OLD KINGDOM RULERS
Kings associated with the Pyramids include Djoser (also known as Dzoser, Dzoser, Zoser, Tosorthos, and Dozer); Sneferu (also known as Snefru, Snofru, Soris); Kufu (also known as Kufu, Cheops, Kheops, Suphis I); Chepheren (also known as Khafre, Khafra, Rakhaef, Khephren, Suphis II).
The Old Kingdom began with the reign of Snefu. Djoser (2630-2611 B.C.) began the age of the Pyramids. Although he was really an Early Dynastic Period ruler he and his architect Imhotep built the first step pyramid and ushered in a period in which much art was created. The last three pharaohs of the 4th dynasty — Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus — built the three Great Pyramids of Giza and codified the structure of Egyptian society. Little is known about them. No papyrus scrolls from their era remain. There is only one existing likeness of Pharaoh Khufu — builder of the largest pyramid — and it is a small ivory statue. Herodotus wrote 2,000 years after Khufu’s death that Khufu was an impious tyrant who closed all the temples in his country and compelled his subjects “without exception to labor as slaves for his own advantage.” There is no hard evidence to back up these assertions. See Pyramids. Sphinx and Step Pyramids
Huni was the last Egyptian King of the 3rd Dynasty. He built a pyramid at Miedum on the edge of the Faiyum. However, it is still in dispute whether the Pyramid of Miedum was started by Huni and later finished by the Pharaoh Snefru, or whether Snefru started the Pyramid of Miedum. Unique to the pyramid; however, is the first square ground plan. This was an architectural invention which lasted well into the future of Egyptian pyramids. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
Sahure was the Second King of the 5th Dynasty. There is evidence of trade outside the Nile Valley during his reign and this might have been the beginning of trade with the outside worked or just a continuation of an already existing trade route. It was during Sahure's reign that expeditions were sent to the Near East for cedar trees which were important in later temple building. His pyramid was the largest and best preserved of the 5th Dynasty kings and his mortuary temple contained scenes of conquest and expeditions. +\
Websites on Ancient Egypt: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, escholarship.org ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Discovering Egypt discoveringegypt.com; BBC History: Egyptians bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians ; Ancient History Encyclopedia on Egypt ancient.eu/egypt; Digital Egypt for Universities. Scholarly treatment with broad coverage and cross references (internal and external). Artifacts used extensively to illustrate topics. ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt ; British Museum: Ancient Egypt ancientegypt.co.uk; Egypt’s Golden Empire pbs.org/empires/egypt; Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org ; Oriental Institute Ancient Egypt (Egypt and Sudan) Projects ; Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre in Paris louvre.fr/en/departments/egyptian-antiquities; KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt kmtjournal.com; Ancient Egypt Magazine ancientegyptmagazine.co.uk; Egypt Exploration Society ees.ac.uk ; Amarna Project amarnaproject.com; Egyptian Study Society, Denver egyptianstudysociety.com; The Ancient Egypt Site ancient-egypt.org; Abzu: Guide to Resources for the Study of the Ancient Near East etana.org; Egyptology Resources fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk
Herodotus on the Early Kings of Egypt
Bust of Chephren,
Builder Second Pyramid Herodotus wrote in Book 2 of “Histories”: “So far, all I have said is the record of my own autopsy and judgment and inquiry. Henceforth I will record Egyptian chronicles, according to what I have heard, adding something of what I myself have seen. The priests told me that Min was the first king of Egypt, and that first he separated Memphis from the Nile by a dam. All the river had flowed close under the sandy mountains on the Libyan side, but Min made the southern bend of it, which begins about twelve and one half miles above Memphis, by damming the stream, thereby drying up the ancient channel, and carried the river by a channel so that it flowed midway between the hills. And to this day the Persians keep careful watch on this bend of the river, strengthening its dam every year to keep the current in; for were the Nile to burst its dikes and overflow here, all Memphis would be in danger of flooding. Then, when this first king Min had made dry land of what he thus cut off, he first founded in it that city which is now called Memphis (for even Memphis lies in the narrow part of Egypt), and outside of it he dug a lake from the river to its north and west (for the Nile itself bounds it on the east); and secondly, he built in it the great and most noteworthy temple of Hephaestus. [Source: Herodotus, “The Histories”, Egypt after the Persian Invasion, Book 2, English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920, Tufts]
“After him came three hundred and thirty kings, whose names the priests recited from a papyrus roll. In all these many generations there were eighteen Ethiopian kings, and one queen, native to the country; the rest were all Egyptian men. The name of the queen was the same as that of the Babylonian princess, Nitocris. She, to avenge her brother (he was king of Egypt and was slain by his subjects, who then gave Nitocris the sovereignty) put many of the Egyptians to death by treachery. She built a spacious underground chamber; then, with the pretence of inaugurating it, but with quite another intent in her mind, she gave a great feast, inviting to it those Egyptians whom she knew to have had the most complicity in her brother's murder; and while they feasted, she let the river in upon them by a vast secret channel. This was all that the priests told of her, except that when she had done this she cast herself into a chamber full of hot ashes, to escape vengeance.
