AMENHOTEP III, THE NINTH KING OF EGYPT\'S 18TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN - We believe that Amenhotep III ruled for almost 40 years during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt\'s history that
represented one of its most prosperous and stable periods. We must grant to Amenhotep III\'s grandfather, Tuthmosis III, who is
sometimes referred to as the Napoleon of ancient Egypt, the foundation of this success by dominating through military action
Egypt\'s Syrian, Nubian and Libyan neighbors. Because of that, little or no military actions were called for during his
grandson's reign. The small police actions in Nubia that did take place were directed by his son and viceroy of Kush, Merymose
(or perhaps an earlier viceroy) .
Amenhotep (or heqawaset) was this kings birth name, meaning "Amun is Pleased, Ruler of Thebes. His throne name was Nub-maat-re,
which means "Lord of Truth is Re. Amenhotep III\'s birth is splendidly depicted in a series of reliefs inside a room on the east
side of the temple of Luxor. Built by Amenhotep III, the room was dedicated to Amun. However, it portrays the creator god, Khnum
of Elephantine (at modern Aswan) with his ram head, fashioning the child and his ka on a potter\'s wheel under the supervision of
the goddess Isis. The god Amun is then led to Amenhotep III\'s mother by Thoth, god of wisdom, after which Amun is shown in the
presence of the goddesses Hathor and Mut while they nurse the future king.
His father was Tuthmosis IV by one of that king\'s chief queens, Mutemwiya. She may have, though mostly in doubt now, been the
daughter of the Mitannian king, Artatama. That queen was indeed probably sent to Egypt for the purposes of a diplomatic marriage.
It is more than likely that Amenhotep III succeeded to the throne of Egypt as a child, sometime between the ages of two and
twelve years of age. There is a statue of the treasurer Sobekhotep holding a prince Amenhotep-mer-khepseh that was most likely
executed shortly before Tuthmosis IV\'s death, as well as a painting in the tomb of the royal nurse, Hekarnehhe (TT64) portraying
the prince as a young boy, though not a small child. This, and the fact that his mother is not so very prominently visible, along
with other factors, suggests that he was more likely between six and twelve years of age at the time of his father\'s death.
It is unlikely that his mother, Mutemwiya, served as a regent for the young king, and whoever may have been in charge at the
beginning of his reign seems to have remained in the background.
Amenhotep III\'s own chief queen, who he married in year two of his reign, was not of royal blood, but came from a very
substantial family. She was Tiy, the daughter of Yuya and his wife, Tuya, who owned vast holdings in the Delta. Yuya was also a
powerful military leader. Their tomb, numbered KV46 in the Valley of the Kings, is well known. His brother-in-law by this
marriage, Anen, would during his reign also rise to great power as Chancellor of Lower Egypt, Second Prophet of Amun, sem-priest
of Heliopolis, and Divine Father. It is possible that the king\'s early regency was carried out by his wife\'s family.
However, it would seem that Amenhotep collected a large harem of ladies over the years, including several from diplomatic
marriages, including Gilukhepa, a princess of Naharin, as well as two of his daughters (Isis and in year 30 of his reign, Sitamun
or Satamun, who bore the title "great royal wife" simultaneously with her mother). We can document at least six of his children
consisting of two sons and four daughters (other daughters including Henuttaneb and Nebetiah). However, his probable oldest son,
Tuthmosis who was a sem-priest, died early leaving the future heretic king, Amenhotep IV, otherwise known as Akhenaten, as the
The King\'s Early Years
In essence, we may split Amenhotep III\'s reign into two parts, with his earliest years given much to sportsmanship with a few
minor military activities. While as usual, an expedition into Nubia in year five of his reign was given grandiose attention on
some reliefs, it probably amounted to nothing more than a low key police action. However, it may have pushed as for as south of
the fifth cataract. It was recorded on inscriptions near Aswan and at Konosso in Nubia. There is also a stele in the British
Museum recording a Nubian campaign, but it is unclear whether it references this first action, or one later in his reign.
There was also a Nubian rebellion reported at Ibhet, crushed by his son. While Amenhotep III was almost certainly not directly
involved in this conflict, he records having slaughtered many within the space of a single hour. We learn from inscriptions that
this campaign resulted in the capture of 150 Nubian men, 250 women, 175 children, 110 archers and 55 servants, added to the 312
right hands of the slain. Perhaps to underscore the Kushite subjection to Egypt, he had built at Soleb, almost directly across
the Nile from the Nubian capital at Kerma, a fortress known as Khaemmaat, along with a temple.
