Walls of ancient Egyptian school etched with words of encouragement for the students
Archaeologists have revealed the words written by a teacher for his students, etched on the wall of a school classroom in ancient Egypt nearly two millennia ago:
Be bold, my boys; the great god will grant you to have a beautiful crown of manifold virtue… work hard for me, toils make men manly.
The text has been revealed along with the announcement of the discovery of an ancient school in the western desert of Egypt, complete with benches that students would sit on to read and work.
It is difficult for researchers to identify schools from the ancient world because they were often part of other places like private residences or city halls. However, this building contains text written in Greek on the wall that references Homer’s “The Odyssey”, showing that the 1,700-year-old building was indeed a place of teaching and learning. While the discovery was made some time ago, news of the finding has only just emerged publicly.
The school structure, which eventually became part of a large house that contained colourful art, including images of the Olympian gods, was discovered in the ancient town of Trimithis, which is located in the Dakhla Oasis, about 200 miles west of the Nile River. It dates back to a time when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, and Greek was widely spoken.
A unique aspect of the finding was the Greek text on the walls, which according to Raffaella Cribiore, a professor at New York University, “confirm that they belong to the only building so far discovered from antiquity that was certainly a school and showed educational activities”.
In one room, the text tells a story of ancient drug use in “The Odyssey” in which Helen of Troy, for whom the Trojan War had been fought, gave her guests a drug (possibly opium) that "takes away grief and anger, and brings forgetfulness of every ill." The text continues: "Whoever should drink this down when it is mixed in the bowl would not let fall a tear down his cheek in the course of that day at least. Imitate." It appears that the word ‘imitate’ was written in order for the students to copy down or repeat the passage.
In another room of the school, the team discovered the text composed by a teacher telling students to bring their rhetorical skills up to the level of several deities, including the ancient Greek god Hermes and urging students to work hard. The texts brings to life the education that students received in Egypt nearly two millennia ago.