“Hymn to the Nile”

(ca. 1990–1950 BCE)

The “Hymn to the Nile” is an ancient Egyptian composition also known as the “Hymn to the Inundation” or the “Hymn to Hapy,” dating to the early twentieth century BCE and attributed to a scribe called Khety. Consisting of about two hundred of lines of verse written in short columns, it is an unusual sort of hymn in that it was not part of any known temple ritual. Hapy, god of the Nile River and its flood, had no temple and perhaps no priests or temple ritual particular to his worship. Nonetheless, he was a very popular and extremely important god. This hymn was likewise very popular, and many ancient copies exist. It was no doubt sung or recited at festivals in honor of the god and the Nile’s life-giving inundation.

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Nilometer visible at the feet of a woman on Elephantine Island (Library of Congress)

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