The Prosperity and International Relationships
However, by year 25 of Amenhotep III\'s reign, military problems seem to have been settled, and we find a long period of great
building works and high art. It was also a period of lavish luxury at the royal court. The wealth needed to accomplish all of
this did not come from conquests, but rather from foreign trade and an abundant supply of gold, mostly from the mines in the Wadi
Hammamat and further south in Nubia.
Amenhotep III was unquestionably involved with international diplomatic efforts, which led to increased foreign trade. During his
reign, we find a marked increase in Egyptian materials found on the Greek mainland. We also find many Egyptian place names,
including Mycenae, Phaistos and Knossos first appearing in Egyptian inscriptions We also find letters written between Amenhotep
III and his peers in Babylon, Mitanni and Arzawa preserved in cuneiform writing on clay tablets. From a stele in his mortuary
temple, we further learn that he sent at least one expedition to punt.
It is rather clear that the nobility prospered during the reign of Amenhotep III. However, the plight of common Egyptians is less
sure, and we have little evidence to suggest that they shared in Egypt\'s prosperity. Yet, Amenhotep III and his granary official
Khaemhet boasted of the great crops of grain harvested in the kings 30th (jubilee) year. And while such evidence is hardly
unbiased, the king was remembered even 1,000 years later as a fertility god, associated with agricultural success.
Though a number of Amenhotep III\'s building projects no longer exist, we find at Karnak almost a complete makeover of the
temple, including his efforts to embellish the already monumental temple to Amun, as well as his the East Temple for the sun god
and his own festival building. His impact in the Karnak temple was thematic, leaving the impression of a warrior king whose
victories honored both himself and the God Amun, and he changed the face of this temple almost completely. He had his workers
dismantle the peristyle court in front of the Fourth Pylon, as well as the shrines associated with it, using them as fill for a
new Pylon, the Third, on the east-west axis. This created a new entrance to the temple, and he had two rows of columns with open
papyrus capitals erected down the center of the newly formed forecourt. At the south end of Karnak, he began construction on the
Tenth Pylon, with a slightly different orientation then that of the Seventh and Eighth, in order for it to lead to a new entrance
for the percent of the goddess Mut. He may have even started a new temple for her. To balance the south temple complex, he built
a new shrine to the goddess Ma\'at, the daughter of the sun-god, to the north of central Karnak.
At Luxor he built a new temple to the same god, including the still standing colonnaded court. That effort is considered a
masterpiece of elegance and design and particular credit must be given to his mater architect, Amenhotep son of Hapu.
He also built a monumental mortuary temple on the West Bank at Thebes (modern Luxor) that is the single largest royal temple
known to us from ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, it was built much too close to the flood plain and was in ruins by the 19th
Dynasty, when material was quarried from it for new building projects. While some of the ground plan of the temple may be made
out, the only material remains are the Colossi of Memnon. These statues were misnamed by the Greeks, but actually depict
Amenhotep III. The southern of the statues also depicts the two most important women in the king\'s life, his mother Mutemwiya
and his wife, Queen Tiy. However, it should be noted that within the grounds of the temple, more fragments of colossal statuary
have been found than in any other known sacred precinct. In the fields behind the statues, also stands a great, repaired stele
that was once in the sanctuary of his temple, around which are located fragments of sculptures.
The West Bank was also the site of Amenhotep III\'s huge palace, called Malkata. Fragments of this building remain, unlike most
other royal residences. From this scant evidence, it would seem that the walls were plastered and painted with lively scenes from
nature. Next to the palace complex he also built a great harbor.
Further south on the west bank at Kom el-Samak, Amenhotep III also built a jubilee pavilion of painted mud brick and at Sumenu,
some twenty kilometers south of Thebes the king built a temple dedicated to the cult of the crocodile god, Sobek.
Along with these building projects, we also know that he developed and expanded cults at a number of other locations including
Amada (for Amun and Ra-Horakhty), Hebenu and Hermopolis, where we find two colossus statues of baboons and an altar. There were
other building projects in Egypt proper at Memphis, where blocks of brown quartzite remain from the king\'s great temple called
"Nebmaatra United with Ptah", Elephantine (now destroyed) and a completed chapel at Elkab. Building elements at Bubastis,
Athribis, Letopolis and Heliopolis also attest to the king\'s interest in the eastern Delta. He also built temples are shrines in
Nubia at Quban, Wadi es-Sebua, Sedinga, Soleb and Tabo Island. There were also building elements or stele in his name at Aniba,
Buhen, Mirgissa, Kawa and Gebel Barkal.
