Pepi I Meryre
|Pepi I Meryre|
|Pepy, Phios, Phius, φιός|
Lifesize copper statue of Pepi I, Cairo Museum
|Reign||Uncertain duration: 34 up to 53 years have been proposed, in the second half of the 77th century or early 78th century[note 1] (6th Dynasty)|
|Coregency||with his son Merenre at the end of his reign|
|Successor||Merenre Nemtyemsaf I|
|Consort||Weret-yamtes, Ankhesenpepi I, Ankhesenpepi II, Nubwenet, Meritites IV, Inenek-Inti, Mehaa, Nedjeftet|
|Children||Merenre Nemtyemsaf I ♂, Pepi II ♂, Hornetjerkhet ♂, Tetiankh ♂, Neith ♀, Iput ♀|
|Burial||Pyramid of Pepi I in South Saqqara|
Pepi I Meryre (also Pepy I) was the third king of the Sixth dynasty of Egypt, ruling for over 40 years during the second half of the 77th century, toward the end of the Old Kingdom period. Pepi I was the son of his second predecessor Teti, ascending the throne only after the brief and enigmatic reign of the shadowy Userkare. Pepi's mother was queen Iput, who may have been a daughter of Unas, final ruler of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.
Pepi seems to have faced the decline of the pharaoh's power, which he tried to buttress by forming alliances with the provincial nomarch of Abydos, two daughters of whom became queens of Egypt. Pepi's first throne name was Neferdjahor which the king later altered to Meryre meaning "beloved of Rê".
Pepi was succeeded by his son Merenre Nemtyemsaf I, who reigned only briefly. He was in turn succeeded by Pepi II, who may have been another son of Pepi I by Ankhesenpepi II, although he could instead be a grandson of Pepi I by Merenre I. Pepi II was the last great pharaoh of the Old Kingdom period.
- 1 Family
- 2 Reign
- 3 Chronology
- 4 Pyramid complex
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
Pepi was the son of Teti and queen Iput, who may have been a daughter of Unas the last pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty. That Pepi was indeed a son of Iput is demonstrated by a relief on a decree uncovered in Koptos, which mentions Iput as Pepi's mother.
At least eight consorts of Pepi I have been identified. These 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.. Pepi's most prominent wives were Ankhesenpepi I and Ankhesenpepi II, both daughters of the nomarch of Abydos Khui and his wife Nebet. A final queen, named Weret-Yamtes, is known from the inscriptions uncovered in the tomb of Weni, an official serving Pepi. This queen apparently conspired against Pepi but was prosecuted when the conspiracy was discovered.
Pepi fathered at least three sons and a daughter. Ankhesenpepi I in all likelyhood bore him the future pharaoh Merenre Nemtyemsaf I. In an alternative hypothesis, Hans Goedicke has proposed that Merenre's mother was the queen Were-Yamtes, responsible for the harem conspiracy against Pepi I. In this hypothesis, Ankhesenpepi I was claimed to be Merenre's mother to safeguard Merenre's claim to the throne. Ankhesenpepi II was the mother of Pepi II Neferkare, who was likely born at the very end of his father's reign given that he was only 6 upon ascending the throne after Merenre's own reign. Another son of Pepi with an as yet unidentified consort was Teti-ankh, meaning "Teti lives". Teti-ankh is known only from an ink inscription bearing his name discovered in Pepi's pyramid. Buried nearby is prince Hornetjerkhet, a son of Pepi with queen Mehaa. Pepi I's daughters include possibly Neith and Iput II, both future wives of Pepi II.
Acending the throne
Pepi's accession to the throne might have occurred in times of discord, as his father Teti is said by Manetho to have been assassinated by his own bodyguards. Naguib Kanawati has argued in support of Manetho's claim, noting for example that Teti's reign saw an important increase in the number of guards at the Egyptian court, with these becoming responsible for the everyday care of the king. At the same time, the figures and names of several palace officials as represented in their tombs had been purposefully erased. The attempted damnatio memoriae targeted three men in particular, the vizier Heri, the overseer of weapons Mereri and chief physician Seankhuiptah who may therefore be behind the murder.
Pepi was by then perhaps too young a child to reign. In any case, he did not immediately succeed his father who was rather succeeded by king Userkare. Userkare's identity and relation with the royal family remains uncertain. It is possible that he served only as a regent with Pepi's mother Iput as Pepi reached adulthood, or occupied the throne in the interregnum. Such hypotheses are supported by the apparent lack of resistance against Pepi ultimately taking the throne. Against this view however, Kanawati has argued that Userkare's reign length—at no more than five years—is too short for a regency and that a regent would not have assumed a full royal titulary as Userkare did nor would he be included in king lists.
