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Khafra (also read as Khafre, Khefren and Greek : ΧεφρήνChephren) was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th Dynasty during the Old Kingdom. He was the son of Khufu and the throne successor of Djedefre. According to the ancient historian Manetho, Khafra was followed by king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidence he was instead followed by king Menkaure. Khafra was the builder of the second largest pyramid of Giza. The view held by modern Egyptology at large continues to be that the Great Sphinx was built in approximately 2500 BC for Khafra. [2] Not much is known about Khafra, except from the historical reports of Herodotus, writing 2,000 years after his life, who describes him as a cruel and heretical ruler who kept the Egyptian temples closed after Khufu had sealed them.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

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.

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.



Cartouche name Kha'afre in the Abydos King List Abydos KL 04-04 n23.jpg
Cartouche name Kha'afre in the Abydos King List

Khafra was a son of king Khufu and the brother and successor of Djedefre. [3] Khafra is thought by some to be the son of Queen Meritites I due to an inscription where he is said to honor her memory.

Khufu Fourth Dynasty ancient Egyptian pharaoh

Khufu, known to the Greeks as Cheops, was an ancient Egyptian monarch who was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty, in the first half of the Old Kingdom period. Khufu succeeded his father Sneferu as king. He is generally accepted as having commissioned the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but many other aspects of his reign are poorly documented.

Djedefre Egyptian Pharaoh

Djedefre was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th Dynasty during the Old Kingdom. He is well known by the Hellenized form of his name Ratoises. Djedefre was the son and immediate throne successor of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza; his mother is not known for certain. He is the king who introduced the royal title Sa-Rê and the first to connect his cartouche name with the sun god Ra.

Meritites I was an ancient Egyptian queen of the 4th dynasty. Her name means "Beloved of her Father". Several of her titles are known from a stela found at Giza. She was buried in the middle Queen’s Pyramid in Giza.

Kings-wife, his beloved, devoted to Horus, Mertitytes.
King's-wife, his beloved, Mertitytes; beloved of the Favorite of
the Two Goddesses; she who says anything whatsoever and it is done
for her. Great in the favor of Snefr[u] ; great in the favor
of Khuf[u], devoted to Horus, honored under Khafre. Merti[tyt]es.

[Breasted; Ancient Records]

Others argue that the inscription just suggests that this queen died during the reign of Khafre. [4] Khafre may be a son of Queen Henutsen instead. [5]

Henutsen Egyptian queen (4th dynasty)

Henutsen is the name of an Ancient Egyptian queen consort who lived and ruled during the 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom Period. She was the second or third wife of pharaoh Khufu and most possibly buried at Giza.

Khafra had several wives and he had at least 12 sons and 3 or 4 daughters.

Meresankh III ancient Egyptian queen consort

Queen Meresankh III was the daughter of Hetepheres II and Prince Kawab and a granddaughter of the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. She was the wife of King Khafre.

Kawab ancient Egyptian prince and vizier

Kawab is the name of an ancient Egyptian prince of the 4th Dynasty. He was the eldest son of King Khufu and Queen Meritites I. Kawab served as vizier and was buried in the double mastaba G 7110 - 7120 in the east field which is part of the Giza Necropolis.

Hetepheres II Queen of Egypt

Hetepheres II was a Queen of Ancient Egypt during the 4th dynasty.

Other children of Khafra are known, but no mothers have been identified. Further sons include Ankhmare, Akhre, Iunmin, and Iunre. Two more daughters named Rekhetre and Hemetre are known as well. [3]

Ankhmare was an ancient Egyptian prince and vizier of the 4th dynasty. His titles include king's eldest son of his body, as well as chief justice and vizier. Ankhmare was a son of Pharaoh Khafre and was named after god Ra.

Iunmin was a vizier from the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. He was possibly a son of king Khafre. He served as vizier towards the end of the dynasty, possibly during the reign of his brother Menkaure.

Iunre (Yunre) was an ancient Egyptian prince of the 4th dynasty. He was the son of king Khafre. He was named after Ra.


