Horemheb (sometimes spelled Horemhab or Haremhab and meaning Horus is in Jubilation) was the last Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty from 1319 BCE to late 1292 BCE, although he was not related to the preceding royal family and is believed to have been of common birth.
Before he became pharaoh, Horemheb was the commander in chief of the army under the reigns of Tutankhamun and Ay. After his accession to the throne he reformed the state and it was under his reign that official action against the preceding Amarna rulers began.
Horemheb demolished monuments of Akhenaten, reusing their remains in his own building projects, and usurped monuments of Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb presumably remained childless and he appointed his vizier Paramesse as his successor, who would assume the throne as Ramesses I.
Horemheb is believed to have originated from Herakleopolis Magna or ancient Hnes (modern Ihnasya el-Medina) on the west bank of the Nile near the entrance to the Fayum since his coronation text formally credits the God Horus of Hnes for establishing him on the throne.
His parentage is unknown but he is universally believed to be a commoner. According to the French (Sorbonne) Egyptologist Nicolas Grimal, Horemheb does not appear to be the same person as Paatenemheb (Aten Is Present In Jubilation) who was the Commander-in-chief of Akhenaten's army. Grimal notes that Horemheb's political career first began under Tutankhamun where he "is depicted at this king's side in his own tomb chapel at Memphis.".
In the earliest known stage of his life, Horemheb served as "the royal spokesman for [Egypt's] foreign affairs" and personally led a diplomatic mission to visit the Nubian governors. This resulted in a reciprocal visit by "the Prince of Miam (Aniba)" to Tutankhamun's court, "an event [that is] depicted in the tomb of the Viceroy Huy." Horemheb quickly rose to prominence under Tutankhamun, becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and advisor to the Pharaoh. Horemheb's specific titles are outlined from his Saqqara tomb which was built while he was still only an official: "Hereditary Prince, Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King, and Chief Commander of the Army"; the "attendant of the King in his footsteps in the foreign countries of the south and the north"; the "King's Messenger in front of his army to the foreign countries to the south and the north"; and the "Sole Companion, he who is by the feet of his lord on the battlefield on that day of killing Asiatics."
When Tutankhamun died while still a teenager, Horemheb had actually been designated as rpat ("Crown Prince") and idnw (King's "Deputy") which meant that Horemheb was the officially recognised heir to Tutankhamun's throne. However, the aged Vizier Ay managed to sideline Horemheb's claim to the throne and instead succeed Tutankhamun. Having pushed Horemheb aside, Ay proceeded to nominate a military officer named Nakhtmin who was possibly Ay's son or adopted son, to succeed him rather than Horemheb.
After Ay's brief reign of four years and one month, however, Horemheb managed to seize power presumably from his position as Commander of the Army to assume what he must have perceived to be his just reward for having ably served Egypt under Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb quickly removed Naktmin's rival claim to the throne and arranged to have Ay's WV23 tomb desecrated by smashing the latter's sarcophagus into several pieces, systematically chiselling out Ay's name and figure out of the tomb walls and probably destroying Ay's mummy. However, he spared Tutankhamun's tomb from vandalism presumably because it was the Boy King who had promoted his sudden rise to power and chosen him to be this king's successor. Horemheb also usurped and enlarged Ay's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use and erased Ay's titulary on the back of a 17 foot colossal statue by carving his own titulary in its place. This statue is now located in the Oriental Institute of Chicago.
Upon his accession, Horemheb initiated a comprehensive series of internal reforms meant to curb the gross abuses of power and privileges that had begun under Akhenaten's reign, due to the overcentralization of state power and privileges in the hands of a few officials. He "appointed judges and regional tribunes...reintroduced local religious authorities" and divided legal power "between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt" between "the Viziers of Thebes and Memphis respectively." 
These deeds are recorded in a stela which the king erected at the foot of his Tenth Pylon at Karnak. Occasionally called The Great Edict of Horemheb, it is a copy of the actual text of the king's decree to re-establish order to the Two Lands and curb abuses of state authority. The stela's creation and prominent location emphasizes the great importance which Horemheb placed upon domestic reform.
