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x The Twenty-First Dynasty

Pharaoh Smendes

Smendes proclaimed himself king after the death of Ramses XI. He effectively declared himself the heir of the Ramesside line through the set of titles he adopted: his Horus name was ‘Powerful Bull Beloved by Re, whose Arm is Strengthened by Amun so that he may Exalt Maat’. His origins are unknown and the familial links which he claimed to have with Herihor seem unlikely – it is more probable that he legitimized his power by marrying a daughter of Ramses XI. Given his apparent lack of royal blood, his authority was openly acknowledged in Thebes. It was Smendes who reconstructed part of the enclosure wall of the Karnak Temple. He moved the capital from Pirarilesse to Tanis. Smendes also resided at Memphis, and it was from there that he ordered a new program of building activity in the Luxor Temple. It is possible that he was reinstating Memphis as primary political centre and royal residence, but it is actually more likely that he was simply based there where the buildings at Tanis were being constructed, since it was at Tanis that he was buried after a reign of just over 25 years. At the same time, as Smendes was proclaimed king, the office of High Priest of Amun changed for the second time since Herihor. By the 25th year of Ramses XI’s reign, Piankh had taken over from Herihor. His origins were as obscure as those of his predecessor, who may have been his father-in-law and from whom he inherited the command of the armies of Upper Egypt. His subsequent attempt to gain control over Nubia was apparently unsuccessful, since he was still engaged in war against Panehsy’s rebels in the 28th year of Ramses Xl’s reign. Unlike Herihor, Piankh managed to leave behind an heir: in 1070 B.C his son Pinudjem succeeded him as High Priest of Amun and commander-in-Chief of the armies of Upper Egypt. These offices remained in Pinudjem’s tutelary throughout the reign of Smendes, whose authority he recognized, since he did not assume the royal right of dating events with reference to his own years of office any more than Herihor had. When he supervised the reburial of the royal mummies, for instance, he dated the affair to the years six through fifteen of Smendes’ reign.

Pharaoh Pinudjem

In the 16th year of Smendes’ reign, Pinudjem adopted a set of royal titles that clearly stated the Theban origins of his power: his Horus name was ‘Powerful Bull, Crowned in Thebes and Beloved of Amun’. From this point on, his name was written in a cartouche and is found in inscriptions at Thebes, Koptos, Abydos, and even Tanis. He still did not date events according to the years of his own reign, however even though he had now passed on the office of High Priest firstly to his son Masaharta and then in 1045 BC to another son, Menkheperre. The basis of Pinudjem’s power with which he usurped the authority of the pharaoh and established his own independent rule lay in the long history of interaction between the secular and religious spheres: in return for providing political support to the pharaohs, the Theban Priesthood had grown in power during the Eighteenth Dynasty, benefiting particularly from the spoils of Egypt’s conquest. On the other hand, Pinudjem married Henuttawy, who was of royal blood, with the aim of preserving the practical reality of his power. By her, he had four children: the next king Psusennes I, Masaharta and Menkheperre, the successive High Priests of Amun, and a daughter called Maatkare (who combined the roles of God’s Wife and Chief of the Priestesses of Amun in one title: Divine Adoratrice, sole wife of the god).

Pharaoh Psusennes I

In the brief period between the death of Smendes and the coronation of Psusennes I, the country was effectively split into two parts: ruled by the high priest and the pharaoh respectively, with the former expressing the will of Amun that enabled the latter to exercise royal power. This new political situation formed the background to the Tale of Wenamun which relates the story of an ambassador sent to Phoenicia to bring back a shipment of wood for the construction of the Sacred Bark of Amun. The story took place at the end of Ramses XI’s reign, but Smendes is not mentioned as regent. Wenamun was robbed on his way to Byblos and it was only after some struggle that the prince of Byblos agreed to supply the wood, and at a considerable price. When Smendes died, power was split between two co-regents: Neferkare Amenemnisu ‘Amunis the King’, who was probably a son of Herihor, and Psusennes I who reigned until his death in 993 BC. Amenemnisu was already on the political scene in the early years of the Theban pontificate of Menkheperre. He faced the final effects of the civil war, which Thebes witnessed as a result of the growing power of the chief priests. Amenemnisu exiled his opponents to the oases of the Western Desert, which must then have been more or less under the control of the Libyan chiefs, and then he pardoned them under an oracle from Amun, recorded on a stela. This marked the beginning of concessions made by the kings to the great families of the Theban priesthood; these families would have been shocked to see their privileges usurped by the descendants of Herihor, who were only Libyan immigrants. Between 1040 and 1039 BC, Psusennes I (whose name means ‘the Star Appearing in the City’) succeeded in securing in his own person the religious and political factors of the country. He clearly emphasized his Theban heritage: his Horus name was ‘Powerful Bull Crowned at Thebes’ and his Two Ladies name was ‘Great Builder in Karnak’. It is known that in the 40th year of Psusennes I’s reign the Chief Priest Menkheperre inspected the temples at Karnak, and that an enclosure wall was built to the north of the Temple of Amun eight years later in order to protect them from the encroachment of private housing. Psusennes I also strengthened his links with the priesthood of Amun by marrying his daughter Istemkheb to the Chief Priest Menkheperre. Like his successors, Psusennes I himself was Chief Priest of Amun at Tanis, but he also traced his succession back to Ramses XI by renaming himself ‘Ramses-Psusennes’. At Tanis, Psusennes I built a new enclosure around the temple dedicated to the triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. If the few traces of reuse of earlier monuments are to be believed, he made many other contributions to the temple, but because of the current condition of the site, little is known concerning this work. There is no much indication of the part played by Psusennes I in the construction of the town of Tanis, which has still not been properly excavated. Psusennes I built a tomb for himself to the south-west of the enclosure wall and it was there that Montet found the mummies and funerary equipment of both Psusennes I and his wife Mutnedjmet. A tomb had also been prepared for the Crown Prince Ankhefenmut and for a high official called Wen-djeba-en-Djed, who was appointed both to high religious offices and to the post of Commander-in-Chief of the armies.

