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excitement. What was the meaning of the Pharaoh s unan-
nounced return? Contradictory rumors spread like wildfire.
Some were certain the king planned to cut the temple staff
and reduce Thebes to the rank of a sleepy provincial capital.
Others claimed Ramses had fallen sick and was returning to
die with his face toward the Peak of the West. The young
Ramses: The eternal temple 159
Pharaoh s star had risen much too fast. Now the gods were
taking their revenge.
Raia, the Hittite agent, fretted and fumed. He no longer
seemed to have the inside track. Thanks to his network of
trade contacts, including shopkeepers in the major popula-
tion centers as well as traveling merchants, he had been able
to track Ramses progress along the Nile without ever
leaving Thebes. Yet he had no explanation for the king s pre-
cipitous return. Ramses had stopped at Abydos according
to schedule, but then instead of continuing north he had
backtracked, stopping briefly in Dendera.
Ramses was hard to figure. He acted on the spur of the
moment, without confiding in advisers whose loose lips
would have provided grist for the Syrian s mill. Raia foresaw
a whole new set of challenges. Ramses would make a for-
midable adversary, and Shaanar would be hard pressed to
outmaneuver him. If open conflict ensued, the king might
prove much more dangerous than Raia had calculated. It
would never do now to wait and see. His first step must be
a quick and decisive move to eliminate any weak links in his
chain of informants.
In a blue crown and long, pleated linen robe, scepter in
hand, Ramses was truly majestic. A hush fell when he
entered the hall where the conclave was in progress.
 Have you come up with a name for me? he asked.
 Majesty, declared the high priest of Heliopolis,  our
deliberations continue.
 As of this moment, they re finished. Allow me to pre-
sent the new high priest of Amon at Karnak.
160 Christian Jacq
An old man shuffled into the hall, leaning on his cane.
 Nebu! exclaimed the high priest of Sais.  I thought
you were too ill to travel!
 I am, but Ramses performed a miracle.
 At your age, protested the Second Prophet of Amon,
 you should be thinking about retirement. The administra-
tion of Karnak and Luxor is a daunting responsibility!
 I quite agree, but the Pharaoh s will must be done.
 My decree is already written in stone, revealed Ramses.
 Tablets will soon go up proclaiming Nebu s appointment.
Do any of you consider him unfit to fill this position?
There were no objections.
Ramses gave Nebu a golden ring and a staff of electrum,
an alloy of gold and silver, as symbols of his office.
 I hereby name you high priest of Amon. The treasury
and granaries of this great domain are now beneath your
seal. As guardian of Amon s temples and estates, be scrupu-
lous, honest, and vigilant. Work not for your own advance-
ment but to increase the divine ka. Amon can fathom the
human soul, read each person s mind and heart. If Amon is
well satisfied, he will keep you at the head of his clergy,
granting you long life and a happy old age. Do you swear to
respect the law of Ma at and fulfill your duties?
 I swear on the Pharaoh s life, declared Nebu, bowing to
The Second and Third Prophets of Amon were furious
and humiliated. Not only had Ramses saddled them with a
prelate who would be at his beck and call, he had also
named a complete unknown, Bakhen, as Fourth Prophet.
Ramses: The eternal temple 161
This young zealot would back up the doddering high priest
and become the real master of Karnak. The temple s inde-
pendence would be compromised for years to come.
The two dignitaries no longer saw any way to maintain
control over the richest domain in Egypt. Squeezed between
Nebu and Bakhen, they would sooner or later be forced to
resign, prematurely ending their careers. In their confusion,
they groped for an ally. Shaanar immediately came to mind,
but now that the king s older brother was a cabinet member,
he might be singing a different tune.
Since he had nothing to lose, however, the Second
Prophet arranged to meet Shaanar as the representative of
all Karnak s clergy members unhappy with Ramses deci-
sion. They met in an open summer house by a fish pond. A
servant offered the Prophet a cup of carob juice and dis-
creetly withdrew. Shaanar rolled up the papyrus he was
 You look familiar.
 My name is Doki. I m the Second Prophet of Amon.
The little man appealed to Shaanar. With his shaved
head, narrow forehead, bulging eyes, long nose, and pointed
chin, he resembled a crocodile.
 What can I do for you?
 You ll probably think me too forward, but I m not used
to polite society.
 Get on with it, then.
 An old man named Nebu has just been named high
priest and First Prophet of Amon.
 A position you hoped would be yours, unless I m mis-
 Our late prelate made no secret of the fact that I was
his chosen successor, but the king passed me over.
 It s dangerous to question his decisions.
162 Christian Jacq
 Nebu will never be able to manage Karnak.
 Bakhen, my brother s friend, will be the one really in
 Forgive me for being blunt, Your Highness, but do you
find this arrangement satisfactory?
 I accept it as the Pharaoh s will.
Doki was disappointed. As he feared, Shaanar was in
Ramses camp now. He composed his crocodile face and
rose to leave.
 I won t take any more of your time.
 Just a moment. If I understand you correctly, you refuse
to accept the situation.
 The king is trying to undermine Amon s clergy.
 Do you have the means to oppose him?
 I m not alone.
 Whom do you represent?
 The majority of the administration, as well as the
 And are you prepared to act?
 Sir, I beg your pardon! Outright sedition is not for the
 Make up your mind, Doki. You don t seem to know
what you want.
 I need help.
 First prove to me that you re serious.
 But how?
 That s for you to determine.
 I m only a priest, a 
 You re a man of action or you re a nobody. If all you re
going to do is bemoan your fate, I m not interested.
 What if I managed to discredit the Pharaoh s yes-men?
 Do it first, then come and see me. You understand,
though, that this conversation never took place.
Ramses: The eternal temple 163
Doki s spirits lifted. He left Shaanar s residence with a
headful of impossible schemes. Sooner or later, he d hit on
one that would work.
Shaanar was skeptical. This Second Prophet had possi-
bilities, but he seemed a bit indecisive. Once Doki realized
what a serious step he d taken, he d probably back off. But
no potential ally could be discounted, and this way he
would find out what the little priest was made of.
Ramses, Moses, and Bakhen inspected the construction
under way at Karnak, a project Seti had envisioned but left
his son to complete: a vast hall of columns. Delivery of the
huge stone blocks was on schedule. The various work gangs
were coordinating their efforts to raise the towering pillars, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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