Amenemhat I

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See Amenemhat, for other individuals with this name.
Serekh or Horus name of Amenemhat I, detail of a limestone wall-block from Koptos Serekh or Horus name of Amenemhat I, detail of a limestone wall-block from Koptos.jpg
Serekh or Horus name of Amenemhat I, detail of a limestone wall-block from Koptos
Cartouche of the birth name, or nomen, of Amenemhat I, detail of a wall-block from Koptos Cartouche of the birth name, or nomen, of Amenemhat I, detail of a wall-block from Koptos.jpg
Cartouche of the birth name, or nomen, of Amenemhat I, detail of a wall-block from Koptos
The ruined pyramid of Amenemhet I at Lisht. AmenemhetIPyramid.jpg
The ruined pyramid of Amenemhet I at Lisht.

Amenemhat I (Middle Egyptian: jmn-m-ḥꜣt; /jaˈmaːnumaˌħuːʀiʔ/) also Amenemhet I and the hellenized form Ammenemes, was the first ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty, the dynasty considered to be the golden-age of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. He ruled from 1991 BC to 1962 BC [1] (1939 BC to 1910 BC). [2]

Egyptian language Language spoken in ancient Egypt, branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages

The Egyptian language was spoken in ancient Egypt and was a branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Its attestation stretches over an extraordinarily long time, from the Old Egyptian stage. Its earliest known complete written sentence has been dated to about 2690 BC, which makes it one of the oldest recorded languages known, along with Sumerian.

Middle Kingdom of Egypt period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from around 2050 BC to around 1710 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Eleventh Dynasty ruled from Thebes and the Twelfth Dynasty ruled from el-Lisht. Some scholars also include the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt wholly into this period as well, in which case the Middle Kingdom would finish around 1650 BC, while others only include it until Merneferre Ay around 1700 BC, last king of this dynasty to be attested in both Upper and Lower Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris became the most important deity in popular religion. The Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, another period of division that involved foreign invasions of the country by the Hyksos of West Asia.


Amenemhat I was probably the same as the vizier named Amenemhat who led an expedition to Wadi Hammamat under his predecessor Mentuhotep IV, and possibly overthrew him from power.[ citation needed ] Scholars differ as to whether Mentuhotep IV was killed by Amenemhat I, but there is no independent evidence to suggest this and there may even have been a period of co-regency between their reigns. [3]

Wadi Hammamat Dry river bed in Egypt

Wadi Hammamat is a dry river bed in Egypt's Eastern Desert, about halfway between Al-Qusayr and Qena. It was a major mining region and trade route east from the Nile Valley in ancient times, and three thousand years of rock carvings and graffiti make it a major scientific and tourist site today.

Mentuhotep IV Egyptian pharaoh

Nebtawyre Mentuhotep IV was the last king of the 11th Dynasty. He seems to fit into a 7-year period in the Turin Canon for which there is no recorded king.

Amenemhet I was not of royal lineage, and the composition of some literary works (the Prophecy of Neferti , [4] the Instructions of Amenemhat [5] ) and, in architecture, the reversion to the pyramid-style complexes of the 6th dynasty rulers are often considered to have been attempts at legitimizing his rule. Amenemhat I moved the capital from Thebes to Itjtawy and was buried in el-Lisht.

Prophecy of Neferti

The Prophecy of Neferti is one of the few surviving literary texts from ancient Egypt. The story is set in the Old Kingdom, under the reign of King Snefru. However, the text should be attributed to an individual named Neferyt, who most likely composed it at the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty. The nature of the literary text is argued upon. There are a number of different theories stating that the literature is a historical romance in pseudo-prophetic form, political literature, religious motivation as well as a literary text created to change and improve the situation in Egypt during the Twelfth Dynasty.

Instructions of Amenemhat literary work

Instructions of Amenemhat is a short ancient Egyptian poem of the sebayt genre written during the early Middle Kingdom. The poem takes the form of an intensely dramatic monologue delivered by the ghost of the murdered 12th Dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat I to his son Senusret I. It describes the conspiracy that killed Amenemhat, and enjoins his son to trust no-one. The poem forms a kind of apologia of the deeds of the old king's reign. It ends with an exhortation to Senusret to ascend the throne and rule wisely in Amenemhat's stead.

Pyramid structure whose shape is roughly that of a pyramid in the geometric sense

A pyramid is a structure whose outer surfaces are triangular and converge to a single step at the top, making the shape roughly a pyramid in the geometric sense. The base of a pyramid can be trilateral, quadrilateral, or of any polygon shape. As such, a pyramid has at least three outer triangular surfaces. The square pyramid, with a square base and four triangular outer surfaces, is a common version.

Early reign

There's some evidence that the early reign of Amenemhat I was beset with political turmoil, as indicated by the inscriptions of Nehri, a local governor. [6] There were some naval battles where an associate of Amenemhat I by the name of Khnumhotep I was involved, and helped to procure victory. Later, Khnumhotep was appointed as an important local governor at Beni Hasan, and he founded a dynasty of local governors there. His grandson was Khnumhotep III. [7]

Khnumhotep I Egyptian nomarch

Khnumhotep I was an ancient Egyptian Great Chief of the Oryx nome during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat I of the 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom.

Beni Hasan Village and archaeological site in Middle Egypt

Beni Hasan is an Ancient Egyptian cemetery site. It is located approximately 20 kilometers (12 mi) to the south of modern-day Minya in the region known as Middle Egypt, the area between Asyut and Memphis.