Artistry of the Period
Artistically, many of the royal portraits of the king in sculptor are truly masterpieces of any historical age. After the Colossi
of Memnon, the largest of these is the limestone statue of the king and queen with three small standing princesses discovered at
Medinet Habu. However, many other statues give the king a look of reflection, and bringing to life emotional emphasis. We find
grand statues of black granite depicting a seated Amenhotep wearing the nemes headdress, unearthed by Belzoni from behind the
Colossi of Memnon and from Tanis in the Delta. Others statues and some reliefs and paintings depict the king wearing the more
helmet like khepresh, sometimes referred to as the Blue, or War Crown.
Even in recent years, some statuary of Amenhotep III continues to be discovered, such as an incredible six foot (1.83 meter) high
pink quartzite statue of the king standing on a sledge and wearing the Double Crown of Egypt. It was discovered in the courtyard
of Amenhotep III colonnade of the Luxor temple in 1989. This particular statue was unearthed completely intact, with the only
damage resulting from a careful removal of the name Amun during the reign of his son. This statue was probably executed late in
his reign, regardless of the fact that is shows a youthful king.
So good were many of his statues that they were later usurped by kings, sometimes by them simply overwriting his cartouche with
their own. At other times, such as in the case of the huge red granite head found by Belzoni and initially identified as
representing Tuthmosis III, his statues were more extensively reworked (this example by Ramesses II).
We also find many other fine statues, paintings and reliefs executed during the life of Amenhotep III. Two well known portraits
of his principle queen include a small ebony head now in Berlin, and a small faced and crowned head found by Petrie at the temple
of Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai. A cartouche on the front of the crown allowed precise identification as that of Tiy. We also
find Tiy appearing with the king on temple walls at Soleb and west Thebes. However, there are also fine reliefs of her in some of
the courtier tombs, such as TT47 belonging to Userhet and TT192 of Khereuf.
There was also a proliferation of private statues, as well as many fine private tombs with excellent artwork (such as TT55, the
Tomb of Ramose) during the reign of Amenhotep III, including a number representing Amenhotep son of Hapu, his well known
architect, but also of other nobles and dignitaries. Other notable items include the set of rose granite lions originally placed
before the temple at Soleb in Nubia, but later moved to the Temple at Gebel Barkal.
Religion and the King\'s Deification
It is likely that Amenhotep III was deified during his own lifetime, and that the worship of the sun god, Aten, by his son may
have directly or indirectly also involved the worship of his father. Amenhotep III was somewhat insistent that he be identified
with this sun god during his lifetime. From the time of his first jubilee in his 30 years of reign, we find scenes where he is
depicted taking the role of Ra riding in his solar boat. Of course, the king was expected to merge with the sun after his death,
but in Amenhotep III\'s case, we find that he named his palace complex "the gleaming Aten", and used stamp seals for commodities
that may be read, "Nebmaatra (one of his names) is the gleaming Aten". He consistently identified himself with the national
deities rather than his royal predecessors, even representing himself as the substitute for major gods in a few instances. We
even find during his reign the solorization of many well known gods, including Nekhbet, Amun, Thoth and Horus-khenty-khety.
Yet, no stele or statues we know for certain were dedicated to Amenhotep III as a major deity during his lifetime.
It is notable that the deification of Ramesses II only 100 years later carried with it a significant number of monuments
identifying him as a deity during his lifetime. Nevertheless, it has been argued that his son, best known as Akhenaten, may have
worshipped his father as Aten. There are many arguments against this, but it is clear that at least to some degree, it is true.
After all, the deceased king was identified with the Aten upon his death. But whether he was worshipped as such during his
lifetime may ultimately depend on whether or not Akhenaten ruled as a co-regent before his father\'s death. If they did rule
together, than objects venerating Amenhotep III during Akhenaten\'s reign could be seen as worship of a living deity, though not
necessarily as the Aten. Regardless, this is all a mater of hot debate within Egyptology circles, thought the answers today seem
The End of the Reign
From clay dockets at his Malkata palace, we believe Amenhotep III may have died in about the 39th year of his rule, perhaps when
he was only 45 years old. His wife, Tiy, apparently outlived him by as many as twelve years. She is shown, along with her
youngest daughter, Beket-Aten, in a relief on an Amarna Tomb that may be dated to between year nine and twelve of Akhetaten\'s
reign. From a group of well known documents called the Amarna Letters, we find inquires about her health that lead us to believe
that she may have lived in her son\'s capital for a time prior to her death. Regardless, upon her death, she may have first been
buried at Amarna but was then returned to Thebes where she was buried along with her husband in tomb WV22 in the Valley of the
Kings. However, it is also possible that she may have been buried in tomb KV55, where objects bearing her name have also been
discovered. Neither the king or his queen were discovered in that tomb, but it is very possible Queen Tiy may be the "Elder
Woman) from the cache of mummies found by Loret in KV35, the tomb of Amenhotep II. For many years, it was also though that
Amenhotep III\'s body was also a part of that cache, but fairly recent analysis indicates that the body thought to be his may
instead by that of his son, or possibly even Ay, one of the last kings of the 18th Dynasty.
