AMENHOTEP I, THE SECOND KING OF EGYPT'S 18TH DYNASTY
by Jimmy Dunn.
The son of Ahmose and Queen Ahmose Nefretiri, Amenhotep I was the second king of the 18th Dynasty. He may have ascended to the throne at a relatively
young age, for an elder brother had been designated as heir only about five years earlier. He may have even served a brief co-regency with his
father, however. He evidently carried on many of the practices of his father, and his mother certainly played an important part in his reign, acting
as God's Wife of Amun.. Amenhotep I may have been married to his sister, (Ahmose-) Merytamun, who was a God's Wife of Amun, though there is
apparently little documentation to substantiate this relationship. Better known is this king's daughter, Satamun, who is known both from her coffin
found in one of the royal mummy caches, and from two statues at central and southern Karnak.
Because of chronology problems, the king's rule is uncertain. We believe that a heliacal rising of Sirius was seen during his reign, as recorded by
the Papyrus Ebers1, which states:
"Ninth year of the reign of his majesty the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Djeserkare - may he live forever! Festival of the New Year: third month of
summer, ninth day - rising of Sirius"
Urk. Iv 44, 5-6
Hence, Nicoloas Grimal tells us in A History of Ancient Egypt:
"If this is evidence for a heliacl rising of Sirius, the astronomical calculation gives the date 1537 BC for the rising, and therefore 1546 BC for
the beginning of Amenophis' reign, but only if the astronomical observation was made at Memphis. If, however, the observation was made at Thebes -
which would logically have been the reference point if it was the capital - twenty years have to be deducted from the figure, giving the date of 1517
BC for the astronomical event and 1526 BC for the coronation of Amenophis I"
Most Egyptologists assign Amenhotep I a reign of 25 or fewer years. However, it should be mentioned that on a number of his monuments at the Temple
of Karnak are found various Jubilee (Sed-festival) scenes. The Sed-festival was normally celebrated after 30 years of the king's rule, but in this
case the structure may have been built in anticipation of the festival.
Amenhotep was this kings birth name, which means "Amun is Pleased". He is also known as Amenhotpe I, and Amenophis I by the early Greeks. His throne
name was Djeser-ka-re, or "Holy is the Soul of Re". His Horus name was Ka-Waf-Taw (Bull who conquers the land) and his "Two Ladies" name was Aa-nerw
(He who inspires great terror).
Regardless of the ferocity of his "Two Ladies" name, Amenhotep I seems to have had a fairly peaceful reign. He may have faced a Libyan uprising his
first year as king, but if he did, Amenhotep I successfully overcame the ancient enemies preventing an invasion in the Delta area. We learn from
inscriptions provided by Ahmose son of Ebana, with verification from Ahmose-Pen-Nekhbet, that Amenhotep I also led a military expedition into Kush
(Nubia) in about year eight of his reign past the second cataract of the Nile, and apparently after his victory, brought captives back to Thebes.
However, this appears to have been little more than a skirmish. He appointed a man named Turi as Viceroay of Kush, and established a temple marking
Egypt's southern boundary at the Nubian down of Sai.
Because of perhaps a dozen years of peaceful rule during Amenhotep I's reign, his accomplishments included elaborate building work. Amenhotep I
repaired and restored many ancient temples along the Nile. We find evidence of his work in Upper Egyptian sites such as Elephantine, Kom Ombo, Abydos
and the temple of Nekhbet, but he seems to have done little building work in Lower Egypt. Many of the sites where Amenhotep I built had also seen
activity by his father, and at Abydos, for example, he erected a chapel commemorating Ahmose.
But the building projects Amenhotep I is best known for were at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes where he utilized different types of stone including
alabaster from Hatnub (and Bosra) and sandstone from the quarries of Gebel el-Silsila. Amenhotep I was responsible for a large, limestone gateway at
Karnak that has now been reconstructed. It was decorated with Jubilee festival decorations. The gate may have at one time been the main south
entrance that was later replaced by the Seventh Pylon. He also had a bark shrine built for the god Amun that was probably erected in the west front
court of the temple. Later, Amenohotep III would use some of his predecessor's work at Karnak as fill for his Third Pylon, including a sacred bark
chapel of the finest alabaster and a limestone copy of the White Chapel of Senusret I. Interestingly, many of Amenhotep I's relief carvings on the
limestone monuments at Karnak are so much of a conscious emulation of Senusret I's artists that it has been difficult for archaeologists to
determine to whom they should be assigned.
