Egypt: History - Dynasty XVIII (Eighteenth Dynasty) Part two

Eighteenth Dynasty

For the transition to the reign of Amenophis IV the letters from Tushratta are doubtless our best authority. In that to Queen Tiye it is clearly implied that the new king ascended the throne only after his father's death, and the same is asserted even more clearly in a letter to the young ruler from the great Hittite monarch Suppliluliumas. Hence the much canvassed co-regency must be an illusion. A hieratic docket in what was probably the first letter addressed by Tushratta to Napkhuria--this being the cuneiform rendering of Amenophis IV's Prenomen Neferkheprure'--dates it in year 2, and states that the Court was still in residence in western Thebes. We learn too that Tadukhipa's connubial duties had now been transferred from the father to the son, and it has sometimes been suggested that this Mitannian princess was none other than the beautiful Nefertiti, familiar to the modern world from her wonderfully modeled and painted head in the Berlin Museum. Obstacles to this theory are, however, that Nefertiti is known to have had a sister in Egypt, and that Tey, the wife of the elderly officer Ay who ultimately became king, claimed to have been her nurse.

A son of more unlikely an appearance than Amenophis IV could hardly have been born to altogether normal parents. Though his earliest monuments do not present his features and figure as markedly different from those of any earlier Egyptian prince, the representations of only a few years later provide us with frankly hideous portraits the general fidelity of which cannot be doubted. The elongated head slopes forward from a long thin neck. The face is narrow, showing a prominent nose, thick lips and a rounded protruding chin. The body with its sunken chest, swelled out stomach, wide thighs, and slender calves, is the reverse of virile. In the sculptured reliefs Akhenaten, as he later preferred to call himself, is often shown lolling effeminately upon a cushioned chair; yet the standing colossi from his priestly court at Karnak have a look of fanatical determination such as his subsequent history confirmed only too fatally. In order to evaluate justly the religious revolution which he brought into being it is necessary to summarize, if only in a provisional and one-sided way, the main aspects of the traditional worship which he temporarily replace with a rigid monotheism of his own devising.

The Egyptian religion, as it had already persisted for well over 1,500 years, resulted from the fusion of a large number of originally independent tribal cults. Every town had its own particular deity, sometimes manifested in a material fetish but more often in some animal shape; such were the cat-goddess Bast of Bubastis, the cobra-goddess Edjo of Buto, the ibis Thoth of Hermopolis Magna, or Wepwawe the jackal-god of Lycopolis. As the pantheon gathered coherence, these animalic divinities were furnished then with the bodies and limbs of ordinary mortals and credited with human attributes and activities. Their resulting double nature paved the way for two opposing tendencies. On the one hand the innate Egyptian conversation, coupled with a keen local patriotism, militated against the suppression of individual difference; the animal heads remained and the system never ceased to be polytheistic. On the other hand, there was a powerful urge towards monotheism. Not only was the town-god declared to be unique and almighty, but his identity with the gods of certain other towns was asserted in a number of different ways. Thus Sopdu of the Arabian nome, Hemen of Asphynis, and 'Anti of Antaeopolis were all of them forms of Horus because they shared the same falcon-appearance. Sometimes the name might be the common feature, while the embodiment changed; for example the cow-goddess Hathor of Dendera was really none other than the Hathor worshipped near Memphis in a sycamore. The instability of form shown by some deities was extraordinary. Thoth was indeed as a rule an ibis or had an ibis head on a human body, but he might also be a cynocephalus ape, or else manifest himself in the moon. One night perhaps have expected the class of deities embodying the various forces of nature to remain immune from such variability, but it did not so remain. The earth-god Geb took the form of the ram Chnum at Hypselis, and Shu, the male embodiment of the Void which held heaven and earth apart, was at Thinin the warrior-god Onuris. Of all the great powers exerting influence upon terrestrial life the sun is assuredly that which exhibits the greatest constancy and is least in need of changing imagery; yet at Heliopolis he was envisaged as the falcon-headed Harakhti or else as a human king bearing the name Atum; or else he might even be conceived of as a beetle rolling its ball of dung in form of it. Nor was this all. It was realized that the prestige of a local god would be enhanced if the word Re', the commonest name of the sun-god, were appended as an epithet to his own , whence we find the crocodile-god Sobek of Anasha described as Sobk-Re', and above all the great Amun of Thebes was from the Middle Kingdom onwards universally acclaimed as Amen-Re'.

