Book Review: The Great Name, Ancient Egyptian Royal Titulary, by Ronald J Leprohon

I saw this book cited in an online article. The back cover explains that “this volume includes all rulers’ names from the so-called Dynasty 0 (ca. 3200 B.C.E.) to the last Ptolemaic ruler in the late first century B.C.E, offered in transliteration and English translation with an introduction and notes.”

I immediately ordered a copy in great excitement and trepidation. Had Dr. Leprohon already written my book in 2013, nine years earlier than l? My fears proved groundless. He had not written my book, but he did write one I wish had been available to me when I wrote mine.

The big difference between The Great Name and Cartouches, Field Guide and Identification Key is that the former only includes two illustrations, namely sketches of the serekh of King Djet and the five-fold titulary of Pharaoh Tutmose I. No photographs, and no breakout of hieroglyphs for each name, while I tried to illustrate all the most common names, with my own photographs where possible.

Leprohon does include the pharaohs’ names in scientific transliteration as well as in an “English” version for laypersons. That would have helped me with the Ptolemies, in particular, with their absurdly long and complicated cartouches, some running to almost 30 hieroglyphs!

While I only dealt with names enclosed in cartouches, Leprohon includes translations of each and every name, the entire titulary.  He acknowledges that “names are notoriously difficult to translate, and sometimes (he has) made choices that will seem arbitrary.” Not having formal training in ancient Egyptian grammar, I only offered occasional translations in Cartouches, mostly cited from Quirke and Clayton, to give the reader an idea of how the names read. There remains a certain amount of disagreement on translations and even syllable-order across the scope of pharaonic names.

Leprohon does not present readings of Roman rulers’ names. I continue to maintain that if one is trying to identify a cartouche found in situ, at an ancient site or in a museum, it’s not fair for a reference book to omit the Roman ones, even though they are so very complicated and non-standard. That said, neither one of us included the names of the Kushite kings. Also, please be aware that The Great Name contains probably scores of names of “regular” Egyptian pharaohs which I did not include, deeming them too uncommonly seen to be of interest.

Once again, The Great Name would have been invaluable to me in my work, but I believe that Cartouches is more useful, and more importantly, more fun, for non-specialist readers. 

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