PEPI I, 2ND RULER OF THE 6TH DYNASTY OF ANCIENT EGYPT
BY JIMMY DUNN.
Pepi I was the second ruler of Egypt's 6th Dynasty, a period that would eventually fall into the abyss of the First Intermediate Period.
Pepi I was this pharaoh's birth name, though we may also find him listed as Pepy I, Piopi I, Pipi and the Greek Phiops. His throne name
was Mery-re, meaning "Beloved of Re", though he actually used the throne name, Nefersahor during the first half of his reign, later
changing it to Mery-re. He ruled Egypt from about 2332 through 2283 BC. He probably ascended the throne as an early age, and appears to
have ruled for some 50 years (or at least 40 years).
It is entirely possible that Pepi I did not follow his father to the throne. Kings Lists include the name of a King Userkara between
that of Teti and Pepi I, and it may be that this king usurped the throne for a short time.
He was probably the son of Teti and his queen, Iput I. Though he may have had at least six, the wives of Pepi I that we know of were
Ankhnesmerire I and II (Sometimes also found as Meryre-ankh-nas), who were the daughters of an influential official (Probably governor
of the region) at Abydos named Khui. Pepi I made his brother-in-law, we believe a son of Khui named Djau, vizier. A woman named Were-
Imtes may have been his first wife but some Egyptologists have suggested that she might not have been his wife at all. It may have been
Were-Imtes who plotted a conspiracy against her husband from the harem, but she was found out and punished. This happened in the twenty-
first cattle census, or about year 42 of the king's rule. An accomplice in this plot might have been Rewer, a vizier of Pepi I who's
name has been erased from his tomb. However, Callender has suggested that the conspiracy was not by one of Pepi's queens, but was
instead a plot by perhaps the mother of the mysterious King Userkare. Basically, there is considerable confusion between the explanations
provided by various Egyptologists about this conspiracy.
Apparently, he married Ankhnesmerire I late in his rule, perhaps even after the harem conspiracy, and may have married her younger sister
after the first sister's death, but this is by no means clear. His sons, Merenre (by Ankhnesmerire I) and Pepi II (by Ankhnesmerire II)
would rule Egypt through the end of the 6th Dynasty. He also had a daughter by Ankhnesmerire I called Neith, who would later marry her
half brother Pepi II. It appears that Pepi II was born either just before or soon after Pepi I's death. Pepi I may have had a number of
other wives, including a Nebuunet (Nebwenet) and Inenek-Inti, who's small pyramids are near his at South Saqqara. An inscription has
also been found documenting another queen, perhaps from Upper Egypt, named Nedjeftet. Other family members, though we are not so sure of
their relationships, probably included a woman named Meretites, and another woman named Ankhesenpepi (or Ankhnesmerire) III. Very
recently, (June 2000) we are told by Dr. Zahi Hawass of another pyramid that has been discovered by the French team near Pepi I's that
appears to be that of Ankhnesmerire II, though in this report she is referred to as Ankhes-en Pepi.
At least four statues of the king have survived, including the earliest known life size sculpture in metal. This state cane from the
temple of Hierakonpolis (Nikhen) in upper Egypt and is made of copper. Found with it was also a copper statue of his young son and
future king, Merenre. Other statues include a small green statue of the king probably making offerings to gods, and a small alabaster
statue of Pepi I holding the royal crossed flail and scepter (crook).
We know that the reign of Pepi saw the rising influence and wealth of nobles outside the royal court, a condition that perhaps had much
to do with a decline into the First Intermediate Period. These nobles built fine tombs for themselves and often boasted of privileges
resulting from friendship with Pepi I.
We also know that Pepi I initiated a number of trading and other expeditions, often for fine stone to be used in his many building
projects. One inscription found at the alabaster quarries at Hatnub is dated to year 50 of his reign. It refers to the 25th cattle
count, which was a biennial event. He was also active at the Wadi Maghara turquoise and copper quarries in the Sinai, the greywacke and
siltstone quarries of Wadi Hammamat, where his first Sed Festival is mentioned. We believe he also maintained diplomatic and commercial
relations with Byblos and Ebla.