King Khafre. In Agyptisches Museum Georg Steindorff, Leipzig Agyptisches Museum Leipzig 035.jpg
King Khafre. In Ägyptisches Museum Georg Steindorff, Leipzig

There is no agreement on the date of his reign. Some authors say it was between 2558 BC and 2532 BC. While the Turin King List length for his reign is blank, and Manetho exaggerates his reign as 66 years, most scholars believe it was between 24 and 26 years, based upon the date of the Will of Prince Nekure which was carved on the walls of this Prince's mastaba tomb. The will is dated anonymously to the Year of the 12th Count and is assumed to belong to Khufu since Nekure was his son. Khafra's highest year date is the "Year of the 13th occurrence" which is a painted date on the back of a casing stone belonging to mastaba G 7650. [6] This would imply a reign of 24–25 years for this king if the cattle count was biannual during the Fourth Dynasty.

Turin King List ancient Egyptian manuscript

The Turin King List, also known as the Turin Royal Canon, is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus thought to date from the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, now in the Museo Egizio in Turin. The papyrus is the most extensive list available of kings compiled by the ancient Egyptians, and is the basis for most chronology before the reign of Ramesses II.

Mastaba type of ancient Egyptian tomb

A mastaba or pr-djt is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides, constructed out of mud-bricks. These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt's Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom. In the Old Kingdom epoch, local kings began to be buried in pyramids instead of in mastabas, although non-royal use of mastabas continued for over a thousand years. Egyptologists call these tombs mastaba, from the Arabic word مصطبة (maṣṭaba) "stone bench".

Pyramid complex

Lantern Slide Collection: Views, Objects: Egypt. Gizeh [selected images]. View 07: Egyptian - Old Kingdom. Plan of Temple of Khephren. Gizeh, 4th Dyn., n.d. Brooklyn Museum Archives S10.08 Gizeh, image 9615.jpg
Lantern Slide Collection: Views, Objects: Egypt. Gizeh [selected images]. View 07: Egyptian - Old Kingdom. Plan of Temple of Khephren. Gizeh, 4th Dyn., n.d. Brooklyn Museum Archives
Khafre's Pyramid and the Great Sphinx. Khafre.jpg
Khafre's Pyramid and the Great Sphinx.

Khafra built the second largest pyramid at Giza. The Egyptian name of the pyramid was Wer(en)-Khafre which means "Khafre is Great". [7]

The pyramid has a subsidiary pyramid, labeled GII a. It is not clear who was buried there. Sealings have been found of a King's eldest son of his body etc. and the Horus name of Khafre. [7]

Valley Temple

The valley temple of Khafre was located closer to the Nile and would have stood right next to the Sphinx temple. Inscriptions from the entrance way have been found which mention Hathor and Bubastis. Blocks have been found showing the partial remains of an inscription with the Horus name of Khafre (Weser-ib). Mariette discovered statues of Khafre in 1860. Several were found in a well in the floor and were headless. But other complete statues were found as well. [7]

Mortuary Temple

The mortuary temple was located very close to the pyramid. From the mortuary temple come fragments of maceheads inscribed with Khafre's name as well as some stone vessels. [7]

Great Sphinx and Sphinx temple

The sphinx is said to date to the time of Khafra. This is supported by the proximity of the sphinx to Khafra's pyramid temple complex, and a certain resemblance (despite damage) to the facial structure seen in his statues. The Great Sphinx of Giza may have been carved out as a guardian of Khafra's pyramid, and as a symbol of royal power. It became deified during the time of the New Kingdom. [8]

Khafra in ancient Greek traditions

Statue of Khafre in diorite. Valley Temple of Khafra, Giza. Khafre statue.jpg
Statue of Khafre in diorite. Valley Temple of Khafra, Giza.

