Vizier”? It is more likely that Uni was promoted to justice and vizier in his later years, when his biographical inscription may have been completed.

The discovery that “the father of Unni was Vizier Iwu” prompted N. Kanawati to further examine the situation of Iwu’s family. He collected a series of monuments related to Yiwu such as CG1576, CG1439, CG1643, and by analyzing the names of people and officials in the inscriptions and constructing a time series for them, he pointed out that Yiwu may be the father-in-law of Pipi I and the governor of Upper Egypt. The son of Khui; he further connected Uni with Kuhui’s huge family, and constructed the family lineage of Uni’s dignitaries, that is, Kuhui was Uni’s grandfather, and the princess of Pipi I was Uni’s Aunt Inumin, governor of Upper Egypt and son-in-law of King Taiti, was Uni’s great-grandfather. 1 Although the biography of Uni does not contain the information that his great-grandfather Inumin is a favorite of Taiti, in fact, since the release of Brown, Unni has not been immune to the shadow of his family.

Throughout the research history of Unni Biography, it is not difficult to find that the research on bureaucratic groups in the ancient kingdom, especially the understanding of the selection and origin of bureaucratic groups, is almost based on the text of Unni Biography. The “second discovery” of Uni by archaeologists revealed Uni’s prominent background, which conflicted with the image of “unpretentious ministers” in the eyes of previous researchers, and should have stimulated interest in Unni and related political and historical issues. Study again. However, after the publication of the results of the second archaeological investigation in the central tomb area of ​​Abydos, the previous theories such as “poor family ministers” and “starting from scratch” have not only not been cleaned up and reflected on, but even latecomers have argued for this questionable tradition. Views continue to build upon. Therefore, it is necessary to review the Biography of Unni and the formation process of the research on the origin, selection and division of labor of bureaucratic groups in the Old Kingdom period based on it.

A. Gardiner’s conclusion that Unni was a “poor minister” first came from A. Gardiner, who pointed out that the Biography of Unni records “how a man of humble origin climbed to one of the most noble positions in Egypt. One” story. But he seems to have made no argument because it was self-evident that “Unni came from a humble background”. Pumuzhou also believes that “Unni’s background may not be very good.” Political scientist SE Finer’s The History of Government also cites Gardner’s analysis of Uni as a case study of the ancient Egyptian bureaucracy. It can be seen that the bias of Uni’s image has spread to the field of political science. In fact, Unni’s family background information is never given in the biographical text. Scholars may mistakenly interpret the opening line of the biography that Unnie’s career began as a “warehouse manager” (imy-r3 pr-Sno) as meaning Unnie’s career started at a low level, and therefore must have come from humble beginnings. 5 However, the specific status of the position of “warehouse manager” is quite diverse. The biography does not record the identity of the department to which the warehouse manager belongs or the owner of the warehouse. It is difficult to judge the specific status of this position in the ancient Egyptian bureaucracy. Therefore, unexamined judgments about Uni’s origin should not be made.

According to J. Baines’s biography, “His Majesty promoted me to be the only friend and chief of guards, and I replaced the four chiefs of guards who had served in this position.” Existence is evident”, he goes on to argue: “This Meritocratic Display was already part of the institutionalization of the bureaucracy of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties… (The Old Kingdom) from a blood-oriented, special A hierarchy, symbolized by the title of ‘member of the nobility’, was transformed into a system based on administrative duties.” 8 Baines seems to think that Unnie went through a “competition” before being given the position of chief of the guards and that he achievement wins. However, there is virtually no way of knowing from the biographical text alone whether Unni won the competition on the basis of talent and merit. After Richards published the archaeological finds in the central burial area of ​​Abydos, Uni’s dignitary background showed that he could obtain office through family power. Therefore, the existing materials cannot explain that Uni’s success in his career is a manifestation of the “merit system” implemented in the middle and late Old Kingdoms. Based on this, Baines’ view that the hierarchy of the Old Kingdom has changed from focusing on “aristocratic status” to focusing on “administrative positions” is naturally also debatable.

