Sixth Dynasty of Egypt

Last updated
Egypt
ca. 2345 BC–ca. 2181 BC
Capital Memphis
Common languages Egyptian language
Religion
ancient Egyptian religion
Government Absolute monarchy
Historical era Bronze Age
 Established
ca. 2345 BC
 Disestablished
ca. 2181 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Fifth Dynasty of Egypt
Seventh Dynasty of Egypt Blank.png

The Sixth Dynasty of ancient Egypt (notated Dynasty VI) along with Dynasties III, IV and V constitute the Old Kingdom of Dynastic Egypt.

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.

Dynasty sequence of rulers considered members of the same family

A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in elective republics. Alternative terms for "dynasty" may include "house", "family" and "clan", among others. The longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC.

Old Kingdom of Egypt period of Ancient Egypt in the 3rd millennium BC

In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2686–2181 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid builders of the Fourth Dynasty— among them King Sneferu, who perfected the art of pyramid-building, and the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who constructed the pyramids at Giza. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization during the Old Kingdom—the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.

Contents

Pharaohs

Known pharaohs of the Sixth Dynasty are listed in the table below. [1] Manetho accords the dynasty 203 regnal years from Teti to Nitocris, while the Turin Canon assigns 181 regnal years, but with three additional kings concluding with Aba – discounting the reigns of the added Eighth Dynasty kings, this is reduced to 155 regnal years. [2] This estimate varies between both scholar and source. [lower-alpha 1]

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.

Manetho Egyptian historian and priest from Ancient Egypt

Manetho is believed to have been an Egyptian priest from Sebennytos who lived in the Ptolemaic Kingdom in the early third century BC, during the Hellenistic period. He authored the Aegyptiaca in Greek, a major chronological source for the reigns of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. It is unclear if he wrote his work during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter or Ptolemy II Philadelphos, but no later than that of Ptolemy III Euergetes.

Dynasty VI pharaohs
Name of KingThrone or Horus Name [10] Proposed DatesEstimated Regnal DurationPyramidQueen(s)
Teti (Horus) Seheteptawy2345–2333 BCManetho: 30–33 years
Royal Turin Canon (RCT): < 7 months
Cattle count: 6th = 12–13 years [2] [11]
Pyramid of Teti at Saqqara Khentkaus III
Iput I
Khuit
Userkare (unknown)2333–2331 BCManetho: Unattested, [12] possibly involved in Teti's murder [13]
RCT: Possibly lost in lacuna [14]
Cattle count: Unknown, lost in lacuna(?) [15]
Pepi I Nefersahor (originally)
Merenre (later)
2331–2287 BCManetho: 52 years [2]
RCT: 20 or 44 years [16]
Cattle count: 25th = 49–50 years [17]
Pyramid of Pepi I in South Saqqara Ankhesenpepi I
Ankhesenpepi II
Nubwenet
Meritites IV
Inenek-Inti
Mehaa
Nedjeftet
Merenre I Merenre2287–2278 BCManetho: 7 years
RCT: 6 years
Cattle count: 5th + 1 year = 10 years [18]
Pyramid of Merenre in South Saqqara Ankhesenpepi II
Pepi II Neferkare2278–2184 BCManetho: 94 years
RCT: > 90 years
Cattle count: 33rd = 64–66 years [19] [20]
Pyramid of Pepi II in South Saqqara Neith
Iput II
Ankhesenpepi III
Ankhesenpepi IV
Udjebten
Merenre II Merenre [Nemty?]emsaf2184 BCManetho: 1 year [21] [20]
RCT: 1 year, 1 month [22]
Netjerkare Siptah
or
Nitocris
(unknown)2184–2181 BCManetho: Nitocris for 12 years [21]
RCT: Originally thought to identify Nitocris, [23] a recent study of the papyrus has altered this assessment in favour of Netjerkare, who is also attested on the Abydos king list. [24]

History

Dynasty VI is considered by many authorities as the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom, although The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt [25] includes Dynasties VII and VIII as part of the Old Kingdom. Manetho writes that these kings ruled from Memphis, since their pyramids were built at Saqqara, very close one to another. [26]

The Seventh Dynasty of Egypt would mark the beginning of the First Intermediate Period in the early 22nd century BC but its actual existence is debated. The only historical account on the Seventh Dynasty was in Manetho's Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BC, where the Seventh Dynasty appears essentially as a metaphor for chaos. Since next to nothing is known of this dynasty beyond Manetho's account, Egyptologists such as Jürgen von Beckerath and Toby Wilkinson have usually considered it to be fictitious. In a 2015 re-appraisal of the fall of the Old Kingdom, the Egyptologist Hracht Papazian has proposed that the Seventh Dynasty was real and that it consisted of kings usually attributed to the Eighth Dynasty.