The ancient Egyptian historian Manetho called Khafra “Sûphis II.” and credited him with a rulership of 66 years, but didn't make any further comments about him. [9] [10] [11] [12]

The ancient Greek historians Diodorus and Herodotus instead depicted Khafra as a heretic and cruel tyrant: They were writing 2,000 years after his time that Khafra (whom they both called “Khêphren”) followed his father Khêops on the throne, after the megalomaniac despot had died. Then Herodotus and Diodorus say that Khafra ruled for 56 years and that the Egyptians had to suffer under him like under his father before. Since Khufu was said to have ruled for 50 years, the authors claim that the poor Egyptians had to suffer under both kings for altogether 106 years. [9] [10] [11]

But then they describe a king Menkaura (whom they call “Mykerînós”) as the follower of Khafra and that this king was the counterpart of his two predecessors: Herodotus describes Menkaura as being saddened and disappointed about Khufu's and Khafra's cruelty and that Menkaura brought peace and piety back to Egypt. [9] [10] [11]

Modern Egyptologists evaluate Herodotus's and Diodorus's stories as some sort of defamation, based on both author's contemporary philosophy. Oversized tombs such as the Giza pyramids must have appalled the Greeks, and even the later priests of the New Kingdom because they surely remembered the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten and his megalomaniacal building projects. This extremely negative picture was obviously projected onto Khafra and his daunting pyramid. This view was possibly promoted by the fact that during Khafra's lifetime the authority to give permission for the creation of oversized statues made of precious stone and for their display in open places in public was restricted to the king only. In their eras, the Greek authors and mortuary priests and temple priests couldn't explain the impressive monuments and statues of Khafra as anything other than the result of a megalomaniacal character. These views and resulting stories were avidly snapped up by the Greek historians and so they made their also negative evaluations about Khafra, since scandalous stories were easier to sell to the public than positive (and therefore boring) tales. [9] [10] [11] [12]

Related Research Articles

Menkaure Egyptian pharaoh of the 4th dynasty

Menkaure, was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty during the Old Kingdom, who is well known under his Hellenized names Mykerinos and Menkheres. According to Manetho, he was the throne successor of king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidence he rather was the successor of king Khafre. Menkaure became famous for his tomb, the Pyramid of Menkaure, at Giza and his beautiful statue triads, showing the king together with his wives Rekhetre and Khamerernebty.

Great Sphinx of Giza Limestone statue of a reclining sphinx

The Great Sphinx of Giza, commonly referred to as the Sphinx of Giza or just the Sphinx, is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. Facing directly from West to East, it stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the pharaoh Khafre.

Fourth Dynasty of Egypt dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Dynasty IV lasted from c. 2613 to 2494 BC. It was a time of peace and prosperity as well as one during which trade with other countries is documented.

Shepseskaf Egyptian pharaoh

Shepseskaf was the sixth and last pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. He reigned 6 to 8 years starting circa 2510 BC. The only activities firmly datable to his reign are the completion of the temple complex of the Pyramid of Menkaure and the construction of its own mastaba tomb at South Saqqara, the Mastabat al-Fir’aun, "stone bench of the pharaoh".

Pyramid of Menkaure smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza, located on the Giza Plateau in the southwestern outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. It is thought to have been built to serve as the tomb of the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Menkaure.

Giza pyramid complex archaeological site on the Giza Plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt

The Giza pyramid complex, also called the Giza Necropolis, is the site on the Giza Plateau in Egypt that includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza. All were built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The site also includes several cemeteries and the remains of a workers' village.

Ankhhaf Prince of Egypt

Prince Ankhhaf was an Egyptian prince and served as vizier and overseer of works to the Pharaoh Khufu, who was Ankhhaf's half-brother. He lived during Egypt's 4th Dynasty.

Djedefhor or Hordjedef was a noble Egyptian of the 4th dynasty. He was the son of Khufu and his name means "Enduring Like Horus".

Khufukhaf I was an ancient Egyptian prince and vizier of the 4th dynasty.

Khamerernebty I was an ancient Egyptian queen of the 4th dynasty. She was probably a wife of King Khafre and the mother of King Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II. It is possible that she was a daughter of Khufu, based on the fact that inscriptions identify her as a King's daughter.

Khamerernebty II was an ancient Egyptian queen of the 4th dynasty. She was a daughter of Pharaoh Khafra and Queen Khamerernebty I. She married her brother Menkaure and she was the mother of Prince Khuenre.

