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Maʿat and ΔIKH: Some Comparative Considerations of Egyptian and Greek Thought

Author(s): Vincent Arieh Tobin

Source: Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 24 (1987), pp. 113-121
Published by: American Research Center in Egypt
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40000265
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Macat and AIKH:
Some Comparative Considerations
of Egyptian and Greek Thought

Vincent Arieh Tobin

The position occupied by the concept of macat the certaintyof macatthat enables the peasant to
in Egyptian thinking is, in the Greek outlook, continuehis questforjusticein his own situation:
roughly paralleled by the term 5ikt|. These two
termsrepresentthe basis of the cosmic outlook of Do macatfor the sakeof the Lordof macat,
their respectivecultures, and serve as a starting The macatof whose macatendures.2
point for the understandingof the Egyptian and
Greek attitudes toward nature, life, the world, He furtherstates:
and the political system. In the development of
thought in the ancient world, both Egypt and Speak macat, do macat,
Greece made their own peculiar contribution; For it is mighty, it is great,and it endures.3
and it is to our advantage to attempt to define
both the similarities and the differencesbetween What the Peasantin effectrelies on in his pleas is
the two systemsof thought. not the idea that macat will be done auto-
To maintain, however, that 5ikt| in the Greek matically,but ratheron the fact that the principle
system is the equivalent of the Egyptian macatis of macat is everlasting and powerful. For this
a mistaken oversimplification.To the Egyptian reason it is the duty of political officials to act
mind, macat bound all things together in an accordingly. Justice in earthly affairs does not
indestructible unity: the universe, the natural occur of its own volition. Rather it must be
world, the state, and the individual were all seen accomplished by the voluntary actions of man,
as parts of the wider order generatedby macat. who is expected to act in accordancewith the
The naturalresult of this was the conception of a righteous order laid down and demanded by
perfectcosmos thatcould not be totally destroyed. macat. In such a manner the concept of macat
Such is evident in the Old Kingdom text of gives rise to a social conscience.
Ptah-hotep: A similar idea concerning §ikt| may be seen in
the thought of Parmenides,who maintains that
Greatis justice [macat],lasting in effect, "Dike does not release her fetters and allow
Unchallenged since the time of Osiris.1 (anything) to come into being or to be destroyed,
but holds (all things)."4The function of 5ikt| in
Such a concept is obviously the basis of the this instance is akin to that of macatinsofar as it
optimism that is so characteristicof the Old functions as a regulating force to maintain the
Kingdom and that is seen throughout the text of
Ptah-hotep. The same optimistic reliance on 2 Bl,304: ir mBHn nb mlct
macat is even more obvious in the "Tale of the
nty wn mjct n m=ict.f
Eloquent Peasant,"for thereit is the assuranceof 3 Bl,320-21: dd mSct ir mSH
dr ntt wr.s cS.sWjh.s
1 Translation by Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian 4 Parmenides, Fragments 8.13: ofrte yevsaGai out' 6Mua0ai
Literature(Berkeley:Universityof California)I 64. dvfjKsAiicr)xct?tdaaaa TteSritawaXk' e%ei.

114 JARCE XXIV (1987)
natural order. At the same time, however, 5iKr| gods are quite obviously no more than personi-
appears as a negative force, one that prevents fications of natural forces, human or otherwise.
change or development and holds the cosmos in The force of §ikt| in Homer, therefore,is some-
a staticsituation. Thus, in contrastto the positive thing that exists beyond the control of the gods,
effects of macat, which ensure the purposeful although at times they may act so as to imple-
righting of wrong, 5(kt| functions solely to main- ment it, and is, moreover, totally amoral. Per-
tain an established status quo, with no con- haps the most dramaticportrayalof this amoral
sideration as to whether it be right or wrong in a aspectof Homeric 5ikt| is found in the symbol of
moral sense. This amoral understandingof 5(kt| the two jars of Zeus:
appears to be the sense of the term in the Homeric
epics. Odyssey IV 691 mentions the Sikt] Beicov For two jars lie on the floorof Zeus
paai?v,f|(ov of
("dike godlike kings") in a context Of the gifts which he gives, one of evils, the
where 5ikt| must obviously be translated as other of blessings.
