Egypt: Amun-her-shepeshef, First Son of Ramesses II

Amun-her-shepeshef, First Son of Ramesses II

by Jimmy Dunn

The First son of born to Ramesses the Great, was Amun-her-wenemef, meaning Amun Is on His Right Hand". The child's mother was Ramesses II's Great Wife, Nefertari. Had he outlived his father, he would have therefore become Pharaoh, the King of Egypt. Amun-her-wenemef came into the world while his father was still co-regent to his father, Seti I. Therefore, Amun-her-wenemef probably was the current king's first grandson.

When Ramesses II Ascended the throne of Egypt upon Set I's death, Amun-her-wenemef's name was changed to Amun-her-shepeshef, which means, "Amun Is with his Strong Arm". We do not know exactly why his name was changed, but it was not unique among Ramesses II's sons for him to do so, and he may have had other names as well. It was once thought that Seth-her-khepeshef was an individual son of Ramesses II, but current though on the matter is leaning to this being another name for Amun-her-shepeshef.

In fact, many names in the Egyptian royal family could change, for example, depending on what part of the country they were in. Hence, in Thebes, the prince might have been called Amun-her-khepeshef, but if he were in Memphis, where the principle god was Ptah, then he might have been called Ptah-her-khepeshef.

Amun-her-khepeshef had a number of titles, some of which were unique to him, as the heir apparent, but others that were shared by many of Ramesses II's other sons by principle wives. His titles included "Fan-bearer on the King's Right hand; Heir; Hereditary prince; Royal Scribe; Generalissimo (of His Majesty); Eldest and Bodily King;s Son; First King's Son; Commander of the Troops; Effective Confidant and Beloved of Him". He may have also had the titles, "Chief of the Secrets of the King's House; Lord in Charge of the Entire Land, Sem-priest of the Good God, Delegate and Judge of the Two lands, Controller of Lands Far-flung, if indeed he also has the name, Seth-her-khepeshef. These last titles were discovered on a stele in the eastern Delta site of Qantir.

Amun-her-khepeshef hunting with Ramesses II

Of all the sons, only he seems to have held the titles, "Effective Confidant" and "Commander of the Troops". Most of the other titles were held by one son or another. Of his unique titles, "Commander of the Troops" is the most interesting. Of course, the title indicates that he held a high military position, yet we hear little of him in battle after his father's early campaigns in Nubia and western Asia. He is depicted in battle within a number of well known scenes of the battle, but whether he actually took part in the military actions is still debated. Some Egyptologists believe he may have been a teenager, old enough to have actually took part in these battles. Others believe he was much younger and the scenes were only meant to enhance his image.

If he did take part in the battles, then he was in one of the best known campaigns in antiquity; the Battle of Kadesh. It was the first battle in history to have been well documented, because Ramesses II appears to have been very pleased with its victorious outcome, though if it was a glorious victory is more than a little debatable. However, it is very likely that Amun-her-khepeshef, along with his younger brother Khaemwese, did at least travel with their father to the battle, even if neither one of them physically engaged the enemy.

The Battle of Kadesh

Amun-her-shepeshef is actually well attested in scenes, but many of them or simply processions of sons and sometimes daughters. He is shown in processions with other brothers or sisters at the Temple at Abu Simbel, the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, the Temple of Derr, Luxor Temple, where a number of scenes are found, the Ramesseum on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), and at Wadi es-Sebua, where he is shown in procession in two scenes. However, he is shown in a number of scenes that are more action oriented, such as hunting scenes with his father and several other brothers. These scenes may be found at the Temple of Abu Simbel where he and two other brothers are shown in war chariots and at Beit el-Wadi, where he and Khaemwese are also shown in chariots. At Karnak he is with eleven other brothers handling prisoners, while there is a similar scene at Luxor but with fewer brothers.

Amun-her-shepeshef in a war chario

Unfortunately, Amun-her-shepeshef did not outlive his father. He died in year 40 of his father's reign. Amun-her-shepeshef was probably between the age of 40 and 45. In fact, Ramesses II outlived his first twelve sons, with Merenptah, the thirteenth who may probably have been sixty at the time, finally succeeding him. We believe that Amun-her-shepeshef was buried in KV 5 in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor. This huge and utterly unique tomb with over 150 chambers was most likely built for at least three or four of Ramesses II's sons, if not many more. Excavation in the tomb continues under the direction of one of the living legends of modern Egyptology, Kent Weeks. I am sure we can count on Dr. Weeks to painstakingly dig out ever shred of information that the tomb may yield, so one day we may know much more about this young prince of Egypt.


Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
History of Ancient Egypt, A Grimal, Nicolas 1988 Blackwell None Stated
The Lost Tomb Weeks, Kent R. 1998 William Morrow & Company ISBN 068815087X
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815034-2
Ramesses II: Greatest of the Pharaohs Menu, Bernadette 1999 Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-2870-1 (pbk.)