The rulers of the Tenth Dynasty were ruling from Ihnasya, from which they descended. Egypt was under the same conitions as during the Ninth Dynasty: rulers in the capitals were still weak and the nome governors were still enjoying complete authority and independence in their provinces. Thus, the country was in a complete chaos, and lost its central authority. Since the beginning of the Tenth Dynasty, a powerful family appeared and ran concurrently in Thebes. They thought of themselves as having the right to the throne rather than the rulers of Ihnasya. So, the beginning of the Eleventh Dynasty (whose city of origin is Thebes) was contemporary with the late Tenth Dynasty. However, the rulers at Ihnasya still enjoyed the loyalty and faithfulness of the princes of Asyut and those of Armant, which means that the task was not easy for the rulers of Thebes. The first name known to us in the Tenth Dynasty is Nefer-ka-Re who was the second ruler at Ihnasya, and is known from the wall inscriptions in the tomb of Ankhtifi to be the governor of the first three southern nomes: Elephantine, Edfu and Armant. He recorded in his tomb a famine in Upper Egypt. By backing his people up and by distributing corn, he found a way to save them. The successor of Nefer-ka-Re at Ihnasya, Wag-ka-Re, who is known as Akhtoy the Fourth, left his famous instructions to his son. During his time, he started to clear the Delta from the Bedouins, and then turned to Upper Egypt to deal with the Thebans. At Thinis, near Abydos, he engaged in a war with them. At the beginning, supported by the princes of Asyut, the rulers of Ihnasya (Hierakleopolis) achieved victory. Then, the Thebans regained control under the leadership of Inyotef (Wahankh) who restored the fortress of Thinis under his control, and moved northwards until he captured the city of Kom Ishkau, Aphroditopolis, in the Tenth nome of Upper Egypt, thus reaching the borders of Asyut. Following is Mery-ka-Re, the son of Akhtoy IV, during the time of whom, a powerful governor appeared at Thebes. This governor was Mentuhotep II who resumed war against the Hierakleopolitans and captured Asyut, then moved northwards and took El-Asbmunein. Thus, the Hierakleopolitans only had power over some of Middle Egypt and the Delta. After Mery-ka-Re’s death, Akhtoy V succeeded to the throne. During his time, the Thebans continued their war until they achieved complete victory over the Hierakleopolitans achieving success in bestowing control over the whole country. By this, the Eleventh Dynasty started to take over the throne. Thus, the Middle Kingdom became under the control of one king. It is in the time of Akhtoy V that the Story of the Eloquent Peasant might have occurred.
The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant
The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, a work different from other genres, provides further precious clues into the nature of society and morals in the First Intermediate Period. This text is preserved only in the form of four papyrus copies dating to the end of the Twelfth and the Thirteenth Dynasties. The lack of any surviving Post-Middle Kingdom copy suggests that it did not form part of the classic scribal education. It is perhaps possible to argue that the piece was originally composed before the Middle Kingdom. But the final argument presented by the Peasant is a recourse to Anubis, whose influence is further suggested by the name “Peasant Khuy-n-Inpu” which means “One protected by Anubis”. This refers to the fact that the Egyptians no longer relied on the king’s decision only, but looked also towards the Afterlife in which everyone would be required to account for their own during-life actions. The peasant of the story, Khun-Anup, who lives during the reign of King Nebkaure Khety II was walking in the company of his donkey then both stumbled on to the lands of a nobleman called Rensi (son of Meru, the steward). Nemtynakht, the overseer of the nobleman’s properties spread a sheet across the road beside the farm, forcing Khun-anup and his donkey to trample over the crops. When the donkey started to eat the grain, Nemtynakht took it over and began to beat its owner. Afterwards, Khun-anup searched for noble Rensi and gave him an account of the incident. Khun-anup convinced the nobleman with a stunning eloquent speech. When the King heard of the speech, he was impressed and ordered the donkey to be returned to Khun-anup and the peasant to be compensated with all the property of Nemtynakht, including his job, making Nemtynakht as poor as Khun-anup had been. The eloquence of the peasant is not simply an entertaining composition: each of his speeches in designed to express metaphorically the conflict between the negative and positive forces that were tearing the Egyptian society apart. The basic message behind the story lurks in its ending: royal power is capable of restoring harmony by punishing the evildoer.