Roman in three books, full of excerpts from authentic ancient Egyptian texts, adjacent to the highly modernized social realities of the distant past, begins with an introduction in which the author sets out his views on the history of the ancient Egyptian state: “Egypt flourished as long as a monolithic people, energetic kings and the wise priests labored together for the common good. And when the Asian luxury that had penetrated into the country absorbed the energy of the pharaohs and the wisdom of the priests, and the two forces began to fight for one another opolnoe robbing people for thousands of years shone the light of civilization on the Nile went out. “
XI century. BC. e. In the thirty-third year of his prosperous reign, Pharaoh Ramses XII proclaimed his twenty-two-year-old son Ramses the heir to the throne. Having received the coveted title, the prince – a handsome youth with an almost feminine face – asks him
to appoint him the leader of the corps of Menfi. The father agrees to do this if Ramses shows himself well in maneuvers during which he will command a part of the army. Watching him will be the military minister, Herrior, the high priest of the temple of Amun, a man of over forty years of age, of powerful build, reserved and silent. During the maneuvers, everyone is surprised at the knowledge, energy and forethought, endurance and unpretentiousness of the heir, who, despising luxury, rode riding in the clothes of a simple officer.
The road through which the army moves is crossed by two sacred scarab beetles. Herichor demands that the regiments go around them, making a big detour in the desert. Ramses is forced to agree, although he does not hide anger: all in Egypt are commanded by priests! Because of them, the country is scarce, the army is collapsing, the conquered peoples are insolent. But, having ascended the throne, Ramses will turn the priests into his faithful servants and take possession of their treasury, which is much richer than the treasury of the pharaoh. “Only the lords who obeyed the gods and
priests remained in the memory of the people, the rest are devoted to oblivion,” observes the scribe of Herrior, the priest Pentuer, a thin ascetic who comes from the people, but thanks to his exceptional abilities occupying an important state post. Pentuer all the time mourns the heavy share of ordinary people and dreams of helping him.
During the maneuvers, Ramses meets a young Jewess Sarah and, shocked by her beauty, buys a girl from her father Gideon.
Returning to Memphis, Herichor does not advise the sixty-year-old Pharaoh to give the young man the corps of Menfi: the heir is still too young and hot, although he admired his courage with the famous commander Nitagoras.
Not having received the corps, Ramses is enraged. He knows: this is the work of Herichor! The priests once taught the Tsarevich himself, and he knows their insatiable pride and thirst for power!
Mother Ramses – a stately, forty-year-old beauty queen Nikotris – in anger: how did the heir dare to make his first concubine a Jewess?! And is he really an enemy of the priests? How is he going to manage Egypt without them? For many years, the pharaoh with their help avoided wars… Ramses also believes that a successful war would quickly enrich the treasury. In the meantime, in order to give his promised reward to his soldiers, the prince, on monstrous conditions, lends money from the pawnbroker – Phoenician Dagon.
The impetuous and stubborn, but wise and just Ramses sees the calamities of the people, the arbitrariness of officials – but nothing can change anything. He feels for the first time, “that there is some force that means infinitely more than his will: the interests of the state, which even the almighty Pharaoh obeys.” The state is something more grandiose than the pyramid of Cheops, more ancient than the Sphinx, more invincible than granite”. And yet, Ramses decides to subordinate the priests and establish his own system in the state!
Someone dissolves rumors about the kindness of the heir. People adore him. Pharaoh appoints his son as the governor of Lower Egypt and asks to understand why the treasury receives fewer taxes. But the young man is drowning in the mountains of complaints, bills and reports. He is horrified: if people find out how helpless the prince is in the role of ruler, he will only have to die. Without power, he can not live! The priest Mentesufis explains to Ramesses that only the wise priests are aware of the secret of governing the state. And Ramses with indignation understands: in order to join this secret, he will have to bow his head to the priests. He is increasingly annoyed by the downtrodden mob, and he realizes that only aristocracy is the class with which the same feelings connect him.