The Eighth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is a poorly known and short-lived line of pharaohs reigning in rapid succession in the early 22nd century BC, likely with their seat of power in Memphis. The Eighth Dynasty held sway at a time referred to as the very end of the Old Kingdom or the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. The power of the pharaohs was waning while that of the provincial governors, known as nomarchs, was increasingly important, the Egyptian state having by then effectively turned into a feudal system. In spite of close relations between the Memphite kings and powerful nomarchs, notably in Coptos, the Eighth Dynasty was eventually overthrown by the nomarchs of Heracleopolis Magna, who founded the Ninth Dynasty. The Eighth Dynasty is sometimes combined with the preceding Seventh Dynasty, owing to the lack of archeological evidence for the latter which may be fictitious.

Memphis, Egypt Ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, Egypt

Memphis was the ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 km (12 mi) south of Giza.

By the Fifth Dynasty, the religious institution had established itself as the dominant force in society; [27] a trend of growth in the bureaucracy and the priesthood, and a decline in the pharaoh's power had been established during Neferirkare Kakai's reign. [28] During Djedkare Isesi's rule, officials were endowed with greater authority—evidenced by the opulent private tombs they constructed—eventually leading to the creation of a feudal system in effect. [29] These established trends—decentralization of authority, coupled with growth in bureaucracy—intensified during the three decades of Unas's rule, which also witnessed economic decline. [30] This continued on into Sixth Dynasty, leading into the First Intermediate Period. [31]

Neferirkare Kakai Egyptian pharaoh

Neferirkare Kakai was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the third king of the Fifth Dynasty. Neferirkare, the eldest son of Sahure with his consort Meretnebty, was known as Ranefer A before he came to the throne. He acceded the day after his father's death and reigned for eight to eleven years, sometime in the early to mid-25th century BCE. He was himself very likely succeeded by his eldest son, born of his queen Khentkaus II, the prince Ranefer B who would take the throne as king Neferefre. Neferirkare fathered another pharaoh, Nyuserre Ini, who took the throne after Neferefre's short reign and the brief rule of the poorly known Shepseskare.

Djedkare Isesi Ancient Egyptian pharaoh

Djedkare Isesi was a pharaoh, the eighth and penultimate ruler of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt in the late 25th century to mid-24th century BC, during the Old Kingdom. Djedkare succeeded Menkauhor Kaiu and was in turn succeeded by Unas. His relations to both of these pharaohs remain uncertain, although it is often conjectured that Unas was Djedkare's son, owing to the smooth transition between the two.

Unas Egyptian pharaoh

Unas or Wenis, also spelled Unis, was a pharaoh, the ninth and last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Unas reigned for 15 to 30 years in the mid-24th century BC, succeeding Djedkare Isesi, who might have been his father.

Teti

Teti is identified as the first king of the Sixth Dynasty [32] [13] by Manetho, after the conclusion of the reign of Unas. [32] He acceded to the throne in the 23rd century BC. [33]

Teti is assigned a regnal duration of 30 or 33 years by Manetho [34] — improbably long as the celebration of a Sed festival is not attested to, and the latest date recorded corresponds to the sixth cattle count, 12 or 13 years into his reign. The Royal Canon of Turin (RCT) gives another unlikely estimate of seven months. [11] The archaeologist Hartwig Altenmüller mediates between Manetho and the record of the cattle count to offer reign length of around 23 years. [34] The Egyptologists Peter Clayton and William Smith accord 12 years to his reign. [35] [36] [lower-alpha 2]

Sed festival

The Sed festival was an ancient Egyptian ceremony that celebrated the continued rule of a pharaoh. The name is taken from the name of an Egyptian wolf god, one of whose names was Wepwawet or Sed.

