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Thamphthis in hieroglyphs
Length of reign: unknown
Predecessor: Shepseskaf?
Successor: Userkaf?

Saqqara table
Turin canon
(Column III, line 16)

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 ("he endures like Ptah") according to William C. Hayes. [2] 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.

Hellenization historical spread of ancient Greek culture

Hellenization or Hellenisation is the historical spread of ancient Greek culture, religion and, to a lesser extent, language, over foreign peoples conquered by Greeks or brought into their sphere of influence, particularly during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. The result of Hellenization was that elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements; these Greek influences spread from the Mediterranean basin as far east as modern-day Pakistan. In modern times, Hellenization has been associated with the adoption of modern Greek culture and the ethnic and cultural homogenization of Greece.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

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.



Since Thamphthis' name was found in the historical works of Manetho, the Aegyptiacae, [3] egyptologists are trying to connect this ruler with contemporary kings to build up a continuous chronology, which resulted in controversies and debates.

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.

As early as 1887, Eduard Meyer viewed Thamphthis as a mere usurper, who was not allowed to be mentioned in royal annals or have his own mortuary cult because he gained the throne illegitimately. [4] Peter Janosi goes further and says that Thamphthis is a fiction, due to the lack of archaeological support. He claims that Thamphthis should be erased from modern kinglists. [5]

Eduard Meyer German historian of antiquity

Eduard Meyer was a German historian. He was the brother of Celticist Kuno Meyer (1858-1919).

A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power, often but not always in a monarchy. In other words, a person who takes the power of a country, city, or established region for himself, without any formal or legal right to claim it as his own. Usurpers are both those who overtake a region by often unexpected physical force, as well as individuals or organizations who overtake a region through political influence, machination, and subterfuge — though the word "usurper" denotes a single person; either an individual who acted alone, or the leader of a group which supported his controversial claim.

Winfried Seipel and Hermann Alexander Schlögl instead postulate that the historical figure behind Thamphthis could have been queen Khentkaus I. [6] This theory is supported by Khentkaus being depicted in her mortuary temple as a ruling pharaoh with nemes-headdress, king's beard and uraeus-diadem on her forehead. But this theory is problematic since Khentkaus' name never appears inside a serekh or royal cartouche. [7]

Khentkaus I Queen of Ancient Egypt during the 4th dynasty

Khentkaus I, also referred to as Khentkawes, was a royal woman who lived in ancient Egypt during the Fourth and the Fifth Dynasties. She may have been a daughter of king Menkaure, the wife of both king Shepseskaf and king Userkaf, the mother of king Sahure, and perhaps, in her own right, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. Her mastaba at Giza – tomb LG100 – is located very close to Menkaure's pyramid complex. This close connection may point to a family relationship. Although the relationship is not clear, the proximity of the pyramid complex of Khentkaus to that of king Menkaure has led to the conjecture that she may have been his daughter.


A serekh was a specific important type of heraldic crest used in ancient Egypt. Like the later cartouche, it contained a royal name.

Wolfgang Helck points out that Khentkaus I could have been the mother of Thamphthis, so Thamphthis would have been the son of king Shepseskaf. As a possible wife of Thamphthis he proposes a princess named Bunefer, who may have been the daughter of Shepseskaf. She was a priestess of Shepseskaf. [8] [9]

Hans Wolfgang Helck was a German Egyptologist, considered one of the most important Egyptologists of the 20th century. From 1956 until his retirement in 1979 he was a Professor at the University of Hamburg. He remained active after his retirement and together with Wolfhart Westendorf published the German Lexikon der Ägyptologie, completed in 1992. He published many books and articles on the history of Egyptian and Near Eastern culture. He was a member of the German Archaeological Institute and a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences.

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".

Bunefer ancient Egyptian queen consort

Bunefer was an Ancient Egyptian queen from the 4th or 5th dynasty. It is not known which king she was married to. Bunefer was buried in tomb G 8408 in the Central Field of the Giza Necropolis.

Name sources and contradictions

In the Manethonian tradition of the historian Sextus Julius Africanus, who translated Manetho, Thamphthis is described as the last ruler of the 4th dynasty with a reign of nine years. In the tradition of the historians Eusebius and Eratosthenes his name is missed. Eusebius gives the reason that Thamphthis was not meant to be named, for he "didn't do something worth to be mentioned". [3] [10]

Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian traveler and historian of the late second and early third centuries. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Church Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers.

Eusebius Greek church historian

Eusebius of Caesarea, also known as Eusebius Pamphili, was a historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. He became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima about 314 AD. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon and is regarded as an extremely learned Christian of his time. He wrote Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel, and On Discrepancies between the Gospels, studies of the Biblical text. As "Father of Church History", he produced the Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs. He also produced a biographical work on the first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great, who ruled between 306 and 337 AD.

Eratosthenes ancient Greek scientist

Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek polymath. He was a man of learning, becoming the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria. He invented the discipline of geography, including the terminology used today.