"habit"or "custom",this 5tKr)being to act either To whomsoeverZeus,who rejoicesin the
rightly or wrongly as they so desire, context thunderbolt,gives a mixture,
again making it clear that wrong action is often Such a man findssometimesevil, sometimes
more characteristicof rulers than right (Odyssey good;
IV 691f.). So also expressionssuch as 5ficbcov Sikt] But to whomsoeverhe gives of the baneful,
"the dike of slaves" (Odyssey XIV 59), 5tKrj him he makesinto a wretch,
yepovxcov "the dike of old men" (Odyssey And evil miserydriveshim over the sacred
XXIV 255), and Sikt] Ppoxcov"the dike of mor- earth,
tals" (OdysseyXI 218) make it clear that the term And he roamswildly, honoured by neither
5(kt| means no more than that which is estab- gods nor mortals.6
lished or customary. The last of these expres-
sions, 5ikt| ppoxcbv,refersspecifically to human No moral considerationscan be seen here, nor is
mortality, stronglynegative trait in the outlook thereany attemptby Homer to justify the actions
of Homeric thought. Yet Homeric man must of the god. Zeusactshere,seemingly,accordingto
accept even such negative situations and events, his own whim, and no justificationof his action
simply because they are ordained by the estab- is necessary.For Homer, this is no more and no
lished order of 5ikt|. The fact that they are thus less than 5tKT|.
orderedby 5iKr|makesthem inevitableand hence This negative aspect of 5ikt| stands in sharp
they must be accepted as in some degreeright or contrast to the positive characterof macat that
just. However, it must be noted that 5ikt| does enables the Peasant to pursue his claims for
not necessarilyordercertain things because they justice. So also, the whole tragic atmosphereof
are right; rather things are right and just solely the Iliad is starkly contrasted by the hopeful
because they are orderedby §ikt|. In Homeric optimism of Ptah-hotep, the Iliad being strongly
thought everything turns out according to its pervaded by the limiting power of 5ikt|, and
natural course, that is to say, in accordancewith Ptah-hotep being markedby a positive attitude
what is determined by 5iKr|,by natural order; toward the certaintyof a beneficentmacat. The
and not even the gods can change this.5 Even differentattitudes,moreover,may also be seen, at
when the gods do appear to interfere in the least partially, as products of the different en-
events of mortals, it is evident that what they vironmentsout of which both Homer and Ptah-
accomplish is no more than could be expected
in the given situation. In such instances the 6 Iliad XXIV 527-33:
Soioi yap T87ii0oi KaiaKeicnjaiev Aio<;ouSei
5 See, for example, Iliad XVI 433ff., where Zeus debates Scbpoovoia 8i8o)oi, koikg)v,eiepoc; 5s sdcov
whether or not he should save his mortal son Sarpedon from a) (lev k' anfieii;a(;ScbrjZei)QxepTmcepauvcx;,
death. Hera objects strenuously to the very idea that Zeus akXoxe \itv 18 KaKcp 6 ye Kupexai,oXkozz 5' eoG^cp"
should even think of saving a mortal man who has been a>8e K8xcov}ii)yp(bvScbrj,AxoPr|x6v80r)Ke,
doomed to death, an action of which the other gods could not Kai 8 Kaicf](3ou(3p(oaTi(; etc!x66va Slav e^auvei,
approve. cpoixa5' outs 9soTai Tsiuisvot; outs ppoxotoiv.

hotep arose, the Homeric Iliad reflecting the that everything is to be in its proper place and
uncertain life of a barbaricwarrior society, and act according to its proper nature, nevertheless
the text of Ptah-hotep coming from a geographi- differs substantially from macat in the absence
cal location in which men weremore prone to be of any innate moral overtones.
conscious of the certain and unchanging order The Homeric picture of the 5ikt] of kings
that could be observed in the natural world contrastswith the Egyptian conception of king-
around them. This order in nature is perhaps ship, of which the primary duty was the up-
nowhere more graphicallyillustratedthan in the holding by the king of the orderof creation that
"Hymn to the Aten" in Ay's tomb at Amarna, had been establishedon the primeval mound at
where the natural order of macat is shown as the time of the creation.9Helck, interpretingthe
unified through the being and activity of the hieroglyph for macat(<*=*)as "base",sees macat
Aten. as the Grundlage ("foundation") of the world
The Homeric expressionSikt]GsicovPaaiAf|cov and human life.10Hence, the Egyptian king was
"dike of god-like kings" (Odyssey IV 691) also regardedas playing what was basically a cosmic
deserves some further comment. As has been role. This role seems to be signified by the cultic
pointed out, this expression implies no moral ritual of the raisingof macat,a ritual symbolizing
responsibility on the part of the ruler. Likewise that by the actions of the king everythingin the
in the actions of Agamemnonin the Iliad we see world was in its proper order. The raising of
no evidenceof any moralconscience.On the con- macatis probably best interpretedin this sense,
trary, Agamemnon shows only a consciousness and not as "symbolicassistanceto the sun god to
of his own personalrights and prerogatives(esp. internalize the breath of life" as has been sug-
Iliad I 100-187). For Agamemnon to act as he gested.11In brief, the kingship in Egypt repre-
does is no more than the 5ikt| ('"habit" or sented the effectivepower of the orderof macat.
