Neni Writes a Letter
He has started out by writing a single column down the
side of the page. This is the salutation. It was not always
written along the edge like this.
I have written all the vocabulary items from left
to right, because that is the way the Egyptians usually wrote, and
because it fits more easily into the table. You should try
get used to recognizing words in various orientations.
||servant - More usually written
The feminine form was
||estate - Literally either "house of
"house of vast lands."
||Neni - The name of the man writing the
It is not a very complementary name, since it means "weak" or "lazy."
||say / says
||steward - This means literally "he who is
in the door
of the house." It is a common title.
||Life! Prosperity! Health!
So the whole of the salutation means:
It is the Servant of the Estate, Neni,
speaks to the Steward, Iy-ib, l.p.h.
The salutation is the opening of the letter like
at the beginning of a letter. In Egyptian, the salutation
not only the name and titles of the person addressed, but also the name
and titles of the sender.
Normal word order for a sentence with a verb is [verb]-[subject]-[indirect
object]. The indirect object is introduced by the
meaning "to" or "for." So the normal order for this salutation
Neni speaks to Iy-ib
However, in a salutation the emphasis is on the
sent the letter, so the subject is moved in front of the verb for
So our actual greeting is:
It is Neni who speaks to Iy-ib
The Egyptians always addressed each other (at least
giving at least an abbreviated version of their titles. An
would certainly give the person addressed his full due of titles.
Neni, a mere "Servant of the Estate," is here writing to a superior,
"Steward." The term imy-r
corresponds to "overseer," "foreman," or "boss." It is a common
of titles of common people with a certain amount of authority.
Whenever a superior was addressed or referred to,
would automatically add
which is an abbreviated writing for anx.w
wDA.w snb.w, verb forms which express a wish. The meaning
is then, "May you (or he) live! May you (or he) be
May you (or he) be healthy!" Egyptologists frequently write it in
translations as "l.p.h."
And having got the salutation out of the way, Neni
now get on with the main part of the letter.