We all know of the Roman and Greek literary and philosophical works which still resonate to this day and read by many. As a an ancient and long old civilization, what works of equal importance do we have from such great civilization? I only know of the "Book of the Dead", which is quite a mythology/religious work.

Secondly, how did the the ancient Egyptians (if they did) influence the neighboring civilizations or the Greeks in the Ptolemaic Period? Did their works affect the west?

  • A simple Google search on "Ancient Egyptian literature" turns up answers to your questions.
    – choster
    Jan 2, 2013 at 17:16
  • A Google search turns up "ancient Egyptian literature." But it is NOT simple in terms of relating that literature to the modern world.
    – Tom Au
    May 8, 2013 at 22:43
  • You might want to split this out into two questions. The answer to the second is considerably different from the answer to the first.
    – MCW
    May 9, 2013 at 14:26
  • 2
    There is a fundamental problem in that we couldn't translate hieroglyphics until the 19th century. Consequently for a significant period of history there could not be the kind of influence you cite for Greek/Roman works.
    – MCW
    May 9, 2013 at 14:28
  • In addition the Egyptians didn't have much in the form of philosophy or what we would call literary works (ie written stories) in the first place. But they were advanced in maths, architecture and medicine and this was a big influence on other cultures, but perhaps not necessarily via written works. Aug 15, 2013 at 18:11

2 Answers 2


Considering that the Rosetta stone wasn't discovered until 1799, and the hieroglyphics on it (or anywhere else) couldn't be read until circa 1822, it is difficult for the ancient Egyptians to have contributed to our literary heritage.

  • Consider: the ancient Greeks had a great deal of contact with the Egyptians. Assumedly, the Egyptians at that time knew the meaning of the hieroglyphics (I have no source for that at the moment) - so Egyptian works may have a had significant impact on the West via the Greeks. And now that we can translate the hieroglyphics, we can trace back and understand more about the Greeks' sources. I touched on that in my answer (no, not campaigning for votes)
    – user2590
    Aug 15, 2013 at 17:27

As far as I'm aware, there is only one Egyptian text that is almost certainly the source of a well known book, and that would be the Instructions of Amenemope, which is almost universally accepted as one of the source for the biblical Book of Proverbs.

Some other Egyptian stories are theorized to be the inspiration for other well known stories, such as Tale of the shipwrecked sailor (for Sinbad the Sailor).

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