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Shepsesre Tefnakht (in Greek known as Tnephachthos) was a prince of Sais and founder of the relatively short Twenty-fourth dynasty of Egypt; he rose to become a Chief of the Ma in his home city. He is thought to have reigned roughly 732 BCE to 725 BCE, or 7 years. Tefnakht I first began his career as the "Great Chief of the West" and Prince of Sais and was a late contemporary of the last ruler of the 22nd dynasty: Shoshenq V. Tefnakht I was actually the second ruler of Sais; he was preceded by Osorkon C, who is attested by several documents mentioning him as this city's Chief of the Ma and Army Leader, according to Kenneth Kitchen, [3] while his predecessor as Great Chief of the West was a man named Ankhhor. [4] A recently discovered statue, dedicated by Tefnakht I to Amun-Re, reveals important details about his personal origins. [5] The statue's text states that Tefnakht was the son of a certain Gemnefsutkapu and the grandson of Basa, a priest of Amun near Sais. Consequently, Tefnakht was not actually descended from either lines of Chiefs of the Ma and of the Libu as traditionally believed but rather came from a family of priests, and his ancestors being more likely Egyptians rather than Libyans. [6]

The Meshwesh were an ancient Libyan tribe of Berber origin from beyond Cyrenaica. According to Egyptian hieroglyphs, this area is where the Libu and Tehenu inhabited.

Shoshenq V Egyptian pharaoh

Aakheperre Shoshenq V was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the late 22nd Dynasty.

Osorkon C Great Chief of the Ma

Osorkon C was a Great Chief of the Ma and a governor of Sais in Lower Egypt, during the 22nd Dynasty.


Tefnakht is absent from the Manethonian tradition, perhaps because of the abbreviated form in which the Aegyptiaca came to us, perhaps because Tefnakht was considered a usurper [7] .


Tefnakht erected two donation stelas in Years 36 and 38 of Shoshenq V as a Prince at Saïs. His Year 38 stela from Buto is significant not only because Tefnakht employs the rather boastful epithet of "Great Chief of the entire land" but due to its list of his religious titles as prophet of Neith, Edjo and the Lady of Imay. [8] This reflects his control over Sais, Buto to the north and Kom el-Hish to the southwest even prior to the end of the 22nd Dynasty—with the death of Shoshenq V—and reflects Tefnakht's political base in the Western Delta region of Egypt. The 22nd Dynasty was politically fragmenting even prior to the death of Shoshenq V. Tefnakht established his capital at Sais, and formed an alliance with other minor kings of the Delta region in order to conquer Middle and Upper Egypt, which was under the sway of the Nubian king Piye. He was able to capture and unify many of the cities of the Delta region, thus making Tefnakht considerably more powerful than any of his predecessors in either the 22nd or 23rd dynasties.

Buto Archaeological site in Egypt

Buto, Butus, or Butosus, now Tell El Fara'in, near the villages of Ibtu and Kom Butu and the city of Desouk, are names later given to an ancient city located 95 km east of Alexandria in the Nile Delta of Egypt. What in Classical times the Greeks called, Buto, stood about midway between the Taly (Bolbitine) and Thermuthiac (Sebennytic) branches of the Nile, a few kilometers north of the east-west Butic River and on the southern shore of the Butic Lake.

Nile Delta Delta produced by the Nile River at its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea

The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Lower Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers 240 km (150 mi) of Mediterranean coastline and is a rich agricultural region. From north to south the delta is approximately 160 km (99 mi) in length. The Delta begins slightly down-river from Cairo.

Piye ancient Kushite king and Egyptian pharaoh

Piye was an ancient Kushite king and founder of the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt who ruled Egypt from 744–714 BC. He ruled from the city of Napata, located deep in Nubia, modern-day Sudan.

Tefnakht was not a member of the Tanite-based 22nd Dynasty of Egypt since Tanis is located in the Eastern Delta whereas his local city of Sais was situated in the Western Delta closer to Libya. His modest title 'Great chief of the West' also hints at a non-royal background. Prior to assuming the title of "Great Chief of the West", Tefnakht managed to extend his control southward, capturing the city of Memphis and besieging the city of Herakleopolis, which was an ally of the Kushite king Piye of Nubia. This caused him to face considerable opposition from Piye, especially after Nimlot, the local ruler of Hermopolis defected from Piye's sphere of influence, to his side. A pair of naval engagements soon checked any further advances by Tefnakht's coalition into Piye's Middle Egyptian territories, and Memphis was soon recaptured by Piye. After further campaigns, Tefnakht's allies surrendered to Piye and Tefnakht soon found himself isolated. He finally dispatched a letter formally submitting his loyalty and swearing his loyalty to Piye. Tefnakht, however, was the only Lower Egyptian prince to avoid seeing Piye face to face. These details are recounted in the Great Victory stela of Piye which this Nubian ruler erected on the New Year's Day of his 21st regnal year. Shortly afterwards, Piye returned home to Nubia at Gebel Barkal, and never returned to Lower Egypt again.

