By a selection of sixty ancient Egyptian autobiographical inscriptions, presented in new translations, the author examines the growth of the autobiographical genre during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, from ca. 2500 to ca. 1800 B.C. The Old Kingdom created the basic form: the autobiography as an integral part of the inscriptional and pictorial program of tombs - the planned and often sumptuous tombs of the well-to-do, who filled the major positions in the royal administration. After the decline of the Old Kingdom, the rising middle class diversified the genre, and loci other than tombs, notably free-standing stelae and rock faces of quarries, also became carriers of autobiographical self-presentations.
The cult of Osiris added yet another dimension: autobiographical stelae erected near the Osiris temple at Abydos and specifically designed to place their owners in the care of the god-of-the-dead. The texts of these stelae often describe their position as being "at the terrace of the great god", a description which has caused much scholarly rumination. Just what was the terrace of the great god? This study demonstrates that the texts themselves furnish the conclusive answer.
Finally, the reader meets a magnate of Middle Egypt in his splendid tomb, whose carefully stylized autobiography is a classic of Middle Kingdom oratory.