The bewildering multiplicity displayed by the Egyptian Pantheon as elaborate by its priestly exponents could not fail to produce a reaction. Both for everyday parlance and on account of the monotheistic trend there was need for a word for 'sun' which had no religious or anthropomorphic associations, or at least reduced them to a minimum. Such a word was itn which we habitually render as 'the Aten' or as 'the sun's disk'. It is often difficult to tell when this term has or has not a religious implication. It is futile to dispute whether the word itn refers to the deity or not. Less ambiguous is the phrase 'lord of all that the disk surrounds'; and epithet frequently (and very oddly) applied to 'the living Aten' who was the object of Akhenaten's worship. Here the work translated 'disk' obviously refers to the visible celestial body. A careful scrutiny of the inscriptions of the time of Amenophis III shows a much more widespread use of the term that previously, and it is legitimate to see in this fact an anticipation of the doctrine soon to assume so momentous a character. A small detail of significance is the name 'The Aten gleams' given to the bark in which Queen Tiye disported herself upon the lake dug in her honor. An unpublished tomb at Thebes undoubtedly belonging to Amenophis III's reign gives its owner to the title 'Steward in the Mansion of the Aten', and it is difficult to interpret this otherwise than as implying that the Aten already received a cult at Thebes. Evidence of another kind is found on the well-known stela of the same reign inscribed with a long hymn to the sun-god composed by the twin architects Suti and Hor. Here the god is addressed as Amun and as Harakhti and the word itn occurs only identically, but both content and expression so closely resemble Akhenaten's famous psalm that we cannot but conclude that the revolution was already 'in the air'.

The new conception of the sun-god presaged in Re'-Harakhti's extended title was soon to have visual consequences that wrought havoc with long-cherished priestly susceptibilities. For a short time the radical changes about to transform the entire character of Egyptian art could pass practically unnoticed. Re'-Harakhti was still figured as of human shape, but with the head of a falcon surmounted by the solar disk; the young king was still content to be portrayed as of stiff conventional mien. But this conformity with tradition was not destined to last. The royal revolutionary had aesthetic as well as religious ambitions of his own, and quickly imposed new fashions upon the artists of his Court. The winged solar disk of Horus the Behditite which had hitherto presided rigidly over scenes and inscriptions now vanished and was replaced by a golden sun shedding its rays beneficently over king and queen , over the altars at which they officiated, and over the pictures of temple and palace. To discard completely every anthropomorphic association was impossible. The rays had to be shown with hands holding the symbols for 'life' and for 'dominion' or 'power', and the kingly nature of the visible celestial body was indicated by the uraeus or cobra that hung from the gleaming circle even as it had always adorned the brow of the Pharaoh. Nowhere is the contrast between the old and the new modes of representation better seen than in the fine tomb of the vizier Ra'mose at Thebes. Here sculptured reliefs of great beauty adorn the larger part of the walls, once explicitly dated to the reign of Amenophis IV who is portrayed in the old conventional manner. Suddenly there comes a change. On the opposite side of the doorway the very same king and his wife Nefertiti are depicted in the new style, leaning over a balcony under the rays of the Aten to bestow necklets of gold upon their chief magistrate; officials of the royal harem and various servants are in attendance, and the appearance of all these persons is as different from what is seen in the rest of the tomb as can well be imagined. An exaggerated liveliness and a visible emotional intent are conspicuous; a bolder sweep of line and backs bowed lower stress the deference owed to the king; and one can hardly be deceived in the impression that the peculiarities of Akhenaten's own body have been consciously imitated in the shapes given to his subjects. A magnificently drawn scene of foreigners follows, as yet untouched by the sculptor's chisel. After this all is blank; the tomb is unfinished and the subsequent history of Ra'mose unknown. Hand in hand with his disappearance went that of the other great dignitaries of his time. Attempts have been made to break the silence of the next few years by deductions from the titles found on their statues and in their inscriptions, but the results have been far too speculative. All that we can safely maintain is that the revolutionary cult and its artistic expression, the latter including the appalling colossi already mentioned, were pushed ahead at Karnak, where they cannot have failed to excite the wrath of the Theban priesthood and their antipathy to Akhenaten and all his works.

The curtain next rises far away from Thebes and in the sixth year of Akhenaten's reign. El-'Amarna, already mentioned in connection with the cuneiform tablets found there, was the site selected for a startling innovation by the self-willed but highly courageous monarch. Half-way between Cairo and Luxor the eastern mountains recede leaving a crescent-shaped plain about 8 miles long and 3 broad; here there was ample room for a great city, while on the left bank beyond the Nile a much broader expanse afforded scope for the agriculture which a large population would demand. The name chosen by Akhenaten for his new city was Akhenaten 'The Horizon of Aten'. The popularly used modern name Tell El-Armarna wrongly combines that of a modern village El-Till in the north with that of the tribe of the Beni 'Amarna is now generally accepted. Excavations begun by Flinders Petrie in 1891 were carried on with only the inevitable interruption caused by the First World War right down to 1937, first by German and then by British archaeologists. A vast number of brick buildings , or rather of their ground-plans, have been unearthed; of stonework but little remained, but there was a great harvest of valuable antiquities, the most sensational finds being the cuneiform tablets stored in what the bricks used in it call 'the Place of Pharaoh's Dispatches' and the wonderfully lifelike statuary discovered in the atelier of the master-sculptor Dhutmose. It is impossible here to enumerate even a portion of the imposing structures that have been identified, palaces, temples, mansions of the functionaries, a workman's village, and desert altars raised in honor of the Aten. To give an idea of the magnitude of some of these edifices it may be mentioned that the great temple of the Aten had a length of little less than 200 yards.