Tanis village and ancient city in Sharqia Governorate, Egypt

Tanis is a city in the north-eastern Nile Delta of Egypt. It is located on the Tanitic branch of the Nile which has long since silted up.

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.

Nimlot of Hermopolis Egyptian ruler

Nimlot was an ancient Egyptian ruler ("king") of Hermopolis during the 25th Dynasty.


Complete stele of Tefnakht Tefnakht Athens stela (T. Efthimiadis).jpg
Complete stele of Tefnakht

Despite this setback, Tefnakht was left alone as the local prince of his local region of Sais. He managed, over time, to soon reestablish his kingdom's control in the Delta region from the political vacuum which resulted after Piye's departure from this region. It is generally believed that prince Tefnakht officially proclaimed himself as king Shepsesre Tefnakht I and adopted a royal title sometime after Piye's departure from Lower Egypt. His successor at Sais was Bakenranef.

Bakenranef Egyptian Pharaoh

Bakenranef, known by the ancient Greeks as Bocchoris, was briefly a king of the Twenty-fourth dynasty of Egypt. Based at Sais in the western Delta, he ruled Lower Egypt from c. 725 to 720 BC. Though the Ptolemaic period Egyptian historian Manetho considers him the sole member of the Twenty-fourth dynasty, modern scholars include his father Tefnakht in that dynasty. Although Sextus Julius Africanus quotes Manetho as stating that "Bocchoris" ruled for six years, some modern scholars again differ and assign him a shorter reign of only five years, based on evidence from an Apis Bull burial stela. It establishes that Bakenranef's reign ended only at the start of his 6th regnal year which, under the Egyptian dating system, means he had a reign of 5 full years. Bakenranef's prenomen or royal name, Wahkare, means "Constant is the Spirit of Re" in Egyptian.

While most scholars such as Kenneth Kitchen have equated Manetho's Tefnakht with the king Shepsesre Tefnakht of Sais who is attested by the Year 8 Athens donation stela, a recent article by Olivier Perdu [9] has suggested that this Tefnakht was rather Tefnakht II, a much later king of Sais who ruled in the mid-680's BCE during the late Nubian 25th Dynasty. In his paper, Perdu published a newly discovered stela dating from the second year of Necho I's reign, which he contends is similar in style, text and content to the Year 8 stela of Shepsesre Tefnakht. Perdu, thus, infers that these two kings of Sais—Necho I and Tefnakht II—were close contemporaries. However, his arguments are not currently accepted by most Egyptian scholars such as Dan'el Kahn or Kenneth Kitchen who still believe that the Year 8 Athens stela of king Shepsesre Tefnakht likely belongs to Tefnakht I rather than a hypothetical Tefnakht II who would then have assumed power in 685 BC at Sais—early during the reign of Taharqa, one of the most powerful Nubian rulers of Egypt. Kahn has also stressed at an Egyptological Conference at Leiden that Perdu's epigraphic criteria here in the famed Athens stela—such as the use of the tripartite wig, the method through which the falcon-headed god keeps his head upright in the same stela and on temple wall reliefs contemporary with Tefnakht I's time, the decoration of the stela scene: Heaven supported by wAs scepters--appear already in use in the 24th or early 25th Nubian dynasty during Piye, Shabaka or Bakenranef's reign. [10] The invisible back side of the tripartite wig can be found on the donation stela of Shebitku from Pharbaitos and on the Bakenranef/Bocchoris vase dating to the last days of Piye and the beginning of Shabaka--all appear close in time to the presumed reign of Tefnakht I. Moreover, the head of the falcon-headed god Horus is, as Perdu himself noted, similar in style to the stela of Tefnakht, chief of the Meshwesh and Piye's chief rival. [11]

Kenneth Anderson Kitchen is a British biblical scholar, Ancient Near Eastern historian, and Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, England. He is one of the leading experts on the ancient Egyptian Ramesside Period, and the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt, as well as ancient Egyptian chronology, having written over 250 books and journal articles on these and other subjects since the mid-1950s. He has been described by The Times as "the very architect of Egyptian chronology".

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.

Tefnakht II ancient Egyptian sovereign (0800-0688)

Tefnakht II or Stephinates, was an ancient Egyptian ruler of the city of Sais during the early 7th century BC. He is recognized as an early member of the so-called "Proto-Saite Dynasty", which directly preceded the 26th Dynasty of Egypt.