Amenhotep III (sometimes read as Amenophis III; Egyptian *ˀAmāna-Ḥātpa; meaning Amun is Satisfied) was the ninth pharaoh of the
Eighteenth dynasty. According to different authors, he ruled Egypt from June 1386 to 1349 BC or June 1388 BC to December 1351
BC/1350 BC after his father Thutmose IV died. Amenhotep III was the son of Thutmose by Mutemwia, a minor wife of Amenhotep's
His reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendour, when Egypt reached the peak of her artistic and
international power. When he died (probably in the 39th year of his reign), his son initially ruled as Amenhotep IV, but later
changed his own royal name to Akhenaten.
The son of the future Thutmose IV (the son of Amenhotep II) and a minor wife Mutemwiya, Amenhotep was born around 1388 BC. He was
a member of the Thutmosid family that had ruled Egypt for almost 150 years since the reign of Thutmose I.
Amenhotep III was the father of two sons with his Great Royal Wife Tiye, a queen who could be considered as the progenitor of
monotheism through her first son, Crown Prince Thutmose, who predeceased his father, and her second son, Akhenaten, who
ultimately succeeded Amenhotep III to the throne. Amenhotep II also may have been the father of a third child-called Smenkhkare, who
later would succeed Akhenaten, briefly rule Egypt as pharaoh, and who is thought to have been a woman.
Amenhotep III and Tiye may also have had four daughters: Sitamun, Henuttaneb, Isis or Iset, and Nebetah. They appear frequently
on statues and reliefs during the reign of their father and also are represented by smaller objects-with the exception of
Nebetah. Nebetah is attested only once in the known historical records on a colossal limestone group of statues from Medinet
Habu. This huge sculpture, that is seven meters high, shows Amenhotep III and Tiye seated side by side, "with three of their
daughters standing in front of the throne--Henuttaneb, the largest and best preserved, in the centre; Nebetah on the right; and
another, whose name is destroyed, on the left."
Amenhotep III elevated two of his four daughters-Sitamun and Isis-to the office of "great royal wife" during the last decade of his
reign. Evidence that Sitamun already was promoted to this office by Year 30 of his reign, is known from jar-label inscriptions
uncovered from the royal palace at Malkata. It should be noted that Egypt's theological paradigm encouraged a male pharaoh to
accept royal women from several different generations as wives to strengthen the chances of his offspring succeeding him. The
goddess Hathor herself was related to Ra as first the mother and later wife and daughter of the god when he rose to prominence in
the pantheon of the Ancient Egyptian religion. Hence, Amenhotep III's marriage to his two daughters should not be considered
unlikely based on contemporary views of marriage.
Amenhotep III is known to have married Gilukhepa, the first of a series of diplomatic brides and the daughter of Shuttarna II of
Mitanni, in the tenth year of his reign. Around Year 36 of his reign, he also married Tadukhepa, the daughter of his ally
Tushratta of Mitanni.
Amenhotep III enjoyed the distinction of having the most surviving statues of any Egyptian pharaoh, with over 250 of his statues
having been discovered and identified. Since these statues span his entire life, they provide a series of portraits covering the
entire length of his reign.
Another striking characteristic of Amenhotep III's reign is the series of over 200 large commemorative stone scarabs that have been
discovered over a large geographic area ranging from Syria (Ras Shamra) through to Soleb in Nubia. Their lengthy inscribed texts
extol the accomplishments of the pharaoh. For instance, 123 of these commemorative scarabs record the large number of lions (either
102 or 110 depending on the reading) that Amenhotep III killed "with his own arrows" from his first regnal year up to his tenth
year. Similarly, five other scarabs state that the foreign princess who would become a wife to him, Gilukhepa, arrived in Egypt
with a retinue of 317 women. She was the first of many such princesses who would enter the pharaoh's household.
