(8) When the last pharaoh of the Old Kingdom, Pepi II, finally died in his 90s, Egypt was a country divided into feeble kingdoms festering from civil wars. The First Intermediate Period was bathed in blood. The Greek historian Herodotus writes about a First Intermediate queen, royal murders, and revenge. Determined to avenge her brother's death, the queen "devised a cunning scheme.... She constructed a spacious underground chamber.... Inviting to a banquet those Egyptians whom she knew to have had a chief share in the murder of her brother, she suddenly, as they were feasting, let the river in upon them, by means of a secret duct of large size." The scheming murderers drowned while the queen (a scheming murderess herself) escaped through a secret passageway.
(9) The kings who followed Pepi II never lasted long. None during the First Intermediate Period had the strength to pull Egypt back together again. Egypt entered a dark age. Later, literature would paint a bleak picture of this trough between two times of glory. Texts written in the Middle Kingdom about the chaos and misery have depressing titles, such as Dialogue Between a Man Tired of Lifd and His Ba. The stories ere sometimes as gloomy as the titles. In the Dialogue the miserable character claims, "my name reeks, more than the smell of bird-droppings on summer days." He writes that "Mercy has perished" and that "hearts are selfish, and every man is stealing his fellow's belongings." Later Middle Kingdom literature moans the loss of order during the First Intermediate Period; it groans at the unrest. It claims the Nile itself stopped flowing, and the sun lost its brilliance.