To the three highest Egyptian priests – Mefres, Herrior and Penttoire – is Bereroz, the great magician, prophet and sage of Babylon. Egyptians bow their heads before their elder brother, and he forbids Egypt for ten years to fight with Assyria: the stars say that the Assyrians will defeat the Egyptians. It is better to give to the Assyrians the Egyptian Phenicia. The Babylonian priests will arrange so that the king of Assyria will soon send an embassy to Egypt…
Agile Phoenician merchants – Dagon, Rabsun and gray-bearded prince Hiram, having got wind of the fact that their homeland can be given to the Assyrians, are horrified: this is ruin! Through his debtor Ramses, Dagon must disrupt the plans of the priests, prevent the conclusion of a treaty between Assyria and Egypt and force them to fight each other. And Ramesses must slip the Phoenician Kama priestess of the goddess Ashtoret. This, of course, is blasphemy, but the priestess who committed it, may then die, And Sarah, too, must be removed, so as not to interfere…
Seeking to learn the secret of government, barefoot Ramesses in the pilgrim’s rags comes at night to the temple of the goddess Hator near Bubast. In the temple the Tsarevich learns the power of the gods and for many days with zeal and faith is given pious tests. Pentuer solemnly tells the young man about the past greatness of Egypt and its present decline. The grave of the country was its victorious war! In the campaigns, many farmers perished, and of those who survived, all the juices of covetous officials were squeezed out. Now there is nobody to pay taxes! Here comes the desert to fertile lands! It is necessary to ease the situation of the people – otherwise Egypt will perish. The country needs peace, and the peasants – prosperity.
Arriving in Bubast, Ramses learns that the treasury is again empty. He takes money from Prince Hiram, who tells him that Phenicia is given to the ancient enemies of the Egyptians – the Assyrians. The priests are afraid that if war breaks out, Pharaoh will defeat Assyria, seize her untold riches and become strong and powerful. And then the priests can not cope with it, whispered the shocked youth Hiram.
At night, he leads Ramesses to the Phoenician temple of the goddess Ashtoret, where “cruelty is seated on the altar, and debauchery is serving it.” In the temple, drunk with love songs, Ramses sees first his double, and then – a naked woman with a gold bandage on her hips – the beautiful priestess Kama. If she knows love, then death awaits her. Since this girl is not available, Ramses falls madly in love with her (he has long cooled to mild Sarah). But, returning to himself, he learns that Sarah had a son.
In Bubast, the Assyrian ambassador Sargon comes and starts harassing Kama. Hating it, Ramses firmly decides to fight with Assyria. Meanwhile, he admires his son, terribly proud of his fatherhood. But the Phoenicians quickly destroy this idyll, again making Ramses jealous of Kama. In her passionately in love and double Ramses – the Greek Lycan, whom a lying and greedy priestess deeply despises.
The agitated Sarah explains to Ramesses how the clever Phoenicians will cash in on the war, at exorbitant prices selling both Egypt and Assyria weapons, cheaply buying up the stolen goods, and will get rich when both warring countries are ravaged.
The Phoenicians give Ramses Kama. She rolls out tantrums and demands that Ramses expel Sarah from the palace with her Jewish bastard. Shocked Ramses runs to Sarah, and she admits that the real name of the baby is Isaac. So the priests commanded to make him king of Israel. Ramses is furious. His son was stolen! The prince’s hatred of the priests is growing. He makes Sarah the servant of Kama, but then sends a meek Jewess with a child to the house in the garden.
To please the Assyrians, Pharaoh dissolves at the request of the priests four mercenary Libyan regiments. The Libyans are robbing Egypt. Calling priests traitors, Ramesses ordered Pharaoh to destroy Libyan gangs. But Mefres will never forgive the prince of insult,
And Kama is horrified: throwing her a beautiful veil, the adherents of the goddess Ashtoret infected the priestess-apostate with leprosy. Likon makes his way to Kame. In order to take revenge against Ramesses, who took his beloved from him, Likon, at the instigation of the spiteful Phoenician, kills Sarah’s son and flies with the Kama. Everyone thinks that Ramses killed the baby. Distraught from grief, Sarah takes all the blame on herself, and the unfortunate is thrown into prison. Mefres tries to force Sarah to admit that the murderer is Ramesses: in that case he will never become a pharaoh. And the chief of police and Hiram seize Kama and Likon meanwhile. Hoping that the priests will cure her, Kama informs them that the crime was committed by Likon. Mefres leaves the evil Greek in his place, Kama is taken to the desert by the leper, and Sarah dies of grief.
At the moment of his triumph the Libyan winner, Ramesses, learns about the death of his son and Sarah. The shocked prince returns to Memphis. On the way, at the foot of the sphinx, the young man learns of the death of his father.
The palace is welcomed by Pharaoh Ramses XIII. “I’m not a priest, I’m a soldier!” – he declares. The people and the nobility rejoice, the priests mourn. Before Ramses, the highest dignitaries report: the army is small, in the country – the hunger riots, the treasury is empty – almost everything went to donations to the temples. Pentuer advises people to pay for public works and give each peasant a piece of land. But this does not like the nobility at all. And the people are waiting for the new pharaoh to ease his situation, and grumbles at the power of the priests. Ramses is angry: everyone wants change for the better, but as soon as he begins to do something, he immediately connects his hands!