"custom") of the Homeric kingship. This con- This concept is strongly represented in the
ception of the rights and privileges of the ruleris PyramidTexts:
also portrayedin the characterof Agamemnonas
he appears in the Oresteiaof Aeschylus, and is Heaven is content, the earth is joyful,
given further expression in the Antigone of For they have heardthat Pepi has established
Sophocles when Creon asks: "Is not the state macatin the place of disorder[isft].12
considered the property of the ruler?"7In both
these instances it was the intention of the author Note that the opposite of macatis isft, a contrast
to point to the contrary through the course of made elsewhere in Egyptian literature, for ex-
the drama, and to illustrate that 5iKr|had very ample, in the "Prophecies of Neferty," and in
definite moral implications of the requirement the "Complaints of Khakheperre-Sonb."13In
of righteous action. However, it must also be other instances macatis opposed by grg ("false-
admittedthat such moral implications belong to hood").14The substitution of isft for macat, a
a laterperiod of Greekthought and are in no way
inherent in the original concept of 5ikt). Despite 9 H. Brunner, "Gerechtigkeit als Fundament des Thrones,"
the implications of morality that had thus be- FT 8 (1958) 426-28.
come associatedwith the termSikt],Plato, in his 10 W. Helck, LA III lllOf., s.v. "Maat."
11 I. Shirun-Grumach, "Remarks on the Goddess Maat,"
Republic, would later reject such connotations Pharaonic Egypt, the Bible, and Christianity (ed. S. Groll;
and return to a concept of 51kt) as xa eaoxoi)
Jerusalem, 1985) 179.
TTpaxxeiv ("to act according to one's own char- 12 PT 1775: pt htp.w tBm Bw ib
acter").In this way he appears to return to the sdm.n.sn ddi Nfr-kB-rcmBctm st isft.
earlier Homeric concept.8 Such an expression, 13 On Neferty see Helck, Die Prophezeiung des Njr.tj

although related to macat insofar as it implies (Wiesbaden, 1970) §XVe (p. 57); on Khakheperre-Sonb:
Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, I 145ff. (see esp. 149
n. 4).
7 Antigone 738: oo xoOKpaioCvTcx;f] tco^ic;voui^exai. 14 I refer here especially to the Amarna texts where the
8 W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greeks and Their Gods (Boston, nobles of Akhenaten point out that macat is in their bodies
1950) 127. and that they, therefore, reject falsehood (grg). See, for
116 JARCE XXIV (1987)
situation so graphically described by Neferty, In this text we see the positive side of the orderof
gives rise to disorder in the land and in hu- 5iKT|,in contrast to its more negative presenta-
man affairs. This disorder, however, will be tion in the Homeric Iliad. In the same vein, the
righted by the coming of the good king, Ameny Oresteiaof Aeschylusattemptsto portrayhuman
(AmenemhetI): history as a process that leads to a definite end,
namely the establishment of a just order, in
Macatwill returnto her throne, which 5(kt| further implies a concept of moral-
For evil will have been drivenaway.15 ity. A similar concept of a purposeful divine
orderis also found in the Oedipus at Colonus of
Thus by Egyptianthinking the king was expected Sophocles, as well as in King Oedipus by the
to be the effective agent of order in the state; in same author. In neither case does Sophocles
fact, he "was the state by official doctrine."16In attempt to prove or explain this order;he simply
the Greek systems there was no individual who assumes its existence and assumes also that it is
held such a position, except for the person of the an order that is moral and righteous. The
philosopher-king in the Republic of Plato, and Antigone of Sophocles presents, as at least one
this, of course, was in a Utopian situation. (To side of an argument,a conception of 5ikt| that is
give due credit to the Greek mind, it must be somewhat more precise when Antigone herself
admittedthat an individual such as the Egyptian speaks of "Dike which dwells with the gods
king would have been out of keeping with the below."18Aikt] in this context obviously refers
more democraticaspirationsof the Greekideals, to the natural rights of the family and blood-ties
at least as they developed at a later point in as opposed to the established statutes and laws
classicalAthens.)Agamemnon,as he is portrayed of the state. The point to be made here is not the
by both Homer and Aeschylus, definitely does conflict between two systemsof right or legality,
not reflectany conception of a king who is the but rather that Sophocles here presents a con-
