The history of ancient Egypt extends from c.3100 BC down to c.AD 600, although during the later period it had become part of the Roman Empire. Prior to the unification of the country in c.3100 BC, there were perhaps two thousand years when the civilisation gradually developed but since written records of this earliest period have never been discovered, the names of individual rulers or persons of historical importance have rarely survived. Therefore, it has been decided to incorporate here only the major figures between c.3100 BC and c.AD 600, although during the period of Roman rule only those Roman Emperors who had a marked association with or interest in Egypt have been included.
    The main aim of the book is to make more easily available to the student and general reader a dictionary of biographical references which relate to the important historical and cultural figures and also to a selection of other less well-known individuals. There is a selection of maps showing the major sites in Egypt and Nubia, as well as other areas of the ancient Near East and the Classical world, and genealogies are included of the royal family of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the Divine Wives of Amun during the Third Intermediate Period.
    Over such a considerable timespan, clearly more historical persons are known than it is possible to accommodate in the space of this dictionary. Therefore, it has been necessary to omit some names, but in order to provide further information, in addition to the Biographical Dictionary, there is an index of persons who are mentioned in the main entries but do not warrant their own reference. As well as Egyptians, some foreigners are included in the Biographical Dictionary; these are the people with whom the Egyptians came into contact, either as the rulers or inhabitants of other states, such as the Mitannians or the Hittites, or as the conquerors of Egypt (the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks or Romans), or those writers such as the Classical historians who have left vivid descriptions of Egypt.
    The spread of entries attempts to cover all the major periods of Egypt's history, although some dynasties are much more fully documented than others. Not only rulers and significant members of their families are included (although the list of rulers is not comprehensive), but non-royal persons who owned particularly impressive or interesting tombs, who are accredited with special literary or other skills, or who showed great military prowess are also mentioned. However, there are problems: the First, Second and Third Intermediate Periods are much less well-represented in terms of archaeological and inscriptional evidence than the Old, Middle or New Kingdoms, and since the artistic achievements of all periods are mostly anonymous, produced by nameless artisans organised into State or temple workshops, it is impossible to credit many individuals for some of the civilisation's most dynamic works of art. The Egyptians sought their ideal of perfection by attempting to retain and copy the earliest art-forms, so there was relatively little opportunity for individual expression or innovation on the part of the artisans and craftsmen.
    Other problems centre around the chronology of ancient Egypt. In some periods, a relatively accurate sequence of rulers and their dates can be produced, but at other times, the evidence is scanty and even contradictory. The Chronological Table given in this book includes the dynasties provided in Manetho's original chronicle, arranged into the 'Kingdoms' and 'Periods' which are generally accepted today in Egyptology. The list of rulers includes all those entered in the Biographical Dictionary, as well as a few other relatively significant kings, but it does not attempt to provide a comprehensive table and further information on this should be sought in the Cambridge Ancient History. Generally, in addition to Egyptian historical inscriptions and the accounts of Egyptian history given by *Manetho and other Classical writers, additional information about certain periods of the country's history is provided in other contemporary sources, including Hebrew, Near Eastern and Classical historical and literary texts.
    Egypt's own historical evidence comes from a variety of sources. These include the monuments—tombs, temples, pyramids and settlement sites; the inscriptions which occur on the walls of the buildings as well as those found on papyri, stelae, statues and many small artifacts; and the physical evidence of the mummified remains.
    Entries in the Biographical Dictionary are arranged alphabetically. Each heading consists of a name, brief identification and a date; for the rulers, the dates of the king's reign are given, but for other entries, where the person achieved significance within a particular reign (for example, queens and royal officials), then the reign and dates of the relevant king are provided. Within each entry, cross-references are indicated by an asterisk placed at the beginning of the name under which the person is classified. At the end of most entries, there is at least one bibliographical reference, and in some cases, these refer to an ancient source whereas in others, they supply book references for further reading. In addition, the General Bibliography provides a small selection of general works, and also a list of all the abbreviations used in the main text.
    There is also a Glossary which explains some of the terms in the text which have a special meaning or interpretation with reference to Egyptology.
    Finally, a brief comment on the spelling of the kings' names: there were five main names in the Pharaoh's royal titulary and the two most important were inscribed inside cartouches (a stylised loop of rope). In the entries, the practise is adopted of using the one name by which the ruler is best known, and of retaining the Graecised rather than the Egyptian version of the name. Thus, entries occur under 'Cheops' rather than 'Khufu', 'Amenophis' rather than 'Amenhotep' and 'Ammenemes' instead of 'Amenemhet'.
