By John Ray
Last updated 2011-02-17
The lives of Tawe and her twin sister Taous are known from a remarkable series of papers written in Greek and Egyptian during the middle years of the second century BC. The texts were found in the sands of Saqqara - some of those concerning the twins are in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
Thanks to this archive, we know some details of the sisters' early life. At first, they lived with in Memphis. Their mother left their father for a Greek soldier, named Philippos. The couple plotted to murder the father, and staged an attempt on his life. The father escaped, but went back to his home in Middle Egypt, where he died of grief. The mother was wealthy, but sold the family home and evicted the twins.
Rescue came from a Macedonian Greek named Ptolemaios, an intriguing character who spent much of his life as a recluse near the temple of the Serapeum, at Saqqara. He persuaded the temple authorities to give the twins jobs as temple acolytes, where their duty was to impersonate the sister-goddesses Isis and Nephthys. Even this was not the end of their troubles, since their half-brother, aided by the malicious mother, embezzled their salary.
We have a large number of Ptolemaios' papers, many concerned with the problems of the twins, who feature even in his dreams. Another person important in their lives is Ptolemaios' brother Apollonios, a volatile adolescent with an ambiguous attitude towards the beliefs of his relative. Sometimes Apollonios seems a model of piety, at other times he rejects the gods in a way that seems utterly modern. Apollonios had the gift of making enemies among the Egyptians who peopled the area of the Serapeum.
The following account of a dream shows many of the preoccupations of Tawe and her sister. The figure of the mother, the setting of the riverbank murder-attempt, the subject of marriage, and the question of mutual affection, are all themes. The papers of Ptolemaios, Apollonios, and the temple twins are the most intimate records to come down to us from antiquity, and they deserve to be known, not merely by scholars, but by people worldwide.
The first dream: I saw myself in Memphis. I dreamt that the water had flooded up to the statue of Wahibre. My mother was standing on the bank. I cast off my clothes and threw them up into the sky. I swam towards her, to the eastern side. I took some more clothes from Taanupi the washerwoman, and spoke to her saying, "This is the second time that I have crossed over to you. I ferried over to you before - see, there is the landing-stage. I did it and I lodged safely in your house". She greeted me with the words, "I have the receiving of you". Another dream: I found myself in the house of Shepanupi. I dreamt that he had married the woman Tsenqaie. They spoke to him, saying that he loves her. But I replied myself, "She loves her mother, while his heart loves the one whom he loves"
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