There are, however, all too many signs of the haste with which the constructions were thrown up; the workmanship everywhere is shoddy, though this is often disguised by the beauty of the wonderfully naturalistic pictures of birds and vegetation painted upon plaster walls and floors. Of the greatest possible value for our knowledge of the life here carried on are the sculptured reliefs in the tombs of officials cut into the sides of the eastern hills; the single-handed recording of these has been the fine achievement of N.deG. Davies who, however, had everywhere to bemoan the vandalism, both ancient and modern, which had destroyed so much. Lastly must be mentioned the family tomb which Akhenaten caused to be prepared 4 miles away in the eastern desert; his prematurely deceased second daughter Meketaten was actually buried there, but apparently neither her parents nor any of her sisters. Concerning Akhenaten's own probable fate more will be said later. After a reference to his first survey of the place and to the great sacrifice which followed we are told that Akhenaten summoned his courtiers and military commanders and explained to them the wish of the Aten that Akhetaten should be built. He went on to say that no one had known of the site except the Aten himself, and that consequently it was his and his alone. At length the courtiers reply and assure the king that all countries will arrive carrying gifts upon their backs to present them to the Aten. Then, after much praise of the god, comes Akhenaten's oath that he will never extend the city's boundaries nor allow his spouse to persuade him to do so. He next enumerates a number of sanctuaries which he will build in Akhetaten, ending with a reference to the above-mentioned family tomb. Here he, his wife, and his daughters were to be buried even if they died in some other town. A curious addition states that the Mnevis-bull of Heliopolis should likewise be buried in the Aten's city, another sign how dependent the new Atenism was upon one of the oldest of Egypt's religious cults.

The inscription here summarized throw a flood of light upon the most important action of Akhenaten's career, but raise a number of problems and leave many questions unanswered. The determination to create a new capital at El-'Amarna was doubtless prompted by the recognition that the cults of the Aten and of Amen-Re' could no longer be carried on side by side, but we are left in the dark as to the exact form taken by the rupture. This must have been the moment when the young king changed his Nomen Amenhotpe into Akheanten, which means 'Serviceable to the Aten'. There are no signs of hostility to his dead father, though he too had borne the name Amenhotpe. On the contrary, temple-reliefs from Soleb in Nubia, as well as a stela from Hieraconpolis in Upper Egypt, depict Amenophis III, rare cases which must belong to a phase immediately preceding the revolution, since the falcon-headed Harakhti on the stela is already equipped with the cartouches and the doctrinal epithets of the Aten. Equally significant of Akhenaten's filial piety are certain inscriptions where his father's Prenomen Nebma're' was left unerased and grotesquely used a second time to replace the offending Nomen. The name Nebma're' was likely to find favor with Akhenaten because of its meaning 'Lord of Truth(ma'e) is Re', for he prided his own self upon the epithet 'Living upon Truth'. It must, however, be observed that ma'e, unavoidably translated 'Truth', does not signify a love of reality, though the realistic bias is plain enough in Akhenaten's art nouveau. R. Anthes has shown that in the 'Amarna texts ma'e always means 'orderly, well-regulated existence,' and has no reference to factual truth at all. As regards Akheanten's mother Tiye, it is clear that he always remained on the best of terms with her, and she may indeed ultimately have come to live at El-'Amarna, where pictures in the tomb of Huya, the steward of her estate, show her dining with her son and daughter-in-law, though whether only on a brief visit or as a permanent resident is uncertain.

The oaths sworn by Akhenaten that he would never enlarge the Aten's territory are a mystery. Do they mean that the dissensions between him and the priesthood of Amen-Re' were at first amicably settled, he being content to live and worship in his own way at a place of his won choosing? At all events there is no hint of civil war, and he even envisages the possibility that his family and himself may be in some other city at the time of their death. The lack of dated inscriptions is a serious hindrance. Papyri from as late as year 5 found at Kom Medinet Ghurab at the entrance to the Fayyum still use the name Amenhotpe and mention Ptah and offerings to other gods and goddesses. Perhaps as yet, the Aten heresy had not reached so far north. The rock-inscription of the architect Bek at Aswan proves that at some moment in the reign stone was being quarried there for 'the great and mighty monuments of the king in the house of Aten in Akhetan'. At Aswan and Wady Halfa, records of Akhenaten's Nubian viceroy Dhutmose are found. Also the name Gm-itn 'Finding Aten' of the important settlement of Kawa, beyond the Third Cataract, probably testifies to Akhenaten's influence there.