Apparently, his building works were caused him to also restore the mines at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai where he also expanded the Middle Kingdom
temple of Hathor.
It would seem that by the end of Amenhotep I's reign, the main characteristics of the 18th Dynasty had been established, including a clear devotion
to the cult of Amun at Karnak, its successive military conquests in Nubia and its closed royal family with a developing administrative organization
drawn from powerful families and collateral relatives.
Amenhotep I was given the rare honor of being declared a titular god upon his death by the priests. He was regarded as the patron god of the Theban
necropolis, alongside his mother, Ahmose Nefretiri, who's posthumous renown probably exceeded that of her son. In fact, her name appears in the
litany of Amenhotep I's own cult.
Amenhotep I and his mother were especially worshipped at Deir el-Medina on the west bank at Thebes, where the craftsmen and who build and decorated
the royal tombs lived. In fact, this community was probably either established in his or his father's reign. Peret, the third month in ancient
Egypt, was devoted to and named after Amenhotep I, and several rituals dramatizing his death, burial and resurrection took place at Deir el-Medina
during the month of Peret. However, Amenhotep I became a fairly major deity with a number of festivals throughout the year.
The king and his mother's cult remained strong, particularly at Deir el-Medina, throughout the New Kingdom. However, most houses during the Ramessid
era contained, in their front rooms, a scene honoring the two. They were usually depicted with black or blue skin, the colors of resurrection, and so
were associated with that religious element.
He was probably the first pharaoh to build his tomb some distance from his mortuary temple, a practice that would be emulated by his successors.
While the mortuary temple itself has been located, his tomb remains a mystery. Some Egyptologists believe it to be an uninscribed tomb at Dra Abu el-
Naga, outside of the Valley of the Kings, while others believe it might be KV 39 within the Valley proper. While we have not established its
location, and inspection report on the tomb in year 16 of Ramesses IX's rule reported the tomb to be intact at that time. His mummy, along with his
father's and a number of others, was found in excellent condition in the royal mummy cache of 1881.
Some information appears to indicate that Amenhotep I's son died in infancy, while other resources tell us he died childless. At any rate, his
military commander, Tuthmoses (I), who was married to the king’s sister, princess Ahmose, assumed the throne upon Amenhotep I's death. There is
even a possibility that Tuthmosis I was a grandson of Ahmose, the father of Amenhotep I. He may have even served as a co-regent prior to Amenhotep
1. It should be noted that Papyrus Ebers, which dates from Amenhotep I's rule and is now in the Leipzig Museum, is one of our main sources of
evidence on ancient Egyptian medicine. Also, the existence of a festival calendar recorded on this papyrus, along with other evidence suggesting an
increased interest in astronomical observations, suggest that Amenhotep I may possibly have wished to rework earlier calendars.
Amenhotep I (sometimes read as Amenophis I and meaning "Amun is satisfied") was the second Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt.
His reign is generally dated from 1526 to 1506 BC. He was born to Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari, but had at least two elder
brothers, Ahmose-ankh and Ahmose Sapair, and was not expected to inherit the throne. However, sometime in the eight years
between Ahmose I's 17th regnal year and his death, his heir apparent died and Amenhotep became crown prince. He then acceded
to the throne and ruled for about 21 years.
Although his reign is poorly documented, it is possible to piece together a basic history from available evidence. He inherited
the kingdom formed by his father's military conquests and maintained dominance over Nubia and the Nile Delta, but probably did
not attempt to keep power in Syrio-Palestine. He continued to rebuild temples in Upper Egypt, and revolutionized mortuary
complex design by separating his tomb from his mortuary temple, setting a trend which would persist throughout the New Kingdom.
After his death, he was deified into the patron god of Deir el-Medina.