    OUTLINE HISTORY c.3100 BC-Fourth Century AD
    The history of ancient Egyptian civilisation covers a period from c.3100 BC to the conquest of the country by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. Before the Dynastic Period (beginning c.3100 BC), the communities laid the foundations for the later great advances in technological, political, religious and artistic developments; this is generally referred to as the Predynastic Period (c.5000-3100 BC). After *Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, the country was ruled by a line of Macedonian Greeks who descended from *Alexander's general, Ptolemy (who became *Ptolemy I). The last of this dynasty, *Cleopatra VII, failed to prevent the absorption of Egypt into the Roman Empire in 30 BC, and subsequently Egypt was ruled by Rome as a province. The basis of the modern chronology of ancient Egypt rests upon the work of the priest *Manetho (323-245 BC), who wrote a chronicle of the Egyptian kings (c.3100-332 BC), dividing his king-list into dynasties. Historians still retain these thirty-one dynasties, further subdividing them into major periods. These are: the Archaic Period (First and Second Dynasties); the Old Kingdom (Third to Sixth Dynasties); the First Intermediate Period (Seventh to Eleventh Dynasties); the Middle Kingdom (Twelfth Dynasty); the Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth to Seventeenth Dynasty); the New Kingdom (Eighteenth to Twentieth Dynasties); the Third Intermediate Period (Twenty-first to Twenty-fifth Dynasties); and the Late Period (Twenty-sixth to Thirty-first Dynasties).
    In the Predynastic Period, two kingdoms developed in Egypt, a northern one situated in the Delta and a southern one in the Nile Valley. They shared many features of a common culture. The appearance of writing, monumental brick architecture and advances in arts and crafts around 3400 BC may have been set in motion by the arrival of a new group of people (the so-called *Dynastic Race), and two kingdoms were subsequently established. The southern rulers ultimately set out to conquer the north; *King Scorpion made some military advances but the unification of the two kingdoms was finally achieved by *Narmer (c.3100 BC). In the following Archaic Period his descendants ruled a unified state, and the political and social organisation of the country was established. Great advances were also made in technology and building techniques, with the construction of substantial mudbrick mastaba-tombs for the aristocracy.
    The Old Kingdom was the first great era of Egyptian civilisation. Although mastaba-tombs were retained for the nobility, and the mass of the population continued to be buried in the sand, the concept of a pyramid as the king's burial place was introduced. The first pyramid was built for *Djoser at Saqqara. This was designed as a step pyramid by *Imhotep, his vizier and architect, and formed one feature of an elaborate funerary complex. In the Fourth Dynasty, pyramid-building reached its zenith at Giza with the funerary complexes of *Cheops, *Chephren and *Mycerinus. The pyramid form was probably closely associated with the worship of the sun-god Re, and was intended to provide the dead king with a magical means of access to the heavens. However, the construction and maintenance of the pyramids and the employment of staff to service them became an increasing economic drain on Egypt's resources, and by the Fifth Dynasty, there was a reduction in the size and quality of the pyramids. The sun-cult now became omnipotent and the kings devoted their resources to building temples for the sun-god, at the expense of their own pyramids. As the pyramids declined, the kings sought eternal life by magical means, inscribing the interior walls of their pyramids with spells, known collectively as the Pyramid Texts.
    In general, art, religion and literature flourished in the Old Kingdom, and an important literary genre—the Instructions in Wisdom—now emerged, which provides a unique insight into the contemporary moral and social values. A great gulf divided the king from his subjects. This was based on the assumption that he was half-divine, the offspring of the sun-god and the Chief Queen. Only he was expected to attain individual eternity; his subjects could only hope to experience immortality vicariously, through the god-king's personal beneficence. There was a rigid social hierarchy—below the king were the nobles who were usually related by family ties to the king; then came the state officials, the craftsmen and the peasants, who comprised the largest section of the population, and whose patient agricultural labours provided food for the whole society.
    The nobility built mastaba-tombs near to the king's pyramid and equipped them lavishly for the hereafter with articles of everyday use. The interior walls were decorated with scenes which showed many aspects of daily existence; at Saqqara, there are some particularly famous examples such as the tombs of *Ti and *Ankhmahor which provide detailed information about the people's daily lives. Pyramids, tombs and temples were built of stone to last for eternity whereas houses, palaces and towns were constructed of mudbrick and consequently have survived less well. From the literature and the goods placed in the tombs, it is evident that the Egyptians had already achieved a high level of civilisation.