Nonetheless, Pepi chose the Horus name of Mery-tawy, meaning "He who is loved by the two lands", which Nicolas Grimal sees as an indication that he desired political appeasement. Similarly, Pepi chose the throne name Nefersahor, meaning "Perfect is the protection of Horus", which he only later changed to Meryre "Beloved of Ra". Although there seems not to be a direct relation between Userkare's brief reign and a later conspiracy in his harem, these events suggest some form of political instability at the time.
Policies and troubles
In a long trend that started earlier in the Fifth Dynasty, the Old Kingdom Egyptian state was the subject of increasing decentralization and regionalization. This process, well under way during Pepi I's reign, progressively weakened the king's primacy and ascendancy over his own administration and would ultimately result in the princedoms of the First Intermediate Period. Pepi seems to have developed several policies to counteract this, notably with the constructions of royal Ka chapels throughout Egypt, to strengthen the royal presence in the provinces. These expensive policies suggest that Egypt was prosperous during Pepi's reign.
At some point in his reign, either early or late, around his 44th year on the throne, Pepi faced a conspiracy hatched by one of his harem consort, Weret-Yamtes. Although the precise nature of her crime is not reported by Weni who served as a judge during the subsequent trial, this at least shows that the person of the king was not untouchable anymore. According to Hans Goedicke, Weret-Yamtes may have been the mother of Merenre, while Nicolas Grimal sees this as highly unlikely, as Weret-Yamtes' son would have been punished together her. Perhaps in response to these events, late in his reign Pepi married two daughters of Khui, nomarch of Abydos. This may also have served to counteract the weakening of the king's authority over Middle and Upper Egypt by securing the allegiance of a powerful family. The political importance of this marriage is demonstrated by the fact that, for the first and last time until the 26th Dynasty some 1800 years later, Khui's wife Nebet, a woman, was made vizier of Upper Egypt. Later, Khui's and Nebet's son Djau was made vizier as well. Pepi's marriages might be at the origin of a trend, which continued during the later Sixth and Eighth Dynasties, in which the temple of Min in Koptos was the focus of much royal patronage. This is manifested by the Coptos Decrees, which record successive pharaohs granting tax exemptions to the temple as well as official honors bestowed by the kings to the local ruling family while the Old Kingdom society was collapsing.
This part of Pepi's rule may not have been any less troubled than his early reign, as Kanawati conjectures that Pepi faced yet another conspiracy against him, in which his vizier Rawer could have been involved. To support his theory, Kanawati observes that Rawer's image in his tomb has been desecrated, with his name, hands and feet chiselled off, while this same tomb is dated to the second half of Pepi's reign on stylistic grounds. Kanawati further posits that the conspiracy may have aimed at having someone else designated heir to the throne at the expense of Merenre. Consequently to the failure of this conspiracy, Pepi I would have taken the drastic step of crowning Merenre during his own reign, thereby creating the earliest documented coregency of the history of Egypt. That such a coregency did indeed take place is indirectly supported by a gold pendant bearing the names of both Pepi I and Merenre I as kings, an inscription mentioning king Merenre in Hatnub which suggests that he counted his years of reign starting at some point during his father's reign and the copper statues of Hierakonpolis, discussed below.
Pepi I built extensively throughout Egypt, so much so that the Egyptologist Flinders Petrie considered in 1900 that "this king has left more monuments, large and small, than any other ruler before the Twelfth Dynasty". Pepi's building efforts were mostly devoted to local cults and royal Ka chapels, seemingly with the objective of affirming the king's stature and presence in the provinces.
In Dendera, where a fragmentary statue of a seated Pepi I has been uncovered, Pepi restored the temple complex to the goddess Hathor. In Abydos, he built a small rock cut chapel dedicated to the local god Khenti-Amentiu, where he is referred to as "Pepi, Son of Hathor of Dendera". In the same locality Pepi might also have had a small Ka-chapel built for himself. Such chapels comprised one or more chambers for the bringing of offerings dedicated to the cult of the Ka of a deceased or of the king. Like his father Teti, Pepi had such a chapel built in Bubastis, in the Nile Delta region, as well as another one built in Hierakonpolis in Upper Egypt. A further chapel might have existed in Elkab where rock inscriptions refer to his funerary cult. Yet more Ka chapels of Pepi have been also found in Memphis, Zawyet el-Meytin, Assiut and Nagada. All of these chapels were likely peripheral to larger temples hosting extensive cult activities, for example that at Bubastis was peripheral to the main Old Kingdom temple dedicated to the goddess Bastet, while that at Abydos was likely next to the temple of Khenti-Amentiu.