“But of the other kings they related no achievement or act of great note, except of Moeris, the last of them. This Moeris was remembered as having built the northern forecourt of the temple of Hephaestus, and dug a lake, of as great a circumference as I shall later indicate; and built pyramids there also, the size of which I will mention when I speak of the lake. All this was Moeris' work, they said; of none of the rest had they anything to record.”
List of Rulers from the Old Kingdom
Dynasty 3, (ca. 2649–2575 B.C.)
Zanakht (ca. 2649–2630 B.C.)
Djoser (ca. 2630–2611 B.C.)
Sekhemkhet (ca. 2611–2605 B.C.)
Khaba (ca. 2605–2599 B.C.)
Huni (ca. 2599–2575 B.C.)
[Source: Department of Egyptian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2002]
Dynasty 4, (ca. 2575–2465 B.C.)
Snefru (ca. 2575–2551 B.C.)
Khufu (ca. 2551–2528 B.C.)
Djedefre (ca. 2528–2520 B.C.)
Khafre1 (ca. 2520–2494 B.C.:
Nebka II (ca. 2494–2490 B.C.)
Menkaure2 (ca. 2490–2472 B.C.)
Shepseskaf (ca. 2472–2467 B.C.)
Thamphthis (ca. 2467–2465 B.C.)
Dynasty 5, (ca. 2465–2323 B.C.)
Userkaf (ca. 2465–2458 B.C.)
Sahure (ca. 2458–2446 B.C.:
Neferirkare (ca. 2446–2438 B.C.)
Shepseskare (ca. 2438–2431 B.C.)
Neferefre (ca. 2431–2420 B.C.)
Niuserre (ca. 2420–2389 B.C.)
Menkauhor (ca. 2389–2381 B.C.)
Isesi (ca. 2381–2353 B.C.)
Unis (ca. 2353–2323 B.C.)
Dynasty 6, (ca. 2323–2150 B.C.)
Teti (ca. 2323–2291 B.C.)
Userkare (ca. 2291–2289 B.C.)
Pepi I (ca. 2289–2255 B.C.)
Merenre I (ca. 2255–2246 B.C.)
Pepi II (ca. 2246–2152 B.C.)
Merenre II (ca. 2152–2152 B.C.)
Netjerkare Siptah (ca. 2152–2150 B.C.)
