Pharaoh Ramses VI

The inscriptions which mention him speak with a certain emphasis of his monuments in honor of the gods; but of these, those which have survived the ravages of time are reduced to a very small number. The most important edifice, and the most instructive on account of its representations and inscriptions, is his great and splendid tomb in the royal valley of Biban-el-Moluk. The tables of the hours, with the times of the risings of the stars, which formed the houses of the sun's course in the 36 or 37 weeks of the Egyptian year, will be for all times the most valuable contribution to astronomical science in the 12th century before our era. According to the researches of the French savant, Biot, whose labors in the department of astronomical calculation, in order to fix certain epochs of Egyptian history, are almost the only ones which have treated the subject with scientific accuracy, the drawing up of these tables of stars would fall in the reign of Ramses VI, in the year 1240 B.C. Our learned fellow countryman, Professor Lepsius, has, however, from his own point of view, sought to prove that herein lay an error and that, on the authority of the already cited table of hours in the grave of this king, the year 1194 is indicated as the only proper date. This last view does not difier very much from our calculation of 1166, deduced from the number of successive generations.

The foregoing inscription is found in a rock-tomb at Anibe, little visited by travelers, on the western bank of the Nile, opposite the village of Ibrim, about fifty kilometers (31 miles) north of Ibsambul. The owner of the tomb was an official of king Ramses VI, of the name of Penni, who, in his office as Adon or governor of the land of Wawa, died and was buried in this lonely region. The directions he left behind him, particularly with regard to the number of estates, the produce of which was devoted to the maintenance of the service of a statue of the king, hardly require an explanation. What makes the inscription particularly valuable is the designation of lands in those parts, and the offices connected with them. He himself, as we have already remarked, was Adon of Wawa. Another Adon is mentioned by the name of Meri. The sun-city of Pira is the ancient designation of the modern place Derr, or Dirr. The city mentioned by the name of Ama, in which a Nubian Horus enjoyed an especial worship, is very often named in the inscriptions, and seems to have been the ancient appellation of Ibrim. At Pira (Derr), in all probability, was the seat of the administration of the whole country of Wawa. The districts of Ahi and the gold land of Akita belonged to it, the revenues of which Penni had to collect and pay over to the Pharaoh. For his especial diligence in the fulfillment of his service to the court he was most warmly commended by the “King's son of Kush” of that time, whose name unfortunately is passed over in silence. On a royal visit, the king appears accompanied by the above-named Meri, who is also called “the superintendent of the temple”, to recommend his officials to the grace of Pharaoh. The statue of the royal lord, which had been set up, plays here an important part. His Majesty appears to have been much pleased with the services of his faithful servant, since he presented Penni with two silver vessels filled with precious ointments, as a reward of honor. Penni was certainly an artist, as is shown by the statue of Pharaoh, and his rock tomb adorned with rich sculptiu-es in stone, but especially by his office, mentioned in the inscriptions, of “master of the quarry”, besides that of a “superintendent of the temple of Horus”, the lord of the town of Ama.

These and similar statements are confirmed by the pictures and writings in his eternal dwelling, where he rests surrounded by his numerous relations. The several members of his family appear all to have held during their lifetime various offices in the Horus-city of Ama. I find among them a chief priest of Isis, whose son was the Amenemapi named in the inscription; also two treasurers of the king in Ama, a captain of the city of Ama, a priest and a scribe, while the women are mostly named as female singers of Amon or of Horus, the lord of the town of Ama.

When all historical data for depicting the life and deeds of a king fail, the family information contained in the tomb of a contemporary becomes of importance, even if it teaches us nothing else than that in the times of Ramses VI. the Egyptian dominion south of the tropic was still maintained, and that among the "King's sons of Kush" there were several Adons, corresponding to the districts of Kush, to whom again were subordinated the H'a, or governors of the towns.

Ramses II's Father, Sons and Daughters

It is scarcely worth while to relate what Ramses II did for the buildings of his father at Abydus. In the course of his long reign the king completed the temple. When the great building was completely finished, Ramses must have been already advanced in years, since not less than sixty sons and fifty-nine daughters of Ramses II greeted in their pictures the entrance of the pilgrims at the principal gate. In proportion as the works executed under Seti, the father, present to the astonished eyes of the beholder splendid examples of Egyptian architecture and sculpture, just so poor and inferior are the buildings which were executed under the reign of Ramses, and which bear the names of the Conquering King. The feeling also of gratitude towards his parent seems to have gradually faded away with Ramses, as years increased upon him, to such a degree, that he did not even deem it wrong to chisel out the names and memorials of his father in many places of the temple walls, and to substitute his own.