C. Eyre makes two points in his dedicated study of the Biography of Unni. First, he called Unnie’s role in the political landscape as “New Men”. He believed that Unnie, as a king’s favorite from humble backgrounds, gained the king’s trust and profession by providing personal service to the king. The opportunity to rise in his career, his main task is to represent the king himself and to compete with the local powers as vested interests. It is not uncommon in the history of various civilizations in the world for the ruler to support the poor officials who lack background to fight against the huge power and family power, and make this group a new class in the society. the result of. “New man” has a specific meaning, referring to being the first person in his family to obtain a high position and enter the Senate, that is, those officials who were not prominent and ended up in high positions. 1 However, neither the connotation nor the origin of the group is applicable to Uni’s case. The use of the word “newcomer” shows that Ayre presupposes the unremarkable background of Unnie without verification, so he further draws the conclusion that Unnie “started from scratch” is also a “natural” bias. error. The practice of directly appropriating terms from other fields with specific meanings into this field under the circumstance that the time-space background and political system are completely different, dispels the uniqueness and complexity of ancient Egyptian history, and also makes Eyre feel Judgments of the Uniques and the political background of the time lacked a solid foundation. Second, Eyre pointed out that in the middle of the Fifth Dynasty, there was a differentiation between the technocrats with actual duties and the court aristocrats without actual duties; Unni was naturally classified as a technocrat with actual duties. One, this group is the so-called “self-made” crowd. 2 As a result, researchers have linked the origin of officials to the changes in their positions. Technocrats from humble backgrounds hold “real jobs,” while hereditary aristocrats have “virtual titles” and do not have to participate in specific jobs. However, Uni’s background shows that there is no definite connection between the official’s background and the “virtual reality” of the position.

In fact, in the more than 100 years since Mariette’s discovery of the Biography of Unni in 1860, Egyptologists, due to lack of other relevant materials, could only examine the biography of Unni through the isolated text of the Biography of Unni itself. Historical information, so the research of Gardner, Baines and Ayre is influenced by the text and has a biased understanding of the bureaucratic group. But their fundamental problem is not the lack of materials, but the too bold and arbitrary establishment of connections without textual research, or the lack of thorough analysis of text details, or the undiscriminated use of other disciplines with specific backgrounds, meanings and uses Scope term. After Unni’s “second discovery”, although Kanawati made outstanding contributions in the reconstruction of Unni’s family lineage, he still affirmed that a mere examination of biographical texts “would lead one to believe that Unni was in the bureaucracy” The system is promoted by competence, efficiency, diligence and the trust of the king.” He argues that “texts similar to the Biography of Unni illustrate the emergence of a new rising class in the late Old Kingdom who attributed their career advancement to ability rather than nepotism”. 3 Similarly, although the academic community generally accepts the gap between archaeological materials and biographical texts in shaping Uni’s image, 4 there is no “knowledge update” research on the origin and selection of bureaucratic groups, and the next part will focus on Uni. Zier group and discuss this aspect.

In the ancient Egyptian bureaucracy, a group of high-level officials composed of officials such as viziers, the heads of various central government departments, and the head of the royal palace managed the country under the king’s rule. 1 And in this group, the Vizier is the most important. They are not only the heads of the central government, they have jurisdiction over many departments such as finance, officials, engineering, food, and law, but also participate in the management of the palace and have close personal connections with the king. They can be regarded as the representative of the king and the transmission of the king’s will. performer, performer. The origin and appointment of the vizier are the most obvious manifestations of the principle of selecting officials in the Old Kingdom.

In the early days of the Old Kingdom, viziers were selected from the male immediate family of the king. The relationship of trust between rulers and ministers is based on blood. This makes the management of the inner court and the management of the state intertwined, and there is no clear boundary between the two. In the materials found so far, the position of Vizier first appeared during the reign of King Snefru (about 2613-2589 BC) of the Fourth Dynasty (about 2613-2494 BC). For Nefermaat. 2 In the opinion of the researchers, Niflmaat was the son of King Huni (circa 2637-2613 BC), the brother of Snifru. 3 His grand tomb is located near the Pyramid of Meydum. 4 The location and size of the tombs suggest Niffel Maat’s strong connection to the king. Nefermaat’s eldest son, Hemiunu, also holds the title of vizier and is known as the “true son of the king”. His tomb is located in the center of the cemetery near the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the quarry markings of the tomb stone indicate that the tomb of Heim Iunu may have been built in Khufu (Khufu, about 2589 BC-2566 BC) During his reign, he himself was the vizier of King Khufu. 5 This corresponds exactly to the vizier whose father Nifr Maat was Khufu’s father Snifru. Heim Iunu’s successor, Vizier Ankhhaf, is said to be the son of Sneferu’s partial concubine, who served King Khafra (circa 2558-2532 BC). 6 Therefore, in the period of the Old Kingdom, until the Fourth Dynasty, the office of vizier was held by the son of the king.