Djoser, Creator of the Step Pyramid
Casey Boone of Minnesota State University, Mankato wrote: “Djoser was the most famous Pharaoh of the Third Dynasty and is credited primarily with the creation of the first step pyramid. There are numerous ways to spell his name including Dzoser, Djozer, Zoser, Tosorthos, and Dozer. He lived from 2686-2613 B. C. E. He is described on monuments as the Horus Neterykhet, which means “the divine body.” According to the Turin King list,Djoser ruled for approximately 19 years. He was the second Pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, a dynasty that started the first golden age in Egyptknown as The Old Kingdom. [Source: Casey Boone, Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
“It is believed that Djoser brought an end to a 7-year famine that had afflicted Egypt. He did this by rebuilding the Temple of the ram-headed God, Khnum, on the small island of Elephantine. This island is located by the Nile’s first cataract. Khnum is the god that supposedly controlled the Nile inundation. After the temple rebuilding was complete, the famine ended. This event is depicted in a story from Ptolematic times on a large and lengthy rock on the island of Sehel that is also located at the first cataract. This means that even after 2 millennia after his reign he was still remembered for his actions. +\
“Djoser is mostly known for his step pyramid at Saqqara and the surrounding temples. Saqqara overlooks the ancient capital of Memphis south of modern-day Cairo. In fact, it was Imhotep, Djoser's vizier or priest, that had the conception of the pyramid. Imhotep was also an architect, astronomer and a physician. He was in charge of the entire building process. Saqqara is the oldest stone building in the world. Until Imhotep, everything was made from mud-brick and wood. The pyramid was made from limestone that came from the Tura quarries. +\
“There is a huge stone wall surrounding the pyramid and courtyard that measures 597 yards from north to south and 304 yards east to west. The actual pyramid itself measures 558 feet north to south and 411 feet east to west. It is compromised of 6 unequal stages that rise 204 feet. The primary use of the pyramids was for various ceremonies in connection with Djoser’s afterlife. The pyramid was built to resemble a ladder, not to look like one but to act as one so that the dead Pharaoh could climb into the sky and join the immortality gods. +\
Imhotep, the Pyramid Architect
The ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep was the master mind behind the pyramids. In addition to being an architect and designing the first pyramid---which has lasted until today---he was a sculptor, poet priest, government official, astrologer, magician and a healer. One ancient inscription even gave Imhotep credit for saving his country from famine by convincing Khnum, the god of the first cataract, to let the floods return. After his death, Imhotep was worshiped as a god of wisdom. Small statues often show him as a learned man holding a papyrus scroll.
According to Minnesota State University, Mankato: Imhotep “was born a commoner during the Third Dynasty. He was very skilled and was dedicated to the ideals of his nation. Imhotep quickly rose through the ranks of the temple and court to become a vizier and the High Priest of Ptah. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
“He wrote many medical and didactic texts. He is best known, however, as the chief architect of the step pyramid at Saqqara. It remains today as one of the most brilliant architecture wonders of the ancient world. During the New Kingdom, Imhotep was deified and became the "Son of Ptah." The Romans Claudius and Tiberius inscribed their praises of Imhotep in the temples in Egypt. +\
Sneferu, Builder of Three Early Pyramids
Sneferu, the founder of the 4th Dynasty, built the first true pyramid at Maidum, originally ascribed to his predecessor Huni, and two additional pyramids at Dahshur. The Great Pyramid in Giza surpasses the pyramids of Sneferu in size but not in total volume.
