PEPI II, LAST RULER OF THE 6TH DYNASTY AND EGYPT'S OLD KINGDOM BY JIMMY DUNN.
According to tradition, Pepi II was the last ruler of Egypt's 6th Dynasty, and in fact the last significant
ruler of the Old Kingdom prior to the onset of what Egyptologists call the Fist Intermediate Period. We are
told that his reign of possibly 94 (some Egyptologist believe 64) years was the longest in ancient Egyptian
history. He seems to have come to the throne at about the age of six, and would therefore have lived until
the age of one hundred. However, because of the onset of the First Intermediate Period, the latter part of
his reign was probably ineffectual, perhaps at least somewhat due to his advanced age. Both the Oxford
History of Ancient Egypt and Peter A. Clayton, have his reign lasting from 2278 until 2184 BC.
The pharaoh's birth name was Pepi, (also Pepy, Phiops or Fiops) as was his father's. His throne name was
Neferkare, which means "Beautiful is the Soul of Re" His mother was Ankhnesmerire II (Ankhesenpepi), who was
the sister of his older brother, Merenre and probably acted as Pepi II's regent during his youth. She may
have probably been assisted by her brother, Djau, who was a vizier. There is a well known statue of her
holding Pepi II as a young boy. However, after Pepi I's death, she seems to have married Merenre. He had a
number of wives. These included Neith, the daughter of Pepi I and Ankenesmerire I and Ipwet (Iput II), the
daughter of his brother Merenre. There is some confusion here, because we are told that he also married
Ankenesmerire III, who was another daughter of Merenre, possibly by his mother Ankhenesmerire II. A final
wife that we know of was Udjebten (or Wedjebten). He probably had at least one son named for his brother,
We know that Pepi II continued foreign relations in a very similar manner to both his predecessors of the
5th and 6th Dynasties and even developed new links with southern Africa. He maintained diplomatic and
commercial relations with Byblos in ancient Syria/Palestine. However, we also learn of an incident where
Pepi had to send Pepynakht (Heqaib) to bring back the body of an official who was killed on a mission in the
area of Byblos.
In Nubia, Pepi sought a policy of pacification. We know of several trips and campaigns made south into Nubia
both by Harkhuf, and his successor, Pepynakht. In fact, these powerful local governors managed to control
Nubia long after the death of Pepi II form their base in Elephantine (near modern Aswan)
Pepi II appears to have been fascinated with some of these travels, particularly by his fathers old
retainer, Harkhuf, governor of Aswan. One interesting account concerns a pygmy secured by Harkhuf on one of
his African adventures. When Pepi II learned of this he wrote Harkhuf a letter that Harkhuf later
incorporated into his funerary autobiography:
You have said...that you have brought a pygmy of the god's dances from the land of the horizon-dwellers,
like the pygmy whom the god's seal-bearer Bawerded brought from Punt in the time of King Isesi. You have
said to my majesty that his like has never been brought by anyone who went to Yam previously...Come north to
the residence at once! Hurry and bring with you this pygmy whom you brought from the land of the horizon-
dwellers live, hail and healthy, for the dances of the god, to gladden the heart, to delight the heart of
King Neferkare who lives forever! When he goes down with you into the ship, get worthy men to be around him
on deck, least he fall into the water! When he lies down at night, get worthy men to lie around him in his
tent. Inspect ten times at night! My majesty desires to see this pygmy more than the gifts of the mine-land
and of Punt! When you arrive at the residence and this pygmy is with you live, hale and healthy, my majesty
will do great things for you, more than was done for the god's seal-bearer. Bawerded in the time of King
He also continued long established mining practices. We know from an inscription that turquoise and copper
continued to be mined at Wadi Maghara in the Sinai. Alasbaster was quarried at Hatnub and Greywacke and
siltsone from Wadi Hammamat.
However, some information we have from some scenes attributable to Pepi II may be ritualistic. For example,
one scene depicting the submission of Libyan chiefs during his reign is a close copy of representations in
the mortuary temples of Sahura, Niuserra and Pepi I. Some Egyptologists believe that such scenes are more
symbolic expressions of the achievements of the ideal king and bore little resemblance to the reality.
Some would have us believe that the First Intermediate Period, a time of decline in Egyptian power, was
bought on by low inundation of the Nile and crop failure. This is mostly because they believe Pepi II's
mortuary complex was built and decorated in a much poorer manner then his predecessors. It his possible that
this may have been a contributing factor. However, during Pepi II's reign, we find increasing evidence of
the power and wealth of high officials in Egypt, with decentralization of control away from the capital,
Memphis. These nobles built huge, elaborate tombs at Cause, Akhmin, Abydos, Edfu and Elephantine, and it is
clear that their wealth enhanced their status to the detriment of the king's. Because the positions of
these officials was now hereditary, they now owned considerable land which was passed from father to son.