The central bureaucracy of the Old Kingdom expanded significantly during the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, with five departments of management, archives, engineering, taxation and treasury division of labor. As a result, the number of bureaucratic groups has also increased significantly. This shows that the situation that the state governance had to face at that time became increasingly complex. The king has a limited number of male immediate family members, and picking the viziers from among the princes is not enough to keep the central government running. Senedjemib Inti became vizier after the bureaucracy expanded. He was buried in the Senedjemib family burial complex in Giza, the first known figure of this family was Inti. Inti’s family background is unknown, and his tomb inscriptions show that Inti served as vizier from the second half of Djedkara’s reign (about 2414 BC – 2375 BC), and at the same time, transferred the “royal family”. The chief of the archives and scribes”, “the chief of the six courts”, “the chief of all the king’s works”, “the chief of the two treasuries”, “the chief of the two granaries” and so on are all in one. Inti not only commanded the ministers, instructed the clerks in their clerical work, but also dealt with legal affairs, management of public works, and the supply and distribution of food and cloth. He was a typical figure who held the real power of the central government. Inti’s two sons, Senedjemib Mehi and Khnumenti were inscribed in the tomb of Inti, both of whom had the title of vizier. From the time information revealed in the inscriptions in the tomb, it can be inferred that after Yinti’s death, Maisie not only served as the vizier, but also served as the master architect of the upper and lower Egyptian royal families, the head of the double granary, and the head of the royal clerk. Maisie’s wife Khentkaus has the title of “Daughter of the King”. Due to the lack of historical data, it is impossible to determine whether Maisie really married a princess, but her status should be relatively prominent. The tomb of Inti’s other son, Henumenti, is engraved with the circles of the king’s names of Unas and Taiti, so Henumenti should be a vizier who served these two kings. The biography of Nekhebu, the chief engineer of Piper I in the Old Kingdom, records a detailed promotion of his career. Naheb started as an “ordinary construction worker” and served as “construction engineer supervisor”, “construction engineer supervisor” and “(construction worker) head of a certain department”, and was gradually promoted to “royal architect master”, and then became a “palace”. Minister and Master Builder of the King”, “Master Builder of the King of the Two Houses of the Only Friend (Upper and Lower Egypt)”, and eventually became the famous chief engineer of Piper I. In this way, he seems to be a typical “merit-oriented” figure who achieves professional success. However, GA Reinser pointed out that Naheb also belonged to the Senejmibu family. Although there is no parental information in Naheb’s tomb, his tomb is located in the burial complex of the Senejameb family, and his title “superintendent of construction works” is also one of the titles commonly held by members of the Senejameb family. The Tomb of the Two Sons of Naheb is opposite his tomb. The titles of the two sons, Ptahshepses Impy and Sabuptah Ibebi, were both “Noble, Master of All Works of the King, Master of Royal Builders of the Two Houses, The head of the workshop”. 4 The four generations of the Senejamib family served mainly as viziers and chiefs of construction, from the reign of Jedekara until the reign of Pepi II (circa 2278-2184 BC), although They are not the king’s immediate family, but they have formed a force to be reckoned with through the family lineage. Reinser) pointed out that Naheb also belonged to the Senejmibu family. Although there is no parental information in Naheb’s tomb, his tomb is located in the burial complex of the Senejameb family, and his title “superintendent of construction works” is also one of the titles commonly held by members of the Senejameb family. The Tomb of the Two Sons of Naheb is opposite his tomb. The titles of the two sons, Ptahshepses Impy and Sabuptah Ibebi, were both “Noble, Master of All Works of the King, Master of Royal Builders of the Two Houses, The head of the workshop”. 4 The four generations of the Senejamib family served mainly as viziers and chiefs of construction, from the reign of Jedekara until the reign of Pepi II (circa 2278-2184 BC), although They are not the king’s immediate family, but they have formed a force to be reckoned with through the family lineage. Reinser) pointed out that Naheb also belonged to the Senejmibu family. Although there is no parental information in Naheb’s tomb, his tomb is located in the burial complex of the Senejameb family, and his title “superintendent of construction works” is also one of the titles commonly held by members of the Senejameb family. The Tomb of the Two Sons of Naheb is opposite his tomb. The titles of the two sons, Ptahshepses Impy and Sabuptah Ibebi, were both “Noble, Master of All Works of the King, Master of Royal Builders of the Two Houses, The head of the workshop”. 4 The four generations of the Senejamib family served mainly as viziers and chiefs of construction, from the reign of Jedekara until the reign of Pepi II (circa 2278-2184 BC), although They are not the king’s immediate family, but they have formed a force to be reckoned with through the family lineage.