He may have also sent expeditions to the mines of Sinai and as far away as Palestine. The expedition into Palestine was led by a person
named Weni the Welder (Uni?) and involved landing troops from the sea. A single inscription is the only document of the five campaigns
led under Pepi I Palestine, the Land of the Sand Dwellers as the Egyptians called the regions east of Egypt.
His majesty sent me to lead this army 5 times to subdue the land of the Sand Dwellers, every time they rebelled, with these troops. I
acted so that his majesty praised me for it. Told that there were rebels amongst these foreigners at the 'Nose-of-the-Gazelle's-head'
I crossed in ships, together with these troops. I put to land at the back of the height of the mountain range to the north of the land of
the Sand-Dwellers, while (the other) half of this army were travelling by land. I turned back, I obstructed all of them and slew every
rebel amongst them.
Pepi I probably did considerable building but little of it remains, as such. Some of his building projects were probably incorporated
into later projects, but he did leave behind many inscriptions. Building projects of Pepi I include the remains of a chapel (Hwt-ka) at
Bubastis, as well as projects at Elephantine and Abydos. He may have carried out work at Dendara too. He built his pyramid at South
Saqqara and the Pyramid Text inscribed on the pyramid walls were the first to be found by Egyptologists, though not the first recorded in
a pyramid. This pyramid was called Mn-nfr, meaning (Pepi is) established and good". The corruption of this name by classical writers
provided our modern name for Egypt's ancient capital, Memphis. His palace may have been very near his pyramid in South Saqqara.
Pepi is further attested to by decrees found at Dahshure (now in Berlin) and Coptos. He was mentioned in biographies of Weni in his tomb
at Abydos, Djaw from his tomb at Abydos, Ibi in his tomb at Deir el-Gabrawi, Meryankhptahmeryre in his tomb at Giza, Qar in hist tomb at
Edfu and the biography on a tomb at Saqqara by an unknown person.
There are a number of interesting questions to be answered about this period. Unas, the last king of the 5th Dynasty began to distance
himself from the sun cult so closely connected to the earlier dynasty rulers. However, he did not seem to completely withdraw from this
cult. But by the time of Teti, the first ruler of the 6th Dynasty, ties seem to have been severed. He was murdered, we are told and then
we find perhaps a new king usurping the throne of Egypt named Userkare. His name means the "Ka of Ra is powerful", reflecting back on the
old sun cult. When Pepi I does ascend the throne, perhaps only after a year of rule by Userkare, he has the name of Userkare removed
wherever possible, as one might imagine he would under the circumstances. However, Pepe I himself is next the subject of a plot, who at
least a few Egyptologists believe might have been initiated by the mother of Userkare. Most resources explain the murder of Teti, the
ascension to the throne of Userkare and the plot against Pepi I as three different events, but could much of the trouble of this period
have been the results of the pharaohs' abandonment of the sun cult? We also see Pepi I reaching out to the power structure of Abydos,
perhaps as allies. This is all simply speculation, historical fiction if you will allow, but the point being is that there is much left
to be learned about this period of Egypt's history.
Pepi I Meryre (reigned 2332 – 2283 BC) was the third king of the Sixth dynasty of Egypt. His first throne name was Neferdjahor
which the king later altered to Meryre meaning "beloved of Re."
Pepi was the son of Teti and Iput, who was a daughter of Unas, last pharaoh of the previous dynasty. He needed the support of
powerful individuals in Upper Egypt in order to put down his brother, the usurper Userkare who had murdered his father and for
Pepi to win back his rightful throne. These individuals would remain a strong presence in his court thereafter.
