Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ancient poem's insight into suicide

"Analysis of an ancient Egyptian poem by a psychiatrist and an Egyptologist shows that it describes the psychopathology of suicide with great accuracy.Dispute over Suicide was a poem written by an unnamed Egyptian writer between 2000 and 1740 BC on papyrus in hieroglyphics.The writer is known as ‘The Eloquent Peasant’, and was commissioned by King Meri-ka-re to write a poem in order to dissuade people from committing suicide.
Suicide as a form of human behaviour is probably as ancient as man himself. Attitudes towards those who take their own lives have veered between condemnation and tolerance throughout the ages.It is possible that moral and cultural views about suicide have affected its incidence, statistics on suicide, and even coroners’ verdicts. An historical approach makes it possible to understand what meaning suicide has for people with different experiences from different backgrounds and generations.
Dr. George Tadros, a consultant psychiatrist, and Dr. Ahmes Pahor, an Egyptologist and ENT consultant, used a computer programme with special software for qualitative analysis to assess the poem."
See the above web page for the full story.

Thanks to Kat Newkirk for pointing out that this is also covered at:
"The analysis suggests ancient civilisations could provide insight into wider mental health issues. It comes as the Royal College of Psychiatrists gathers in Glasgow for its annual meeting today."
This is the full item on the Scotsman website. Comments are enabled on the site, but only one has been made so far.


Anonymous said...

The more Egyptologically inclined of us will understand the deep confusion of the Egyptological literature that this summary presents. Whether or not these errors are in the paper is a question I haven't yet pursued. The press release on the Royal College of Psychiatrists web site is similarly garbled:


In short, for the benefit of those who don't know: The text that is being described is not written by The Eloquent Peasant. The Eloquent Peasant is the of a completely different poem. The text that is quoted and discussed in the article usually known as The Dispute between a Man and His Ba or The Diaglogue of a Man and His Soul. The Teaching for King Merikare is yet another poem altogether.

(BTW, Andie, thank you for this wonderful blog!)

Troy Dunn said...

Thanks for the information. :)