Beneath the floor of Hierakonpolis chapel, in an underground store, James Quibell uncovered a statue of king Khasekhemwy of the Second Dynasty, a terracota lion cub made during the Thinite era, a golden mask representing Horus and two copper statues. These statues, originally fashioned by hammering plates of copper over a wooden base had been disassembled and placed inside one another then sealed with a thin layer of engraved copper bearing the titles and names of Pepi I "on the first day of the Heb Sed" feast. The two statues were symbolically "trampling underfoot the Nine bows"—the ennemies of Egypt—a stylized representation of Egypt's conquered foreign subjects. While the identity of the larger adult figure as Pepi I is revealed by the inscription, the identity of the smaller statue showing a younger person remains unresolved. The most common hypothesis among Egyptologists is that the young man shown is Merenre: "who was publicly associated as his father's successor on the occasion of the Jubilee [the Heb Sed feast]. 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." Alternatively, Bongioanni and Croce have also proposed that the smaller statue may represent "a more youthful Pepy I, reinvigorated by the celebration of the Jubilee ceremonies."
In addition to building chapels, Pepi also decreed a tax-exemption for the Ka chapel of his mother located in Koptos.[note 3] A similar decree has survived on a stela discovered near the Bent Pyramid in Dashur, whereby in his 21st year of reign, Pepi grants exemptions to the people serving in the two pyramids of Sneferu:
My majesty has commanded that these two pyramid towns be exempt for him throughout the course of eternity from doing any work of the palace, from doing any forced labor for any part of the royal residence throughout the course of eternity, or from doing any forced labor at the word of anybody in the course of eternity.
At the southern border of Egypt, in Elephantine, several faience plaques bearing Pepi's cartouche have been uncovered in the temple of Satet. These may witness royal interest in the local cult. An alabaster statue of an ape with its offspring bearing Pepi I's cartouche was also uncovered in the same location, but it was rather probably a gift of the king to a high official who then dedicated it to Satet. In this temple that Pepi built a red granite naos meant either to house the goddess’s statue or a statue of Pepi I himself, making the naos into yet another Ka-chapel. The naos, which stands 1.32 m (4.3 ft) high is inscribed with Pepi I's cartouche and the epithet "beloved of Satet". Pepi seems to have undertaken wider works in the temple, possibly reorganizing its layout by adding walls and an altar. In this context, the faience tablets bearing his cartouche may be foundation offerings made at the start of the works, although this has been contested.
Further south, in Nubia, Weni the Elder oversaw the construction of a great canal at the First Cataract for the king.
Trade, mining and military activities
Trade and mining
Much of the trade with settlements along the Levantine coast which had existed during the earlier Fifth Dynasty not only continued but seem to have peaked under Pepi I and Pepi II. The chief trade partner there might have been Byblos, where dozens of inscriptions showing Pepi's cartouches have been found, as well as a large alabaster vessel bearing Pepi's titulary and commemorating his jubilee from the Temple of Baalat Gebal. Through Byblos, Egypt had indirect contacts took place with the city of Ebla in modern-day Syria. The latter is established by alabaster vessels bearing Pepi's name found near Ebla's royal palace G,[note 4] destroyed in the 78th century. At the same time, an extensive network of caravan routes traversed Egypt's Western Desert, for example from Abydos to the Kharga Oasis and from there to the Dakhla and Selima Oases.
Expedition and mining activities that were already taking place in the Fifth and early Sixth Dynasty continued unabated. These include at least one expedition to the mines of turquoise and copper in Wadi Maghareh, Sinai,  circa Pepi's 36th year on the throne, an expedition to Hatnub, where alabaster was extracted at least once on Pepi's 49th year of reign, as well as visits to the Gebel el-Silsila and Sehel Island. Greywacke and siltstone for building projects originated from quarries of the Wadi Hammamat, where Pepi I is mentioned in circa eighty graffiti.
