Egypt: Teti, First Ruler of the Sixth Dynasty

Teti, First Ruler of the Sixth Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

Egypt's 6th Dynasty marks the decent into the darkness of the First Intermediate Period in Egypt's history. At times, the rule of these kings is somewhat obscure, including that of Teti (sometimes also known as Othoes, from Manetho), who was the first king and the founder of the 6th Dynasty His reign settled some of the accession problems following the death of Unas. In fact, he adapted the Horus name, Seheteptawy, which means, "He who pacifies the Two Lands".

He ruled Ancient Egypt from around 2345 until 2333 BC, though of course Egyptologists differ on these dates, as well as his length of rule. The Turin King's List gives him less than one year's rule, which most scholars find very unlikely. Manetho suggests thirty, to thirty-three years, but there is no evidence of his jubilee festival, so this also seems unlikely. The latest known date from Teti's reign is that of the "sixth census", an event that took place on average every two years, or possibly every year and a half. Therefore many Egyptologists give him a reign of twelve years.

His wife, Queen Iput I, was probably the daughter of King Unas who was the last king of the 5th Dynasty. The queen was the mother of Teti's heir, King Pepi I. Historians believe that she is the one that gave him the royal power, legitimizing his rule. She is buried in her own pyramid near Teti's at Saqqara. Other wives included Khuit and Weret-Imtes. Along with his son, Pepi I, he also probably had another son named Teti-ankh-km, which means "Teti-ankh the Black", and a daughter named Seshseshet (also called Watet-khet-her). Her marriage to the vizier Mereruka probably furthered Teti's political stability, creating good will within the increasingly powerful nobility.

Almost all the major court officials of King Unas remained in power during Teti's reign, including his other vizier, Kagemni. As stated, we know little about Teti's reign, though there is evidence that quarry work was performed on his behalf at Hatnub near Abydos, and that he maintained commercial and diplomatic relations with Byblos. He also may have maintained relations with Punt and Nubia, at least as for south as the site of Tomas in northern Nubia.

Above: A seal bearing the king's cartouch

We have evidence of his exempting the temple at Abydos from taxes, and he was the first ruler to be particularly associated with the cult of Hathor at Dendera.

Teti granted more lands to Abydos and his name was inscribed in Hatnub. He built a pyramid in Saqqara which is called by modern Egyptians the " Prison Pyramid". Egyptologists discovered a statue of him made of black and pink granite. The statue is located at the Egyptian museum.

The king was murdered by his guards for mysterious reasons, according to the Manetho. However, there is no other evidence of this violent death, though it might help to explain the possible short rule of a King Userkare, possibly between that of of Teti and his son, Pepi I. It is interesting to note that this king, arbitrarily left out of most modern lists of kings, is better attested to then most histories of Egypt allow. Many references today point out that the only references we have for Userkare are from the Turin and Abydos king's lists, but this is not so. Other documents bearing his name have survived, including one referring to workers at Qau el-Kebir south of Asyut who were possibly engaged in building his tomb. Userkare means the "Ka of Ra is powerful", and therefore has a strong resonance of the 5th Dynasty. Therefore, Userkare may have been a surviving rival of Teti from the 5th Dynasty. However, he may have also simply been a regent associated with Queen Iput after Teti's death, as Pepi I may have been too young to ascend the throne at that time.

Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011






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