basis of all order.On the contrary,Homer'sIliad cept of Aikt] as right based on ancient natural
portraysAgamemnon as a source of actual dis- principles. Such a concept of Aikt] is probably
order. Hence, in terms of Egyptian thought, closer to macat than other Sophoclean ideas
Agamemnonappearsmore as the embodimentof insofar as it falls back on a natural order of
isft. human relationships rather than on legal codes
Despite the fact that 5iKT|in Greek thought is that have been established for the maintenance
not necessarily connected with the ruler so in- of a particular political system. Aikt] in this
separablyas macatin Egypt, Sikt]does sharewith sense returnsto something more basic than mere
macat the characteristicthat it is regarded as legal codes, and refers to a principle of order
a principle of order in a positive sense. The that cannot be defined in terms of specific laws
"Hymn to the Kouretes" from third century and statutes. It can, however, demand that man
b.c.e. Palaikastro in eastern Crete contains the regulate his life and actions in accordancewith
statement mi ppoxouc;AikcxKorcfjxe"and Dike it so as to produce a society that is just and
led mortals".17The context of the text as a whole righteous. In such a sense Sophoclean 5ikt| in
describesa state of order,peace, and prosperity, the Antigone is shown to be a principle that
all connectedwith the presenceof Zeusand Aiktj. generatesorder and stability, as well as provid-
ing justice in society. In this instance, Sophocles
example, M. Sandman, Texts from the Time of Akhenaten
appears to refer to a concept that may well be
(Brussels, 1938) 91.18-19, 76.16-17, 77.1-2.
seen as the equivalent of the Egyptian macat, a
15 Helck, Die Prophezeiung des Nfr.tj: concept by which 5ikt| functions as a basis for
iw rriDCt r lit r st.s righteousness, order, and justice. The Eloquent
isft dr.ty r rivty. Peasantcould probablyhave just as well referred
16 J. A. Wilson,
"Egypt," Before Philosophy (by H. Frank-
fort et al.; Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1949) 98.
17 Line 24. See J. E. Harrison, Themis (Cleveland, 1912)
1-10. 18 Antigone 551: f) 5uvoiko<;tcov k&tcoGecovAikt).

himself to this Sophoclean §(kt| as he did to may be used of one who is punished for his
macat. Sophoclean thinking on 5ikt| thus ap- crime. This narrower sense of 5iKT|,combined
pears to have advancedwell beyond the harsher with more fatalistic overtones, is the one pre-
concept of the Homeric epics. However, it must sented by Aeschylus in the first two divisions of
be remembered that Sophocles represents the his Oresteia. Despite the grimness with which
outstanding individual thinker, and that such a this concept is portrayedin the Oresteia,thereis,
concept was far from being inherent in the term nevertheless, a certain positive element in it,
5ikt). Nor should we suppose that Sophocles insofar as it assures certain punishment for the
reflected the general ideas of his own day, wrongdoer."The scaleof dike keepswatch,"says
Sophoclean opinions not necessarily being the Aeschylus in the Choephoroi, and no escape is
acceptedGreekattitudes. possible.21 The only positive element herein,
The most profoundof the Greekstatementson however, is that the retribution to come is that
the nature of 5ikt| was made by Aeschylus in his which is deservedand merited.Aikt]presentsno
Oresteia.The chorusof eldersin the Agamemnon constructiveelements thus far. By the end of the
affirmof 5ikt| that it "guides everything to its Eumenides,however,§(kt| has becomea positive
end."19The Agamemnon,however,is basicallya principle, one designed to protect against in-
drama that portrays the power of vengeance, justice and to function as a creative force for
as does the second play of the trilogy, the good, the grimly punitive Furies have been
Choephoroi, although both dramas do contain transformedinto the beneficent Eumenides (see
hints of a more positive and constructivefunc- Eumenides903ff.).Thus, through the processof
tion for the forceof 5ikt|. Nevertheless,the totality the trilogy, Aeschylushas attemptedto providea
of these two plays points to 8ikt| as a punitive positive interpretationfor the ancient constrain-
power, a forceof retributionthat guaranteesonly ing force of 5(kt|;and in so doing he approaches
punishment for the sinner. This concept of Sikt] more closely than any other Greekthinkerto the
is supremelyevidentin the HomericIliad, where, positive values of the Egyptian macat.
