Piye in Tour Egypt
PIYE AND THE 25TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN
Most references point to Piye as being the first ruler of the 25th Dynasty. Obviously, different references refer to him
under different names. We believe he ruled Kush (Nubia) from about 750 to 719 BC. Piankhi was his birth name. But in
various references, we see his birth name referred to as Piankhy, Piye, Piy and Piyi. However, some references point out
that his true name was Piye, and that this was wrongly read as Piankhi. His Throne Name was Men-kheper-re, meaning "The
Manifestation of Re Abides"). But this name too will vary, being also spelled Menkheperra. Of course, this king, as most
others, had several other names which are not generally provided.
Piye ascended the Nubian (Kushite) thrown (or at least its northern half) as the successor of Kashta, which explains why at
least one reference refers to Kashta as the founder of the 25th Dynasty. Kashta apparently had made some earlier advances
into Egypt. But it was Piye who, for the first time, consolidated the rulership of Nubia and Egypt.
From the earliest dynastic periods, Nubia was always a matter of conquest for the Egyptian pharaohs, and as such, much of
Nubia was often under the control of Egypt. At times, it was very much a part of Egypt, and the customs of Nubia were a
reflection of those in at least Upper Egypt. This perhaps explains Piye's seemingly strong emotional ties with Egypt, what
he considered to be part of his motherland, even though he was not from Egypt proper.
So at least towards the end of the Third Intermediate Period, when Egypt seems to have surrendered to chaos with four kings
claiming rule within Egypt, as well as a number of local chieftains exercising control, particularly in the Delta, Piye
decided to step in and fix Egypt's problems.
Kashta had a stele erected at the Elephantine Temple of Khnum (current day Aswan), but in the early ears of Piye's reign,
he extended his rule to Thebes itself. There, he had his sister, Amenirdis I, named as the successor of Shepenwepet I, who
had the title, "God's Wife of Amun". Shepenwepet I was the sister of Rudamun of the Theban 23rd Dynasty, and apparently
both Rudamun and Piye were recognized at Thebes at the same time. After the death of Rudamun, the Theban royal line seems
to have abandoned Thebes in favor of Hierakleopolis, where Peftjauawy-bast, the last king of his dynasty remained an ally
Soon, Piye was given a reason to intervene further north. Tefnakhte (a Lybian), the Prince of Western Egypt based in the
Delta city of Sais extended his control south by taking the city of Memphis, as well as the old Middle Kingdom of Itj-tawy
(Lisht). At first, Piye merely checked Tefnakhte's movement south with a pair of naval battles in Middle Egypt, though he
left the Saite rulers in control of the North.
However, after spending New Years in Nubia, Piye returned to Thebes in time for the great Opet Festival, and subsequently
set about taking the remainder of Egypt under his control. His troops moved north, capturing three towns, and killing one
of Tefnakhte's sons in the process. Soon, Piye attacked the city of Ashmunein which was ruled by Nimlot, once an ally of
Piye. Using wooden siege towers, the city fell after five months.
Further North, Hierakleopolis, ruled by Piye's loyal ally, King Peftjauawybast, had been threatened by Tefnakhte, but the
capture of Nimlot relieved the pressure on Hierakleopolis, and soon Piye had control of every major center south of
Memphis, as well as capturing another of Tefnakhte's sons.
The only real obstacle left for Piye was Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt. While the city was heavily fortified and
defended, as well as the water of the Nile protecting its walls, Piye was able to use the masts of boats and ships in the
Memphite harbor to assault the city and scale the walls. In very short order, Memphis too was bought under his control.
It is said that his first act was to protect the temple of Ptah, and then to go there himself to be anointed and to
With the capture of Memphis, most of the Delta rulers soon yielded to the Kushite king. One notable exception was
Tefnakhte, who even went so far as to mount another, but unsuccessful campaign against Piye. Finally, he to submitted to
Piye's rule of Egypt, taking an oath of loyalty.
After conquering Egypt, Piye simply went home to Nubia, and to our knowledge, never again returned to Egypt. He is
portrayed as a ruler who did not glory in the smiting of his adversaries, as did other kings, but rather preferred treaties
and alliances. He left the rule of the country largely in the hands of his vassals, but recorded his victories on a stela
(called the Victory Stela, now in the Egyptian Museum) at Napata. He left few monuments in Egypt, other than an expansion
of the Temple of Amun at Thebes (current day Luxor). Later, Tefnakhte would again claim kingdom and as the founder of the
24th Dynasty, rule at least the western Delta. However, later successors to Piye would consolidate their control over
Egypt, at least for a time.
Upon Piye's death, he was buried at El-Kurru, where he erected a small pyramid resembling the tall, narrow structures that
had been built above many private tombs of Egypt's New Kingdom.