Of the personages upon whom Akhenaten later bestowed fine rock-tombs at El-'Amarna only one is known to have followed him from Thebes. This is his butler Parennufe, part of whose Theban tomb, subsequently abandoned, was adorned with reliefs in the old style, while another part depicted the Aten in true 'Amarna fashion. The rest of Akhenaten's favorites appear to have been novi homines, few of whom ever attained high positions. The house of a vizier Nakht was found among the ruins, but it is not known whence he came or how far his jurisdiction extended. The mayor of Akhetaten bore a tell-tale name which being translated means 'Akhenaten create me'. Several were priests and two were overseers of the royal harem; there was also a chief physician. The scenes of life in the city are extraordinarily vivid. How far genuine conviction, and how far self-interest, actuated the members of Akhenaten's entourage cannot be ascertained at this distance of time. He certainly loaded them with golden necklets and provided them with food from his own table. At least one of his officials confesses that he had been raised from humble rank to a position where he hobnobbed with noblemen. There can be no doubt that Akhenaten regarded himself as the apostle of the new faith, and there are several inscriptions in the tombs testifying to the readiness with which his doctrine was listened to. Brief extracts suffice to show how little the new order had changed the relation between sovereign and subject; indeed the main difference was the more vocal character of the traditional obsequiousness. No tombs in Egypt are more crowded with inscriptions than those of El-'Amarna, invariably belauding the Aten or the king or the benefits bestowed on the tomb-owner; the language is not wholly lacking in beauty, but is undeniably stereo-typed in its expression. The great hymn in the tomb of Ay is justly celebrated, and probably rightly ascribed to Akhenaten himself, though differing but little from others in the necropolis. The hymn, whose striking resemblance to Psalm civ has often been pointed out, embodies nearly the whole of Akhenaten's creed on the positive side, but contains little that had not been said in earlier hymns to the sun-god. The theme is the beneficent power of the sun as a physical force, and the reformer did everything in his power to rid that force of anthropomorphic associations. His deity was the great luminary itself, exerting its beneficent life-giving influence through the rays whose brilliance and warmth none could fail to experience. Such a conception could be maintained visually to a large extent, and not graven image presented the Aten in human shape. Verbally, however, the new faith broke down, since Language by its essential nature describes all happenings in terms of human behavior.

In proportion as Akhenaten's power grew, the stronger the ardor with which he persecuted time-honored tradition. At a given moment he banished the mention of Re'-Harakhti from the Aten's first cartouche or Prenomen replacing it by 'Ruler of the Horizon'. In the second cartouche the word Shu, though it had meant no more than 'sunlight', had to be rejected owing to its assonance with the name of the god of the Void. But Akhenaten's destructive zeal did not stop here. The true faith could not be spread without suppression of the countless gods and goddesses hitherto worshipped. Accordingly he dispatched hid workmen throughout the entire length of the land to cut out their names wherever they were found engraved or written. Needless to say, the hated Amen'Re' was the chief victim of his iconoclastic rage. But also the simple word for 'mother' being homonymous with the name of the Theban goddess Mut had to discard the hieroglyph of the vulture and be spelt out with the alphabetic signs for m + t. The very word for 'gods' was taboo, and concerning Amenhotpe, Akhenaten's own earlier Nomen and that of his father, we have already spoken.

Akhenaten has sometimes been credited with a desire to found a universal religion. The texts lend but little support to this supposition. It is true that the great poems mention both Syria and Nubia, but it could hardly fail to be known that the same sun shone upon Egypt and these countries alike, nor that they were irrigated by rain instead of by the Nile inundation. Of propagandist effort in the north there is no indications. On the contrary, the king's interests appear to have been almost parochial. In his enthusiasm for the temple services, these celebrated in full sunlight, not as formerly in dark closed-in chapels, he was unwilling to trouble himself with foreign affairs. For the same reason the charge of pacifism brought against him overshoots the mark. It is an often repeated accusation that by his sloth and his hatred of war he threw away the great Egyptian empire built up in Palestine and Syria by Tuthmosis III. The whole question needs reconsideration in the light of the ever increasing information being gathered about those countries through archaeological and philological research. It may even be doubted whether the much vaunted Egyptian empire ever existed. The defeat of Mitanni by Tuthmosis I may have brought about an attempt in that direction, but there is no evidence that his success was followed up in the next two reigns. It would be perverse to minimized the splendid achievement of Tuthmosis III, but this started with the uprising of a vast coalition of petty Palestinian and Syrian chieftains, and even after Mitanni had again been vanquished, thirteen more separate campaigns were needed in order to maintain the Egyptian suzerainty.