A further source for the chronology of rulers of the Old Kingdom is the Royal Canon of Turin, composed during the 19th dynasty around 1300 BC. It names kings which are omitted in many other kinglists. But the Turin Canon is damaged at several spots, so many royal names are fragmentary or completely lost in lacuna today. For this reason it cannot be excluded that Thamphthis' name was originally present in this document too, since the Aegyptiacae of Manetho are mostly consistent with the Turin Canon. In column III, line 12 king Khafra is mentioned, after him, in line 13, a lacuna appears. After king Shepseskaf, mentioned in line 15, a second lacuna appears. Whilst line 13 may possibly be assigned to a king Baka, the missing line 16 could have originally held Thamphthis' name. These lacunae cover two years during which a king could have reigned. [11]

The Royal kinglist of Saqqara from the tomb of Tjuneroy (19th dynasty) lists nine kings for the 4th dynasty, whilst the Abydos King List gives only six names. Curiously the Saqqara-Table has after Shepseskaf two cartouches before Userkaf, but both are heavily damaged, so the original names are no longer legible. Whilst one of these two cartouches once may have held Thamphthis' name, the other cartouche remains a mystery. [12]

A rock inscription in the Wadi Hammamat made in the Middle Kingdom presents a list of the cartouche-names of Khufu, Djedefre, Baufra and prince Djedefhor (also recorded as Hordjedef). Curiously Djedefhor's name is written in a cartouche, too. This leads to the possibility that he could have been a king for a very short while himself. If this was true, this fact would close the chronological gaps. But contemporary sources don't show Djedefhor and Baufra as kings; they give to these two only the titles of princes and call them both "son of the king". [13]

The tomb inscriptions of several high officials, princes and priests do not preserve any evidence that some kind of internal political conflict had arisen or that a usurper had seized the throne of Egypt. Prince Sekhemkare reports about his career under the kings Khafra, Menkaura, Shepseskaf, Userkaf and even Sahure, but makes no mention of Thamphthis. The same goes for the high official Netjer-pu-nesut, who was honoured under the kings Djedefre, Khafra, Menkaura, Shepseskaf, Userkaf and Sahure. Again no Thamphthis is mentioned. The 5th dynasty high priest and official Ptahshepses who served under king Niuserre and took care of the mortuary cults of king Menkaura and Shepseskaf also made no reference to Thamphthis. [14] The late Patrick F. O'Mara in a GM 158 paper notes that "no royal monument private tomb in the cemeteries of Gizeh and Saqqara record names of any other [except the aforementioned] kings for the [fourth] dynasty. No names of estates of the period compounded with royal names make mention of any other [fourth dynasty] kings than these, nor do the names of the royal grandchildren, who often bore the name of a royal ancestor as a component of their own" names. [15]

The lack of contemporary attestations for Thamphthis does not by itself prove that he was a "faux king" or 'phantom king' since he may well have been a short-lived ruler of the fourth dynasty. The stela of the fifth dynasty official Khau-Ptah is informative: while this official lists his career in an uninterrupted sequence of Sahure, Neferirkare, Raneferef and Niuserre, he completely omits Shepseskare. [16] Shepseskare or Sisires likely did not rule Egypt for the 7 years assigned to him by both Manetho and the Turin Canon judging by the paucity of contemporary records for his rule, but he certainly ruled Egypt for a brief period of time. [17] This is established by the existence of two cylinder seals identifying him [18] and four or five fragments of clay sealings bearing his name. [19] In more recent years, "several new sealings [of Shepseskare]" which were found in Abusir also show that Shepseskare did exist. [20] Verner argues that the archaeological context of the sealings show that Shepseskare succeeded Raneferef (rather than the reverse as Manetho and the Turin Canon states) and that a dynastic struggle ensued in which Shepseskare was soon overthrown by Niuserre, Raneferef's brother, after a very brief reign. This would explain the surprising omission of Shepseskare by Khau-ptah since the former was a usurper who briefly seized the throne after Raneferef's death. But there is no evidence for any dynastic difficulties in the late fourth dynasty and the complete lack of contemporary attestations for Thamphthis is strong evidence for regarding him as a phantom king. In this situation, the two year figure assigned to him by later Egyptian records could possibly be added to Shepseskaf's existing 4-year reign.


Related Research Articles

Sahure Egyptian pharaoh

Sahure was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, who reigned for about 12 years in the early 25th century BC. Sahure is considered to be one of the most important kings of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, his reign being a political and cultural high point of the Fifth Dynasty. He was probably the son of his predecessor Userkaf with queen Neferhetepes II, and was in turn succeeded by his son Neferirkare Kakai.

Hotepsekhemwy Egyptian pharaoh

Hotepsekhemwy is the Horus name of an early Egyptian king who was the founder of the 2nd dynasty. The exact length of his reign is not known; the Turin canon suggests an improbable 95 years while the Ancient Egyptian historian Manetho reports that the reign of "Boëthôs" lasted for 38 years. Egyptologists consider both statements to be misinterpretations or exaggerations. They credit Hotepsekhemwy with either a 25- or a 29-year rule.

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.