Dr Aidan Dodson wrote for the BBC: “Pyramids became straight-sided under Khufu's father, Seneferu, the new form apparently representing the rays of the sun. Seneferu's accession marked the beginning of the golden age of the pyramids. The greatest builder of them all, he erected three examples, with bases ranging from 144 to 220m (472 to 721ft) square. His multiple pyramids seem to have resulted both from a rapid evolution of religious concepts during his long reign, and a structural failure that led to the abandonment of the 'Bent' pyramid at Dahshur. The 'Red' pyramid, at the same site, became his eventual resting place. [Source: Dr Aidan Dodson, BBC, February 17, 2011]
Richard Bussmman of University College London wrote: "The closest one can get to a political history of the 4th Dynasty are the entries on the reign of Sneferu on the Palermo Stone. In his sixth to eighth year of counting, Sneferu built large boats of cedar and pine wood, seized 7,000 Nubian captives and 200,000 cattle, constructed the wall of the southern and northern land, created 35 estates, erected a double building (palace?), and furnished the palace with a wooden gateway. However, the Palermo Stone was compiled long after the 4th Dynasty, and the symmetric expressions and abbreviated writing style obscure the scale, location, and exact nature of the activities recorded. The numbers, e.g., of prisoners, create a fictional reality and caution against a too literal reading of the Palermo Stone.” [Source: Richard Bussmman, University College London, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2015, escholarship.org ]
Herodotus on the Giza Pyramid Kings
Herodotus wrote in Book 2 of “Histories”: “They said that Egypt until the time of King Rhampsinitus was altogether well-governed and prospered greatly, but that Kheops, who was the next king, brought the people to utter misery. For first he closed all the temples, so that no one could sacrifice there; and next, he compelled all the Egyptians to work for him...And so evil a man was Kheops that, needing money, he put his own daughter in a brothel and made her charge a fee (how much, they did not say). She did as her father told her, but was disposed to leave a memorial of her own, and asked of each coming to her that he give one stone; and of these stones they said the pyramid was built that stands midmost of the three, over against the great pyramid; each side of it measures one hundred and fifty feet. 127. [Source: Herodotus, “The Histories”, Egypt after the Persian Invasion, Book 2, English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920, Tufts]
“The Egyptians said that this Kheops reigned for fifty years; at his death he was succeeded by his brother Khephren, who was in all respects like Kheops. Khephren also built a pyramid, smaller than his brother's. I have measured it myself. It has no underground chambers, nor is it entered like the other by a canal from the Nile, but the river comes in through a built passage and encircles an island, in which, they say, Kheops himself lies. This pyramid was built on the same scale as the other, except that it falls forty feet short of it in height; it stands near the great pyramid; the lowest layer of it is of variegated Ethiopian stone. Both of them stand on the same ridge, which is about a hundred feet high. Khephren, they said, reigned for fifty-six years. 128.
“Thus, they reckon that for a hundred and six years Egypt was in great misery and the temples so long shut were never opened. The people hate the memory of these two kings so much that they do not much wish to name them, and call the pyramids after the shepherd Philitis, who then pastured his flocks in this place.” 129.
“After Mycerinus, the priests said, Asukhis became king of Egypt. He built the eastern outer court of Hephaestus' temple; this is by far the finest and grandest of all the courts, for while all have carved figures and innumerable felicities of architecture, this court has far more than any. As not much money was in circulation during this king's reign, they told me, a law was made for the Egyptians allowing a man to borrow on the security of his father's corpse; and the law also provided that the lender become master of the entire burial-vault of the borrower, and that the penalty for one giving this security, should he fail to repay the loan, was that he was not to be buried at his death either in that tomb of his fathers or in any other, nor was he to bury any relative of his there. Furthermore, in his desire to excel all who ruled Egypt before him, this king left a pyramid of brick to commemorate his name, on which is this writing, cut on a stone: “Do not think me less than pyramids of stone; for I excel them as much as Zeus does other gods; for they stuck a pole down into a marsh and collected what mud clung to the pole, made bricks of it, and thus built me.” These were the acts of Asukhis.”
Portraits of Menkaura
Dimitri, Laboury of the University of Liège in Belgium wrote: “The portraits of Menkaura are very consistent since his physiognomy can easily be recognized throughout his various statues and because, at the same time, they display a face clearly different and distinguishable from the one given to his father, Khafra, or the one of his uncle, Radjedef, his two immediate predecessors. This indicates without any doubt an intended and coherent individualization, even if the rendering of the eyes, the ears, the mouth, etc., that is, the stylistic vocabulary of his physiognomy is definitely characteristic of the artistic standards of Dynasty 4. [Source: Dimitri, Laboury, University of Liège, Belgium, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2010, escholarship.org ]
“The famous triads of the king, from his mortuary temple at Giza, are especially interesting because they were part of a series and each of them displayed three faces: the face of Menkaura, of the goddess Hathor, and of the depicted nome, the latter two precisely replicating the features of the royal visage.