for example, the death of Hector at the hands of The last of the three Greek dramatists,Euri-
Achilles appears as just retribution for Hector's pides, presents a striking contrast to the more
killing of Patroclus on the battlefield.20So also cosmic thought of Aeschylus.Euripides,perhaps
the Greek phrase 5iKT|v(peuyeivmay be used of more of a realist, had little concern for all-
the defendant in a court trial, with the obvious inclusive philosophical generalities. The main
implication that said defendantattemptsto avoid emphases of his thought were two: the psycho-
5iKT]in its negative aspect of punishment. Like- logical makeup of the human individual and a
wise, the expression5iKr|vSiSovai,"to give dike" strongly pronounced conviction that evil will
always be punished- these two frequentlybeing
19Agamemnon781:Tiav5' S7rixepjiavcofia. combinedwithin the samedrama.With regardto
20Iliad XXII 33Iff. This concept of retribution through
the individual, Euripidestends to see Sikt]as the
death on the battlefieldis perhapsone of the majorbasesof
the Homericoutlook on life, at least in the Iliad, the Odyssey implication that each man must accept and act
presentinga somewhatless tragicview. In the Iliad, however, according to his own proper nature. Thus it is
it is the warriorsocietyand the ideology of excellence(apexf)) in the Bacchae that Pentheus meets his down-
on the battlefieldthat is the sole real value of life and that fall through denial of certain elements within
thus becomes the basis of order (5iicn) in human society. his own nature, the same being true of the
Homer, however, appears to accept this as the established
way, and makesno valuejudgmentabout it: "Whois good in Hippolytus. In Medea and Elektra, Euripides
the Iliad ? Who is bad?Such distinctions do not exist; there presents a picture of two individuals who at-
are only men suffering, warriors fighting, some winning, tempt to fulfill 5iKr|(justice), but, due to their
some losing. . . . To condemnforce,or absolveit, would be to
condemn, or absolve, life itself" (R. Bespaloff,On the Iliad
[New York, 1947]48). This interpretationof the Iliad implies 21 Choephoroi 61: portf)5' ETUGKOTreiSikck;.This same
that Homer'sfinal word on SIkt)is that it is entirelyamoral, conception of the inevitability of punishment is also a
or, at least, that insofar as this is the established way of frequent theme in the Hebrew prophets. See, for example,
things, it must be acceptedas just and right. Jeremiahxxxi:29-30 and Ezekielxviii.
118 JARCE XXIV (1987)
own warped psychological structures, succeed order such as may be seen in macat.Such too is
only in committing horrifyingacts of vengeance. the description of macatgiven in the Ramesside
The same is true of his drama Hecabe.22In "Instructionof Amenemope":
such cases, what Euripides in actuality does
(speaking in Egyptian terms)is present a situa- Macatis a great gift of god,
tion where macat has been turned into isft. He gives it to whom he wishes.25
At one point in his Trojan Women, however,
Euripides does approach close to some concept While the context of these lines does seem to
of universal justice. Here Hecabe, addressing imply a certain aspect of just retribution in
Zeus as the necessity (dvdyKT|)of nature or macat, at the same time the total context of
human intelligence (voO<;)-she herself does not Amenemope implies that all will be well for the
know which- proclaims: man who lives according to correctprinciples.26
By way of contrast, the Euripidean concept of
Moving on a soundness path, 5iKT]does not promise such. On the contrary,
You guide all mortalaffairsaccordingto dike.25 Euripides'strong consciousnessof the wrong so
frequentlydone by man to man makes it highly
Despite the nobility of Euripides'statementhere, unlikely that he could ever have held a doctrine
he does not approach the Egyptian macat,for his that statedevil must eventuallybe set to right.
intention in this context is solely the affirmation A further point of contrastbetween 5ikt| and
that all evil will be eventuallypunished. Aikt]in macatis to be found in the relationship of both
this sense, however, does no more than punish with death and the dead. To the Homeric mind
the sinner, it does not restore the right. The the most striking characteristicof the human
satisfactionexpressedby Hecabe in this instance condition was its mortality. Man had to die
is due only to the hope that Helen will be simply because he was man; immortality be-
punished for her partin the Trojan war, and does longed to the gods alone. Thus, when Calypso
not contain any implication that she (Hecabe) offers Odysseusimmortality,he refusesher prof-
will be restoredto her own rightful position. fered boon, for no other reason than that he
If we compare this latter concept of 5ikt| (by wishes to returnto his home.27Underlying this is
which, according to Hecabe, the supremepower the concept that man, since he is human, must
regulates all mortal affairs) with the picture of die. Immortality belongs only to the gods, and
Amun-Re as he appearsin the Hymn of Suti and hence Odysseus appears never to give even a
Hor, we find in the latter the picture of a deity thought to such a possibility. Mortalityis part of
who is the source of all universal order, cre- his verynature- of his proper5ikt|. This inevita-
ativity, and life.24By way of contrast, the 5iKT| bility of deathis expressedeven more graphically
presented by Euripides in the Trojan Women elsewherein the Odyssey:
offers a universal order that is in effect no more
than one of retribution,no matterhow deserved But indeed death, which is common to all,