Militarily, Pepi I's reign was marked by aggressive expansion into Nubia. This is reported on the walls of the tombs of the contemporary nomarchs of Elephantine, by alabaster vessels bearing Pepi's cartouche found in Kerma and by inscriptions in Tumas. To the north-east of Egypt, Pepi launched at least five military expeditions against the "sand dwellers"[note 5] of Sinai and southern Palestine. These campaigns are recounted on the walls of the tomb of Weni, then officially a palace superintendent but given the task of a general. Weni tells how he ordered nomarchs in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta region to "call up the levies of their own subordinates, and these in turn summoned their subordinates down through every level of the local administration". Meanwhile, Nubian mercenaries were also recruited, so that in total tens of thousands of men were at Weni's disposal. This is the only text relating the raising of an Egyptian army during the Old Kingdom period, and it also indirectly reveals the absence of a permanent, standing army at the time. The goal of this army was either to repulse and push-back rebelling Bedouins and Semitic people[note 6] or to seize their properties and conquer their land in southern Palestine or, less likely, in the Eastern Nile Delta. In any case the Egyptians did invade their opponents up to what was probably Mount Carmel or Ras Kouroun, landing troops directly on the coast thanks to Egyptian transport boats. Weni reports the destruction of walled towns, cutting down fig-trees and grape wines and setting fire to local shrines.
The relative chronology of Pepi I's reign is well established by historical records, contemporary artifacts and archeological evidences, which agree that he succeeded Userkare and was in turn succeeded by Merenre I Nemtyemsaf. For example, the near-contemporary South Saqqara Stone, a royal annal inscribed during the reign of Pepi II, gives the succession "Teti → Userkare → Pepi I → Merenre I", making Pepi the third king of the Sixth Dynasty. Two more historical sources agree with this chronology: the Abydos king list, written under Seti I and which gives Pepi I's cartouche on the 36th entry between those of Userkare and Merenre, and the Turin canon, a list of kings on papyrus dating to the reign of Ramses II which records Pepi I on the fourth column, third row.
An historical source against this order of succession is the Aegyptiaca (Αἰγυπτιακά), a history of Egypt written in the 98th century during the reign of Ptolemy II (9718 – 9755) by Manetho. No copies of the Aegyptiaca have survived and it is now known only through later writings by Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius. According to the Byzantine scholar George Syncellus, Africanus wrote that the Aegyptiaca mentioned the succession "Othoês → Phius → Methusuphis" at the start of the Sixth Dynasty. Othoês, Phius (in Greek, φιός), and Methusuphis are believed to be the Hellenized forms for Teti, Pepi I and Merenre, respectively. Manetho's reconstruction of the early Sixth Dynasty is in agreement with the Saqqara Tablet, where Pepi's name is given on the 25th entry while Userkare is omitted. This list was written under Ramses II.
Length of Reign
An analysis of the South Saqqara Stone attests to a 25th cattle count, its highest, during the reign of Pepi I. Evidence indicates that during the reigns of Pepi I and Merenre I Nemytemsaf the cattle count was conducted biennially, thus suggesting a regnal length of 49 years. However, a 50th year of reign cannot be discounted due to a missing fragment of the inscription following. The Turin King List appears to list Pepi I with a reign of 20 years, while his successor Merenre I is accredited with a 44-year reign. This contradicts contemporaneous evidence from the stone whose highest attestation is the 5th cattle count. The Egyptologist Kim Ryholt suggests that the two entries might have been interchanged.
There has been some doubt regarding whether the cattle count dating system was strictly biennial or slightly more irregular. That the latter situation appeared to be the case was suggested by the "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. as well as a "Year after the 18th Count, 4th Month of Shemu day 5" date in Sinai graffito No. 106 as the French Egyptologist Michel Baud noted in a 2006 book on Egyptian chronology. This would be the year 36 if the biennial 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 using a biennial counting system during his reign, these heb sed inscriptions should have been dated to the Year after the 15th Count instead. This could imply that the cattle count during the 6th dynasty was not regularly biennial. Michel Baud, however, stresses that the Year of the 18th count is preserved in the South Saqqara Stone and writes that:
- "Between the mention of count 18 [here] and the next memorial formula which belongs to count 19, end of register D, the available space for count 18+ is the expected half of the average size of a theoretical [year count] compartment. It is hard to believe that such a narrow space corresponds to the jubilee celebration, which obviously had a considerable importance for this (and every) king."
