|Irsu in hieroglyphs|
"He who made himself"
|"Irsu" written in hieratic on the Papyrus Harris|
Irsu (Ancient Egyptian: jr-sw, "he who made himself"; alternatively Su) is the name used in Papyrus Harris I to designate a Khasu who became overlord of a group of local rulers nominally under Egyptian control, at a time of unrest between the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties. The reading of the name is contested and the man may instead have simply been called Su. The events in which Irsu (or Su) participated likely took place outside of the Nile Valley, in the Asiatic territories of Egypt's empire.
Irsu's rise to power is closely related to the situation in Egypt proper at the end of the Nineteenth Dynasty, which saw a civil war between Amenmesse and Seti II followed by economic decline. Modern understanding of the events occurring at the time is heavily dependent on the translation of Papyrus Harris I, a task which has proven difficult. In his 1906 translation of the document James Henry Breasted writes
This translation leaves open the possibility that Irsu acted in Egypt proper and consequently Chancellor Bay was considered a plausible candidate for this Irsu until 2000. However, an IFAO Ostracon no. 1864 found at Deir el-Medina and dated Siptah's fifth regnal year records that "Pharaoh, life health prosperity, has killed the great enemy, Bay". Because chancellor Bay died years before Irsu, he is no longer considered a plausible candidate for this historical figure.
In 1979 the Egyptologist Hans Goedicke produced a second translation based on a detailed grammatical analysis of the document:
Goedicke suggests that Irsu rose to power in Egypt's territories abroad, in Canaan, following years of neglect on behalf of the last three pharaohs of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Seti II, Siptah and Twosret. According to this translation of the document, the earliest of these pharaohs, Seti II, is responsible for not asserting his power and control over the region; the second was held in low regard; while the last, Twosret, is said to have made an alliance with Irsu who had de facto authority over the territories.
What happened to Irsu is made clear on the papyrus, which tells of Setnakht's rise and the end of the rebellion:
Twosret's successor Setnakhte's Elephantine stele records how he expelled these Asiatic rebels who, on their flight from Egypt, abandoned much of the gold, silver and copper which they had stolen from Egypt, and with which they had intended to hire reinforcements among the Asiatics. His pacification of Egypt is also referred to in the Great Harris Papyrus.
Setnakht's Elephantine stele is described further: His Majesty, life, prosperity, health, was like his father Seth who stretched out his arms in order to remove from Egypt those who led it astray, his strength surrounding (him) with protection."