Khnumhotep III ancient Egyptian vizier

Khnumhotep III was an Ancient Egyptian high steward and vizier of the 12th Dynasty.

In the inscriptions by Khnumhotep, mention is also made of military campaigns against the Asiatics and the Nubians. [8]


Amenemhat I's name is associated with one of only two sebayt or ethical "teachings" attributed to Egyptian monarchs, entitled the Instructions of Amenemhat , though it is generally thought today that it was composed by a scribe at the behest of the king. [5]

Sebayt is the ancient Egyptian term for a genre of pharaonic literature. sbꜣyt literally means "teachings" or "instructions" and refers to formally written ethical teachings focused on the "way of living truly". Sebayt is considered an Egyptian form of wisdom literature.

Amenemhat I's Horus name, Wehemmesu, which means renaissance or rebirth, is an allusion to the Old Kingdom period, whose cultural icons and models (such as pyramidal tombs and Old Kingdom artistic motifs) were emulated by the Twelfth Dynasty kings after the end of the First Intermediate Period. The cult of the king was also promoted during this period, which witnessed a steady return to a more centralized government. [9]

The royal court

The vizier at the beginning of the reign was Ipi, at the end of the reign Intefiqer was in charge. Two treasurers can be placed under this king: another Ipi and Rehuerdjersen. Two high stewards, Meketre and Sobeknakht, have also been identified.

His pyramid

His pyramid was made in the same fashion as 5th and 6th dynasty pyramids by having a rough core clad with a fine mantle of smooth limestone.

"The core of the pyramid was made up of small rough blocks of limestone with a loose fill of sand, debris and mudbrick. Perhaps the most remarkable feature is that it included fragments of relief-decorated blocks from Old Kingdom monuments – many from pyramid causeways and temples, including Khufu's. Granite blocks from Khafre's complex went into the lining and blocking of Amenemhat I's descending passage. We can only conclude that they were picked up at Saqqara and Giza and brought to Lisht to be incorporated into the pyramid for their spiritual efficacy". [10]

When the limestone outer layer was taken, the core slumped. The pyramid and temple have been used as a source of material for lime burners so only a small amount remains today.

The Middle Kingdom pyramids were built closer to the Nile and Amenemhet I's burial chamber is now underwater because the River Nile has shifted course. The complex has an inner wall of limestone and an outer wall of mudbrick; members of the Royal family were buried between these two walls. There are a number of mastaba tombs between the walls and 22 burial shafts on the western side of the pyramid.

Isometric image taken from a 3d model 025 Amenemhat I.jpg
Isometric image taken from a 3d model

His son Senusret I followed in his footsteps, building his pyramid a closer reflection of the 6th dynasty pyramids than that of Amenemhat I at Lisht as well, but his grandson, Amenemhat II, broke with this tradition.


Two literary works dating from the end of the reign give a picture about Amenemhat I's death. The Instructions of Amenemhat were supposedly counsels that the deceased king gave to his son during a dream. In the passage where he warns Senusret I against too great intimacy with his subjects, he tells the story of his own death as a reinforcement:

This passage refers to a conspiracy in which Amenemhat was killed by his own guards, when his son and co-regent Senusret I was leading a campaign in Libya. Another account of the following events is given in the Story of Sinuhe , a famous text of Egyptian literature:


The double dated stela CG 20516 Planche 28 Monuments Historiques (1872) - TIMEA.jpg
The double dated stela CG 20516

Amenemhat I is considered to be the first king of Egypt to have had a coregency with his son, Senusret I. A double dated stela from Abydos and now in the Cairo Museum (CG 20516) is dated to the Year 30 of Amenemhat I and to the Year 10 of Senusret I, which establishes that Senusret was made co-regent in Amenemhat's Year 20. [13]

Modern adaptation

Naguib Mahfouz, the Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian writer, includes Amenemhat I in one of his stories published in 1941 entitled "Awdat Sinuhi". The story appeared in an English translation by Raymond Stock in 2003 as "The Return of Sinuhe" in the collection of Mahfouz's short stories entitled Voices from the Other World. The story is based directly on the "Story of Sinuhe", although adding details of a lovers' triangle romance involving Amenemhat I and Sinuhe that does not appear in the original. Mahfouz also includes the pharaoh in his account of Egypt's rulers "Facing the Throne". In this work, the Nobel laureate has the Ancient Egyptian gods judge the country's rulers from Pharaoh Mena to President Anwar Sadat.

See also

Related Research Articles

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  2. Erik Hornung; Rolf Krauss; David A Warburton, eds. (2006). Ancient Egyptian chronology. Brill. ISBN   9004113851. OCLC   901251009.
  3. E. Hornung, History of Ancient Egypt, 1999 p.50
  4. M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 1973 p.139
  5. 1 2 M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 1973 p.135
  6. Alan B. Lloyd, ed. A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Volume 52 of Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. John Wiley & Sons, 2010 ISBN   1444320068 p.88
  7. Toby Wilkinson, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt. Random House LLC, 2011 ISBN   0679604294 p.143
  8. Pharaoh: Amenemhat I (Sehetepibre)
  9. Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000), The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 159
  10. Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997)p.168 ISBN   0-500-05084-8
  11. "Egypt: Amenemhat I, 1st King of the 12th Dynasty". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  12. Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford University Press 1961, p. 130–131
  13. Murnane, William J. Ancient Egyptian Coregencies, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization. No. 40. p.2. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1977.

Further reading