Amenemhet I Fatti

Pharaoh Amenemhet I (reigned in 1991-1962 B.C.), although not of royal blood, was the founder of the twelfth dynasty of Egypt.

The mother of Amenemhet was apparently called Nefert and was originally from the name, or province, of Elephantine, and he himself seems to have been born in Upper Egypt. His father was a commoner named Sesostris. Amenemhet is almost certainly identical to the namesake vizier who led an expedition to the quarries of Wadi Hammamat in the second year of the reign of Nebtowere Mentuhotep III of the Eleventh Dynasty. Amenemhet was probably middle-aged when he became king after usurping his master’s throne. He openly recognized his lack of royal ancestry, adopting the epithet Wehem-Meswet (Repeater of Births) as the first of the three names of his new title, thus identifying himself as the inaugurator of a new era in the history of Egypt.

Amenemhet was a strong supporter of the god Amon of Thebes, whom he elevated to the first place among the gods of Egypt. Mindful of the difficulties his predecessors of the Eleventh Dynasty had encountered in controlling Lower Egypt from Thebes, Amenemhet moved his seat of government to a site 18 miles south of Memphis, on the border between Upper and Lower Egypt, where he built the fortified city of It-towy (Seizer of the Two Lands). He erected

its pyramid nearby, west of the modern villages of Lisht and Maharraqa.

The first 2 decades of Amenemhet’s reign were mainly spent in an organized effort to consolidate its position. In his candidacy for the throne, he had evidently received much support from local nomarchs, or governors, of Egypt, and made no attempt to abolish their hereditary privileges. However, to prevent rivalry between the nomads and dangerous territorial expansion by a single governor, the boundaries of each name were strictly established. At the beginning of his reign Amenemhet, accompanied by the nomarch of Beni Hasan, sailed up the Nile with a fleet of 20 ships to Elefantina, destroying the remaining pockets of resistance to his government. He may also have led an expedition against the inhabitants of Lower Nubia. To the north he made a tour of inspection of the Nile Delta, on the eastern border of which he repelled the incursions of the Asian nomads. He built towards the eastern end of Wadi Tumilat a fortified station called “Walls of the Sovereign”.

In the twentieth year of his reign, Amenemhet made his eldest son, Sesostris I, the Coregent. Father and son reigned together for 10 years and dated events to the years of their respective kingdoms. During this co-regency Sesostris seems to have started the military occupation of Lower Nubia. In the 29th the area up to Korosko, halfway between the First and Second cataracts, had been conquered. The name Amenemhet is found in the diorite quarries in the Nubian desert northwest of Toshka and near the turquoise mines of Sinai. It seems that Amenemhet died because of a palace

conspiracy while Sesostris was on an expedition against the Libyans.

More readings on Amenemhet I

The sources for the rise of the 12th dynasty are discussed in William C. Hayes’ chapter “The Middle Kingdom in Egypt” in J. B. Bury and others, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 1 (2d ed. 1961). Also useful are H. E. Winlock, The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom at Thebes (1947), and Alan H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961).