Therefore, their allegiance and loyalty to the throne became very casual as their wealth gave them
independence from the king. Administration of the country became difficult and so it was Pepi II who
divided the position of vizier so that now there was a vizier of Upper Egypt and another of Lower Egypt. Yet
the power of these local rulers continued to flourish as the king grew ever older, and probably less of an
Foreign relations, particularly concerning Nubia, were also a drain on Pepi II' treasury. In fact, in the
latter part of Pepi II's rule, some foreign relations were actually broken off. Hence, we see that towards
the end of his reign, the government of Egypt simply unraveled.
Long reigns have proven to create succession problems. As powerful as Ramesses II was, his successors
likewise had problems because of their advanced age when they themselves ascended to the throne. Hence, we
find that Pepi II may have been succeeded by a son, Merenre II, but perhaps for only one year. According to
Manetho, he was married to a Queen Nitocris, who succeeded her husband to become the last ruler of the 6th
Dynasty. However, very little archaeological evidence of Merenre II or Nitocris exists. Merenre II's mother
would have probably been Neith. After Pepi II, the marvelous building projects ceased almost entirely until
the reign of Mentuhotep II of the 11th Dynasty.
A temple at Abydos may have been a ka-chapel built by Pepi II. His pyramid and mortuary complex are located
in South Saqqara. Most (if not all) of his wife's smaller pyramids have been discovered nearby.
Pepi II is further attested to by a Calcite statuette of the young king and his mother, now in the Brooklyn
Museum of Art, a decree of the king found at the mortuary temple of Menkawre, a decree found at Abydos, and
three decrees at Koptos (Coptos). One inscription, now in Cairo, records his Sed festival and another
inscription is has been found in Iput II's mortuary temple. The king was further mentioned in the biography
of Djau (now in Cairo) in his tomb in Abydos and is mentioned in the tomb of Ibi at Deir el-Gabrawi.
Smaller items attesting to Pepi II include faience plaque from various places mentioning both his first and
second Sed festival, a calcite vessels attributed to his reign, an Ivory headrest inscribed with his full
titles and several objects found at Byblos.
Pepi II (reigned c. 2278 BC – c. 2184 BC) was a pharaoh of the Sixth dynasty in Egypt's Old Kingdom. His throne name,
Neferkare (Nefer-ka-Re), means "Beautiful is the Ka of Re". He succeeded to the throne at age six, after the death of Merenre
I, and is generally credited with having the longest reign of any monarch in history at 94 years (c. 2278 BC – c. 2184 BC)
although this figure has been disputed by some Egyptologists who favour a shorter reign of not much more than 64 years.
This is based on the complete absence of higher attested dates for Pepi beyond his Year after the 31st Count (Year 62 on a
biannual cattle count).
He was traditionally thought to be the son of Pepi I and Queen Ankhesenpepi II but the South Saqqara Stone annals record that
Merenre had a minimum reign of 11 years. Now that 6th dynasty royal seals have been discovered which demonstrate that Queen
Ankhesenpepi II, Pepi II's mother, also married Merenre after Pepi I's death and became this king's chief wife, many
Egyptologists believe that Pepi II was actually Merenre's own son. Pepi II would, therefore, be Pepi I's grandson.
His reign marked a sharp decline of the Old Kingdom. As the power of the nomarchs grew, the power of the pharaoh declined.
With no dominant central power, local nobles began raiding each other's territories and the Old Kingdom came to an end within
mere decades after the close of Pepi II's reign.
Early years of Pepi II's reign
His mother Ankhesenpepi II (Ankhesenmeryre II) most likely ruled as regent in the early years of his reign. An alabaster
statuette in the Brooklyn Museum depicts a young Pepi II, in full kingly regalia, sitting on the lap of his mother. Despite
his long reign, this piece is one of only three known 3D representations (i.e. statuary) in existence of this particular king.
She may have been helped in turn by her brother Djau, who was a vizier under the previous pharaoh. Some scholars have taken
the relative paucity of royal statuary to suggest that the royal court was losing the ability to retain skilled artisans.
A glimpse of the personality of the pharaoh while he was still a child can be found in a letter he wrote to Harkhuf, a
governor of Aswan and the head of one of the expeditions he sent into Nubia. Sent to trade and collect ivory, ebony, and other
precious items, he captured a pygmy. News of this reached the royal court, and an excited young king sent word back to Harkhuf
that he would be greatly rewarded if the pygmy were brought back alive, where he would have likely served as an entertainer
for the court. This letter was preserved  as a lengthy inscription on Harkhuf's tomb, and has been called the first
Over his long life Pepi II had several wives, thought to include Neith, Iput II, Ankhesenpepi III, Ankhesenpepi IV, and
Udjebten. Following a long tradition of royal incestuous marriage, Neith was Pepi II's cousin and half-sister (daughter of
Ankhesenpepi I) and Iput was his niece (a daughter of his half-brother Merenre). Of these queens, Neith, Iput, and Udjebten
each had their own minor pyramids and mortuary templates as part of the king's own pyramid complex in Saqqara.
Three fragments of a papyrus, dating from the Middle Kingdom, about a thousand years after Pepi II's reign, report his
clandestine nocturnal meetings with one of his military commanders, a General Sisene, suggestive of a homosexual