Their discoverer noticed, every preserved triad is characterized by slight stylistic variations, which allow differentiating each of them, but are also perfectly consistent on the three faces of the same sculpture, denoting a single individual hand (or sculptor) behind each piece. The nature and distribution of these stylistic differences and, at the same time, the strong coherence of the royal physiognomy point to a very well controlled facial model of the king, which was dispatched among the workshops and faithfully copied, in spite of a few inevitable faint alterations caused by the technical and human circumstances of such artistic productions . So in addition to the research of physiognomic consistency, this unavoidable variability has to be taken into account in any portrait analysis of ancient Egyptian art.
“Menkaura’s portraiture is also of particular interest because, with its specific nose and facial proportions, it has deeply influenced the official depiction of later kings, like Userkaf, first king of Dynasty 5, or Pepy I, second king of Dynasty 6, who reigned almost two centuries later.
Herodotus on Mycerinus and the Cow Statue
Herodotus wrote in Book 2 of “Histories”: “The next king of Egypt, they said, was Kheops' son Mycerinus. Disliking his father's doings, he opened the temples and let the people, ground down to the depth of misery, go to their business and their sacrifices; and he was the most just judge among all the kings. This is why he is praised above all the rulers of Egypt; for not only were his judgments just, but Mycerinus would give any who were not satisfied with the judgment a present out of his own estate to compensate him for his loss. Though mild toward his people and conducting himself as he did, yet he suffered calamities, the first of which was the death of his daughter, the only child of his household. Deeply grieved over this misfortune, he wanted to give her a burial somewhat more sumptuous than ordinary; he therefore made a hollow cow's image of gilded wood and placed the body of his dead daughter therein. 130. [Source: Herodotus, “The Histories”, Egypt after the Persian Invasion, Book 2, English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920, Tufts]
“This cow was not buried in the earth but was to be seen even in my time, in the town of Saïs, where it stood in a furnished room of the palace; incense of all kinds is offered daily before it, and a lamp burns by it all through every night. Near this cow in another chamber statues of Mycerinus' concubines stand, so the priests of Saïs said; and in fact there are about twenty colossal wooden figures there, made like naked women; but except what I was told, I cannot tell who these are. 131.
“But some tell the following story about the cow and the statues: that Mycerinus conceived a passion for his own daughter and then had intercourse with her against her will; and they say that afterwards the girl strangled herself for grief, and that he buried her in this cow, but that her mother cut off the hands of the attendants who had betrayed the daughter to her father, and that now their statues are in the same condition as the living women were. But this I believe to be a silly story, especially about the hands of the figures. For in fact we ourselves saw that the hands have fallen off through age, and were lying at their feet even in my day. 132.
“As for the cow, it is covered with a purple robe, only the head and neck exposed, encrusted with a very thick layer of gold. Between the horns is the golden figure of the sun's orb. It does not stand, but kneels; it is as big as a live cow of great size. This image is carried out of the chamber once every year, whenever the Egyptians mourn the god whose name I omit in speaking of these matters: then the cow is brought out into the light; for they say that before she died she asked her father, Mycerinus, that she see the sun once a year55. 133.
“After what happened to his daughter, the following happened next to this king: an oracle came to him from the city of Buto, announcing that he had just six years to live and was to die in the seventh. The king took this badly, and sent back to the oracle a message of reproach, blaming the god that his father and his uncle, though they had shut up the temples, and disregarded the gods, and destroyed men, had lived for a long time, but that he who was pious was going to die so soon. But a second oracle came announcing that for this very reason his life was hastening to a close: he had done what was contrary to fate; Egypt should have been afflicted for a hundred and fifty years, and the two kings before him knew this, but not he. Hearing this, Mycerinus knew that his doom was fixed. Therefore, he had many lamps made, and would light these at nightfall and drink and enjoy himself, not letting up day or night, roaming to the marsh country and the groves and wherever he heard of the likeliest places of pleasure. This was his recourse, so that by turning night into day he might make his six years into twelve and so prove the oracle false. 134.
