Egypt: Amenhotep I, the Second King of Egypt's 18th Dynasty

Amenhotep I, the Second King of Egypt's 18th Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

The son of Ahmose and Queen Ahmose Nefretiri, Amenhotep I was the second king of the 18th Dynasty. He may have ascended to the throne at a relatively young age, for an elder brother had been designated as heir only about five years earlier. He may have even served a brief co-regency with his father, however. He evidently carried on many of the practices of his father, and his mother certainly played an important part in his reign, acting as God's Wife of Amun.. Amenhotep I may have been married to his sister, (Ahmose-) Merytamun, who was a God's Wife of Amun, though there is apparently little documentation to substantiate this relationship. Better known is this king's daughter, Satamun, who is known both from her coffin found in one of the royal mummy caches, and from two statues at central and southern Karnak.

Because of chronology problems, the king's rule is uncertain. We believe that a heliacal rising of Sirius was seen during his reign, as recorded by the Papyrus Ebers1, which states:

"Ninth year of the reign of his majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Djeserkare - may he live forever! Festival of the New Year: third month of summer, ninth day - rising of Sirius"

Urk. Iv 44, 5-6

Hence, Nicoloas Grimal tells us in A History of Ancient Egypt:

"If this is evidence for a heliacl rising of Sirius, the astronomical calculation gives the date 1537 BC for the rising, and therefore 1546 BC for the beginning of Amenophis' reign, but only if the astronomical observation was made at Memphis. If, however, the observation was made at Thebes - which would logically have been the reference point if it was the capital - twenty years have to be deducted from the figure, giving the date of 1517 BC for the astronomical event and 1526 BC for the coronation of Amenophis I"

Most Egyptologists assign Amenhotep I a reign of 25 or fewer years. However, it should be mentioned that on a number of his monuments at the Temple of Karnak are found various Jubilee (Sed-festival) scenes. The Sed-festival was normally celebrated after 30 years of the king's rule, but in this case the structure may have been built in anticipation of the festival.

Amenhotep was this kings birth name, which means "Amun is Pleased". He is also known as Amenhotpe I, and Amenophis I by the early Greeks. His throne name was Djeser-ka-re, or "Holy is the Soul of Re". His Horus name was Ka-Waf-Taw (Bull who conquers the land) and his "Two Ladies" name was Aa-nerw (He who inspires great terror).

Regardless of the ferocity of his "Two Ladies" name, Amenhotep I seems to have had a fairly peaceful reign. He may have faced a Libyan uprising his first year as king, but if he did, Amenhotep I successfully overcame the ancient enemies preventing an invasion in the Delta area. We learn from inscriptions provided by Ahmose son of Ebana, with verification from Ahmose-Pen-Nekhbet, that Amenhotep I also led a military expedition into Kush (Nubia) in about year eight of his reign past the second cataract of the Nile, and apparently after his victory, brought captives back to Thebes. However, this appears to have been little more than a skirmish. He appointed a man named Turi as Viceroay of Kush, and established a temple marking Egypt's southern boundary at the Nubian down of Sai.

Because of perhaps a dozen years of peaceful rule during Amenhotep I's reign, his accomplishments included elaborate building work. Amenhotep I repaired and restored many ancient temples along the Nile. We find evidence of his work in Upper Egyptian sites such as Elephantine, Kom Ombo, Abydos and the temple of Nekhbet, but he seems to have done little building work in Lower Egypt. Many of the sites where Amenhotep I built had also seen activity by his father, and at Abydos, for example, he erected a chapel commemorating Ahmose.

But the building projects Amenhotep I is best known for were at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes where he utilized different types of stone including alabaster from Hatnub (and Bosra) and sandstone from the quarries of Gebel el-Silsila. Amenhotep I was responsible for a large, limestone gateway at Karnak that has now been reconstructed. It was decorated with Jubilee festival decorations. The gate may have at one time been the main south entrance that was later replaced by the Seventh Pylon. He also had a bark shrine built for the god Amun that was probably erected in the west front court of the temple. Later, Amenohotep III would use some of his predecessor's work at Karnak as fill for his Third Pylon, including a sacred bark chapel of the finest alabaster and a limestone copy of the White Chapel of Senusret I. Interestingly, many of Amenhotep I's relief carvings on the limestone monuments at Karnak are so much of a conscious emulation of Senusret I's artists that it has been difficult for archaeologists to determine to whom they should be assigned.

Apparently, his building works were caused him to also restore the mines at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai where he also expanded the Middle Kingdom temple of Hathor.

It would seem that by the end of Amenhotep I's reign, the main characteristics of the 18th Dynasty had been established, including a clear devotion to the cult of Amun at Karnak, its successive military conquests in Nubia and its closed royal family with a developing administrative organization drawn from powerful families and collateral relatives.

Amenhotep I was given the rare honor of being declared a titular god upon his death by the priests. He was regarded as the patron god of the Theban necropolis, alongside his mother, Ahmose Nefretiri, who's posthumous renown probably exceeded that of her son. In fact, her name appears in the litany of Amenhotep I's own cult.

Amenhotep I and his mother were especially worshipped at Deir el-Medina on the west bank at Thebes, where the craftsmen and who build and decorated the royal tombs lived. In fact, this community was probably either established in his or his father's reign. Peret, the third month in ancient Egypt, was devoted to and named after Amenhotep I, and several rituals dramatizing his death, burial and resurrection took place at Deir el-Medina during the month of Peret. However, Amenhotep I became a fairly major deity with a number of festivals throughout the year.

The king and his mother's cult remained strong, particularly at Deir el-Medina, throughout the New Kingdom. However, most houses during the Ramessid era contained, in their front rooms, a scene honoring the two. They were usually depicted with black or blue skin, the colors of resurrection, and so were associated with that religious element.

He was probably the first pharaoh to build his tomb some distance from his mortuary temple, a practice that would be emulated by his successors. While the mortuary temple itself has been located, his tomb remains a mystery. Some Egyptologists believe it to be an uninscribed tomb at Dra Abu el-Naga, outside of the Valley of the Kings, while others believe it might be KV 39 within the Valley proper. While we have not established its location, and inspection report on the tomb in year 16 of Ramesses IX's rule reported the tomb to be intact at that time. His mummy, along with his father's and a number of others, was found in excellent condition in the royal mummy cache of 1881.

Some information appears to indicate that Amenhotep I's son died in infancy, while other resources tell us he died childless. At any rate, his military commander, Tuthmoses (I), who was married to the kings sister, princess Ahmose, assumed the throne upon Amenhotep I's death. There is even a possibility that Tuthmosis I was a grandson of Ahmose, the father of Amenhotep I. He may have even served as a co-regent prior to Amenhotep I's death.

1. It should be noted that Papyrus Ebers, which dates from Amenhotep I's rule and is now in the Leipzig Museum, is one of our main sources of evidence on ancient Egyptian medicine. Also, the existence of a festival calendar recorded on this papyrus, along with other evidence suggesting an increased interest in astronomical observations, suggest that Amenhotep I may possibly have wished to rework earlier calendars.


Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt) Clayton, Peter A. 1994 Thames and Hudson Ltd ISBN 0-500-05074-0
Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs) Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H. 1966 Thames and Hudson Ltd IBSN 0-500-05080-5
History of Ancient Egypt, A Grimal, Nicolas 1988 Blackwell None Stated
Monarchs of the Nile Dodson, Aidan 1995 Rubicon Press ISBN 0-948695-20-x
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815034-2