    Towards the end of the Old Kingdom, economic, political, religious and social factors began to contribute to the decline of this centralised bureaucracy. After the end of the Sixth Dynasty, when *Pepy II's long reign accentuated some of the problems, there came a time of anarchy, known as the First Intermediate Period. Centralised government collapsed and Egypt returned to a political situation which reflected the times of the Predynastic Period, when local princelings ruled their own areas and fought against each other. Many of the monuments were desecrated and tomb-robbers ravaged the graves. Poverty, famine and disease quickly followed, and these disastrous conditions may be described in some of the most famous literary works such as the 'Prophecy of *Neferti' and the 'Admonitions' of the prophet *Ipuwer.
    In the Eleventh Dynasty, the princes of Thebes who carried the name *Mentuhotep managed to restore some order in the country and there was a return to more settled conditions. During the First Intermediate Period, craftsmen were no longer concentrated at the capital city, Memphis, as they had been in the Old Kingdom. Provincial rulers were now buried in tombs in their own localities. These tombs were cut deep into the cliffs and were decorated with painted wall-scenes by local artists who also produced a wide range of goods which were placed in the tombs.
    The next period—the Middle Kingdom—saw Egypt united again under a strong ruler, *Ammenemes I, who seized the throne and inaugurated a time of great prosperity. He moved the capital city north from Thebes to Lisht and revived the practice of building traditional pyramid complexes. His powerful descendants— *Amenemmes II, *Ammenemes III, *Sesostris I, *Sesostris II and *Sesostris III— tackled the major problems of ruling Egypt and re-established centralised government. They introduced the political concept of a co-regency: during his lifetime, the king associated his chosen heir with him upon the throne, thus ensuring a smooth succession when he died. This dynasty had no claims to royal antecedents and it was therefore necessary to establish an uncontested succession by political means. In addition, *Sesostris III abolished the powers of the great provincial nobles who had threatened the king's absolute supremacy since the last years of the Old Kingdom.
    These dynamic rulers also established their contacts outside Egypt, restoring their dominion over *Nubia in order to gain access to the gold and hard stone of the region. Here, they pursued a policy of force, building a string of fortresses which were garrisoned by Egyptians. However, to the north, they followed a non-aggressive policy, re-opening or establishing trading contacts with the Aegean Islanders, the people of *Byblos, and the inhabitants of *Punt. Egypt once again enjoyed a high standard of living at home and prestige abroad as a major power.
    After the collapse of the Old Kingdom society, the role of the king underwent some changes and Re, the royal patron deity, no longer enjoyed unrivalled supremacy. Another god, *Osiris, gained widespread support, since he could promise the chance of immortality not only to the king but to all believers who could demonstrate pious and worthy lives. This new democratic concept of the afterlife profoundly affected religious beliefs and customs and brought about widespread changes in building and equipping burial places. Although the kings continued to be buried in pyramids, many wealthy provincial nobles continued the practice of the First Intermediate Period and were buried in their own localities in rock-cut tombs, rather than return to the custom of building mastaba-tombs around the pyramid. The rock-cut tombs had a pillared hall and burial chamber cut out of the solid rock, and the internal wall surfaces were decorated with registers of scenes showing daily life activities. The sculpture, jewellery, art and literature of the Middle Kingdom all reflect a period of wealth and stability, but again, this was not to last, and in the Second Intermediate Period, Egypt again suffered a decline. The period consists of five dynasties; some have lines of native rulers (and some of these were contemporary, with 'kings' ruling in different parts of the country), while the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties are comprised of foreigners who conquered Egypt and established themselves as kings. These are known as the *Hyksos, and although it is uncertain how far their rulership extended in Egypt, they certainly claimed authority over much of the land. They were probably of *Asiatic origin, although the location of their homeland and the extent of their influence in Egypt have been disputed. An account of them is given in the writings of *Josephus and *Manetho.
    The native princes of Thebes who comprised the Seventeenth Dynasty eventually drove the *Hyksos from Egypt and pursued them into southern Palestine. The *Hyksos ruler *Apophis I and the Theban princes *Kamose and *Seqenenre Ta'o II came into conflict, and *Amosis I finally defeated the Hyksos and established the Eighteenth Dynasty, becoming the founder of the New Kingdom. The Hyksos intrusion profoundly affected Egypt's attitude towards foreign policy. Previously, they had shown little interest in colonising lands other than *Nubia, and had preferred to gain access to the commodities found in neighbouring countries through avenues of trade. However, once the Hyksos had been expelled, they began to adopt a more positive foreign policy particularly with regard to Palestine and Syria, to prevent any further invasions into Egypt.
