Powered by Bravenet Bravenet Blog

Subscribe to Journal

Wednesday, May 1st 2013


Egypt: The Eighteenth Dynasty, part 3


[Egypt Part 1]       [Egypt Part 2]       [Egypt Part 3]       [Egypt Part 4]       [Egypt Part 5]       [Egypt Part 6]

Workshop LogoWho was the oldest son of Amenophis II (Amenhotep II), and what happened to him?

Remember now that we can fit the story of Moses rather nicely into the reign of Tuthmosis III, part of which he shared with his aunt and stepmother, the Pharaoh's daugher, Hatchepsut. Tuthmosis III is suited uniquely to be the Pharaoh of Oppression who perpetuated the enslavement of the Hebrew people, and during whose reign Moses killed a man and escaped to spend forty years in the desert. Moses did not return until Tuthmosis had died and a new Pharaoh came to the throne. That would have been Amenophis II. We mentioned that the Egyptians did not proclaim their losses or pass on a record of them to posterity, so that we should not expect them to leave any references  to the Exodus. However, there is startling confirmation for the event in that from the tenth year of his reign, Amenophis II suddenly ceased all military activity and established peace with his enemies. Had he become a pacifist? That is doubtful; more likely he lost his army, an initially strange idea, but one that fits later events like the proverbial hand in the glove.

And then there is the matter of the missing heir. The Egyptian records make it clear that Tuthmosis IV was not initially on the way to becoming Pharaoh. Let me make up a name, "Tutophis," for the crown prince. In reality we do have some, but utterly unexplained, references to a number of names of men who could have been his brothers, but they are unanimously unclear. Most of the actual records, insofar as there may have been any, apparently went to the embarrassment prevention shredder, and some of them have only been re-deciphered from destroyed inscriptions by modern scholars.  So, again, we cannot expect the "Helipolis Daily Papyrus" or the "Memphis Evening Inscriptions" to herald the headline  that "Tutophis" the crown prince and eldest son of Amenophis II, was killed by the angel of death, who visited the the Egyptians when the Hebrews vacated Egypt under the leadership of Moses. There are many people who, if something bad has happened, don't want to talk about it, and the old Egyptians raised that psychological difficulty to a science. It is clear that "Tutophis" was waiting in the wings, but he disappeared, and what's worse yet, the story was so astonishing that a simple made-up substitute explanation would not have worked. According to the biblical record, other people lost their firstborns as well, and must have been equally as dumbfounded, if not more so. The Egyptian means of handling the disaster was to stop mentioning his name, expunge it from the records, treat him as though he had never existed, and that way he could not have died in this unsettling manner either. That's what most likely happened to him and probably numerous other young boys.

But even that approach was not all that easy to follow through on. It's one thing to know that someone died, hold a major funeral service for him, and then to designate the younger brother as the new heir. But when the whole thing happened in this simultaneously shocking and mysterious manner, the question of succession became more dubious.  It is clear that, when Amenophis II ceased eating grapes handed him by his concubines and started to make the acquaintance of Osiris in the underworld, Tuthmosis IV took the throne, and the Bible gives an explanation for why the earlier crown prince was gone. But by that time the ten plagues were already fifteen years in the past, long enough for conspiracy theories to have replaced many a clear memory, and the new Pharaoh felt compelled to justify his new position. Keep in mind what I said earlier with regard to Hatchepsut invoking Amun's support for her role; this is not something that is usually done. The tale told by Tuthmosis IV, just by the fact that it came into existence, demonstrates that there was a highly unusual set of circumstances in connection with the disappearance of the older son, even if they were not specified by the superstitious Egyptians. His claim was that he was now on the throne thanks to a joint prophecy made by all of the gods who were present in the Sphinx. He recorded his narrative on a stele. 

Dream Stele of Tuthmosis IV

Tuthmosis IV told the story that when he was younger, he was busy in the vicinity of the Sphinx. If necessary, princes usually found work as priests, which often was combined with the duties of a scribe, and so Tuthmosis may have been hanging around the area of North Egypt in some capacity along that line. But he also found time to hunt and play. One day, as he had been pursuing his recreation in the hot sun, he got weary and decided to lie down to take a short nap. Once he had fallen asleep, the Sphinx came to him and spoke to him. She identified herself as the combination of all of the gods, light and dark, sun and moon, etc. and told him that he would become pharaoh. However, there was one condition attached: He needed to clear out all of the sand that had accumulated around the Sphinx and restore her to her previous beauty. If he did so, the kingdom would be his. Tuthmosis IV told this story often enough that people accepted his kingship, and troubling questions concerning his older brother did not need to be brought up.

