Ay

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Ay was the penultimate pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's 18th dynasty. He held the throne of Egypt for a brief four-year period (1323–1319 BC [1] or 1327–1323 BC, depending on which chronology is followed), although he was a close advisor to two and perhaps three of the pharaohs who ruled before him and is thought to have been the power behind the throne during Tutankhamun's reign. Ay's prenomen or royal nameKheperkheperuremeans "Everlasting are the Manifestations of Ra" while his nomen Ay it-netjer reads as "Ay, Father of the God". [2] Records and monuments that can be clearly attributed to Ay are rare, not only due to his short length of reign, but also because his successor, Horemheb, instigated a campaign of damnatio memoriae against him and other pharaohs associated with the unpopular Amarna Period.

Pharaoh Title of Ancient Egyptian rulers

Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

The phrase "power behind the throne" refers to a person or group that informally exercises the real power of a high-ranking office, such as a head of state. In politics, it most commonly refers to a relative, aide, or nominal subordinate of a political leader who serves as de facto leader, setting policy through possessing great influence and/or skillful manipulation.

Contents

Origins and family

Ay is believed to have been from Akhmim. During his short reign, he built a rock cut chapel in Akhmim and dedicated it to the local deity Min. He may have been the son of the courtier Yuya and his wife Tjuyu, making him a brother of Tiye and Anen. [3] This connection is based on the fact that both Yuya and Ay came from Akhmim and held the titles 'God's Father' and 'Master of Horses'. A strong physical resemblance has been noted between the mummy of Yuya and surviving statuary depictions of Ay. [3] The mummy of Ay has not been located, although fragmentary skeletal remains recovered from his tomb may represent it, [4] so a more thorough comparison with Yuya cannot be made. Therefore, the theory that he was the son of Yuya rests entirely on circumstantial evidence.

Akhmim City in Sohag, Egypt

Akhmim is a city in the Sohag Governorate of Upper Egypt. Referred to by the ancient Greeks as Khemmis, Chemmis and Panopolis, it is located on the east bank of the Nile, 4 miles to the northeast of Sohag.

Min (god) Egyptian deity

Min is an ancient Egyptian god whose cult originated in the predynastic period. He was represented in many different forms, but was most often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, "the maker of gods and men".

Yuya Ancient Egyptian high priest of Min, father-in-law of Amenhotep III

Yuya was a powerful Egyptian courtier during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. He was married to Tjuyu, an Egyptian noblewoman associated with the royal family, who held high offices in the governmental and religious hierarchies. Their daughter, Tiye, became the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III.

Ay's Great Royal Wife was Tey, who was known to be the wet nurse to Nefertiti. It is often theorised that Ay was the father of Nefertiti as a way to explain his title 'God's Father' as it has been argued that the term designates a man whose daughter married the king. However, nowhere are Ay and Tey referred to as the parents of Nefertiti. [5]

Great Royal Wife

Great Royal Wife, or alternatively, Chief King's Wife, is the term that was used to refer to the principal wife of the pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, who served many official functions.

Tey Queen consort of Egypt, Great Royal Wife

Tey was the wife of Kheperkheprure Ay, who was the penultimate pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's 18th dynasty. She was also the wet nurse of Queen Nefertiti.

Nefertiti Egyptian queen and Great Royal Wife (chief consort) of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti was an Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped one god only, Aten, or the sun disc. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly as Neferneferuaten after her husband's death and before the accession of Tutankhamun, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate. If Nefertiti did rule as Pharaoh, her reign was marked by the fall of Amarna and relocation of the capital back to the traditional city of Thebes.

Nakhtmin, Ay's chosen successor, was likely his son or grandson. His mother's name was Iuy, a priestess of Min and Isis in Akhmim. [6] She may have been Ay's first wife.

