Egypt; Khafre, the 4th King of Egypt's 4th Dynasty

Khafre, the 4th King of Egypt's 4th Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

The Cartouch for Khafre, reading Appearing Like Re

As with many of the very earliest Pharaoh's, even though they may have left some of the grandest of all monuments in Egypt, they left little in the way of inscriptions, and so we know very little about them. Khafre (Chephren), the builder of the second pyramid on the famous Giza Plateau near Cairo is a fine example. His birth name was Khafre, which means "Appearing like Re". He is also sometimes refereed to as Khafra, Rakhaef, Khephren or Chephren by the Greeks, and Suphis II by Manetho. He was possibly a younger son of Khufu (Cheops) by his consort, Henutsen, so he was required to wait out the reign of Djedefre, his older brother, prior to ascending to the throne of Egypt as the fourth ruler of the fourth Dynasty. However, there is disagreement on this matter.

The famous statue of Khafre, one of the finest ever produced in Egypt

There are rumors of a problem with the succession of Khafre. Some authorities maintain that Djedefre may have even stole the throne, perhaps as a younger brother of Khafre, and that Khafre may have even murdered him. Much of this speculation originates from the fact that Djedefre broke with the Giza burial tradition, electing instead to locate his tomb (pyramid) at Abu Rawash. However, there is little real evidence to support such a conclusion, and in fact, Khafre continued Djedefres promotion of the cult of the sun god Re by using the title the Son of the Sun for himself and by incorporating the name of the god in his own.

We know of several of Khafre's wives, including Meresankh II (the daughter of his brother, Kawab) and his chief wife, Khameremebty I. His sons include Nekure (Nikaure), Sekhemkare and Menkaure, who succeeded him and married Khameremebty II, Khafre's daughter and Menkaure's sister.

The face of the Great  Sphinx is said to be that of Khafre

Identifying him with Suphis II, Manetho gives his reign as lasting 66 years, but this certainly cannot be substantiated. Modern Egyptologists believe he may have ruled Egypt for a relatively long period, however, of between the 24 years ascribed to him by the Turin Royal Cannon papyrus (which was apparently confirmed by an inscription in the mastaba tomb of Prince Nekure), and 26 years. He is thought to have ruled Egypt from about 2520 to 2494 BC.

It is clearly evident from the fine mastaba tombs of the nobles in his court that Egypt was prosperous while Khafre held the throne. Carved on the walls of the tomb of Prince Nekure, a "king's son", was a will to his heirs. It is the only one of its kind known from this period, and in it he leaves 14 towns to his heirs, of which at least eleven are named after his father, Khafre. Though his legacy was divided up among his five heirs, 12 of the towns were earmarked to endow the prince's mortuary cult.

We do know that Khafre participated in some foreign trade, or at least diplomacy, for objects dating from his reign have been found at Byblos, north of Beirut, as well as at Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Syria. He apparently also had diorite quarried at Tashka in Nubia and probably sent expeditions into the Sinai.

Though there are few inscriptions left for us to completely understand the era of Khafre's rule, he did leave behind some of the most important treasures ancient Egypt has to offer. Besides his pyramid complex at Giza, most Egyptologists believe he also built the Great Sphinx and thatit is his face that adorns this huge statue, which sits just beside his valley temple. In addition, the life size diorite statue of Khafre found in his valley temple and now located in theEgyptian Antiquities Museum is one of the most magnificent artifacts ever discovered.

Khafre's Pyramid at Giza, second largest only to his fathe, Khufu's Pyramid

Like his father Khufu, Khafre was depicted in fold tradition as a harsh, despotic ruler. Though as late as the New Kingdom, Ramesses II seems to have had no qualms about taking some of the casing from his pyramid at Giza for use in a temple at Heliopolis, by Egypt's Late Period, the cults of the fourth dynasty kings had been revived, and Giza became a focus of pilgrimage.

See Also:






Reference Number

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