“This king, too, left a pyramid, but far smaller than his father's, each side twenty feet short of three hundred feet long, square at the base, and as much as half its height of Ethiopian stone. Some Greeks say that it was built by Rhodopis, the courtesan, but they are wrong; indeed, it is clear to me that they say this without even knowing who Rhodopis was (otherwise, they would never have credited her with the building of a pyramid on which what I may call an uncountable sum of money was spent), or that Rhodopis flourished in the reign of Amasis, not of Mycerinus; for very many years later than these kings who left the pyramids came Rhodopis, who was Thracian by birth, and a slave of Iadmon son of Hephaestopolis the Samian, and a fellow-slave of Aesop the story-writer. For he was owned by Iadmon, too, as the following made crystal clear: when the Delphians, obeying an oracle, issued many proclamations summoning anyone who wanted it to accept compensation for the killing of Aesop, no one accepted it except the son of Iadmon's son, another Iadmon; hence Aesop, too, was Iadmon's. 135.
“Rhodopis came to Egypt to work, brought by Xanthes of Samos, but upon her arrival was freed for a lot of money by Kharaxus of Mytilene, son of Scamandronymus and brother of Sappho the poetess. Thus Rhodopis lived as a free woman in Egypt, where, as she was very alluring, she acquired a lot of money—sufficient for such a Rhodopis, so to speak, but not for such a pyramid. Seeing that to this day anyone who likes can calculate what one tenth of her worth was, she cannot be credited with great wealth. For Rhodopis desired to leave a memorial of herself in Greece, by having something made which no one else had thought of or dedicated in a temple and presenting this at Delphi to preserve her memory; so she spent one tenth of her substance on the manufacture of a great number of iron beef spits, as many as the tenth would pay for, and sent them to Delphi; these lie in a heap to this day, behind the altar set up by the Chians and in front of the shrine itself. The courtesans of Naucratis seem to be peculiarly alluring, for the woman of whom this story is told became so famous that every Greek knew the name of Rhodopis, and later on a certain Archidice was the theme of song throughout Greece, although less celebrated than the other. Kharaxus, after giving Rhodopis her freedom, returned to Mytilene. He is bitterly attacked by Sappho in one of her poems. This is enough about Rhodopis. 136.
Weni was arguably the most influential military figure in Ancient Egypt. According to Minnesota State University, Mankato: “General Weni was important to Ancient Egypt because he organized the army of Pepi I during the Old Kingdom so successfully that the organization lasted into the New Kingdom. He lived during the 6th Dynasty and originally served under Pepi I, who ruled from 2289-2255 B.C. He also served under Pepi I’s successor, Nemtyemzaf. He became Commander in Chief of the army while Pepi I was the Pharaoh. He was a genius in tactics and defense. He fought many campaigns and is the first person other than a pharaoh to be depicted leading the army into battle. His leadership in battles renewed the Egyptian military spirit. He led an attack against the Sinai Bedouins amongst many other campaigns. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
“Weni reorganized the army into battalions with a core of professional soldiers. Scribes and administrators also followed the army on campaigns. Weni trained his soldiers to be aggressive rather than to be defensive. He also included Nubian warriors in the army. While serving under Nemtyemzaf, Weni became the governor of Upper Egypt. While governor, he made many improvements that benefited the military, such as digging a groups of channels alongside the Nile at the First Cataract. +\
“General Weni also wrote his own autobiography. Battles in Palestine were fought to gain a buffer zone along the Isthmus of Suez. Once, when Weni was sent to repel raiding nomads, he wrote that he had to gather many recruits, including Nubians and then organize them in such a way that quarrel with each other or steal from communities along the way to the battle. He wrote extensively about the planning he did, but gives no details of the actual battle. He only says that they returned in peace after ravaging the land of the Sand-Dwellers. Weni went on a total of five missions to the land of the Sand-Dwellers.” +\
Pepi I (also known as Pepy I, Piopi I, Phiops I) was the first king of the 6th dynasty. He was the most aggressive Old Kingdom pharaoh. His armies conquered the Nubians in the south and the sand-dwelling Libyans in the west. Pepi I married Ankhesenpepi II and died young. Ankhesenpepi II married her nephew and gave birth to Pepi II. The Pyramid of Pepi I contains the most complete set of tomb texts in Egypt. Dating to 2300 B.C., they took 20 years to reassemble. In the tombs of Princess Idut, Maya and Teti there is evidence of images being erased and replaced with new images, which some scholars believe to be evidence of murder.
