MENTUHOTEP II, FIRST RULER OF THE MIDDLE KINGDOM
BY JIMMY DUNN.
For everyone who studies Egyptian history, we like to point out occasionally the fallacy of accepting a single
reference about many different ancient topics. One problem with experts is they have their own opinions, which they
often state unequivocally, even though others disagree. References on the first ruler of the Middle Kingdom are a
perfect example of this.
His throne name was most certainly Neb-hetep-re, meaning "Pleased is the Lord Re", though we also find it spelled
Nebhepetra. But this is not his common, or birth name, and here we run into problems.
"Chronicle of the Pharaohs" by Peter A. Clayton refers to him as Mentuhotep I, and gives his reign as 2060-2010.
However, the "Oxford History of Ancient Egypt" edited by Ian Shaw gives his name as Mentuhotep II, with a reign from
2055-2004 while Aidan Dodson in his book, "Monarchs of the Nile" refers to him as Montjuhotpe II, with a reign from
2066-2014. "A History of Ancient Egypt" by Nicolas Grimal calls him Mentuhotpe II, with a reign from 2040-2009,
while "Who Were the Pharaohs" by Stephen Quirke simple calls him, as well as the following two kings Mentuhotep,
without elaboration or dates. So much for Egyptology being consistent, but never fear, they are all talking about
the same king, and they all place his rule as the first of the Middle Kingdom and within the 11th Dynasty. However
one names him, his birth name, Mentuhotep, means "The God Montu is Content". It should be noted that Montu was a
Theban god of war. Mentuhotep ruled Egypt from Thebes, which until then, had not been as prominent as it later
We believe he was the son or heir of Intef III, for a number of reasons. First, there is a relief located at Wadi
Shatt el-Rigal, near Gebel es-Silsila, that incorporates a colossal figure of Mentuhotep II dwarfing three other
figures believed to be he mother, Intef III and Khety his chancellor. There is also a masonry block found at Tod
with reliefs portraying Mentuhotep II towing over three kings, named Inhtef, lined up behind him.
However, Mentuhotep worked so diligently to enhance his reputation with his contemporaries with self-deification
that some Egyptologists believe he may not have been a legitimate heir to the throne, though this might also be
explained by his efforts to reunite Egypt.
Montuhotep's principle wife was Tem, but he had a number of lesser consorts. A second major wife was Neferu, who
mothered his heir to the throne, and we also know of a wife named Henhenet who died in childbirth.
Though he reunited Egypt after the First Intermediate Period, he did not do this immediately, and we find him with a
number of Horus names that follow a progression. First, he was "He who gives heart to the Two Lands", followed by
"Lord of the White Crown" (Upper Egypt)and finally Sematuawy, "Uniter of the Two Lands", as he apparently unified
Egypt. Indeed, in later inscriptions, the king was set alongside Menes as being the second founder of the Egyptian
At first, his reign was probably peaceful, but latter became most certainly a bloody one, and with a highly
militaristic focus. Near his temple at Thebes, American archaeologist Herbert Winlock found a mass tomb in the 1920s
with the bodies of 60 of his soldiers who were lain in battle. There place of burial near the King suggests that
the battle they fought was an important one, but sources disagree on where they might have fought. In the tomb of a
local prince or general named Mesehti at Asyut, we also find models of marching Egyptian soldiers and even in the
tombs of common people, we find an increase in the inclusion of weapons among grave goods.
In year 14 of his rule, we know that a revolt took place in the Abydos area by the Hierakleopolitan forces, and that
he quickly crushed it. Afterwards, his armies slowly drove the Hierakleopolitan forces north eventually leading to
his overall rule of Egypt, but even by year 39 of his rule, when the country was well under his control, he
continued his military campaigns into Nubia. It would appear that there might have even been an Egyptian based local
kingdom established in the area around Abu Simbel, and so he apparently crushed these upstarts, as well as
initiating other policing actions in Lower Nubia. One such expedition was led by his Chancellor, Khety, illustrating
the importance Mentuhotep II placed on reopening Egypt's access to Nubia, and beyond.
However, he did have a long reign, perhaps as long as 50 years, and peace did finally return to Egypt proper, along
with prosperity. Mentuhotep II initiated a number of building projects, including in the areas of el-Kab, Gebelein,
Tod, Deir el-Ballas, Dendera, Karnak, Abydos, Aswan and Armant. His greatest building work, however, was his temple
and tomb on the west bank at Thebes (Modern Luxor). It is located in the cliffs at Deir el-Bhari, next to the later
and today more famous temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Many of his high officials are buried near him including his
chancellor Akhtoy, his viziers Dagi and Ipi, and his chief steward Henenu.
Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II (2061 BC – 2010 BC) was a Pharaoh of the 11th dynasty, the son of Intef III of Egypt and
a minor queen called Iah. His own wife was the king's mother' Tem. Other wives were Neferu (his sister) and
five women buried in his funerary complex. His only known son was Mentuhotep III.
The king changed his name several times during his reign, perhaps reflecting important political events. His
throne name was Nebhepetre, and he was the first ruler of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. The Turin Canon credits
him with a reign of 51 years.
In the 14th year of his reign, an uprising occurred. This was probably connected with the conflict between
Mentuhotep II based in Thebes and the rival 10th dynasty based at Herakleopolis Magna.
During his reign, Mentuhotep was able to reunite ancient Egypt for the first time since the 6th dynasty. The
exact date when reunification was achieved is not known, but it is assumed to have happened shortly before year
39 of his reign.
Mentuhotep II led military campaigns south into Nubia, which had gained its independence during the First
Intermediate Period. There is also evidence of military actions against Canaan. The king reorganized the country
and placed a vizier at the head of the administration. The viziers of his reign were Bebi and Dagi. His treasurer
was Khety who was involved in organising the sed festival for the king. Other important officials were the
treasurer Meketre and the overseer of sealers Meru. His general was Intef
Mentuhotep II was buried in a large tomb he had constructed at Deir el-Bahri. Mentuhotep II built temples and
chapels at several places in Upper Egypt. These places include Denderah, Abydos, Armant and Gebelein.
Mentuhotep II was considered by his subjects to be half divine, half mortal. This tradition continued under his