And yet, after expelling from the palace a crowd of hangers-on-courtiers and removing the work of Herichor, Ramses works from morning till evening. The army is growing and strengthening. Conducted exercises. All of Egypt seems to come to life. But the treasury is empty. The priests give nothing. Dagon – too: the whole of Phenicia is saving money to buy off the Assyrians. Ramesses understands: without money he will perish. But Hiram, secretly coming to Ramesses, promises to lend him a huge sum if the pharaoh allows the Phoenicians to connect the canal between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. The priests, of course, are against, afraid that the channel would enrich the pharaoh. Soon Hiram introduces Ramesses to the priest Samont, who knows many priestly secrets. Samontu is very intelligent and ambitious, but the priests do not allow him to rise, and he is now ready to overthrow the entire priestly caste. Considering the treaty with Assyria shameful, Samontu promises to obtain evidence of betrayal of the priests, Pharaoh will then give Mephres and Herichor to trial and find the way to the myriad riches stored in the treasury of the priests – the famous Labyrinth. Soon Samontu obtains and the plan of this structure.
After the burial of his father Ramses travels Egypt. The people adore Pharaoh, to know before him cringes, the priests fall prostrate. Only Mefres and Herrior are adamant. At their instigation, the temples demand from the pharaoh all debts, and the people of the priests whisper to the peasants that Ramses allowed not to pay taxes. Herichor scornfully scorns Ramses, a spoiled little boy who gives orders without thinking about the ways of doing them, nor about the consequences. And still Herihor rules, and he has more power than Pharaoh! Behind the priests are great riches and an excellent organization. So either the pharaoh will be with the priests, or they will do without him. After all, they are only concerned about the welfare of the state!
The people of Ramesses are inciting people to attack temples. Pharaoh himself, on the pretext of protecting the Labyrinth from the mob, is going to bring in his soldiers and capture the treasure. Herichor is provoking the crowd, trying to get her to storm the temples for a few days ahead of the time set by Pharaoh, at a time when it is beneficial to Herhor. And Mefres wants to become a treasure-keeper of the Labyrinth and put on the throne of the double Ramses – Lykon. He turns out to be also clairvoyant: looking at the black ball, he learns that he is wandering through the Labyrinth to Samonta. Soon, he is tracked by Mephrus and the guardians of treasures. Samontu takes poison, and fanatical guards decide to remove Mefres and Likon: they, it seems, also have a Labyrinth plan…
On the day scheduled by Herichor, the crowd rushes to smash the temples – and here begins a solar eclipse, which the priest was warned by the impoverished sage Menes. The people howl in horror. Herichor in solemn vestment loudly prays the gods to spare the stray, and the crowd enthusiastically glorifies their savior. Priests pick up the reins that fell from the hands of Ramses. The head of the Guards Thutmose, Pharaoh’s favorite, is trying to arrest Herichor and Mefres (Hiram finally brought letters that prove their treason), but Ennan’s officer, pretending to be Ramses’s faithful servant, kills Thutmose in the back. Mefres puts Likon into his hand a knife and sends the Greek to Pharaoh’s garden. And in the next instant the guards of the Labyrinth kill Mephres and go into pursuit of Likon. But he manages to rush to Ramses, who left the pavilion of his current mistress – the wife of Thutmose, the noble beauty Hebron. Ramses turns Lykon round his neck, but the Greek in a suicidal cramp thrusts Pharaoh’s knife into his stomach. Clamping the wound, Ramesses summons a soldier, wants to lead them to the priests – and dies in the hands of the officers.
The power immediately passes to Herichor. He pacifies riots, facilitates the life of the people, makes sure that the judges are just, and the priests are righteous, patronize strangers, especially the Phoenician merchants, and conclude an agreement with Assyria without giving her, however, Phenicia, the treasury replenishes with the part of the Labyrinth’s treasures. Egypt is flourishing. People praise Herichor and scold the boy Ramses, already forgetting that Herichor only realized his plans. Herichor marries Queen Nikotris, and the nobles proclaim him the first pharaoh of the new dynasty.
And the poor sage Menes smiles: after all the people live to themselves and live – despite the change of dynasties, wars and cataclysms. This people is the state! And in order that he was happy, the wise men should work…