such retribution may be. Such can hardly be not even the gods
taken as the basis for a positive and constructive
22 The situation in the Hecabe is somewhat different than 25 Amenemope 21:5, 6, translated by Lichtheim, ibid., 158.
in Medea and Elektra. In the Hecabe, Euripides provides a 26 The description of macat as given by God to whomsoever
picture of a woman driven virtually mad by the injustice done he desires recalls the symbolism of the two jars of Zeus in
to her. Hence, despite the horror of her actions, one is able to Iliad XXIV 527-33. The gifts of Zeus, however, are entirely
feel a certain amount of sympathy for her. There is, moreover, arbitrary as to their content: they may contain either good or
even a certain degree of grim satisfaction at seeing the evil. The thought of Amenemope, on the other hand, appears
criminal receive his due. as more positive. To receive macat from Amenemope' s god
23 Trojan Women 887f.: appears as a blessing. Such cannot be said of the gifts that
7rdvia yap Si' &\|/6(poi) Zeus gives from his two jars.
PaivcovKs^euBooKorea8iKr|vid 9vf|T' ayeu;. 27 Odyssey V 208f.:
24 The hymn is translated in Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian 8v6d5e k' av36i[levcovaov ejioi x65e 5coua (pvAdaaoic;
Literature, II 86-89. dGdvaxoc;T'ei'ric;,. . .

Are able to turn away from a man whom very positive attitudes found throughout the
they love, Egyptian mortuary texts. Since these are too
When the destructivefate of far-reaching numerous to discuss in any detail, let us consider
death destroyshim.28 only one at this point: Spell 20 of the Coffin
Sophocles also, like Homer, recognizes the in-
evitability of man's mortality, stressing it by its Geb will open for you your blind eyes,
inclusion in his famous ode on the greatnessof He has straightenedfor you your contracted
man: ''Only from death can he not contrive knees.
escape."29Even Aeschylus,with his highly posi- There will be given to you your heart[ib] of
tive cosmic outlook, cannot deny this fact, the your mother,
whole argument of both the Agamemnon and Your heart[/z^y] of your body,
the Choephoroi hinging upon death and the Your ba which [was] on the earth,
horrorof the destructionof human life. Your corpsewhich [was] on the ground,
On the Egyptian side, we cannot state cate- Breadfor your body,
gorically that human mortality was not a cause Waterfor your throat,
for fear. Zandee has shown that at times death And sweet air for your nostrils.31
was regarded in a very negative sense by the
Egyptian.30This natural human reaction, how- This picture of the revitalized dead, fully
ever, does appear to be somewhat offset by the equipped with his bodily parts and all his
faculties, serves as a stark contrast with the
28 Odyssey III 236-38:
picture of the dead given in Book XI of Homer's
aXX'f\ xoi Gdvaxovn&vouoitov oo8e Geoi Tiep
Kai (pi^cpdv5pi Sovaviai d^cdiceuev bnnoTe kev 8f) Odyssey. The Egyptian dead is portrayedas a
Hoip' 6>iofi Ka0e>iT|aixavriXeyeof;Gavdioioc;. complete living person; the Homeric dead is
Perhaps the most expressive and graphic Homeric description nothing but a dim shade, weak and incomplete.
of the inevitability of death is found in the Iliad VI 146-49: Macat in Egypt extended even beyond death: it
oi'r| 7i8p(puAAcovyevef|, xoir] 8e Kai dvSpcov. made the dead a part of a wider order that
(pu^Aaid uev I'dvejiog %aiid5i(;%££l> fiXka Se 9' (3^r|
xr|>.s06o)aacpuei,eapo<;8' eTrtyiyvexaiwpr]*
encompassedboth living and deceased,provided,
(he,dvSpcovyevef) f\ [iev cpueif\ 8 d7co?if|ysi.
of course, that the deadwas proclaimedmi>chrw,
Just as are the generations of leaves, so are those of having lived his earthly life in accordancewith
men. macat.The moral piety engenderedby macatin
As for the leaves, the wind scatters some on the the individual thus determines his lot in the
ground, but the forest next world. In Greek, and more specifically in
When it blooms brings forth others, when the season
of spring comes; Homeric, thought, no such distinction is made.