Murder and kidnaping may have been practiced in the ancient Egyptians court. Based on the reading of hieroglyphics and way figures in tomb were erased and replaced with new ones, some scholars think that a vizier named Ihy, who lived around 2230 B.C., was killed by a mysterious outsider and married the daughter of King Unas and became King Teti, who in turn is believed to have been murdered by Ihy’s son who became Pepi I
According to Minnesota State University, Mankato: “He rose to the throne at a very young age and ruled for approximately 50 years. The capitol's name, Memphis, was derived from Pepi I's funerary monument. During the early part of his reign, the nobles outside his court began to gain influence and wealth by building fine tombs for themselves and boasting of privileges they had as friends of the king. There was a conspiracy against Pepi I that was formulted by one of his wives, Weret-Imtes, but it was foiled. Pepi I sent out various expeditions to bring back fine stone for building projects and although Pepi I built a pyramid for himself, it has not withstood time well. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
“During the early part of Pepi I's reign, the nobles outside his court began to have great influence and wealth in the political relations of Ancient Egypt. They built fine tombs for themselves and often times boasted of their good relations with the king. Pepi I, however, was not a pharaoh free from problems. One of Pepi I's wives, Weret-Imtes, attempted to take the throne from him. Pepi I, was also an avid builder of pyramids, and went on many expeditions to bring back fine stones for such large scale projects.” +\
Pepi II (also known as Pepy II, Piopi II or Phiops II) was Pepi’s successor. He assumed the throne when he was eight years old and his reign was the longest in Egyptian history and proved to be important for the country's future. His elder brother, the pharaoh Merenra, reigned for only a few years and died suddenly. According to tradition, he to the age of 100 and ruled for 96 years. On a carved relief describing Pepi II's military victories were the names of the same Libyan chiefs that were listed 200 years before on the victory reliefs of King Sahure.
When Pepi II was young his mother Ankhesenpepi II ruled as his regent. She was the most powerful woman in the Old Kingdom and is regarded as a precursor of Cleopatra. It is very likely that Ankhesenpepi II and Pepi II's uncle ruled Egypt, not the pharaoh himself. The kingdom began to decline under weak leadership during Pepi II’s rule. Royal coffers shrunk, noblemen paid lip service to the pharaoh and amassed wealth for themselves, and the kingdom began to decline. Pepi II's pyramid was finished when he was 30 and the 60 years of rule that followed was characterized by six decades of corruption. After his death in 2150 B.C., the Old Kingdom came to an end.
According to Minnesota State University, Mankato: “During Pepi II's reign there was a shift of power from the king to the nomarchs. Pepi II gave gifts to the nomarchs which increased their treasuries and emptied his. It is likely that foreign interests accelerated the collapse of the 6th Dynasty and Pepi II was the last king of this dynasty. After Pepi II's death, the central government collapsed and the Old Kingdom ended. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
Pepi II was Pepi I's brother. “His reign began after his brother's Pepi I's ended which he assumed at the age of eight. Over all, his reign over Egypt was not terribly beneficial to the country. During Pepi II's reign, power mildly shifted from the pharaoh to the nomarchs. Pepi II, often gave gifts to the nomarch's which increased their treasures, but depleted the treasury of the pharaoh. It is in this light, that the interests of the nomarchs, as well as the threat of foreign interests, accelerated the eventual collapse of the 6th Dynasty. After Pepi II's death, the central government collapsed, and the Old Kingdom ended. +\
Pepi II and the Dwarf
When eight-year-old Pepi II heard that one his donkey caravans had brought back a pygmy from Africa he wrote, "Come north to the residence at once! Hurry and bring with you this Pygmy whom you brought from the land of the horizon dwellers...When he goes down with you into the ship, get worthy men to be around on deck, lest he fall into the water! When he lies down at night, get worthy men to lie around him in his tent. Inspect ten times at night!" [Source: David Roberts, National Geographic, January 1995]
There are many surviving inscriptions from the Sixth Dynasty pertaining to trade expeditions to the south into Nubia (Sudan). One, describes a latter by a caravan leader named Harkhuf to nine-year-old Pepi II about a dancing dwarf he was bringing back to Egypt. The following is the letter Pepi wrote back:[Source: Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com]
“You have said in your letter that you have come down in safety from Yam with the army and brought many beautiful gifts which Hathor, Lady of Yamu, has given to the King of Upper and Lower Egypt. You also say in this letter that you have brought a dwarf of divine dances from the land of the horizon-dwellers. Like the dwarf whom the Treasurer of the God, Baurded, brought from Punt in the time of King Isesi. You say to my Majesty, Never before has one like him been brought by any other who has visited Yam.