For the remainder of Akhenaten's reign documents of historical import are entirely lacking, and we are dependent upon what can be gleaned from the ruins at El-'Amarna. The second daughter Meketaten died, and the mourning at her funeral was graphically depicted on the walls of the great royal tomb. At some time or other after year 12 the Queen Nefertiti seems to have fallen into disgrace, unless she too had died. In a particular building named Maruaten to the south of the city, her name is constantly erased and replaced by that of the eldest daughter Merytamun, whose husband Smenkhkare' for a short space succeeded Akhenaten upon the throne. The relationship between this ephemeral king and his father-in-law is mysterious. There is a stela where two kings are shown seated together on most affectionate terms, and though the cartouches contain no hieroglyphs, they must be Akhenaten and Smenkhkare' respectively. In the absence of any double datings the hypotheses of a co-regency must remain doubtful. In a tomb at El-'Amarna where Akhenaten was shown together with his spouse rewarding the tomb-owner with gold their cartouches were replaced by those of Smenkhkare' and Merytamun, which may well indicate that the older king had perished before his younger associate left El-'Amarna for Thebes. That the latter step was actually taken is attested by a hieratic graffito of his third year at Kurna in which one Pwah, a 'scribe of the offerings of Amun in the Mansion of 'Ankhkheprure' (this the Prenomen of Smenkhkare') at Thebes' indites a hymn to the ancestral god. Hence it is clear that Akhenaten's son-in-law and former favorite was the first to abandon the Aten heresy. A few rings from El-'Amarna and the fragment of a relief from Memphis are among the only other relics of this short reign, apart from the faint possibility that we may actually possess the mummy of the young renegade.

For a considerable time the storm-clouds has been gathering around the unfortunate reformer's person, but we have no exact knowledge as to how his adventurous career terminated. Jar-sealings of year 17 are known, but this will have been the last. There are good grounds for thinking that his hope of burial in the spacious tomb at El-'Amarna which he had planned for himself and his family was never fulfilled. The shattered fragments of four red granite sarcophagi found their way from the site to the Cairo Museum, and Pendlebury unearthed parts of Akhenaten's magnificent alabaster Canopic chest, explicitly observing that this had never been used, as it was quite unstained by the black resinous substance seen in other royal tombs. It is evident that the avenging hand of the traditionalists had here been hard at work. The problem now shifts to Thebes. In 1907 archaeologists employed by the American millionaire Theodore M. Davis chanced upon a much ravaged tomb in the Biban el-Moluk which was at first over-hastily acclaimed as that of Queen Tiye. For this there was the excuse that the battered remains of a large gold-covered shrine were found, the inscriptions of which declared that it had been made by Akhenaten for his mother. But there was also much disfigured and patched-up coffin which contained a mummy, and this mummy the eminent physiologist Elliot Smith pronounced to be that of a man. The prominence of the name of Akhenaten upon the coffin now seemed a clear indication that its occupant had been none other that the heretic king himself, and this remained the accepted opinion until in 1916 Daressy produced evidence that the original owner of the coffin had been a woman whom he believed to have been Queen Tiye, but that it had been later adapted to receive the remains of a king. Daressy felt unable, however, to give credence to the view that the king in question was Akhenaten, his own opinion being that Tut'ankhamun was the intended occupant. In 1931 Engelbach took up the controversy afresh, and the tomb of Tut-ankhamun having been discovered in the meantime, the candidate chosen for the ownership of the mummy now became Smenkhkare'. In that view Engelbach was strongly supported by D.E. Derry, who as a result of a careful re-examination of the skull declared that it could not possibly have been that of Akhenaten, but had belonged to a much younger man. The contradictory judgments of two very distinguished physiologists being involved, this aspect of the problem must remain undecided, but as regards the coffin, C. Aldred has produced arguments which go far towards a final solution of the problem. Recalling the splendor of Tut'ankhamun's funerary equipment with its four coffins, one of solid gold, he maintains that Akhenaten must certainly have made similar arrangements for himself, so that the rather second-rate found in the Theban tomb could not conceivably be one which the heretic king had designed for his own obsequies. Decisive above all for the fact that this female coffin had been adapted for Akhenaten himself is a bronze uraeus-serpent bearing Aten's name in its later form; no doubt this had been later affixed to the forehead. Equally important as evidence are the four magical bricks found in the tomb placed in their right respective positions. The bricks carry Akhenaten's cartouche, and their presence is explicable only if they were deemed to be performing their proper function of protecting the king against evil spirits. Accordingly it is certain that the persons who arranged the burial believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were burying Akhenaten himself. If Derry's verdict were correct, even in this last act of loyalty they would have been mistaken, and it then would become conceivable that Akhenaten's body had been torn in pieces and thrown to the dogs. Of the execration in which he was held not long after his death there is no doubt, and a couple of generations later he was referred to as 'the enemy of Akhetaten'. El-'Amarna was forthwith abandoned, never again to be used as a place of residence; hence the importance of its ruins as revealing what an Egyptian capital was like at a definitely fixed moment.