Another eleven scarabs record the excavation of an artificial lake he had built for his royal wife, Queen Tiye, in his eleventh
" "Regnal Year 11 under the Majesty of...Amenhotep (III), ruler of Thebes, given life, and the great royal wife Tiyi; may she
live; her father's name was Yuya, her mother's name Tuya. His Majesty commanded the making of a lake for the great royal wife Tiyi--
may she live--in her town of Djakaru. (near Akhmin). Its length is 3,700 (cubits) and its width is 700 (cubits). (His Majesty)
celebrated the Festival of Opening the Lake in the third month of Inundation, day sixteen. His Majesty was rowed in the royal barge
Aten-tjehen in it [the lake]." "
Amenhotep appears to have been crowned while still a child, perhaps between the ages of 6 and 12. It is likely that a regent acted
for him if he was made pharaoh at that early age. He married Tiye two years later and she lived twelve years after his death. His
lengthy reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendour, when Egypt reached the peak of her artistic and
international power. Proof of this is shown by the diplomatic correspondence from the rulers of Assyria, Mitanni, Babylon, and Hatti
which is preserved in the archive of Amarna Letters; these letters document frequent requests by these rulers for gold and numerous
other gifts from the pharaoh. The letters cover the period from Year 30 of Amenhotep III until at least the end of Akhenaten's
reign. In one famous correspondence-Amarna letter EA 4--Amenhotep III is quoted by the Babylonian king Kadashman-Enlil I in firmly
rejecting the latter's entreaty to marry one of this pharaoh's daughters:
" "From time immemorial, no daughter of the king of Egy[pt] is given to anyone." "
Amenhotep III's refusal to allow one of his daughters to be married to the Babylonian monarch may indeed be connected with Egyptian
traditional royal practices that could provide a claim upon the throne through marriage to a royal princess, or, it be viewed as a
shrewd attempt on his part to enhance Egypt's prestige over those of her neighbours in the international world.
The pharaoh's reign was relatively peaceful and uneventful. The only recorded military activity by the king is commemorated by three
rock-carved stelas from his fifth year found near Aswan and Sai Island in Nubia. The official account of Amenhotep III's military
victory emphasizes his martial prowess with the typical hyperbole used by all pharaohs.
" "Regnal Year 5, third month of Inundation, day 2. Appearance under the Majesty of Horus: Strong bull, appearing in truth;
Two Ladies: Who establishes laws and pacifies the Two Lands;...King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Nebmaatra, heir of Ra; Son of Ra:
[Amenhotep, ruler of Thebes], beloved of [Amon]-Ra, King of the Gods, and Khnum, lord of the cataract, given life. One came to tell
His Majesty, "The fallen one of vile Kush has plotted rebellion in his heart." His Majesty led on to victory; he completed it in his
first campaign of victory. His Majesty reached them like the wing stroke of a falcon, like Menthu (war god of Thebes) in his
transformation...Ikheny, the boaster in the midst of the army, did not know the lion that was before him. Nebmaatra was the fierce-
eyed lion whose claws seized vile Kush, who trampled down all its chiefs in their valleys, they being cast down in their blood, one
on top of the other." "
Amenhotep III celebrated three Jubilee Sed festivals, in his Year 30, Year 34, and Year 37 respectively at his Malkata summer palace
in Western Thebes. The palace, called as Per-Hay or "House of Rejoicing" in ancient times, comprised a temple of Amun and a
festival hall built especially for this occasion. One of the king's most popular epithets was Aten-tjehen which means "the
Dazzling Sun Disk"; it appears in his titulary at Luxor temple and, more frequently, was used as the name for one of his palaces as
well as the Year 11 royal barge, and denotes a company of men in Amenhotep's army.
Proposed co-regency by Akhenaten
There is currently no conclusive evidence of a co-regency between Amenhotep III and his son, Akhenaten. A letter from the Amarna
palace archives dated to Year 2-rather than Year 12-of Akhenaten's reign from the Mitannian king, Tushratta, (Amarna letter EA 27)
preserves a complaint about the fact that Akhenaten did not honor his father's promise to forward Tushratta statues made of solid
gold as part of a marriage dowry for sending his daughter, Tadukhepa, into the pharaoh's household. This correspondence implies
that if any co-regency occurred between Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, it lasted no more than a year at the most. Lawrence Berman
observes in a 1998 biography of Amenhotep III that,
"It is significant that the proponents of the coregency theory have tended to be art historians [ie: Raymond Johnson], whereas
historians [such as Donald Redford and William Murnane] have largely remained unconvinced. Recognizing that the problem admits no
easy solution, the present writer has gradually come to believe that it is unnecessary to propose a coregency to explain the
production of art in the reign of Amenhotep III. Rather the perceived problems appear to derive from the interpretation of mortuary