“Each year you do what your lord desires – spending day and night with the caravan. Now come northward at once to the Court. You must bring the dwarf, alive, sound and well to rejoice and gladden the heart of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt. When he comes down with you into the ship, appoint reliable people who shall be beside him on each side of the vessel and take care lest he should fall into the water. When he sleeps at night, appoint trustworthy people who shall sleep beside him. Inspect him ten times a night because my Majesty desires to see this dwarf more than the all products of Sinai and Punt.
“If you arrive at the Court and the dwarf is with you, alive, and well, my Majesty will make you many excellent honours to be an ornament for the son of your son for ever. All the people will say when they hear what my Majesty does for you: “Is there anything like this which was done for the privy counsellor Harkhuf, when he came down from Yam.”
Fifth Dynasty Rulers
The Fifth Dynasty spanned approximately 140 years Cheryl Dawley of Minnesota State University, Mankato wrote: The Pharaohs that ruled during this Dynasty were: 1) 2498 – 2491 Userkaf – Brother to Sahure and possibly Neferirkare Kakai. He elevated to great importance the cult of Re, god of the sun. His marriage to Khentkaues, a descendant of the main branch of the royal family in the 4th dynasty ended dynastic struggles that rival branches had caused during the 4th dynasty. His queen held a prominent position and had her own tomb, known as the unfinished pyramid, built at Giza. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
2) “2487 – 2477 Sahure – Brother of Userkaf and possibly Neferirkare Kakai. Early records indicate that he traded outside the Nile Valley with Punt. 3) 2477 – 2467 Neferirkare Kakai – May have also been brother to Sahure and Userkaf. There was evidence found linked to his reign that show well-developed accounting methods and record keeping regarding the redistribution of goods and materials between the royal residence, temples, and officials who held priesthoods. 4) 2467 – 2460 Shepseskare Isi; 5) 2460 – 2453 Neferefre; 6) 2453 – 2422 Nyuserre Ini – He is best known for his temple to the sun-god Re at Abu Jirab in Lower Egypt. Located near the sun temple, Nyuserre’s burial place is smaller in height and length than the sun temple indicating the unusual prominence of the cult of re during this dynasty. 7) 2422 – 2414 Menkauhor Kaiu. 8) 2414 – 2375 Djedkare Isesi.+\
9) 2375 – 2345 Unas – Pyramid Texts, which relate to the fate of a king in the afterlife, were found in his pyramid. Worship of the sungod peaked during this dynasty. The last 3 pharaohs did not have personal names compounded with “Re”, the name of the sungod. There was a slight shift away from the solar cult that may be linked to the rise of Osiris, god of the dead. For the first time, high officials were chosen from outside the royal family. To secure their positions, these officials sometimes married royal princesses. They depended on the king and used their position for their own agenda. They and the king often appropriated much of the country's surplus for their own benefit. While the pyramids from this period were smaller and less solid, carvings found from mortuary temples are well preserved and of excellent quality. The end of their dynasty saw some officials with strong local ties begin to move their tombs into the Nile Valley and the Delta, symbolizing the growing independence from the royal control.” +\
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, escholarship.org ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Tour Egypt, Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com; Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018