Unlike Necho I, neither of this king's presumed Saite royal predecessors, a certain Nekauba and Tefnakht II, are monumentally attested in Lower Egypt. Hence, the latter two kings who appear in the records of Manetho's Epitome may well be fictitious. Moreover, it is improbable that Taharqa, perhaps one of the most powerful Kushite kings of the Nubian 25th dynasty for the first 18 years of his reign, would have tolerated the existence of a rival line of native Egyptian kings at Sais during the first half of his reign when he exercised full control over Memphis and the Delta region. After all, the 24th dynasty Saite rulers Tefnakht and Bakenranef had fought Taharqa's father Piye and resisted Shabaka's expansion of Kushite power into the Delta region.

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Taharqa Egyptian Pharaoh

Taharqa, also spelled Taharka or Taharqo, was a pharaoh of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt and qore (king) of the Kingdom of Kush.

Necho I

Menkheperre Necho I was a ruler of the Ancient Egyptian city of Sais. He was the first securely attested local Saite king of the 26th Dynasty of Egypt who reigned for 8 years according to Manetho's Aegyptiaca. Egypt was reunified by his son Psamtik I.

Shabaka Egyptian pharaoh

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Tantamani Egyptian pharaoh

Tantamani, Tanutamun or Tanwetamani (Egyptian) or Tementhes (Greek) was a Pharaoh of Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush located in Northern Sudan and a member of the Nubian or Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt. His prenomen or royal name was Bakare which means "Glorious is the Soul of Re."

Third Intermediate Period of Egypt period of Ancient Egypt (1069-664 BCE)

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Shebitku Egyptian pharaoh

Shebitku was the second king of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt who ruled from 714 BC-705 BC, according to the most recent academic research. He was a son of Piye, the founder of this dynasty. Shebitku's prenomen or throne name, Djedkare, means "Enduring is the Soul of Re." Shebitku's queen was Arty, who was a daughter of king Piye, according to a fragment of statue JE 49157 of the High Priest of Amun Haremakhet, son of Shabaka, found in the temple of the Goddess Mut in Karnak.

Napata city

Napata was a city-state of ancient Nubia on the west bank of the Nile at the site of modern Karima, Sudan.

Almost nothing is known of Nekauba or Nechepsos as he is also called except that he is listed as one of the early kings of the 26th Saite Dynasty in Manetho's Epitome and is assigned a reign of six years. However, his status as king is not confirmed by any contemporary documents and he may well be an invention of later Saite rulers to legitimise their kingship. Manetho writes that Nekauba is supposed to have succeeded Stephinates the founder of the 26th Dynasty—perhaps Tefnakht II—and was, in turn, followed by the well known Necho I, father of Psamtik I. Nekauba would have reigned as a local Saite king under the Nubian Dynasty between 678 BC to 672 BC if he did have an independent reign. If not, he would merely have been a local mayor of Sais who served in office for this period of time prior to the accession of king Necho I.

Takelot III Egyptian pharaoh

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Rudamun Egyptian pharaoh

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Osorkon IV Egyptian pharaoh

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Iuput II Egyptian pharaoh

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Kingdom of Kush ancient African kingdom

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Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt Ethiopian period of Ancient Egypt

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The Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC. The dynasty's reign is also called the Saite Period after the city of Sais, where its pharaohs had their capital, and marks the beginning of the Late Period of ancient Egypt.


  1. Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, London, 1994. p.188
  2. Tefnakht
  3. KA Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC), 3rd ed. 1996, Aris & Phillips Limited, pp.351 & p.355
  4. Kitchen, op. cit., § 316.
  5. P.R. Del Francia, "Di una statuette dedicate ad Amon-Ra dal grande capo dei Ma Tefnakht nel Museo Egizio di Firenze", S. Russo (ed.) Atti del V Convegno Nazionale di Egittologia e Papirologia, Firenze, 10-12 dicembre 1999, Firenze, 2000, 63-112, 76-82
  6. Del Francia, pp.63-112 & 76-82
  7. Bonhême, M.-A. (1987). Les noms royaux dans l'Égypte de la troisième période intermédiaire (in French). IFAO. p. 228. ISBN   9782724700459.
  8. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, p.362
  9. Olivier Perdu, "La Chefferie de Sébennytos de Piankhy à Psammétique Ier", Revue d'Égyptology 55 (2004), pp. 95-111.
  10. Dan'el Kahn, The Transition from Libyan to Nubian Rule in "Egypt: Revisiting the Reign of Tefnakht, THE LIBYAN PERIOD IN EGYPT, Historical and Cultural Studies into the 21st - 24th Dynasties: Proceedings of a Conference at Leiden University 25-27 October 2007," G.P.F. Broekman, R.J. Demarée & O.E. Kaper, (eds.), pp.139-48
  11. Olivier Perdu, De Stéphinates à Nécho ou les débuts de la XXVIe Dynastie, académie des Inscriptios & belles-lettres – Comptes rendus (CRAIBL), 2002. p.1229, n. 73

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