Amenmesse ruled briefly towards the end of the nineteenth dynasty (New Kingdom), but possibly only over part of Egypt. It was originally thought that he ruled in the period following the death of Merenptah, before being ousted by Seti II. More recently it has been suggested (by Krauss and Dodson) that he managed to gain control of the area around Thebes for a few years during the early part of the reign of Seti. This has not been proven, but does chime with the fact that no references to year 3 or 4 of the reign of Seti have been found in Thebes or the surrounding area, while Amenmesses is well documented in that area alone. In the excerpt from Africanus Manetho credited him with a four year reign, but in both Eusebius and Jerome gave him a rather unbelievable twenty-six year reign.

Amenmesse wearing the Blue War Crown, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The events of this turbulent period are not clear, and a number of scenarios have been put forward by scholars:

Image of Messuy with added ureaus, from Messuy, Amada and Amenmesse by Aidan Dodson

His other familial relationships are similarly obscure. While it is generally agreed that his mother was a woman named Takhat, Dodson has pointed out that there seem to have been more than one royal woman bearing that name and the usurping of statues depicting these royal women can make it hard to be sure which woman is being referred to. Similarly, it had been assumed that his wife was a woman named Baktwernel who appears in the tomb of Amenmesse. However, it is now generally agreed that her burial was a later intrusion and she was probably the wife of Ramesses XI. Aldred proposed instead that the wife of Amenmesse was Tia, the mother of Siptah. This would make the accession of Siptah more understandable as a move to mollify the supporters of Amenmesse. It may also confirm Siptah as a relative of Seti II, but also explain why he required the support of Tausret as co-regent.

We know little about his reign. He is referenced in monuments from the Theban area, and his names and titles display a notable Theban bias which may support the suggestion that he only held sway in the south. Although his Nebty name is the same as that of Horemheb (another ruler whose rise to power was by unconventional means) be must be careful not to read too much into this as Nebty names asserting the divine connections were also adopted by pharaohs (like Ramesses II) who had no need to bolster their legitimacy.

Some consider that the Tale of Two Brothers may be referring to the dynastic difficulties of the period, but more direct evidence of the disruption comes from details of a feud in the Workers Village of Deir el Medina. Papyrus Salt 124 (dated to the beginning of the twentieth dynasty) records that on of the chief workmen (Neferhotep) died and was replaced by Paneb, his adopted son. Neferhoteps brother (Amennakhte) accused Paneb of numerous serious crimes including rape, theft, attempted murder, bribery and corruption. According to the document Neferhotep had prevoiously complained about the behaviour of Paneb to the vizier, Amenmose, who had punished Paneb. However, Paneb had then successfully complained to Mose or Msy – possibly Amenmesse himself. Whatever the truth of either sides accusations, it is clear that this was a fairly turbulent period.

Cartouche of Amenmesse on a jar, Petrie Museum copyright Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin

There is little doubt that Seti undertook to remove references to Amenmesse's reign, but he too seems to have been guilty of usurping monuments. As the sculptors often took great pains to entirely remove the name being replaced we cannot be sure who was named in the original text. Texts in the Cachette Court of Karnak are considered by some to have been originally carved for Ramesses II, usurped by Merenptah, then Amenmesse and finally Seti II! Brand concluded that it was most likely that Amenmesse began removing text of Merenptah in order to remove a link to the crown-prince Seti Merenptah whose position he had usurped. Once Seti II had regained or taken control of the monument, he removed the names of Amenmesse replacing them with his own, but leaving any undamaged examples of Merenptahs name intact.

We do not know how his reign came to an end, but there is no evidence that he was ever buried in the tomb he had planned for himself (KV 10). If he was it is likely that the burial was despoiled shortly after his death. His mumy did not turn up in any of the later caches and his tomb was clearly defaced. Strangely the cartouches were not entirely removed but rather scarred and scratched. leaving them still readable. References to him in more public places were more thoroughly destroyed.

Pharaoh's Names

copyright J Hill 2018
Return to Top
Ancient Egypt Online