Baud notes that there was a tendency during this ruler's administration to mention the first jubilee repeatedly in the years following its celebration—in connection with intense building activity at the king's funerary complex until even to the end of Pepi I's reign when this pharaoh's highest date—the Year of the 25th Count, 1st Month of Akhet day [lost]--from Hatnub Inscription No.3. appears; this ruler's final 25th count is also strikingly associated with Pepi I's first royal jubilee. The South Saqqara Stone confirms that Pepi I's last year was his Year of the 25th Count.
Therefore, the references to Pepi I's first jubilee being celebrated in his 18th cattle count are likely just part of this royal tendency to emphasize the king's first jubilee years after it was first celebrated and Michel Baud (and F. Raffaele) both note that the longest year compartment in the South Saqqara Stone appears "at the beginning of register D. Fortuituously or not, this [year] compartment corresponds perfectly to year 30/31, if a strictly biennial system of numbering is presumed" for Pepi I's reign. (i.e. his 15th count) Therefore, the count was mostly likely biennial during Pepi I's reign and the reference to his final year—the 25 count—implies that he reigned for 49 full years.
Pepi I had a pyramid built for himself in South Saqqara, which he named Men-nefer-Pepi variously translated as "Pepi's splendor is enduring", "The perfection of Pepi is established" "The beauty of Pepi endures", and "The perfection of Pepi endures". The diminutive name Mennefer for the pyramid complex gave rise to a novel designation for the nearby capital of Egypt originally called Ineb-hedj, designation which ultimately gave Memphis in Greek.
Pepi's main pyramid was constructed in the same fashion as others since Djedkare Isesi: a core built six steps high from small roughly dressed blocks of limestone bound together using clay mortar encased with fine limestone blocks. The pyramid, now destroyed, had a base length of 78.75 m (258 ft; 150 cu) converging to the apex at ~ 53° and once stood 52.5 m (172 ft; 100 cu) tall. Its remains now form a mound a meagre 12 m (39 ft; 23 cu), containing a pit in its centre dug by stone thieves.
The substructure of the pyramid was accessed from the north chapel which has since disappeared. From the entrance, a descending corridor gives way to a vestibule leading into the horizontal passage. Halfway along the passage three granite portcullises guard the chambers. As in preceding pyramids, the substructure contains three chambers: an antechamber on the pyramids vertical axis, a serdab with three recesses to its east, and a burial chamber containing the king's sarcophagus to the west. Extraordinarily, the pink granite canopic chest that is sunk into the floor at the foot of the sarcophagus has remained undisturbed. Discovered alongside it was a bundle of viscera presumed to belong to the pharaoh. The provenance of a mummy fragment and fine linen wrappings discovered in the burial chamber are unknown, but are hypothesized to belong to Pepi I.
The walls of Pepi I's antechamber, burial chamber, and much of the corridor[lower-alpha 1] are covered in vertical columns of inscribed hieroglyphic text, painted green with ground malachite and gum arabic, a color symbolizing renewal. His sarcophagus is also inscribed on its east side with the king's titles and names, as part of a larger set of spells that includes texts at the bottom of the north and south walls opposite the sarcophagus, and in a line running across the top of the north, west, and south walls of the chamber. The writing comprises 2,263 columns and lines of text, making them the most extensive corpus of Pyramid Texts from the Old Kingdom. The tradition of inscribing texts inside the pyramid was begun by Unas at the end of the Fifth Dynasty, but originally discovered in Pepi I's pyramid in 1880. Their function, in congruence with all funerary literature, was to enable the reunion of the ruler's ba and ka leading to the transformation into an akh, and to secure eternal life among the gods in the sky.
- Dates proposed for Pepi I's reign: 7611–7640, 7647–7691, 7666–7716, 7669–7718, 7680–7714 , 7712–7746, 7716–7766, 7725–7773.
- catalog number 39.121
- The decree recording this, called decree Coptos Decree (a) in modern Egyptology, is now in the Egyptian Museum Cairo, catalog number 41890.
- For example, an alabaster lid of a precious vessel is inscribed with "Beloved of the two lands, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, the son of Hathor, lady of Dendera, Pepi". As Hathor was the chief deity of Byblos, it is likely that this vessel was destined to this city and was only later exchanged or given to Ebla.
- Transliteration from Ancient Egyptian ḥryw-š.
- Transliteration from Ancient Egyptian 3'mu often translated "Semite".
- The corridor texts in Pepi I's pyramid are the most extensive, covering the whole horizontal passage, the vestibule, and even a section of the descending corridor. Unas' pyramid constrained the texts to the south section of the corridor, as did Teti's. The texts in Merenre I's and Pepi II's pyramids covered the entire corridor and the vestibule.
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