Nakhtmin Ancient Egyptian scribe, general

Nakhtmin held the position of generalissimo during the reign of pharaoh Tutankhamun of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. His titles during the reign of Tutankhamun included "the true servant who is beneficial to his lord, the king's scribe," "the servant beloved of his lord," "the Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King," and "the servant who causes to live the name of his lord." These titles were found on five ushabtis that Nakhtmin offered as funerary presents for pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Amarna Period

A stone block shows Ay receiving the "Gold of Honor" award in his Amarna tomb from Akhenaten. Ay receiving the Gold of Honor.jpg
A stone block shows Ay receiving the "Gold of Honor" award in his Amarna tomb from Akhenaten.

All that is known for certain was that by the time he was permitted to build a tomb for himself (Southern Tomb 25) at Amarna during the reign of Akhenaten, he had achieved the title of "Overseer of All the Horses of His Majesty", the highest rank in the elite charioteering division of the army, which was just below the rank of General. [7] Prior to this promotion he appears to have been first a Troop Commander and then a "regular" Overseer of Horses, titles which were found on a box thought to have been part of the original furnishings for his tomb. [8] Other titles listed in this tomb include Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King , Acting Scribe of the King, beloved by him, and God's Father. The 'Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King' was a very important position, and is viewed as showing that the bearer had the 'ear' of the ruler. The final God's Father title is the one most associated with Ay, and was later incorporated into his royal name when he became pharaoh. [8]

Southern Tomb 25 is a sepulchre in Amarna, Egypt. It was intended for the burial of Ay, who later became Pharaoh, after the 18th dynasty king Tutankhamun. The grave was never finished, and Ay was later interred in the Western Valley of the Valley of the Kings, in Thebes.

Amarna Egyptian archaeological site

Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty, and abandoned shortly after his death. The name for the city employed by the ancient Egyptians is written as Akhetaten in English transliteration. Akhetaten means "Horizon of the Aten".

Akhenaten 18th dynasty pharaoh

Akhenaten, known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV, was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monolatristic, henotheistic, or even quasi-monotheistic. An early inscription likens the Aten to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.

This title could mean that he was the father-in-law of the pharaoh, suggesting that he was the son of Yuya and Tjuyu, thus being a brother or half-brother of Tiye, brother-in-law to Amenhotep III and the maternal uncle of Akhenaten. Instead, the title may indicate that Ay was the tutor of Tutankhamun. [5] If Ay was the son of Yuya, who was a senior military officer during the reign of Amenhotep III, then he likely followed in his father's footsteps, finally inheriting his father's military functions upon his death. Alternatively, it could also mean that he may have had a daughter that married the pharaoh Akhenaten, possibly being the father of Akhenaten's chief wife Nefertiti. Ultimately there is no evidence to definitively prove either hypothesis. [9] The two theories are not mutually exclusive, but either relationship would explain the exalted status to which Ay rose during Akhenaten's Amarna interlude, when the royal family turned their backs on Egypt's traditional gods and experimented, for a dozen years or so, with an early form of monotheism; an experiment that, whether out of conviction or convenience, Ay appears to have followed under the reign of Akhenaten.

Tjuyu Ancient Egyptian noblewoman, mother-in-law of Amenhotep III

Tjuyu was an Egyptian noblewoman and the mother of queen Tiye, and the wife of Yuya. She is the grandmother of Akhenaten, and great grandmother of Tutankhamun.

Tiye Queen consort of Egypt

Tiye was the daughter of Yuya and Tjuyu. She became the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III. She was the mother of Akhenaten and grandmother of Tutankhamun. In 2010, DNA analysis confirmed her as the mummy known as "The Elder Lady" found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) in 1898.

Amenhotep III Ninth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt

Amenhotep III, also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent, was the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. According to different authors, he ruled Egypt from June 1386 to 1349 BC, or from June 1388 BC to December 1351 BC/1350 BC, after his father Thutmose IV died. Amenhotep III was Thutmose's son by a minor wife, Mutemwiya.