As we wish to leave it to our readers to form their own opinion on the boastful Ramses, we will turn to another field of his activity, and follow him, in the 5th year of his reign, to the stream of the Orontes in Syria, the waters of which washed the fortress of Kadesh on all sides.

Monuments of Ramses II

This is the king who above all others bears the name of honor of A-nakhtu "the Conqueror", and whom the monuments and the rolls of the books often designate by his popular names of Ses, Sestesu, Setesu, or Sestura, that is, the "Sethosis, who is also called Ramesses" of the Manethonian record, and the renowned legendary conqueror Sesostris of the Greek historians.

The number of his monuments, which still to the present day cover the soil of Egypt and Nubia in almost countless numbers, as the ruined remnants of a glorious past, or are daily brought to light from their concealment, is so great and almost countless, that the historian of his life and deeds finds himself in a difficulty where to begin, how to spin together the principal threads, and where to end his work. If to honor the memory of his father be the chief duty and the first work of a dutiful son, and we shall see that this was the persuasion of Ramses II, the beginning is made easy for us, and we shall honor the king's memory in the worthiest manner by using the very words of the great Sesostris about his first acts on entering upon his sole reign.

Temple of Ramses II in Abydos:

King Seti had died. The temple of Abydus stood half finished. The first royal care of Ramses was to complete the work, and in a long inscription on the left wall of the entrance, to record the intention with which his heart was charged, for the imitation of his contemporaries and of posterity.

The lord of the land arose as king, to show honor to his father, in his first year, on his first journey to Thebes. He had caused likenesses of his father, who was King Seti I, to be sculptured, the one in Thebes, the other in Memphis at the entrance gate, which he had executed for himself, besides those which were in Nifur, the necropolis of Abydus. Thus he fulfilled the wish which moved his heart, since he had been on earth, on the ground of the god Unnofer. He renewed the remembrance of his father, and of those who rest in the under world, in that he made his name to live, and caused his portraits to be made, and fixed the revenues set apart for his venerated person, and filled his house and richly decked out his altars. The walls were rebuilt, which had become old in his favorite house, the halls in his temple were rebuilt, its walls were covered, its gates were raised up; whatever had fallen into decay in the burial place of his father in the Necropolis was restored, and the works of art which had been carried away were brought back into the interior.

All this did the Conquering King Ramses II for his father Seti I. He established for him the sacrifices in rich profusion, in his name and in that of the earlier kings. His breast had a tender feeling towards his parent, and his heart beat for him who brought him up.

Menkaure (2532–2504 B.C.)

After Khafra's passage home to the realm of the dead, where the king of the gods, Osiris, held the sceptre, Men-kau-ra (Menkaure), Mencheres, ascended the throne. This is the Mykerinos, Mencherinos, about whom the Greek authors relate that he erected the third pyramid as a memorial of honour. It is called in the texts by the name of hir, that is, "the high one".

When Colonel Vyse found his way to the middle of the chamber of the dead and entered into the silent space of "Eternity", his eye discerned, as the last trace of Menkaura's place of burial, the wooden cover of the sarcophagus, and the stone coffin hewn out of one hard block, beautifully adorned outside in the style of a temple, according to the fashion of the masters of the old empire. The sarcophagus rests now at the bottom of the Mediterranean, the English vessel which was conveying it having been wrecked near Gibraltar. The cover, which was saved, thanks to the material of which it was composed, is now exhibited in the gallery of Egyptian antiquities in the British Museum. Its outside is adorned with a short text conceived in the following terms:

"Osiris, who hast become king of Egypt, Menkaura hving eternally, child of Olympus, son of Urania, heir of Kronos, over thee may she stretch herself and cover thee, thy divine mother, Urania, in her name as mystery of heaven. May she grant that thou shouldest be like God, free from all evils, King Menkaura, living eternally".

This prayer is of very ancient origin, for there are examples of it found on the covers of sarcophagi belonging to the dynasties of the ancient empire. The sense of it is full of significance. Delivered from mortal matter, the soul of the defunct king passes through the immense space of heaven to imite itself with God, after having overcome the evil which opposed it during its life on its terrestrial journey.