Amenhotep I was the son of Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari. His elder brothers, the crown prince Ahmose Sapair and Ahmose-ankh,
died before him, thus clearing the way for his ascension to the throne. Amenhotep probably came to power while he was still
young himself, and his mother, Ahmose-Nefertari, appears to have been regent for him for at least a short time. This is
evidenced because both he and his mother are credited with opening a worker village at the site of Deir el-Medina. Amenhotep
took his sister Ahmose-Meritamon as his Great Royal Wife. Another wife's name, Sitkamose, is attested on a nineteenth
Beyond this, his relation to all other possible family members has been questioned. Ahhotep II is usually called his wife and
sister, despite an alternate theory that she was his grandmother. He is thought to have had one son by Ahhotep II,
Amenemhat, who died while still very young. This remains the consensus, although there are arguments against that
relationship as well. With no living heirs, Amenhotep was succeeded by Thutmose I, whom he married to his sister, Aahmes,
although once again there is no definite proof that the two were related. Since Aahmes is never called "King's Daughter" in any
inscription, some scholars doubt this relation as well.
Dates and length of reign
In the ninth year of Amenhotep I, a heliacal rise of Sothis was observed on the ninth day of the third month of summer.
Modern astronomers have calculated that, if the observation was made from Memphis or Heliopolis, such an observation could only
have been made on that day in 1537 BC. If the observation was made in Thebes, however, it could only have taken place in
1517. The latter choice is usually accepted as correct since Thebes was the capital of early 18th dynasty Egypt; hence,
Amenhotep I is given an accession date in 1526 BC, although the possibility of 1546 BC is not entirely dismissed.
Manetho's Epitome states that Amenhotep I ruled Egypt for 20 Years and 7 Months or 21 Years, depending on the source. While
Amenhotep I's highest attested official date is only his Year 10, Manetho's data is confirmed by information from a passage in
the tomb autobiography of a Magician named Amenemhet. This individual explicitly states that he served under Amenhotep I for 21
Years. Thus, in the high chronology, Amenhotep I is given a reign from around 1546 to 1526 BC and, in the low chronology,
from around 1526 to 1506 BC or 1525 to 1504 BC, though individual scholars may vary by a few years.
Amenhotep I's Horus and Two Ladies names, "Bull who conquers the lands" and "He who inspires great terror," are generally
interpreted to mean that Amenhotep I intended upon dominating the surrounding nations. Two tomb texts indicate that he led
campaigns into Nubia. According to the tomb texts of Ahmose, son of Ebana, Amenhotep later sought to expand Egypt's border
southward into Nubia and he led an invasion force which defeated the Nubian army. The tomb biography of Ahmose Pen-Nekhebet
says he also fought in a campaign in Kush, however it is quite possible that it refers to the same campaign as Ahmose, son
of Ebana. Amenhotep built a temple at Saï, showing that he had established Egyptian settlements almost as far as the third
A single reference in the tomb of Ahmose Pen-Nekhebet indicates another campaign in Iamu in the land of Kehek.
Unfortunately, the location of Kehek is unknown. It was long believed that Kehek was a reference to the Libyan tribe, Qeheq, and
thus it was postulated that invaders from Libya took advantage of the death of Ahmose to move into the western Nile Delta.
Unfortunately for this theory, the Qeheq people only appeared in later times, and Kehek's identity remains unknown. Nubia is a
possibility, since Amenhotep did campaign there, and the western desert and the oases have also been suggested, since these seem
to have fallen under Egyptian control once again.
Egypt had lost the western desert and the oases during the second intermediate period, and during the revolt against the Hyksos,
Kamose thought it necessary to garrison them. It is uncertain when they were fully retaken, but on one stele, the title
"Prince-Governor of the oases" was used, which means that Amenhotep's reign forms the terminus ante quem for the return of
There are no recorded campaigns in Syro-Palestine during Amenhotep I's reign. However, according to the Tombos Stela of his
successor, Thutmose I, when Thutmose led a campaign into Asia all the way to the Euphrates, he found no one who fought against
him. If Thutmose did not lead a campaign which has not been recorded into Asia before this recorded one, it would mean that
the preceding pharaoh would have had to pacify Syria instead, which would indicate a possible Asiatic campaign of Amenhotep
I. Two references to the Levant potentially written during his reign might be contemporary witnesses to such a campaign. One of
the candidates for Amenhotep's tomb contains a reference to Qedmi, which is somewhere in Canaan or the Transjordan, and
Amenemhet's tomb contains a hostile reference to Mitanni. However, neither of these references necessarily refer to
campaigning, nor do they even necessarily date to Amenhotep's reign. The location of Amenhotep's tomb is not certain, and
Amenemhet lived to serve under multiple kings who are known to have attacked Mitanni. Records from Amenhotep's reign are
simply altogether too scant and too vague to reach a conclusion about any Syrian campaign...