Smenkhkare's successor was that Tut'ankhamun whose name will remain for ever famous on account of the sensational discovery of his tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. Since he was little more that eighteen years of age when he died, and yet had reigned for a full eight, he must have been a mere child when he came to the throne. When the unwrapping of the mummy revealed his face, the discoverers were so much struck by its resemblance to that of Akhenaten that they conjectured him to be the latter's son by an unofficial marriage. Other scholars believed that they had found evidence of his being a son of Amenophis III. It is better to admit that nothing is definitely known about his parentage. He may well have owed his kingly title to his wife 'Ankhesnamun, the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. During her parents' lifetime she had been known as 'Ankhesenpaten, but like her husband Tut'ankhaten had expelled the reference to the hated sun-god from her name as soon as they turned their backs on El-'Amarna. This must have been at the earliest possible moment, since no trace of them has been found on the site except a few scarabs. There are difficulties arising from 'Ankhesnamun's age which shall here be stated without any attempt to solve them. In the tomb were found two human fetuses, both probably female, which must surely have been hers, and a slab of stone found at Ashmunen mentions a small daughter bearing the same name as hers but adding to it the distinguishing epithet 'the child'. On the strength of the presence on the same slab of the cartouche of her father Akhenaten, an incestuous marriage of the two after Tut'ankhamun's death has been suggested, but quite unjustifiably. Even more tenuous are the grounds on which a union with the aged official Ay has been deduced. It is the conviction of the present writer that the virtue of this beautiful young queen has been unjustly impugned, though as will be seen hereafter, she was by no means averse in her widow-hood to the thought of a second marriage, and that with a foreigner.

Until Akhenaten broke the sequence by his departure to El-'Amarna every Pharaoh since Tuthmosis I had made himself a grandiose tomb in the Biban el-Moluk, and in the two succeeding dynasties the same course pursued. But not one of these tombs had escaped the depredation of robbers. The reliefs displaying the mysteries of the Netherworld still remained to adorn the walls of the long galleries, and one or two sarcophagi might also be found, perhaps even a despoiled royal mummy. But of all the treasures that the kings had hoped still to possess in the future life hardly a fragment had been left. Only one ruler belonging to this long period was unaccounted for; there was a chance that the tomb of Tut'ankhamun might have eluded the greed of the marauders. It was with this remote possibility in mind that Howard Carter, working on behalf of the Earl of Carnarvon, had doggedly advocated the continuance of digging which had thus far proved very unlucrative . A last chance having been conceded Fortune proved favorable. A sealed door lying deep and hidden by the debris heaped over it when the tomb of Ramesses VI was cut out of the hillside pointed the way into a set of four rooms of which the two inner ones were almost intact, whereas the outermost contained furniture hastily rearranged after having been plundered by robbers and the remaining fourth chamber behind it served as a dumping ground for disjecta membra which could not be easily mended. The tomb was in fact that of Tut'ankhamun. The contents of the front room surpassed anything that an excavator in Egypt had ever witnessed or dreamt of : great couches, chairs, painted, and inlaid caskets, alabaster vases, a superb throne, a pile of overturned chariots, to mention only some of the treasures. But we must not linger here to describe the details of this extraordinary find . Suffice it to say that when three months later the plaster partition guarded on both sides by sentinel statues was broken down there was revealed a great gilt and faience shrine ultimately found to contain three more gilt shrines, one inside the other; within these was the huge yellow quartzite sarcophagus serving as receptacle for three magnificent coffins, the innermost of pure gold. Last of all was disclosed the royal mummy with its splendid gold mask and an almost overwhelming wealth of jewels between the wrappings. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this discovery for archaeology and as a sample of what other Paranoiac burials may have been like, but it must be admitted that its addition to our historical knowledge has been meager. The age of the young king and the fact that his successor the god's father Ay conducted the funerary ceremonies have already been mentioned. It remains to state that the comparatively humble tomb is which he was laid amid such splendor was clearly not meant for him. The great shrines had been so hastily assembled that they were orientated contrary to the directions painted on them. The quartzite sarcophagus and its granite lid were not mates, and there is much more evidence of the scurry with which Tut'ankhamun was consigned to what aspired to be his 'house of eternity'. There is no further testimony to tell what part Ay played in all this, but he is known to have reigned into his fourth year, when he was succeeded by a monarch of a very different caliber.