The Great Hymn to the Aten is also found in his Amarna tomb which was built during his service under Akhenaten. His wife Tey was born a commoner but was given the title Nurse of the Pharaoh's Great Wife. [9] If she were the mother of Nefertiti she would be expected to have the royal title Mother of the Pharaoh's Great Wife instead; had Ay been the father of Nefertiti, then Tey would have been her stepmother. [9] In several Amarna tomb chapels there is a woman whose name begins with "Mut" who had the title Sister of the Pharaoh's Great Wife. This could also be a daughter of Ay's by his wife Tey, and it is known that his successor Horemheb married a woman with the name Mutnodjimet. [10]

Tutankhamun

Ay performing the opening of the mouth ceremony for Tutankhamun, scene from Tutankhamun's tomb. Opening of the Mouth - Tutankhamun and Aja.jpg
Ay performing the opening of the mouth ceremony for Tutankhamun, scene from Tutankhamun's tomb.

Ay's reign was preceded by that of Tutankhamun, who ascended to the throne at the age of eight or nine, at a time of great tension between the new monotheism and the old polytheism. He was assisted in his kingly duties by his predecessor's two closest advisors: Grand Vizier Ay and General of the Armies Horemheb. Tutankhamun's nine-year reign, largely under Ay's direction, saw the return of the old gods and, with that, the restoration of the power of the Amun priesthood, who had lost their influence over Egypt under Akhenaten.

Egyptologist Bob Brier suggested that Ay murdered Tutankhamun in order to usurp the throne, a claim which was based on X-ray examinations of the body done in 1968. He also alleged that Ankhesenamun and the Hittite prince she was about to marry were also murdered at his orders. [11] This murder theory was not accepted by all scholars, and further analysis of the x-rays, along with CT scans taken in 2005, found no evidence to suggest that Tutankhamun died from a blow to the head as Brier had theorized. [12] [13] In 2010, a team led by Zahi Hawass reported that the young king had died from a combination of a broken leg, malaria and Köhler disease [14] but another team from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg believes his death was caused by sickle cell disease. [15]

Ay buried his young predecessor, as depicted on the wall of Tutankhamun's burial chamber. The explicit depiction of a succeeding king conducting the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony of another is unique; the depictions are usually more generic. [16]

Ay was buried in the tomb intended for Tutankhamun in the West Valley of the Kings (WV23), and Tutankhamun was interred in Ay's intended tomb in the East Valley of the Kings (KV62).

Rule as pharaoh

Faience plate with the complete royal titulary of Ay, Egyptian Museum. Kheperkheperure Ay.jpg
Faience plate with the complete royal titulary of Ay, Egyptian Museum.
Fragment of a cartouche of Ay in the Petrie Museum. ReliefWithNameOfAy-PetrieMuseum-August21-08.jpg
Fragment of a cartouche of Ay in the Petrie Museum.

Tutankhamun's death around the age of 18 or 19, together with the fact he had no living children, left a power vacuum that his Grand Vizier Ay was quick to fill: Ay is depicted conducting the funerary rites for the deceased monarch and assuming the role of heir. The grounds on which Ay based his successful claim to power are not entirely clear. The Commander of the Army, Horemheb, had actually been designated as the "idnw" or "Deputy of the Lord of the Two Lands" under Tutankhamun and was presumed to be the boy king's heir apparent and successor. [17] It appears that Horemheb was outmaneuvered to the throne by Ay, who legitimized his claim to the throne by burying Tutankhamun, as well as possibly marrying Ankhesenamun, Tutankhamun's widow.

