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Nectanebo I, The First Ruler of Egypt's 30th and Last Native Egyptian Dynasty


Nectanebo I, The First Ruler of Egypt's

30th and Last Native Egyptian Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn


The name cartouche of Nectanebo I


Nectanebo I (Nakhtnebef) of Sebennytos (modern Sammanud) founded the 30th Dynasty, the last dynasty to be ruled by native Egyptians, late in Egypt's Pharaonic Period. His birth name was Nakhtnebef, meaning "strong in his Lord", while his throne name was Kheper-Ka-re, meaning "The Soul of Re Abides". Nectanebo was actually the name given to him by the Greeks.

The line of 29th Dynasty pharaohs of Egypt hailed from Mendes and Nakhtnebef had been a general under the last of these rulers, known as Nepherites II. In fact, he had suppressed a revolt under the Nepherites II's predecessor, Hakoris. However, he later turned on his royal masters, bringing an abrupt end to the reign of Nepherites II and Egypt's 29th Dynasty.

Nectanebo I making an offering of bread

Nectanebo I was the son of General Djedhor, perhaps a descendent of Nepherites I. He was probably a close associate of the Athenian general, Khabrias (Chabrias), who had commanded the Greek mercenaries that formed the core of Hakoris' army in the later part of that king's reign Khabrias probably helped Nectanebo in his rise to power, though he was later recalled to Athens in the winder of 380/379 BC. It is known that Nectanebo I married a lady with the Greek name Ptolemais, and it is not unlikely that she was a daughter of Khabrias. We also know that he was married a woman named Udjashu, who provided him with a son and heir, Teos (Djedhor).

Cartouches of Nectanebo I from Philae

Near the beginning of his reign a combined Persian and Greek force entered Egypt from the western (Mendes) side of the Delta, bypassing the strongly fortified but common access through the eastern Delta fortress of Pelusium. They arrived by both land and sea, with the sea fleet consisting almost entirely of Greeks. These forces were sent by the Persian, Artaxerxes II, who's family had once ruled Egypt, under the leadership of the Athenian Iphicrates and the Persian Pharnabazes in 373 BC in order to forcefully return Egypt to the Persian fold. Fortunately for Nectanebo I, after being defeated at first, the strange allies delayed their march on Memphis because of their mistrust in each other. Iphicrates wanted to march directly on Memphis, while Pharnabazes, fearing the Greeks were planning to capture Egypt for themselves, insisted on waiting for the main body of Persian troops to arrive by land. That gave Nectanebo I time to regroup and launch a successful counter attack, forcing the invading forces out of Egypt. Local conditions played a large part in his success. The inundation of the Nile gave the Egyptians the advantage in a flooded landscape they knew very well.

Afterwards, Nectanebo I seems to have suffered few other problems. In this late period just before the Second Persian Period and then afterwards, the Macadonian takeover of Egypt, Nectanebo I achieved much during a stable, 18 year reign.

Nectanebo was consciously archaistic in his titulary, using the same prenomen as Senusret I of the 12th Dynasty. However, his building and artisitic activity moved away from classic Egyptian proportions and towards those associated with monuments of the Greek dominated Egypt. He restored dilapidated temples throughout the land. He awarded new endowments and tax exemptions to a number of religious institutions. He was responsible for erecting the First Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, and in particular, he erected the oldest standing section of the Temple Complex at Philae, that would later blossom into one of the most sacred and delightful sites during the Greek Period.

During his reign, there was also a growth in the popularity of the cults of sacred animals, reflected in new construction at Hermopolis Magna, Mendes (Tell el-Rub'a) and Saft el-Hinna. We also know of a mamissi that was built during the time of Nectanebo I at the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, and his building work is also attested by a Kiosk at El-Kab, at the Osiris Temple at Abydos, several temples in the area of Memphis and Saqqara, at the Khonsu-Neferhotep I Temple at Tanis, a temple in the area of Qantir, the Neith Temple at Sais, relief blocks found at Munagat el-Kuba, restorations at Tell el-Balamun and enlargement of the temple of Hibis in the Kharga Oasis.

shabtis figure probably from the tomb of Nectanebo I

He was also responsible for a number of sculptures that found their way to the Hellenistic capital of Alexandria, and later to Rome, where they formed the basis of some of the earliest assessments of Ancient Egyptian Art.

Toward the end of his reign, an attempt was made to renew old alliances between Egypt and the Hellenic powers of Athens and Sparta, with the view of opposing the next assault on the part of the Persians, who were certainly not ready to abandon what they regarded to be their rebellious province of Egypt.

Prior to his death, Nactanebo I established his successor, Teos, as a co-regent. Nectanebo I was probably buried at Sebannytos, but no definite site as been unearthed. A few of his shabtis figures are known, while the broken remains of his sarcophagus have been recovered from reuse in various buildings in Cairo, showing it to by stylistically similar to 18th Dynasty examples.

An alabaster bowl inscribed to Nectanebo I

An alabaster bowl inscribed to Nectanebo I

References:

Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt) Clayton, Peter A. 1994 Thames and Hudson Ltd ISBN 0-500-05074-0
History of Ancient Egypt, A Grimal, Nicolas 1988 Blackwell None Stated
Monarchs of the Nile Dodson, Aidan 1995 Rubicon Press ISBN 0-948695-20-x
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815034-2

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