We must not, however, turn our backs upon Ay without mentioning some facts which many historians have ignored, while others have held diametrically opposed views concerning them. There is, at all events, an incontestable affinity between him and that Yuia whom we have seen to have been the father of Queen Tiye and consequently the father-in-law of Amenophis III. Yuia in his tomb at Thebes bore the title 'overseer of horses', while Ay at El-'Amarna is 'overseer of all the horses of His Majesty'. Even more remarkable is the connection of both with the town of Akhmim, where Yuia was a prophet of Min as well as superintendent of that god's cattle, and where King Ay, erected a shrine and left a long inscription. Just as Yuia's wife Tjuia was the mother of Queen Tiye, or Queen Tey, the spouse of King Ay, had previously been the nurse of Queen Nefertiti. Little wonder if, in view of these facts, P.E. Newberry propounded the theory that Yuia and Ay, as well as their wives Tjuia and Tey, were actually identical. It must be understood that the names which, is purely conventional manner, we render in these divergent ways, offer no real obstacle to this theory; such is the nature of hieroglyphic writing at this period that we cannot be sure if what appears to be written as Yuia may not have been pronounced Ay, and similarly with the names of the wives. Chronologically, however, Newberry's view, which he himself never published, is absolutely impossible; since, moreover, the mummies of both Yuia and Tjuia, evidently very aged people, were discovered in their Theban tomb, it would be necessary to assume that Yuia or Ay, whichever pronunciation we might prefer for him, had before his death been forced to renounce his kingly title, and to revert to the position of commoner. C. Aldred has mad the plausible suggestion that the future monarch Ay was the son of Yuia. This certainly would explain the similarity of their titles and their close connection with Akhmim, but is unsupported by any definite evidence. Needless to say, the tomb which Akhenaten had granted to Ay at El-'Amarna was never used. On Ay's return to Thebes and to orthodoxy he cased a sepulcher to be prepared for himself in the western valley of the Biban el-Moluk near that of Amenophis III. It is a small affair, and only one room at the end of the passage approached by a flight of steps decorated. The religious scenes show a close resemblance to those in Tut'ankhamun's burial chamber, but there is a picture of the king fowling in the marshes for which analogies are found only in the tombs of non-royal personages. The rose-colored granite sarcophagus, later broken to pieces, excited the admiration of the early Egyptologists. Throughout the tomb the cartouches have been erased.

An extraordinary event that dated from the time immediately following the death of Tut'ankhamun has now to be recorded. This is a cuneiform text quoting a letter addressed to the Hittite king Suppilulimnas by a young widow, who can only have been 'Ankhesnamun, though what appears to have been her name has through some error received a distorted form. She explains that she has no son, and begs the Hittite King to send one of his own to marry her and promises that he shall be acknowledged as the Pharaoh. Suppiluliumas is skeptical about the genuineness of this request and dispatches an official to investigate. The widow indignantly protests her bona fides, and a young Hittite prince was finally granted, but was murdered on the way. This led to a war against Egypt though nothing is known about it from Egyptian sources.

The accession of Ay's successor Haremhab offers a reminder that for Dyn. XVIII no mention has been made of Manetho. For good reason, since the names of the sixteen kings given by Africanus and the fourteen recorded by Eusebius appear in an incredibly garbled form, some of them wholly unrecognizable; moreover, the last two are certainly to be identified with Ramesses II and Merenptah and rightly reappear in Manetho's Dyn. XIX. Haremhab is named twice, first as Oros immediately after that Amenophis famous in connection with the statue known as the Vocal Memnon and secondly as the Armais whom the Greeks equated with Danaus and around whose person and that of his brother Sethos was spun a complicated romance. For the sequence of the Dyn. XVIII kings we have not only the evidence of the monuments, but also that of the Abydos and Sakkara king-lists, which, understandably ignoring Akhenaten and his three successors as tainted with Ateniam, place Haremhab immediately after Amenophis III, thus agreeing with the Oros of Manetho. It is a curious thing that while the Manetho presented by his excerptors betrays much obvious confusion, his lengths of reign in several cases approximate to reality and consequently, though they can never be wholly trusted, nevertheless cannot be wholly ignored. In giving 36 or 38 years to Oros, Eusebius may have come pretty near the truth, for we possess a graffito believed to belong to his year 27, and it is clear that when an inscription of the time of Ramesses II speaks of a law-suit as having taken place in Haremhab's fifty-ninth year, this includes the twenty-eight or thirty years from the death of Amenophis III to that of King Ay. Let it be remembered, however, that in these chronological matters we have to content ourselves with mere approximations. The letter of 'Ankhesnamun to Suppiluliumas, when compared with that of the Hittite King Akhenaten at the beginning of his reign, adds some slight confirmation, since if we allow seventeen years to Akhenaten and eight of Tut'ankhamun, we find that these twenty-five years fall within Suppiluliumas's forty years (1375-1335 BC) as calculated or conjectured by scholars in the parallel field of study.