Tuthmosis IV dreaming of the Sphinx

At the risk of belaboring the point, there have been more than a few instances where a younger brother came to the throne rather than the oldest son, who had been heir apparent. What sets off this occasion is the mysteriousness with which the disappearance of the older brother is treated, namely in the typically ancient Egyptian way of covering up an embarrassing defeat, which is underscored by Tuthmosis IV coming to the throne almost apologetically relying on the story of the dream to legitimize his reign.

With the catastrophic event in the tenth year of the reign of Amenophis II, Egypt ceased being a military power for quite a while to come. They did not advertise being without an army, but it is clear that they did not make use of any full military resources and refused armed help when it was requested by allies, letting their vassal states fall into the hands of ruthless invaders. Let us quickly add up the years for which the next few Pharaohs ruled, keeping in mind that "dating" Egyptian records is not nearly as authoritative as you might think if you look at just one or two books. There is even a recognized "high chronology" and "low chronology" in Egyptology, not to mention the two Egyptian calendars--scribal and royal--that do not always easy to mesh. We have

Amenophis II after the sudden change: 15 more years;
Tuthmosis IV: 7 years;
Amenophis III: 38 years (with some serious questions concerning co-regency).

We have roughly 60 years or so leading us to the reign of Akhenaten.  If we begin counting the Exodus at the tenth year of Amenophis II, then we have sufficient time for Israel's forty years of walking in circles in the wilderness and engaging in the conquest of the Promised Land, first in the east under Moses, and then on the western side under Joshua. It was primarily during Akhenaten's time that the cache of tablets from Canaanite princes containing pathetic cries for help against the "Habiru" were accumulated. We can revisit those next time.

Herewith a table of the entire 18th dynasty, as an average sample of what is accepted today. I am certain that this compilation is false and misleading in some details, but will reserve the surprises for their appropriate moments:


Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty, the First of the New Kingdom



Contribution to the Story



Final liberator from the Hyksos.


Amenophis (Amenhotep) I

Reigning over the new-found peace and stability.


Tuthmosis I

Created Egypt's empire with extensive military campaigns into the Levant and Nubia; father of Tuthmosis II and of Hapshepsut by different wives


Tuthmosis II

Son of Tuthmosis I. No particular legacy, died young. Married to Hatshepsut.



Daughter of Tuthmosis I. Chief wife of Tuthmosis II, former "God's Wife" at Thebes, regent for Tuthmosis III, self-declared Pharaoh.


Tuthmosis III

Son of Tuthmosis II, early lengthy co-regency with Hatsheptsut, reigned more than fifty years, strong military exploits, the "Pharaoh of the Oppression."


Amenophis II

Son of Tuthmosis III, reigned for about twenty-five years, broke off all military activity after his tenth regnal year, or so. The "Pharaoh of the Exodus."


Tuthmosis IV

Became designated for the throne unexpectedly after the mysterious death of his older brother, the first-born of the family. Justified his divine call to be Pharaoh on the "Dream Stele." No significant military activity.


Amenophis III

Reigned over a time of apparent peace. No major or significant military activity. Compensated for not expending his testosterone in warfare by maintaining a huge harem. Wife: Tye.


Amenophis IV/


Made Aten, the disk of the sun, the center of Egyptian religion. Built Aketaten as his new capital. Receiver of the majority of the Amarna tablets, many of which were desperate or irritated requests for help or gold from Egypt's vasals. The military, such as it was, worked on his building projects.  Wives include Nefertiti and Kiya. Introduced a new, more intimate and dynamic version of art.



Mysterious successor to Akhenaten and possibly co-regent. He and the appearance of his mummy have long been a puzzle to Egyptologists. I can't wait to tell you about him! At a minimum, softened Akhenaten's measures.




"King Tut." Began his reign in Akhetaten; left, changed his name to Tuthankamun, thereby honoring the former god, issued a reform edict to undo all the changes Akhenaten had imposed. Nevertheless, as excluded from most lists of kings because he was associated too closely with the "heretic king."



Not directly of a Pharaonic line, but the best candidate after Tuthankamun's untimely death, related to several queens.



Not of a Pharaonic line, chief general of the country, returned to military measures, initiated a fanatic campaign of obliterating the memory of all Pharaohs from Akhenetaten through Ay.



The nineteenth, "Rameside," dynasty commences.

[Egypt Part 1]       [Egypt Part 2]       [Egypt Part 3]       [Egypt Part 4]       [Egypt Part 5]       [Egypt Part 6]

0 Comment(s).

There are no comments to this entry.

Post New Comment

No Smilies More Smilies »