The relationship between Teti and his predecessors remains unclear, but his wife Iput is thought to be a daughter of Unas. [32] [36] This would mean that Teti ascended to the throne as Unas's son-in-law. [34] His inauguration solved a potential succession crisis, Unas had died without a male heir. [31] Teti adopted the Horus name Seheteptawy (meaning "He who pacifies the Two Lands") to establish his reign as one of renewed political unity. [35] The transition appears to have occurred smoothly, [36] [13] and Teti retained officials from his predecessors of the Fifth Dynasty, such as viziers Mehu and Kagemni who had begun their careers under Djedkare Isesi. [34] Despite this, the RCT too inserts a break between Unas and Teti, which the Egyptologist Jaromìr Malek contends relates to a "change of location of the capital and royal residence". [32] The capital migrated from "White Wall" to the populous suburbs further south to "Djed-isut"—derived from the name of Teti's pyramid and pyramid town, and located east of the monument. The royal residence might have been yet further south, in the valley away and across a lake from the city, east of South Saqqara—where the pyramids of Djedkare Isesi and Pepi I were built. [39]

Teti had his daughter, Sesheshet, married to one of his viziers and later chief priest, Mereruka, a clear sign of his interest in co-operating with the noble class. [40] Mereruka was buried close to Teti's pyramid, in a lavish tomb in North Saqqara. [11] [35] As part of his policy of pacification, Teti issued a decree exempting the temple at Abydos from taxation. He was the first ruler to be closely associated with the cult of Hathor at Dendera. [11] Abroad, Teti maintained trade relations with Byblos and Nubia. [35]

Teti commissioned the construction of a pyramid at North Saqqara. His pyramid follows the standard set by Djedkare Isesi, with a base length of 78.5 m (258 ft; 150 cu) converging to the apex at ~53° attaining a peak height of 52.5 m (172 ft; 100 cu). [41] The substructure of the pyramid was very similar to Unas's and Djedkare Isesi's; it had a descending corridor and horizontal passage guarded at about the middle by three granite portcullises, leading to an antechamber flanked to its east by the serdab with its three recesses and to its west by the burial chamber containing the sarcophagus. [42] The walls of the chambers and a section of the horizontal passage were inscribed with Pyramid Texts, as in Unas' pyramid. [43] The mortuary temple, with the exception of its entrance, conforms to the same basic plans as his predecessors. [43] [44] The complex contained a cult pyramid to the south-east of the pyramid with base length 15.7 m (52 ft; 30 cu). [45] The causeway connecting to the mortuary temple is yet to be excavated, [44] while the valley temple and pyramid town are entirely missing. [43] Teti's pyramid became the site of a large necropolis, and included the pyramids of his wives Neith and Iput, mother of Pepi I. [46] [47] Iput's skeleton was discovered buried in her pyramid in a wooden coffin. [46]

Manetho claims that Teti was assassinated by a body guard, but no contemporary sources confirm this. [35] [48] The story, if true, might explain the references to the ephemeral ruler Userkare, proposed to have briefly reigned between Teti and Pepi I. [35] Userkare is attested to in the Royal Turin Canon and Abydos king-list, and is mentioned in several contemporaneous documents. [11]

Pepi I

During this dynasty, expeditions were sent to Wadi Maghara in the Sinai Peninsula to mine for turquoise and copper, as well as to the mines at Hatnub and Wadi Hammamat. The pharaoh Djedkara sent trade expeditions south to Punt and north to Byblos, and Pepi I sent expeditions not only to these locations, but also as far as Ebla in modern-day Syria.

Pepi II

The most notable member of this dynasty was Pepi II, who is credited with a reign of 94 years. [49]

Nitiqret

Also known by the Greek name Nitocris , this woman is believed by some authorities to have been not only the first female pharaoh but the first queen in the world, although it is currently accepted that her name is actually a mistranslation of the king Neitiqerty Siptah.

The rise of the nobility

Seated statue of an official on block chair. Limestone. 6th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London Seated statue of an official on block chair. Limestone. 6th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.jpg
Seated statue of an official on block chair. Limestone. 6th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

With the growing number of biographical inscriptions in non-royal tombs, [50] our knowledge of the contemporary history broadens. [51] For example, we hear of an unsuccessful plot against Pepi I. [52] We also read a letter written by the young king Pepi II, excited that one of his expeditions will return with a dancing pygmy from the land of Yam, located to the south of Nubia. [53]

These non-royal tomb inscriptions are but one example of the growing power of the nobility, which further weakened the absolute rule of the king. As a result, it is believed that on the death of the long-lived Pepi II his vassals were entrenched enough to resist the authority of his many successors, which may have contributed to the rapid decline of the Old Kingdom.