In the previous understanding of the bureaucratic system of the ancient kingdom from the traditional viewpoints, the important support for the principle of selecting officials from “blood relationship” to “merit” theory is that the princes during the Fifth Dynasty no longer held high positions such as viziers, rather than the royal family. Those who can rely on their talents or merits to hold important official positions. In fact, the princes’ withdrawal from senior positions is not sufficient evidence of a shift in electoral principles. Duaenra, Seshahotep Heti and Babaf, who succeeded the vizier after the princes stepped down from high-ranking positions such as the vizier, were indeed not the sons of the king, But they come from a wider range of royal relatives, and they are not really “poor officials”. Moreover, Babaf is the son of Dua Enla; although the Senejmibu family is not from the royal family, there are also 4 generations of senior officials. This shows that even if the state selects officials from groups other than princes, “merit” plays a far less important role in selecting officials than “blood relationship”.

In recent years, some Egyptologists have begun to use the “complex network analysis” (CNA) data processing method to analyze the archaeological materials of the tombs of more than 2,000 men and 500 women in the Old Kingdom. The study found that from the Fifth Dynasty onwards, candidates for high-ranking positions have largely come from members of powerful families who have intermarryed with the royal family. 6 That is to say, during the Fifth Dynasty, the origin of the vizier group did change, but it was not an essential change. The vizier’s selection of officials has expanded only from the small circle of male immediate family members of the king during the Fourth Dynasty to the children of powerful families who are related to the royal family by marriage. This change is not only a requirement for an increase in the number of personnel required in the process of the country’s administrative system becoming complex and mature, but also an inevitable choice made by the king to balance the power of the major families and consolidate his rule. The origin of officials, that is, the familial in-laws behind them, has been a key factor in the selection of viziers during the Old Kingdom.

Although Uni frequently shows his efficiency, talent and loyalty in his biography, the results of the second archaeological investigation of the central burial area of ​​Abydos have given modern people a comprehensive understanding of Uni’s family background.” The fact that Unnie has risen in his career based solely on his service to the king” will naturally not be taken lightly. Of course, there’s no need to be skeptical of everything Uni says in his biography. There are not a few officials who detailed the achievements of officials in their biographies like Uni. It can be seen that the biographies that mainly record the career of officials convey the value orientation of officials in the society at that time, that is, they respect the atmosphere of being diligent, efficient, loyal and reliable. Social concepts may not be completely consistent with social reality. In reality, blood ties and nepotism are still the main factors influencing the selection of viziers in the Old Kingdom.

The particularity and typicality of Unni’s case lies in the discovery that its textual materials and archaeological materials were separated by more than 100 years, and also in the complex process of the interweaving of the research on Unni’s Biography and the study of bureaucratic groups in the Old Kingdom. This highly valuable research history suggests that it is necessary to abandon the presuppositions that have not been investigated, to equate new archaeological materials with ancient texts, and enter the historical situation jointly constructed by archaeology and literature; also to communicate philology, archaeology and other disciplines , attach importance to the research progress of different disciplines on the same issue, so as to continuously advance the understanding of ancient Egyptian history. In the face of the ancient world, which is quite isolated from modern society, the use of specific terms (such as “new man”) in other time and space contexts needs to be carefully screened and treated with caution.