So the generations of men, one is born and another The situation of the dead is all one and the
comes to its end. same. For the Greek mind the relevanceof 5iKT|
This comparison of men with the leaves of the forest has the ends with death, its final statementbeing made
effect of making human life, with its cycle of birth and death,
when man fulfills his mortality. Beyond death
part of the wider order of nature. Human mortality, therefore,
must be seen as a natural aspect of life. Thus, Homeric man SiKr)has no meaning, except to say that such is
can only accept his mortality as a natural part of the the proper and correct way: the individual has
established order, and hence it is an essential element of Slier). had a place in the order of the living, and is
Death and life, therefore, the two opposites, are bound
together by 8iKr|; but it is important to bear in mind that
death, although it is a natural aspect of man, represents the 31 CT II 56: wnn n.k Gb irty.k sp.ty
total extinction of life. The Homeric underworld, as it is dwnn.n.f n.k niDSivt.kkrft
described in Odyssey XI, can hardly be regarded as any kind rdi.tw n.k ib.k n mwt.k
of positive afterlife. Even though some vague shadows and hjty.k n dt.k
shades are shown by Homer to exist, this existence is of no blk hry tl
consequence or vitality. hjt.k hry sStw
29 Antigone 36 If.: "Ai8a uovov (peu^eivouk STid^exai. t n ht.k
30 J. Zandee, Death as an Enemy according to Ancient mw n hh.k
Egyptian Conceptions (Leiden, 1960). tpw ndm n srwt.k
120 JARCE XXIV (1987)

now finished - a sharp contrast to the Egyptian into their sphere of interest and influence. Aikt]
macat, which continues to give the dead his thus appears as a principle of universal order
place in its universal order. that the gods, particularly Zeus, act to uphold.
One final point remains to be made concerning Such a personification is probably better under-
the nature of both macat and 5iKT|.The promi- stood as an allegory rather than a mythic symbol.
nence given to the actual deity Macat in Egyptian Macat's personification as daughter of Atum,
religion, the fact that she is the object of a cult, however, appears as more of a mythic symbol,
and the strong tendency to personify her seem to connecting macat to the gods, and giving her a
indicate that to the Egyptian mind macat was nature that is more tangible than that of 8ikt|.
more than simply a personification of a principle Atum's placing of macat to his nose and his
of order.32In Spell 80 of the Coffin Texts Macat, eating of her both seem to indicate that she is to
identified with Tefnut, is presented as the be seen as an actual substance. This is the view of
daughter of Atum (CT 32b-e), and Atum is told Assmann, who sees macat as a pneuma-\ike and
by Nu: life-giving substance.34 It is on this that the gods
live (CT VII 468e), just as Atum lives by breath-
Kiss your daughter Macat, ing and eating macat.
Placing her at your nose. The Amarna texts give ample evidence that
Your heart will live, macat should be interpreted more concretely than
For she is not far from you. as an abstract principle. The it ntr, Ay, for
Macat is your daughter, example, states that Akhenaten placed macat in
With your son Shu, whose name is Ankh. his body,35and that his speech possessed macat.36
You will eat of your daughter MacatP May also says that Akhenaten has placed truth in
his body, and Tutu states that the teaching
This very graphic description indicates a far (sbSyt) and qualities (bit) of Akhenaten are within
stronger personification of macat by the Egyptians him, and that therefore he will speak in accor-
than of Sikt] by the Greeks. The Homeric epics dance with macat.37 In the text of Tutu, the
give no strong evidence of any tendency to per- opposite of macat is grg (falsehood).38 On the
sonify 5ikt|, but in the Theogony (901f.) of basis of such texts, it appears more reasonable to
Hesiod it is stated that AiKr]is the daughter of interpret macat as neither a substance nor a
Zeus born to him by Themis, herself a personifica- personal goddess, but rather as a quality that has
tion of social order. The intention of Hesiod in been personified by the mythic symbol of a
this passage, however, appears not to be an goddess, a quality upon which depends all order
attempt to create out of Slier]a personal deity, but and righteousness, and even life itself.
rather to make a historical statement that the Let us contrast to this the Greek conception of
concept of 5iKT|was the result of the development 8iKr). Aikt], which had taken its beginning as a
of social laws and statutes combined with piety principle of order, and only later evolved to the
directed toward a supreme god, Zeus. A theo- point where it contained moral overtones, never
logical significance also emerges here in the became a quality that could be an integral part of
move to connect §ikt| with the gods and bring it the human character. Even in Aeschlyus, where
5iKr| may be seen as a positive force, it still
remains an abstract principle. Sophocles, in his
32 For a discussion of Macat as a personal
goddess, see drama Ajax, points to the orderly change of the
Shirun-Grumach, "Remarks on the Goddess Maat," 173ff.