Horemheb also reformed the Army and reorganized the Deir el-Medinah workforce in his 7th Year while Horemheb's official, Maya, renewed the tomb of Thutmose IV, which had been disturbed by tomb robbers in his 8th Year. While the king restored the priesthood of Amun, he did not permit the Amun priests from forming a stranglehold on power by deliberately reappointing priests who mostly came from the Egyptian army since he could rely on their personal loyalty. Horemheb was a prolific builder who erected numerous temples and buildings throughout Egypt during his life-time. He constructed the Second, Ninth and Tenth Pylons of the Great Hypostyle Hall, in the Temple at Karnak using recycled talatat blocks from Akhenaten's own monuments here, as building material for the first two Pylons.
Because of his unexpected rise to the throne, Horemheb had had two tombs constructed for himself: the first – when he was a mere nobleman – at Saqqara near Memphis, and the other – in the Valley of the Kings, in Thebes, in tomb KV57, as king. His chief wife was Queen Mutnedjmet, who may have been Nefertiti's younger sister, but she failed to bear him a successor. He is not known to have any children by his first wife Amenia who died before Horemheb assumed power.
This pharaoh's reign length is a matter of debate among scholars. Horemheb's highest clearly known dates are a pair of Year 13 and Year 14 wine labels from this king's wine estates which were found in his royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It is traditionally believed that Horemheb's highest year-date is likely attested in an anonymous hieratic graffito written on the shoulder of a now fragmented statue from his mortuary temple in Karnak which mentions the appearance of the king himself, or a royal cult statue representing the king, for a religious feast. The ink graffito reads Year 27, first Month of Shemu day 9, the day on which Horemheb, who loves Amun and hates his enemies entered the temple for this event. (JNES 25, p. 123) Donald Redford, in a BASOR 211(1973) No.37 footnote observes that the use of Horemheb's name and the addition of a long "Meryamun" (Beloved of Amun) epithet in the graffito suggests a living, eulogised king rather than a long deceased one.
The Egyptologist Rolf Krauss, in a DE 30(1994) paper, has argued that this date may well reflect Horemheb's accession where a Feast or public holiday was traditionally proclaimed to honour the accession date of a deceased or a current king. Krauss supports his hypothesis with evidence from Ostraca IFAO 1254 which was initially published by Jac Janssen in a BIFAO 84(1984) paper under the title "A Curious Error." The ostraca records the number of days on which an unknown Deir el-Medinah workman was absent from work and covers the period from Year 26 III Peret day 11 to Year 27 II Akhet day 12 before breaking off. The significant fact here is that a Year change occurred in the ostraca from Year 26 to Year 27 around the interval IV Peret day 28 and I Shemu day 13. The Year 27 date of Horemheb is located within this interval and would reflect Horemheb's accession date, Krauss suggests. Ay's accession date occurred somewhere in the month of III Peret. Since Manetho gives Ay reign of 4 years and 1 month, this ruler would have died sometime around the month of IV Peret or the first half of I Shemu at the very latest. This is precisely the time period noted in Ostraca IFAO 1254. The fact that the ostraca records the case of only one worker rather than an entire group of workmen means the necropolis scribe cannot be presumed – at first glance – to have committed a dating error in altering the unknown king's Year date in the interval between IV Peret 28 and I Shemu 13.