Thamphthis is the hellenized name of an ancient Egyptian ruler (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty in the Old Kingdom, who may have ruled around 2500 BC under the name Djedefptah for between two and nine years. His original Egyptian name is lost, but it may have been Djedefptah or Ptahdjedef according to William C. Hayes. Thamphthis is one of the shadowy rulers of the Old Kingdom, since he is completely unattested in contemporary sources. For this reason, his historical figure is discussed intensely by historians and egyptologists.

Khafre Enthroned

Khafre Enthroned is a funerary statue of the Pharaoh Khafre, who reigned during the Fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt. It is now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The construction is made of anorthosite gneiss, a valuable, extremely hard, and dark stone brought 400 miles down the Nile River from royal quarries. This highlights Khafre's importance and power as a ruler. The statue was carved for the Pharaoh's valley temple near the Great Sphinx, a part of the necropolis used in funeral rituals. This Old Kingdom statue has an important function in Egyptian tombs as substitute abodes for the Pharaoh's ka—the life force that accompanied a person with a kind of other self. After death, the ka leaves the body into the afterlife, but still needs a place to rest: the statue.

Pyramid G1-c building in Egypt

G1-c is one of the subsidiary pyramids of the Giza East Field of the Giza Necropolis immediately to the eastern side of the Great Pyramid of Giza, built during the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. It is the southern of the three pyramids of the queens and is the one of Queen Henutsen. It is 46.25 metres wide and had a height of 29.60 metres. A niche, four inches deep was dug in the south wall of the burial chamber. Pyramid G 1c was originally not a part of Khufu's pyramid complex, as its southern side is aligned not with the side of the Great Pyramid, but with Khufukhaf I's mastaba tomb nearby. Pyramid G 1c was at some point thought to possibly be a satellite pyramid, because it did not come with a boat pit like pyramids G 1a and G 1b. It was later determined to be an unfinished pyramid however which was constructed in a hurry. Henutsen is thought to have been buried in the tomb. Dr. Rainer Stadelmann believes Khufukhaf is the same person as Khafra and the pyramid was built by him for his mother, but this identification is doubtful.

Bikheris Egyptian pharaoh

Bikheris is the Hellenized name of an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who may have ruled during the 4th Dynasty around 2570 BC. Next to nothing is known about this ruler and some Egyptologists even believe him to be fictitious.


  1. Thomas Schneider: Lexikon der Pharaonen. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN   3-491-96053-3, page 102.
  2. "Sphinx Project: Why Sequence is Important". 2007. Archived from the original on July 26, 2010. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. ISBN   0-500-05128-3
  4. Grajetzki, Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Golden House Publications, London, 2005, ISBN   978-0-9547218-9-3
  5. Tyldesley, Joyce. Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2006. ISBN   0-500-05145-3
  6. Anthony Spalinger, Dated Texts of the Old Kingdom, SAK 21 (1994), p.287
  7. 1 2 3 4 Porter, Bertha and Moss, Rosalind, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings Volume III: Memphis, Part I Abu Rawash to Abusir. 2nd edition (revised and augmented by Dr Jaromir Malek, 1974. Retrieved from Archived 2008-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Markowitz, Haynes, Freed (2002). Egypt in the Age of the Pyramids.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. 1 2 3 4 Siegfried Morenz: Traditionen um Cheops. In: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, vol. 97, Berlin 1971, ISSN 0044-216X, page 111–118.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Dietrich Wildung: Die Rolle ägyptischer Könige im Bewußtsein ihrer Nachwelt. Band 1: Posthume Quellen über die Könige der ersten vier Dynastien (= Münchener Ägyptologische Studien. Bd. 17). Hessling, Berlin 1969, page 152–192.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Wolfgang Helck: Geschichte des Alten Ägypten (= Handbuch der Orientalistik, vol. 1.; Chapter 1: Der Nahe und der Mittlere Osten, vol 1.). BRILL, Leiden 1968, ISBN   9004064974, page 23–25 & 54–62.
  12. 1 2 Aidan Dodson: Monarchs of the Nile. American Univ in Cairo Press, 2000, ISBN   9774246004, page 29–34.

Further reading