Spell 80 of the Coffin Texts has a particularly good picture of
times and seasons, and states that man too must
macat personified (see esp. CT II.32b-36c).
33 CT 35c-g: sBt.kmSct
d.n.k s(t) r fnd.k 34 J. Assmann, LA II 759, s.v. "Gott."
cnh ib.k 35 Sandmann, Texts from the Time of Akhenaten, 91.18:
n hr st r.k di.f mjct m ht.i.
SDt.k pW TYIdH 36 Ibid., 93.2: r.i hr mBH.
hnc sj.k sw cnh rn.f 37 Ibid., 60.2, 76.12, and 76.13 (iw r.dd.i m m3H n hm.f).
wnm.k m sit.k nijct 38 Ibid., 77.4: biv di.i grg m ht.i.

practicethe same self-control (oocppovstv);39 but 5ikt|, by contrast,was originally amoral, receiv-
this is to be basedon the intellectual principle of ing its moral connotations only as a result of
understanding, not on a quality within the later development. With regard to the aspect of
personality. Human ethical behavior in Greek justice, macatappearsas a benevolent and crea-
thought, therefore,must be in accordancewith tive force, while Sikt] is essentially negative,
8tKr|,although 5iKr|is not the direct cause of it. being the equivalent of restraint and punish-
For Greek thought individual morality depends ment. The realm of macatalso encompassesthe
upon the qualities of dp8if| ("virtue", "excel- realmof the deadas well as the living, while 5ikt]
lence") and GCOCppOGUvr) ("moderation", "self- essentially stops with death. Thus, in Egypt,
control"), the latter at least functioning as a macat was seen as an all-encompassing power,
restraining power, in contrast to the creative while among the Greek thinkersonly Aeschylus
forceof macat. approached such a concept in his idea of 5(kt|.
An attempt at this point to examine the re- The Greek mind, in order to give expression to
lationships of macat and 5ikt| with the gods all of the aspects indicated by the Egyptian
would extend this study beyond its bounds. Let macat,had also to have recourseto such concepts
us be content, therefore,to summarize,and state as Oe^ic;,|ioipa, acocppoauvr],and apexf). With
simply that in Egypt macat was from the very regard to the individual, macat appears as an
beginning inseparablytied to the gods: by it they inner creativequality, which enables him to act
lived, and it was their primary concern to see it in a positive moral manner,while 5iKT|relatesto
fulfilled in the cosmos and in the lives of men. In the individual more as an external restraining
Greece,however,5ikt|, although an integral part force,by whose principles he must abide through
of the cosmic order, and restraining even the his own abilities. The eventual result of this was
conduct of the gods, was not originally a concern the general optimism so frequently seen in the
of these gods. It is true that in the Homeric epics literatureof ancient Egypt. By way of contrast,
we see that at times the gods do act to see that Greekliteratureoften presentsan outlook that is
the order of §ikt| is maintained and fulfilled. essentially pessimistic. Such pessimism is espe-
Originally, however, such was not the concern cially to be noted in the Homeric Iliad and in the
of the gods. Homer's attempt to give the gods dramatic works of Euripides. Even in the more
moral aspects was only the beginning of the positive works of Aeschylusand Sophocles, such
process of tying 5ikt| to them, a process that pessimism is not totally absent, but, at least in
would not reach its culmination until Aeschylus the latter, is only balanced by elements of opti-
and Sophocles. Euripides in his turn would re- mism, and even these are frequentlyconditional.
verse this accomplishment, and look for 5ikt| As a final comment, I would strongly suggest
outside the realm of the gods. Such for him was that the Egyptian concept of an all-embracing
a natural step, since in the thought of Euripides orderof macatshould perhaps be seen as one of
the gods usually appearas outdated legends and the sources of the monotheistic tendencies that
fables, more harmful than good in their effects are encounteredin Egyptian religion, especially
on mankind. during the New Kingdom. Among the Greek
In conclusion, let us summarizeour compari- poets, it was only Aeschyluswho appearsto have
son of macatand 5iKr|.These two concepts have come close to any conceptof ethical monotheism.
one basic point in common: they both express a This, in turn, may also be seen as a result of his
belief in universal order within the cosmos. conception of 5ikt|, a conception that suggests
Macat,however,appearsto have been considered many of the connotations of the Egyptian macat.
as a moral force from the very beginning, while
Saint Mary'sUniversity
39 Ajax 677: fjneTc;5e ntbc,oi) yvcooojieGaaco(ppoveiv. Halifax