Janssen, in his original BIFAO paper, noted the curious fact that no known New Kingdom pharaohs who reigned for a quarter of a century including Ramesses II and Ramesses III had their accession date in this time frame and suggests the Year change was an error committed on behalf of the scribe. He then attributed the ostraca to Ramesses III, whose accession date was I Shemu day 26 and expressed his view that the scribe may have inadvertently implemented the Year change two weeks early instead. Janssen also observed that the palaeography of the ostraca suggests a date in the 20th Dynasty partly because it followed the later New Kingdom form of writing and due to its provenance in the Grand Putit region, which features numerous Dynasty 20 ostracas. However, this form of writing is also attested in monuments of Ramesses II and it would, therefore, not be unexpected to find it in a document from the very late 18th Dynasty since the transition from the Early New Kingdom to the Late New Kingdom Form of writing had already occurred prior to the end of Horemheb's reign, as Frank Yurco once noted. Indeed, Janssen's palaeographical reference for his paper–Prof. Georges Posener–himself suggested a date in the 19th Dynasty due to the form of the wsf (absent) and akhet (inundation) text. As Janssen himself writes, a few 19th Dynasty ostracas have been found in the Grand Putit area prior to the 20th Dynasty's intensive exploitation of this region. This does not exclude some late 18th Dynasty work here either. Secondly, both Janssen and Krauss stress in their papers that the relative scarcity of the hieratic text in Ostraca IFAO 1254 precludes a clear dating of the document to Ramesses III's reign and that palaeography, in general, does not give a precise date for a document's creation. Hence, a dating of the ostraca to Horemheb's reign on the basis of the Year change is eminently plausible. On other matters, a damaged wall fragment painting from the Petrie Collection mentions Horemheb's 15th or 25th Year.
Another important text, The Inscription of Mes, records that a court case decision was rendered in favour by a rival branch of Mes' family in Year 59 of Horemheb. Since the Mes inscription was composed during the reign of Ramesses II when the Amarna-era Pharaohs were struck from the official king-lists, the Year 59 Horemheb date certainly includes the nearly seventeen year long reign of Akhenaten, the two year independent reign of Neferneferuaten, the nine year reign of Tutankhamun and the 4 year reign of Ay. Once all these rulers reigns are deducted from the Year 59 date, Horemheb would still have easily enjoyed a reign of 26-27 years.
At a well known 1987 Conference from Gothenburg Sweden, Kenneth Kitchen astutely noted that any attempt to explain away the Year 59 Horemheb date as a "scribal error" fails to consider the long and volumnious listed series of court trials and legal setbacks which Mes' family endured in order to win back control over certain valuable lands which had been stolen from his family's line. Indeed, Mes likely ordered the protracted legal dispute, which is presented as a series of court depositions and testimonies of various plaintiffs and witnesses, to be inscribed on his tomb walls in order to create a permanent ('carved in stone') record of his family's ultimately victorious struggle to win back these lands. Mes, hence, could hardly be expected to forget the beginning of his family's legal tribulations in Year 59 of Horemheb. Kitchen also observes in his paper that Horemheb's extensive building projects at Karnak supported the theory of a long reign for this Pharaoh and stressed that "a good number of the undated 'late 18th Dynasty' private monuments that are in both Egypt and the world's Museums must, in fact, belong to his reign." Horemheb, hence, probably died after a minimum reign of twenty-seven or, at most, twenty-eight years.
Under Horemheb, Egypt's power and confidence was once again restored after the internal chaos of the Amarna period; this situation set the stage for the rise of the 19th Dynasty under such ambitious Pharaohs like Seti I and Ramesses II. Horemheb is believed to have unsuccessfully attempted to father an heir to the throne since the mummy of his second wife was found with a fetus in it. Geoffrey Martin in his excavation work at Saqqara states that the burial of Horemheb's second wife Mutnedjmet was located at the bottom of a shaft to the rooms of Horemheb's Saqqara tomb. He notes that "a fragment of an alabaster vase inscribed with a funerary text for the chantress of Amun and King's Wife Mutnodjmet, as well as pieces of a statuette of her [was found here]...The funerary vase in particular, since it bears her name and titles would hardly have been used for the burial of some other person."
- Expert analysis subsequently showed that the bones represented part of the skull and other portions of the body, including the pelvis, of an adult female who had given birth several times. Furthermore, she had lost all her teeth early in life, and was therefore only able to eat soft foods for much of the time. She died in her mid-forties, perhaps in childbirth, for with her bones were those of a foetus or newborn child. The [tomb] plunderers had evidently dragged the two mummies, mother and child, from the burial chamber below, and broken them open in the pillared hall above. The balance of probability, taking into account the evidence of the objects inscribed for Mutnodjmet, is that the adult bones are those of the queen herself and that she died in attempting to provide her husband the Pharaoh with an heir to the throne.