    During the early years of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Egyptian kings (particularly *Tuthmosis I, *Tuthmosis III and *Amenophis II) sent major military expeditions to Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor. They sought to subdue the petty states in Palestine and to bring them under Egyptian influence; this policy brought them into direct conflict with another great power, *Mitanni. By the later Eighteenth Dynasty, this conflict had been resolved, with neither state an outright victor, and Egypt and *Mitanni became friends and allies. However, *Mitanni was replaced as a great power by the *Hittites who then posed a new threat to Egypt's dominance of the area. During the Nineteenth Dynasty, *Sethos I and *Ramesses II renewed Egypt's claims in Syria and Palestine and campaigned against the *Hittites, but this conflict was also ultimately resolved by a diplomatic alliance which included a Treaty and royal marriages.
    By establishing her influence over the petty princedoms in Palestine, Egypt created the world's first empire which, during the Eighteenth Dynasty, stretched from the River Euphrates in the north down to the possessions in *Nubia. It was less rigidly organised than the later empires of the *Assyrians, *Persians, *Greeks and *Romans, and relied on a policy of allowing those princes who were loyal to Egypt to remain as the rulers of their own cities and states, giving allegiance and tribute to Egypt. When Egypt was strong, the vassal princes benefitted from this system, but when, as in the Amarna Period, the Pharaoh showed little interest in the empire, they became easy prey for other ambitious powers.
    The military expeditions brought extensive booty back to Egypt and the vassal states paid handsome tribute into Egypt's royal coffers. However, a major recipient of this vast wealth was the great state-god, Amen-Re, whose principal shrine was at the Temple of Karnak at Thebes. The Theban princes of the Seventeenth Dynasty remembered their debt to their local, family god, Amun, and when their descendants, the Eighteenth Dynasty kings, became world conquerors, they associated Amun's cult with that of the old sun-god, Re, and, as Amen-Re, their god became the supreme deity of the pantheon and of the empire. His priesthood at Karnak became extremely wealthy and powerful; ultimately, when it was accepted that their support for a particular candidate in the event of a disputed succession would guarantee him the throne, their power came to rival that of the king.
    Thebes was now not only the state capital of Egypt and the empire but also the religious capital. The kings had their Residence there and they selected a new burial site on the west bank of the river, opposite Thebes. They now abandoned the pyramid as the royal burial monument and chose instead to be interred in concealed rock-tombs in the vain hope of defeating the tomb-robbers. A remote and barren region situated in the cliffs on the west side of the Nile was selected for these burials; it is known today as the Valley of the Kings. Rock-tombs were cut deep into the mountain, with a series of chambers and descending passages which attempted to defeat the robbers. There was now no room to build a mortuary temple adjoining the tomb, where the burial service and continuing mortuary rites could be performed (the pyramid and temple had been adjacent in the pyramid complexes), so the temples were now located on the cultivated plain which lay between the cliffs and the Nile. Over sixty tombs have been discovered so far in this valley, but, with the exception of *Tutankhamun's tomb, all had been extensively ransacked in antiquity. Many of the royal mummies were re-buried by the ancient priests, in an attempt to protect them from further desecration and to ensure their eternal life, and in modern times, these have been discovered in two caches.
    In the Valley of the Kings, the interior walls of many of the tombs are decorated with sculptured and painted scenes taken from the funerary books, which gave the king magical protection and assisted his passage through the dangers found in the underworld. Nearby, in the Valley of the Queens, some of the royal wives and princes occupied rock-cut tombs decorated with scenes which showed them in the presence of the gods. The courtiers and officials also possessed rock-cut tombs, scattered across the barren cliffs of this area, but by contrast with the royal tombs, these were decorated with wall-scenes which show a wide range of daily activities and which provide a remarkable insight into the lives of rich and poor during that period. Some of the finest are those of *Rekhmire, *Ramose and *Sennufer.
    Not far away from the royal tombs the archaeologists discovered the town of the royal necropolis craftsmen, known today as Deir el-Medina. This was founded at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty and was occupied for some four hundred years. The houses and the domestic rubbish heaps have provided the archaeologists with a wealth of information relating to the workmen's lives and working conditions. In the nearby cemetery, the tomb of a chief workman, *Sennedjem, supplies evidence of the quality of decoration carried out in their own tombs. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the conflict between the king and the priests of Amen-Re reached a climax. *Amenophis III and, even more radically, his son *Akhenaten (Amenophis IV) took measures to limit the god's power. Akhenaten's reforms involved the promotion of a monotheistic cult of the sun's disc (the Aten) and the closure of the temples of the other gods. During this time of upheaval (known today as the Amarna Period), *Akhenaten, his queen *Nefertiti, and their daughters played important roles, but the experiment was doomed to failure. Under kings *Tutankhamun and *Horemheb, a counter-revolution took place which restored the traditional beliefs. *Horemheb. with no heir, left the throne to his old friend, Ramesses I; his son, *Sethos I, and his grandson, *Ramesses II, sought to restore Egypt's stability and prestige abroad, campaigning once again in Palestine and Syria. It is possible that the Exodus occurred during *Ramesses II's reign.
