Amenophis III


Amenophis III
King 1417-1379 BC.
    Amenophis III succeeded to the throne as a child, being the son of *Tuthmosis IV and his chief queen, *Mutemweya; his divine birth, as the son of the god Amun, was depicted in wall-scenes in the Temple of Luxor.
    Amenophis III was the heir to vast domains and he ruled over the most opulent court in the ancient world. Military activity in his reign was probably limited to the repression of a *Nubian uprising in Year 5; the campaigns of previous kings had ensured that this ruler could enjoy the benfits of Egypt's empire at its zenith, and diplomatic and peaceful relations with the other great rulers of the Near East replaced the warfare of the earlier years. This situation is reflected in the letters from foreign kings and rulers (particularly of *Mitanni and Babylonia) which were found in the royal archive at the site of Tell el Amarna. However, during the long reign of Amenophis III, some of the vassal princes in Palestine had already begun to break their ties with Egypt, leading to the decline of Egypt's influence abroad during the reign of his son, *Akhenaten (Amenophis IV) and the growth of *Hittite expansion.
    In Amenophis III's reign, a novel method of dispersing information and making royal announcements within Egypt and abroad was introduced. Events were proclaimed on a series of large commemorative royal scarabs which carried hieroglyphic inscriptions and in all of these, *Queen Tiye was associated with her husband as his Great Royal Wife. The scarabs announce the king's marriage to *Tiye, a commoner, and later, the arrival of *Ghilukhepa, the Mitannian bride of Amenophis III; the construction of a great irrigation lake for *Tiye; and the hunting exploits of the king, when he captured wild bulls and shot one hundred and two lions.
    Tiye bore the king the royal heir, Prince Thutmose (who died prematurely), and a younger son, Amenophis, who succeeded Amenophis III as king; among their other children were the daughters Sitamun, who married her father, and Baketaten. Amenophis III may also have been the father of *Smenkhkare and *Tutankhamun. There were also foreign princesses in the king's extensive harem, such as the *Mitannians *Ghilukhepa, *Tadukhepa and a sister of the king of Babylonia. These women arrived in Egypt with their entourages and played their role in the international diplomacy of the period. Indeed, many foreigners now visited and resided in Egypt where cosmopolitan ideas and fashions flourished.
    Amenophis III is remembered as a great builder and patron of the arts and these activities occupied the later years of his reign. He added the third pylon in the Temple of Karnak and increased the number of statues of lioness-headed Sekhmet in the nearby Temple of Mut. He rebuilt the Temple of Luxor, dedicated to Amun,
    Mut and Khonsu, and decorated it with fine wall-reliefs and a magnificent court which featured columns with lotus-bud capitals. He built the large palace at Malkata on the west bank at Thebes, which incorporated several royal residences and the country's main administrative quarters. Constructed of wood and mudbrick, the walls were plastered and painted with scenes of plants and animals; the complex also included a festival hall where the king celebrated his jubilees in Years 30, 34 and 37 to renew his royal powers. There were also other royal palaces including the residence at Gurob in the Fayoum.
    Little now remains of his mortuary temple on the west bank at Thebes. It was the largest ever built, but only the two great statues (the so-called Colossi of Memnon) which once stood at the main entrance, have survived; the rest of the building was used as a quarry and the stone was transported for the construction of Ramesside temples.
    The king's tomb was prepared in the western branch of the Valley of the Kings. The opulence and high quality of the craftsmanship in this period are evident in the tombs of some of his courtiers, such as Kheruef, Queen *Tiye's High Steward, Khaemhet, the Overseer of the Granaries, and *Ramose, who was probably Vizier under Amenophis III and his son. Another royal official, *Amenophis, son of Hapu, was deified and honoured as a sage by later generations; he was responsible for the transportation and erection of the Colossi of Memnon.
    Despite Amenophis Ill's patronage of the great state-god Amun, he sought to restrict the growth of his priesthood's power. He increased recognition of other cults, notably that of Ptah at Memphis and Re at Heliopolis, and at Court he promoted a special form of Re, the royal god since the Old Kingdom. This was the Aten or sun's disc, a deity whose worship *Akhenaten would later elevate to a form of monotheism. Amenophis III also emphasised the divinity of the king to an unprecedented degree, dedicating a temple to his own cult at Soleb and to Queen *Tiye at Sedeinga in Nubia. Colossal statues of the king also sought to promote his divinity to the people.
    The existence of a co-regency between Amenophis III and his son, *Akhenaten (Amenophis IV), is controversial; it is also unclear if Amenophis III spent time at Akhetaten (Tell el Amarna) towards the end of his reign. His mummy, recovered from his ransacked tomb and reburied in the royal cache in the tomb of *Amenophis II, indicates that he suffered severe toothache and abcesses during his lifetime. He was also obese, and the embalmers attempted to give his mummy a lifelike and realistic appearance by introducing subcutaneous packing, thus preserving the fullness of his form. Further evidence of the king's ill-health is provided by the account of how the *Mitannian king, *Tushratta, sent him a statue of the goddess Ishtar of Nineveh, who was renowned for her healing powers, in the hope that she might alleviate his suffering.
BIBL. Aldred, C. The beginning of the el-Amarna Period. JEA 45 (1959) pp. 19-33; Blackenberg van Delden, C. The Large Commemorative Scarabs of Amenhotep 111 Leiden: 1969; Griffith, F.L.l. Stela in honour of Amenophis III and Taya from Tell el-Amarnah. JEA 12 (1926) pp. 1-2; ; Lansing, A. Excavations at the palace of Amenhotep III at Thebes. Bull. MMA. 13 (1918) March supplement, pp. 8-14.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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