chapter
Introduction
Pages 3

From its discovery it has become increasingly clear that The Duties is unique in Egyptian literature. Its form, nature and purport are attested nowhere else. A profound study could provide an integrated survey of the details and the main aspects of the office of the vizier, the chief civil function in the Egyptian state. The text offers the unparalleled opportunity to study the range, the character and the essence of the activities of the first civil official of Egypt. Whereas other sources in general only illustrate one aspect or one detail of "the vizier at work" in often isolated contexts, here we have a document that seems to offer an integral and coherent picture of the office. No other office in Egypt's long history can lay claim to a comparable and fortunate privilege. The vizirate is generally understood to have been the chief civil office in the Egyptian state, from its very beginning up to the beginning of our era. The basic confirmation of this view is to be found in The Duties. The professed aim of our monograph is the attempt to meet the demand of a detailed st~dy of this text. For the sake of clarity we may add that the st~Jy will be undertaken from a historian's point of view.