Userkaf Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh

Userkaf was an Egyptian pharaoh, founder of the Fifth Dynasty, who reigned for seven to eight years in the early 25th century BC. He belonged, in all probability, to a branch of the Fourth Dynasty royal family, although his parentage remains uncertain and the identity of his queen is in doubt. Userkaf may have been the son of Khentkaus I marrying Neferhetepes. He had at least one daughter and very probably a son who succeeded him as pharaoh Sahure.

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.

Menkauhor Kaiu Pharaoh of Egypt

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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

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Nebra (pharaoh) the Horus name of the second early Egyptian king of the 2nd dynasty

Nebra or Raneb is the Horus name of the second early Egyptian king of the 2nd dynasty. The exact length of his reign is unknown since the Turin canon is damaged and the year accounts are lost. The ancient Greek historian Manetho suggests that Nebra's reign lasted 39 years, but Egyptologists question Manetho's view as a misinterpretation or exaggeration of information that was available to him. They credit Nebra with either a 10- or 14-year rule. According to different authors, Nebra ruled Egypt c. 2850 BC, from 2820 BC to 2790 BC, 2800 BC to 2785 BC or 2765 BC to 2750 BC.


Senedj was an early Egyptian king (pharaoh), who may have ruled during the 2nd dynasty. His historical standing remains uncertain. His name is included in the kinglists of the ramesside era, although it is written in different ways: While the kinglist of Abydos imitates the archaic form, the Royal Canon of Turin and the kinglist of Sakkara form the name with the hieroglyphic sign of a plucked goose.

Neferkara I ancient Egyptian ruler

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Menkare Egyptian pharaoh

Menkare was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the first or second ruler of the Eighth Dynasty. Menkare probably reigned a short time at the transition between the Old Kingdom period and the First Intermediate Period, in the early 22nd century BC. The rapid succession of brief reigns at the time suggests times of hardship, possibly related to a widespread aridification of the Middle East, known as the 4.2 kiloyear event. As a pharaoh of the Eighth Dynasty, according to Manetho, Menkare's seat of power would have been Memphis.

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Sehetepibre Sewesekhtawy was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty during the early Second Intermediate Period, possibly the fifth or tenth king of the Dynasty.

Hudjefa is an ancient Egyptian word meaning "missing" or "erased". It was used by the royal scribes of the Ramesside era during the 19th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, when the scribes compiled king lists such as the Abydos King List, the royal table of Sakkara and the Royal Canon of Turin and the name of a deceased pharaoh was unreadable, damaged, or completely erased.


Neferkasokar was an Ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) who may have ruled in Egypt during the 2nd dynasty. Very little is known about him, since no contemporary records about him have been found. Rather his name has been found in later sources.

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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. Alan H. Gardiner: The royal canon of Turin. Griffith Institute, Oxford (UK) 1997, ISBN   0-900416-48-3, p. 16; table II.
  2. William C. Hayes: The Scepter of Egypt, Band 1. p. 66; cifer: Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen, pp. 53–54, 180.
  3. 1 2 William Gillian Waddell: Manetho (The Loeb classical library 350). pp. 47–49
  4. Eduard Meyer, Johannes Dümichen: Geschichte des alten Aegyptens. page 114.
  5. Peter Janosi: Die Gräberwelt der Pyramidenzeit. p. 151.
  6. Wilfried Seipel: Untersuchungen zu den ägyptischen Königinnen der Frühzeit und des Alten Reiches. pp. 189–190.
  7. Hermann Alexander Schlögl: Das Alte Ägypten. pp. 99–100.
  8. Wolfgang Helck: Geschichte des Alten Ägypten. pp. 57 & 61.
  9. Jánosi, Peter. "G 4712 - Ein Datierungsproblem." Göttinger Miszellen 133 (1993), pp. 56, 60–62.
  10. Alan B. Lloyd: Herodotus, book II.. pp. 77ff.
  11. Kim Ryholt, Adam Bülow-Jacobsen: Inclusion of Fictitious Kings. In: The political situation in Egypt during the second Intermediate Period. p. 17.
  12. Jürgen von Beckerath: Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten. page 24 & 216.
  13. Peter Jánosi: Giza in der 4. Dynastie. pp. 64 & 65.
  14. I. E. S. Edwards: The Cambridge ancient history, Band 3. page 176.
  15. Patrick F. O'Mara, Manetho and the Turin Canon: A Comparison of Regnal Years, GM 158, 1997, p .51 O'Mara notes that his records are based on an examination of Ld. II, Urk I, and A. Mariette, Mastabas de l'ancien empire.
  16. A. Mariette, Mastabas de l'ancien empire, 295
  17. Miroslav Verner, Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology, Archiv Orientální, Volume 69: 2001, pp.395-400
  18. G. Daressy, ASAE 15, 1915, 94f
  19. P. Kaplony, Die Rollsiegel des Altes Reiches. Katalog der Rollsiegel, Bruxelles 1981, A. Text, 289–294 and B. Talfen, 81f
  20. Miroslav Verner, Who was Shepseskare and when did he reign?, in Abusir and Saqqara in the Year 2000 (ArOr Suppl.9, 2000,) pp. 581–602