Notes

  1. Proposed dates for the Sixth Dynasty: c. 2460–2200 BC, [3] c. 2374–2200 BC, [2] c. 2370–2190 BC, [4] c. 2345–2181 BC, [5] [6] [7] c. 2323–2150 BC, [8] [9] c. 2282–2117 BC. [1]
  2. Proposed dates for Teti's reign: c. 2374–2354 BC, [34] c. 2345–2333 BC, [35] c. 2345–2323 BC, [32] [37] c. 2323–2191 BC, [8] [9] c. 2282–2270 BC. [38]

Related Research Articles

A nomarch was a provincial governor in Ancient Egypt; the country was divided into 42 provinces, called nomes. A nomarch was the government official responsible for a nome.

Userkare Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh

Userkare was the second pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, reigning briefly, 1 to 5 years, in the late 24th to early 23rd century BC. Userkare's relation to his predecessor Teti and successor Pepi I is unknown and his reign remains enigmatic. Although he is attested in historical sources, Userkare is completely absent from the tomb of the Egyptian officials who lived during his reign. In addition, the Egyptian priest Manetho reports that Userkare's predecessor Teti was murdered. Userkare is often considered to have been a short-lived usurper. Alternatively, he may have been a regent who ruled during Teti's son's childhood who later ascended the throne as Pepi I.

Pepi I Meryre Egyptian pharaoh

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Menkauhor Kaiu Pharaoh of Egypt

Menkauhor Kaiu was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Old Kingdom period. He was the seventh ruler of the Fifth Dynasty at the end of the 25th century BC or early in the 24th century BC.

Pyramid Texts literary work

The Pyramid Texts are the oldest known corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved onto the subterranean walls and sarcophagi of pyramids at Saqqara from the end of the Fifth Dynasty, and throughout the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and into the Eighth Dynasty of the First Intermediate Period.

Neferefre Pharaoh of Egypt

Neferefre Isi was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, likely the fourth but also possibly the fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He was very probably the eldest son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, known as prince Ranefer before he ascended the throne.

Nyuserre Ini Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty

Nyuserre Ini was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the sixth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He is credited with a reign of 24 to 35 years depending on the scholar, and likely lived in the second half of the 25th century BCE. Nyuserre was the younger son of Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, and the brother of the short-lived king Neferefre. He may have succeeded his brother directly, as indicated by much later historical sources. Alternatively, Shepseskare may have reigned between the two as advocated by Miroslav Verner, albeit only for a few weeks or months at the most. The relation of Shepseskare with Neferefre and Nyuserre remains highly uncertain. Nyuserre was in turn succeeded by Menkauhor Kaiu, who could have been his nephew and a son of Neferefre.

Shepseskare Egyptian pharaoh

Shepseskare or Shepseskara was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the fourth or fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. Shepseskare lived in the mid-25th century BC and was probably the owner of an unfinished pyramid in Abusir, which was abandoned after a few weeks of work in the earliest stages of its construction.

Pyramid of Unas Pyramid complex of the last pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt built at Saqqara

The Pyramid of Unas is a smooth-sided pyramid built in the 24th century BC for the Egyptian pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty. It is the smallest Old Kingdom pyramid, but significant due to the discovery of Pyramid Texts, spells for the king's afterlife incised into the walls of its subterranean chambers. Inscribed for the first time in Unas's pyramid, the tradition of funerary texts carried on in the pyramids of subsequent rulers, through to the end of the Old Kingdom, and into the Middle Kingdom through the Coffin Texts that form the basis of the Book of the Dead.

Pyramid of Neferirkare Second pyramid to be built at the necropolis site of Abusir

The Pyramid of Neferirkare was built for the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai – referred to as Neferirkare – in the 25th century BC. It was the tallest structure located on the highest site at the necropolis of Abusir – found between Giza and Saqqara – and still towers over the necropolis today. The pyramid is also significant because its evacuation led to the discovery of the Abusir papyri.

Pyramid of Pepi I Pyramid complex in South Saqqara

The Pyramid of Pepi I is the pyramid complex built for the Egyptian pharaoh Pepi I of the Sixth Dynasty in the 24th or 23rd century BC. The complex gave its name to the capital city of Egypt, Memphis. As in the pyramids of his predecessors, Pepi I's substructure was filled with vertical columns of hieroglyphic texts, Pyramid Texts. It was in Pepi I's pyramid that these texts were initially discovered in 1880 by Gaston Maspero, though they originated in the Pyramid of Unas. The corpus of Pepi I's texts is also the largest comprising 2,263 columns and lines of hieroglyphs.

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Pyramid of Nyuserre Pyramid complex of the last pharaoh to be buried at Abusir

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Sources

Preceded by
Fifth Dynasty
Dynasty of Egypt
c. 2345 – 2181 BC
Succeeded by
(Seventh)
Eighth Dynasty