Ammenemes I


Ammenemes I
King 1991-1962 BC.
    Ammenemes (Amenemhet) I was regarded as the founder of the Twelfth Dynasty and of the Middle Kingdom; he assumed the additional title of 'Repeater of Births' which was adopted by those pharaohs who regarded themselves as inaugurators of a new era. He can almost certainly be identified as the vizier of *Mentuhotep IV of the Eleventh Dynasty, from whom he usurped the throne. During his reign, he reestablished the unity of Egypt, re-organised the internal administration, and consolidated the power of the monarchy.
    The capital was now moved from Thebes to the site of Lisht (known as It-towy, meaning 'Seizer of the Two Lands', in antiquity). Situated on the edge of the Fayoum, this city was a better centre from which to control the whole kingdom. The king also re-established the district boundaries which had been obliterated in the chaos of the First Intermediate Period. He had the support of the local governors of these districts who must have assisted him in his struggle to seize the throne, and he could apparently call on them for military aid. For example, when Khnumhotep I (a local governor buried in one of the rock-tombs at Beni Hasan) was asked for assistance, he accompanied Ammenemes I to Elephantine with a fleet of twenty ships, to remove the vestiges of opposition to the king's rule. Ammenemes I also re-allocated water supplies and fixed taxes, and in order to repel the *Asiatics (nomad tribes), he constructed a barrier in the Wadi Tumilat, known as the 'Wall of the Prince'.
    During the troubled times of the First Intermediate Period, new people had appeared in Lower *Nubia; Egyptologists refer to them as the 'C-group'. During the period of his co-regency with his son, *Sesostris I, King Ammenemes I inaugurated a military campaign against these people. An inscription at Korosko, dated to Year 29, records the king's arrival there, and he also initiated the construction in Nubia of a series of border forts which probably reached as far as the Second Cataract and were intended to control the local population. In Sinai, the turquoise mines were re-opened, and at home, the king pursued an active building programme.
    In Year 20 of his reign, Ammenemes I made his son Sesostris his co-regent, and they ruled together for ten years, when Sesostris led military campaigns abroad. The co-regency became an instrument of royal policy during the Twelfth Dynasty with the aim of ensuring a smooth succession in a line of kings who had no royal ancestry.
    Ammenemes I was buried in a traditional pyramid at Lisht, surrounded by the tombs of his courtiers. He had revived the type of pyramid complex which had flourished in the Old Kingdom, thus reasserting the king's power and divinity. However, it was Amun (the local god of Thebes) who became the patron deity of these kings and who replaced Re, the supreme god of the Old Kingdom.
    Literary sources suggest that Ammenemes I was assassinated, probably by palace conspirators, while Sesostris was away on a campaign in Libya. The king's death is mentioned in the 'Story of *Sinuhe' and also in the unique Wisdom Text, the 'Instruction of Ammenemes I for his son Sesostris', where the theme of regicide occurs. This text (preserved in Papyrus Millingen and other sources) was at first believed to be a genuine historical account in which the king addresses his son after he has escaped an assassination attempt. It is couched in terms of a prophecy in which he warns Sesostris, with great bitterness, of the deceit shown by those who tried to kill him. However, it now seems more probable that the text was composed after Ammenemes I's death, perhaps by a scribe at the Court of *Sesostris I, but that it was set out as a 'prophecy' to exalt the memory of Ammenemes I and to justify the claim of *Sesostris I to be the new king. It provides a unique example in Egyptian literature of the expression of a king's personal disillusionment.
    The 'Prophecy of *Neferti' is another pseudo-prophecy which relates how Ammenemes I would save the land from destruction; it sets out to justify his reign, although it was almost certainly composed after his accession to the throne, with the aim of glorifying him and confirming his right to rule Egypt. As a man of non-royal descent, the son of a commoner named Sesostris and a woman of Ta-Sti (a district of Nubia), Ammenemes I obviously felt the need to establish his royal credentials. He was a great ruler and administrator who, despite his untimely end, left his heirs a united kingdom.
BIBL. AEL i. pp. 135-8, 139-44, 222-35; Gardiner, A.H. Notes on the Story of Sinuhe. Paris: 1916; Simpson, W.K. The Residence of It-towy. JARCE 2 (1963) pp. 53-64.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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