Since Horemheb remained childless, he appointed his Vizier, Paramesse as his chosen successor before his death both to reward Paramesse's loyalty and because the latter had both a son and grandson to secure Egypt's royal succession. Paramesse employed the name Ramesses I upon assuming power and founded the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. While the decorations of Horemheb's KV57 tomb walls was still unfinished upon his death, this situation is not unprecedented: Amenhotep II's tomb was also not fully completed when he was buried but this ruler enjoyed a reign of 26 Years.
- Horemheb appears as a major character in P. C. Doherty's trilogy of historical novels, An Evil Spirit Out of the West, The Season of the Hyaena and The Year of the Cobra.
- Horemheb appears as a major character in Pauline Gedge's historical novel The Twelfth Transforming.
- Horemheb was also a major character in Mika Waltari's historical fiction international bestseller, Sinuhe, The Egyptian. He was portrayed by Victor Mature in the film adaptation The Egyptian (1954).
- He is a minor character in Lucile Morrison's 1937 teen novel The Lost Queen of Egypt. He is portrayed as Tutankhamun's mentor, whose first concern is holding the kingdom together, although he supports Akhenaten and his religion while Akhenaten is alive.
- ↑ Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss & David Warburton (editors), Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Handbook of Oriental Studies), Brill: 2006, p.493 Chronology table
- ↑ Alan Gardiner, "The Coronation of King Haremhab," JEA 39 (1953), pp.14, 16 & 21
- ↑ Virtual Egyptian Museum - The Full Collection
- ↑ Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, Blackwell:1992, p.242
- ↑ Grimal, op. cit., p.242
- ↑ Grimal, op. cit., p.242
- ↑ John A. Wilson "Texts from the Tomb of General Hor-em-heb" in Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) relating to the Old Testament, Princeton Univ. Press, 2nd edition, 1955. pp.250-251
- ↑ Wolfgang Helck, Urkunden der 18. Dynastie: Texte der Hefte 20-21 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1984), pp.1908-1910
- ↑ Tomb 23 in the western annex of the Valley of the Kings; see Porter & Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph Texts, Reliefs and Parts, vol. 1, part 2, (Oxford Clarendon Press:1960), pp.550-551
- ↑ Nicolas Grimal, pp.243
- ↑ The Great Edict of Horemheb
- ↑ Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994. p.137
- ↑ Grimal, op.cit., p.243 and 303
- ↑ Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt, Thames & Hudson 2006. p.140
- ↑ Tyldesley, op. cit., p.140
- ↑ Rolf Krauss, "Nur ein kurioser Irrtum oder ein Beleg für die Jahr 26 und 27 von Haremhab?" Discussions in Egyptology 30, 1994, pp.73-85
- ↑ Jac Janssen, A Curious Error, BIFAO 84(1984), pp.303-306.
- ↑ J. von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, Mainz, (1997), p.201
- ↑ Janssen, op. cit., p.305
- ↑ Inscription of Mes
- ↑ G. Martin, The Hidden Tombs of Memphis, Thames & Hudson (1991), pp.97-98
- ↑ G. Martin, op. cit., 97-98
- Alan Gardiner, The Inscription of Mes: A Contribution to Egyptian Juridical Procedure, Untersuchungen IV, Pt. 3 (Leipzig: 1905).
- Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, MÄS 46, Philip Von Zabern, Mainz: 1997
- Nicholas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, Blackwell Books: 1992
- K.A. Kitchen, The Basis of Egyptian Chronology in relation to the Bronze Age," Volume 1: pp. 37-55 in "High, Middle or Low?: Acts of an International Colloquim on absolute chronology held at the University of Gothenburg 20-22 August 1987." (ed: Paul Aström).
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