It seems appropriate to regard Haremhab as belonging neither to Dyn. XVIII nor to Dyn. XIX, but as occupying an isolated position between them. His parents are unknown, and there is no reason to think that royal blood flowed in hid veins, though it is possible that it may have done so in the veins of his spouse Mutnodjme. No children of theirs are recorded, so that any kinship with the first ruler of Dyn. XIX cannot be affirmed, and indeed is improbable. There is a fine statue in the Turin Museum portraying husband and wife together, wit[]=2548h a long inscription on the plinth where his journey to Thebes to be crowned is recounted after a vaguely expressed preface dealing with his antecedents. Thence we learn that he was a native of the unimportant town of Hnes on the east bank of the Nile some 110 miles from Cairo, and that it was to the favor of the local falcon-god Horus that he owed his advancement. As usual, the language employed to narrate his career is so flowery that only with difficulty can solid historical facts be extracted from it. A passing reference to his being summoned into the royal presence when 'the Palace fell into rage' seems to hint that he faced the wrath of Akhenaten successfully. He tell us that 'he acted as vice-regent of the Two Lands over a period of many years' and the verb here used agrees so well with the substantive in the title 'vice-regent (or 'deputy') of the king' found on several monuments that we have reason to think of him as carrying on the government in the north while the heretic king was absorbed in his religious celebrations far away in the south.

If, as seems almost certain, the Memphite tomb belongs to the reign of Akhenaten, the duties of Haremhab at that time will have been mainly military. A fragment now mislaid tells how he was sent as kings envoy to the region of the sun-disk's uprising and returned in triumph; but no details are given. Under Tut'ankhamun he will have served rather as an administrator; a statue from Memphis and another from Thebes depict him as a royal scribe writing down his sovereign's commands. A funerary procession represented in a tomb-relief shows him taking precedence over the two viziers existing at that time. The Turin statue makes no reference to his relations with Ay, but simply goes on to related how his god Horus brought him southwards to Thebes where he was crowned by Amun and received his royal titulary. After this he returned downstream, which presumably means that he had decided to make Memphis his capital. The rest of his life seems to have been devoted to restoring the ruined temples of the gods, renewing their ritual observances, and endowing them with fields and herds. One detail is significant: we are told that the priests whom he appointed were chosen from the pick of the army; clearly Haremhab never forgo his military upbringing. At the same time he was not ready to tolerate abuses that had arisen through the actions of his soldiery. A sadly defective stela at Karnak described the measures which he took to establish justice throughout the land, but there is hardly a sentence well enough preserved to give a clear idea of their boats with their cargoes, or again being beaten and robbed of the valuable hides of their cattle. The penalties imposed were of great severity, the malefactors in the worst cases being docked of their noses and banished to the fortress-town of Tjel on the Asiatic border, and in the lesser cases punished with a hundred strokes and five open wounds. Were this unique inscription better preserved, much would have been learnt about the reorganization of the country, for example its being kept in order by the division of the army into two main bodies, one in the north and another in the south, each under a separate commander; or again the institution of law-courts in all the great cities, with the priests of the temples and the mayors of towns as the judges; for all of which services those who performed them faithfully were to be suitably rewarded by the king in person.

Building was certainly Harmhab's main preoccupation during his later years. At Karnak he took the first steps towards the creation of the great Hypostyle Hall, the completion of which was the glorious achievement of Ramesses II; he also made himself responsible for the Ninth and Tenth Pylons to the south, the former giving him the welcome opportunity of demolishing constructions due to Akhenaten in the earliest stage of his career. The immense avenue of ram-headed sphinxes running from Karnak to Luxor seems also to have been his. At Luxor he usurped from Tut'ankhamun the magnificent reliefs which Tut'ankhamun had himself usurped or continued from Amenophis III. Without here attempting to enumerate Haremhab's various works elsewhere, we must nevertheless mention the attractive speos at the Gebel Silsila where his triumph, real or fictitious, over the Nubians is graphically depicted. On the west bank at Thebes he undertook a vast funerary temple that Ay had begun, but of this no more than the foundations remain. The indefatigable Th. M. Davis financed the excavation in the Biblan el-Moluk which led to the discovery of Haremhab's spacious tomb, with its many decorations left unfinished; the magnificent sarcophagus, closely resembling that of Ay, still occupies its appointed place in the burial-chamber.

Return to History

Last Updated: June 8th, 2011