    By the Nineteenth Dynasty, Egypt faced a new threat on her western front, where the *Libyan tribes were already attempting to infiltrate and settle. Although the Egyptians successfully repelled them for many years, the descendants of these *Libyan tribesmen finally became the kings of Egypt during the Twenty-second Dynasty. During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties, under *Merneptah and *Ramesses III, the Egyptians faced the combined attacks of the *Sea-peoples, who joined cause with the *Libyans.
    By the Third Intermediate Period, Egypt's great days were over. In the Twenty-first Dynasty, the kingdom was again divided, with the legitimate line of kings ruling the north from the city of Tanis while a succession of High-priests of Amun controlled Thebes and its surrounding district. The rulers of the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Dynasties were of *Libyan origin, the descendants of those tribesmen who had infiltrated and settled at Bubastis in the Delta. *Shoshenk I was the most able of these and he briefly attempted to revive Egypt's internal and external powers. The Twenty-fifth (the so-called 'Ethiopian') Dynasty was also of foreign origin. These rulers came from the south and included *Piankhy, *Shabako and *Taharka; eventually, however, they were driven back to their homeland by the *Assyrians who invaded Egypt from the north.During the Late Period, Egypt's decline continued, although the native Saite rulers of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (*Psammetichus I, *Necho I, *Psammetichus II, *Apries, *Amasis and *Psammetichus III) briefly revived the country and there was a resurgence of former glory, when arts and crafts again reached a high level of excellence and a marked nationalism was evident.
    After this short respite, Egypt was once again under foreign domination in the Twenty-seventh and Thirty-first Dynasties, when she became part of the *Persian empire. The *Persian kings, *Cambyses and *Darius I, both took some interest in Egypt, although the overall influence of both the *Assyrians and the *Persians on the Egyptian civilisation was probably minimal. The kings of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty had pursued an active foreign policy, but in these last years, Egypt became increasingly marginalised as the centre of world events moved elsewhere.
    In 332 BC, the king of Macedon, *Alexander the Great, added Egypt to his conquests and her dynastic history came to an end. When *Alexander died, his empire was divided with Egypt falling to Ptolemy, one of *Alexander's generals, who as *Ptolemy I Soter declared himself king of Egypt. He and his descendants ruled Egypt until 30 BC. Since twelve of these kings bore the name Ptolemy, this is often referred to as the 'Ptolemaic Period'.
    Large numbers of *Greeks now settled in Egypt, ensuring that the Hellenistic culture prevailed there, with the official introduction of the Greek language, customs, religion, and legal system. Alexandria, the city that *Alexander the Great had founded on the Mediterranean coast, now became Egypt's capital as well as a beautiful and wealthy centre of learning. The native Egyptians continued to use their own customs and language but the country was effectively colonised by the *Greeks. The old traditions were only officially continued in the Egyptian temples, since the *Ptolemies built new temples of the same type, to establish and emphasise their divine right to rule Egypt as heirs of the Pharaohs. Heavy taxes and general dissatisfaction led to native opposition and rioting but in 30 BC, with the death of *Cleopatra VII, the country passed to the *Romans and became a mere province of the Roman Empire and the personal possession of its conqueror, *Augustus.
    The *Romans retained many features of Ptolemaic rule, including the administrative system and the custom of representing themselves as Pharaohs which endowed them with divine authority to govern Egypt and exact taxes. Thus they completed and made additions to several of the Egyptian temples which the *Ptolemies had founded. Heavy taxation and declining standards in the lives of the native population characterised this period, and now Egypt's main purpose was to produce grain for Rome.
    Under this domination, Christianity became widespread throughout Egypt and, as the result of the Edict of *Theodosius I, which proclaimed Christianity to be the official religion of the Empire, the temples of the gods were finally closed. The Egyptian Christians (described by the name '*Copts' from the sixteenth century onwards) rejected the doctrine that Christ combined a divine and a human nature; they adopted the monophysite heresy and broke away from the rest of Christendom. In the fourth century AD, when the Roman Empire was partitioned into east and west, Egypt passed into the control of Byzantium, and, with the Arab conquest in the seventh century, the country gradually embraced Islam, although a substantial minority of Egyptians remained Christian.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.


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