Pharaoh Amenemipet

For some unknown reason, Psusennes I’s successor, Amenemipet, was buried in the tomb intended for Mutnedjmet rather than in the one prepared for himself. Osorkon I later buried Hekakheperre Sheshonq II in this same tomb. Nearby, Montet found the tombs of Osorkon II and his son Hornakht, as well as that of Sheshonq III. The transfer of power took place at about the same time in both Thebes and Tanis. At Tanis, Amenemipet succeeded Psusennes I, who may have been his father. Amenemipet reigned for almost ten years and the fact that his tomb was not as rich as that of his predecessor may be an indication that he was less powerful, although his reign was still uncontested at Thebes.

Pharaoh Smendes II

It is clear that Smendes II succeeded his father Menkheperre as Theban Chief Priest before the death of Psusennes I, since Smendes II sent a pair of bracelets to Psusennes I on the occasion of his father’s death, and these were eventually discovered by Montet among Psusennes I’s funerary equipment. Smendes II was probably already quite old when he assumed the office of Chief Priest of Amun at Thebes, for he passed on the post to his young son Pinudjem II after a period of only two years.

Pharaoh Aakheperre Setepenre

For a long period the identity of Aakheperre Setepenre was unknown and he was only believed to be a prominent political figure. In 1977, new discoveries and interpretations proved that Aakheperre Setepenre was Osorkon the Elder; the fifth king in the 21st Dynasty. He was the first Libyan Pharaoh in Egypt history and there is no reference to the use of violence for the accession to the throne. He was the son of Sheshonq A, the Lybian Chief or Ma and Lady Mehtenweskhet and the brother of Nimlot, the Great Chief of Ma and Tentshepeh, the daughter of the Chief of the Ma. His mother was renowned as the “King’s Mother” this title was the main clue for identifying the reality of Osorkon the Elder since there are many kings with the coronation name of Osorkon, but he is the only one whose mother is called” Mehtenweskhet” and given that title. The reign of king Aakheperre Setepenre extended in the period (984-978) and he was succeeded by King Siamun.

Pharaoh Siamun

Siamun is one of the most well-known figures of the Twenty-first Dynasty. This is despite the fact that Siamun’s reign was marked by the last great phase of looting in the Theban Necropolis, which led the Chief Priest of Amun to re-inter the royal mummies in the Tomb of Inhapy. Siamun built extensively at Tanis, doubling the size of the Temple of Amun and undertaking various works in the Temple of Horus of Mesen. He also transferred the remains of Amenemipet to the Tomb of Mutnedjmet. He built at Heliopolis and perhaps also at Piramesse, where a surviving block bears his name. A temple dedicated to a secondary aspect of Amun was built during his reign at Memphis. This temple was an example of the same kind of classic craftsmanship as the small bronze sphinx inlaid with gold, which bears the features of Siamun. He also bestowed favors on the Memphite Priesthood of Ptah, but his activities were limited to Lower Egypt and he appeared only on a few Theban monuments. During the reign of Siamun, Egypt reverted to a more dynamic foreign policy. Indeed, there is no surviving Egyptian evidence for the foreign policy of the earlier Twenty-first Dynasty Kings, presumably because they had none. The period from the end of the reign of Psusennes I to the middle of the reign of Siamun corresponds with the time of David’s uniting of the tribes of Israel around the Kingdom of Jerusalem and their war with the Palestinians. The Egyptians only became involved in a very indirect way at the beginning of these struggles, when they provided sanctuary for Hadad, the Crown Prince of Edom, whose kingdom had been conquered by David. Hadad married an Egyptian princess and his son Genubath was brought up at the Egyptian Royal Court. When David died, Hadad returned to his kingdom, and Egypt maintained certain links with her neighbors. When Solomon succeeded David on the throne, Egypt sent a campaign against the Palestinians and captured the city of Gezer. This campaign was perhaps illustrated by a relief found at Tanis, and the reason behind launching it was probably commercial: the Palestinians were endangering the Egyptians’ trade with Phoenicia. Siamun was clearly taking immediate advantage of the Palestinians’ relative weakness after the wars waged against them by David. He made his move before the military strength of the troops gathered together by David could crush the Palestinians themselves, thus imposing their own conditions on the Egyptian merchants. This new alliance between Egypt and Israel, by which Egypt safeguarded its commercial outlet and Israel ensured the security of its southern border, was consecrated by a marriage. It was Solomon who married an Egyptian princess, thus inaugurating a tradition of non-royal marriages for the princesses of the Nile Valley. The family relationships between Siamun, Amenemipet and Osorkon the Elder are not clearly known. Nor is there definite evidence concerning the links between Siamun and his successor Psusennes II. It is not even possible to determine whether Psusennes II is the same person as the Theban Chief Priest Psusennes, who succeeded Pinudjem II in this office.

Pharaoh Psusennes II

Probably related by marriage to the royal family, Psusennes II was the last ruler of the Twenty-first Dynasty. With his death, the throne passed to the line of Great Chiefs of the Meshwesh, whose period of ascendancy began with the reign of Sheshonq the Elder. This marks the beginning of the Libyan domination.

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