Since he was already advanced in age upon his accession, Ay ruled Egypt in his own right for only four years. During this period, he consolidated the return to the old religious ways that he had initiated as senior advisor and constructed a mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use. A stela of Nakhtmin (Berlin 2074), a military officer under Tutankhamun and Ay—who was Ay's chosen successor—is dated to Year 4, IV Akhet day 1 of Ay's reign. [18] Manetho's Epitome assigns a reign length of four years and one month to Horemheb, and this was usually assigned to Ay based on this Year 4 dated stela; however, it is now believed that figure should be raised by a decade to fourteen years and one month and attributed to Horemheb instead, as Manetho intended. Hence, Ay's precise reign length is unknown and he could have ruled for as long as seven to nine years, since most of his monuments and his funerary temple at Medinet Habu were either destroyed or usurped by his successor, Horemheb.[ citation needed ]

Royal succession

Portrait of King Ay, on display at Musee d'Art et d'Histoire of Geneva. Detail of a statue of the royal couple of king Ay and Queen Tey, the fragment depicting Tey being a reproduction of a piece now located at the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg (inv 18477). Royal couple-MAHG 12440-IMG 9577-detail.JPG
Portrait of King Ay, on display at Musée d'Art et d'Histoire of Geneva. Detail of a statue of the royal couple of king Ay and Queen Tey, the fragment depicting Tey being a reproduction of a piece now located at the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg (inv 18477).

Prior to his death, Ay designated Nakhtmin to succeed him as pharaoh. However, Ay's succession plan went awry, as Horemheb became the last king of Egypt's 18th Dynasty instead of Nakhtmin. The fact that Nakhtmin was Ay's intended heir is strongly implied by an inscription carved on a dyad funerary statue of Nakhtmin and his spouse which was presumably made during Ay's reign. Nakhtmin is clearly given the titles "Crown Prince" (jrj-pꜥt) and "King's Son" (zꜣ-nswt). [19] The only conclusion which can be drawn here is that Nakhtmin was either a son or an adopted son of Ay's, and that Ay was grooming Nakhtmin for the royal succession instead of Horemheb. Egyptologists Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton observe that the aforementioned statue:

... is broken after the signs for "King's Son of", and there has been considerable debate as to whether it continued to say "Kush", making Nakhtmin a Viceroy of Nubia, or "of his body", making him an actual royal son. Since there is no other evidence for Nakhtmin as a Viceroy—with another man [Paser I] attested in office at this period as well—the latter suggestion seems the most likely. As Nakhtmin donated items to the burial of Tutankhamun without such a title, it follows that he only became a King's Son subsequently, presumably under Ay. This theory is supported by the evidence of intentional damage to Nakhtmin's statue, since Ay was amongst the Amarna pharaohs whose memories were execrated under later rulers. [20]

Aftermath

The burial chamber of Ay's tomb in the Valley of the Kings WV23 by Mutnedjmet.jpg
The burial chamber of Ay's tomb in the Valley of the Kings

It appears that one of Horemheb's undertakings as Pharaoh was to eliminate all references to the monotheistic experiment, a process that included expunging the name of his immediate predecessors, especially Ay, from the historical record. Horemheb desecrated Ay's burial and had most of Ay's royal cartouches in his WV23 tomb erased while his sarcophagus was smashed into numerous fragments. [21] However, the intact sarcophagus lid was discovered in 1972 by Otto Schaden. The lid had been buried under debris in this king's tomb and still preserved Ay's cartouche. [22] Horemheb also usurped Ay's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use. Uvo Hölscher (1878–1963) who excavated the temple in the early 1930s provides these interesting details concerning the state of Ay-Horemheb's mortuary temple:

Wherever a cartouche has been preserved, the name of Eye [i.e., Ay] has been erased and replaced by that of his successor Harmhab. In all but a single instance had it been overlooked and no change made. Thus the temple, which Eye had begun and finished, at least in the rear rooms with their fine paintings, was usurped by his successor and was thenceforth known as the temple of Harmhab. Seals on stoppers of wine jars from the temple magazines read: "Wine from the temple of Harmhab". [23]

In fiction

See also

Related Research Articles

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Meritaten Great Royal Wife, Kings Daughter

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References

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  18. Urk IV: 2110
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  23. Uvo Hölscher, Excavations at Ancient Thebes 1930/31, pp. 50–51
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Further reading