His two most important wives and the mothers of his two successors (Merenre Nemtyemsaf I and Pepi II) were Ankhesenpepi I and
Ankhesenpepi II. Other known wives include Meritites IV, Nubwenet and Inenek-Inti, who are buried in pyramids adjacent to that of
Pepi, Mehaa, who is named in the tomb of her son Hornetjerkhet, and a queen named Nedjeftet who is mentioned on relief fragments.
He also had a son called Teti-ankh and two daughters, Iput II and Neith, both became wives to Pepi II.
Pepi I's reign was marked by aggressive expansion into Nubia, the spread of trade to far-flung areas such as Lebanon and the
Somalian coast, but also the growing power of the nobility. One of the king's officials named Weni fought in Asia on his behalf.
Pepi's mortuary complex, Mennefer Pepy, eventually became the name for the entire city of Memphis after the 18th Dynasty..
The decline of the Old Kingdom arguably began during Pepi I’s reign, with nomarchs (regional representatives of the king)
becoming more powerful and exerting greater influence. Pepi I married two sisters – Ankhesenpepi I and II – who were the daughters
of a nomarch and Upper Egyptian vizier, Nebet, and later made their brother, Djau, a vizier. The two sisters' influence was
extensive, with both sisters bearing sons who were later to become pharaohs.
An analysis of the damaged Dynasty 6 South Saqqara Stone Annal document gives him a reign of c. 48–49 years but this is not
confirmed by the Turin King List which apparently assigns him 44 years, according to the Danish Egyptologist Kim Ryholt's
analysis of this document. The latter figure may be closer to the truth since it would imply that Pepi I's cattle count dating
system was not always biennial. That this is the case is suggested by a famous Year after the 18th Count, 3rd Month of Shemu day
27 inscription from Wadi Hammamat No. 74-75 which mentions the "first occurrence of the Heb Sed" in that year for Pepi. (This
would be Year 36 if the Biannial dating system was used.) This information is significant because the Heb Sed Feast was always
celebrated in a king's Year 30. If Pepi I was following a biennial counting system, the inscription should have been dated to the
Year after the 15th Count instead. This implies that the cattle count during the 6th dynasty was not regularly biannual.
Pepi I's highest dated document is the Year of the 25th Count, 1st Month of Akhet day [lost] from Hatnub Inscription No.3. The
South Saqqara Stone also confirms that Pepi I's last year was his Year of the 25th Count.
Two copper statues of Pepi I and his son Merenre were found at Hierakonpolis; they are thought to depict the two royals
symbolically "trampling underfoot the Nine bows," a stylized representation of Egypt's conquered foreign subjects. These rare
statues were found in one of the underground stores of the temple of Nekhen "together with a statue of king Khasekhemui (Second
Dynasty) and a terracota lion cub made during the Thinite era." The statues had been disassembled and placed inside one another
and sealed with a thin layer of engraved copper bearing the titles and names of Pepi I "on the first day of the Jubilee" or Heb
Sed feast. While the identity of the larger adult figure as Pepi I is revealed by the inscription, the identity of the smaller
and younger statue remains unresolved. The most common hypothesis among Egyptologists is that the athletic young man in the
smaller statue was Merenre
"who was publicly associated as his father's successor on the occasion of the Jubilee. The placement of his copper effigy inside
that of his father would therefore reflect the continuity of the royal succession and the passage of the royal sceptre from father
to son before the death of the pharaoh could cause a dynastic split."
More recently, however, it has been suggested that the smaller statue is in fact that "of a more youthful Pepy I, reinvigorated by
the celebration of the Jubilee ceremonies."
Pepi I was a prolific builder who ordered extensive construction projects in Upper Egypt at Dendera, Abydos, Elephantine and
Hierakonpolis. One of his most important court officials was Weni the Elder who had a great canal built at the First Cataract for
the king. Weni was also put in charge of the highly sensitive task of putting on trial a Queen Weret-yamtes, a wife of Pepi I, who
had conspired to murder the king.