According to classic traditions King Mencheres enjoyed a very good reputation among pharaonic ancestors. He is described as a man distinguished for his justice and kindness, as also for his piety in regard to all that concerned the worship of the gods. For this reason the Egyptians after his death accorded him the honors of a god, by establishing a special worship dedicated to his memory. I do not know if we ought to attribute a great importance to this worship. The Egyptians rendered him the same honor which the kings, his predecessors, enjoyed after their decease.

For the monuments of the time of the building of the pyramids mention priests and prophets which were devoted to the service of Kheops, Chabryes, and other rulers, and who oflfered them sacrifices and attended to their service, after the "lord of the world" had left the hght and descended to the depth of his grave. As to the religious sentiments which we attribute to the Pharaoh Mencheres, it seems in fact that Mencheres Pius occupied himself during his Ufe by a certain predilection with sacred literature. The book called Pirem-lieru, the so-called "departure from day", recalls his memory particularly in gate 64.

According to the words of the text the author finishes the gate with this remark:

"This gate was discovered in the town of Hermopolis, engraved on a block of alabaster, and painted in blue color under the feet of this god. It was discovered at the epoch of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Mencheres the defunct, by the prince his son, Hortotef, when he undertook a journey to inspect the temples of Egypt. He brought it as a wonderful thing to the king, after having recognized the contents full of mystery".

Queen Nofretari

The name of the architect Ahmose has not been perpetuated on the walls of the Theban temples, but the rock tablets of Maassara down to the present hour have in the inscriptions preserved the memorial of him, and by the side of him the remembrance of his consort, the great heiress-queen NOFERT-ARI-AHMOSE, that is, "the beautiful companion of Ahmose." Not only the rocky caverns of Toora and Maassara, within sight of Memphis, the capital of the oldest dynasties, but also a number of public monuments in the interior of the dark chambers of the tombs of the Theban Necropolis, have clearly preserved the name of this queen, surrounded by laudatory inscriptions.

Long after her decease this great ancestress of the new empire was venerated as a divine being, and her image was placed as an equal among the eternal inhabitants of the Egyptian heaven. In the united assembly of the sainted first kings of the new empire, Nofert-ari-Ahmose, the divine spouse of Ahmose, sits enthroned at the head of all the Pharaonio pairs, and before all the royal children of their race, as the specially venerated ancestress and founder of the eighteenth dynasty. As such she was called "the daughter, sister, wife, and mother of a king," besides her title of "wife of the God Amon," which expression designated the chief priestess of the tutelary God of Thebes (but not more than that).

On several monuments the beautiful companion of Ahmose is represented with a black skin, and the conclusion has hence been drawn that she had to boast or to be ashamed of a negro origin. In spite of the intelligent surmises which have been put forward, on the side of the learned, to discover high state reasons from the color of her skin, namely, that a treaty concluded by the Pharaoh Ahmose with the neighbouring negro peoples for a common effort to drive out the shepherd kings was sealed by this marriage, it seems to me that, in this supposition, two points of view have been entirely neglected. First, the dark color is found not infrequently employed in the paintings in the tombs of the kings at Thebes, so as to offer by the side of the other brightly coloured pictures of the Pharaohs an evident allusion to their stay in the dark night of the grave.

This intention of the painter would appear all the more probable in the case of our raven-coloured queen, as she is not on every occasion represented black, but sometimes she appears on the walls of the tombs at Thebes with a yellow color to her skin like all Egyptian women. In the second place, the negroes with their queen, allied to them (as is said) in race, owed small thanks to the house of Egypt, since Ahmose, after conquering his enemies in the north, immediately turned his arms against the brethren and the people of his own wife, by whose help alone, it is supposed, he had been able to obtain a victory over his hereditary enemy.

We must therefore consider, and for the sake of King Ahmose we must wish it to be so, that Nofertari, belonging to the Egyptian stock, represented an heiress, to whom had descended by birth and by law the right of succession to" the Theban throne. As the husband of such an heiress Ahmose only occupied the second place by her side, and it was reserved to the son of them both, according to the laws of the Egyptian succession, to bear the sceptre as the legitimate full king over both the great divisions of the empire.