The long reign of Pepi II is also often considered the cause of the end of the Old Kingdom.
In this view, the elderly king's court was the stage of intrigue and plot, with different members of the royal family and some high ranking officials conspiring to get a grasp on the government.
It must, however, be noted that there is no evidence to support this "romantic" fantasy. Even if the ageing Pepi II were unable to rule the country by himself, the central administration was organised well enough to govern in his place.
He ruled Ancient Egypt from around 2345 until 2333 BC, though of course Egyptologists differ on these dates, as well as his length of rule. The Turin King's List gives him less then one year's rule, which most scholars find very unlikely. Manetho suggests thirty, to thirty-three years, but there is no evidence of his jubilee festival, so this also seems unlikely. The latest known date from Teti's reign is that of the "sixth census", an event that took place on average every two years, or possibly every year and a half. Therefore many Egyptologists give him a reign of twelve years.
A seal bearing the king's cartouch
Teti granted more lands to Abydos and his name was inscribed in Hatnub. He built a pyramid in Saqqara which is called by modern Egyptians the " Prison Pyramid". Egyptologists discovered a statue of him made of black and pink granite. The statue is located at the Egyptian museum.
userkare, 2nd Ruler of the 6th Dynasty:
Userkare may have been a royal claimant from the Fifth dynasty but he was certainly a rival to Teti for the throne.Userkare took the throne by force. Since Manetho claims that Teti was killed by his bodyguards, theories of conspiracy have been put forward that Userkare was the leader of this conspiracy who then proceeded to seize the throne.
The recently discovered South Saqqara Stone document from Pepi II's reign confirms his existence and gives him a reign of 2 to 4 Years. Teti's son, Pepi I, eventually managed to oust Userkare and succeed his murdered father.
In the Turin King List, there is a lacuna between Teti and Pepi I Meryre, large enough to have fit an entry for Userkare. Userkare is apparently mentioned in several king-lists.
Userkare started work on some larger building projects, as shown by an inscription mentioning his workforce. However, no pyramid-complex has been identified for him presumbly because of the shortness of his reign.
Pepi I, 3rd Ruler of the 6th Dynasty:
Other spelling: Piopi.
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.
Ankhnesmerire II holds the infant Pepi II
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.
Copper statue of Pepi I and Merenre
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.
From the autobiography of Weni the Elder
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.
Merenre, 4th Ruler of Egypt's 6th Dynasty:
Other spellings: Mernere, Merenra, Merenra-nem-tyemsaf.
Merenre, sometimes referred to as Merenre I as there was a much later king by the same name, was the third ruler of Egypt's 6th Dynasty. As the oldest living son of Pepi I, he succeeded his father, we believe, at a fairly young age, and probably died unexpectedly young, perhaps between his fifth and ninth year of rule. He was succeeded by his younger half brother, Pepi II. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt places the years he ruled as 2287-2278 BC while Chronicle of the Pharaohs gives him from 2283 until 2278.
Merenre was this king's throne name, which means "Beloved of Re". He is sometimes also referred to as Merenra. His birth name was Nemty-em-sa-f, which means, "Nemty is his Protection". His Horus name was Ankh-khau.
His mother was Ankhnesmerire I (Ankhesenpepi I), who, along with her younger sister by the same name, married Pepi I in the later part of his rule. Labrousse, who's team is excavating in South Saqqara where Merenre's pyramid is located, now believes that Ankhnesmerire II (Ankhesenpepi II), married Merenre. She was a late wife of Pepi I, Merenre's father, and by him, the mother of Pepi II, Merenre's half brother. She may have not been as old, or much older then Merenre, but sometimes working out relationships is interesting. Not only would she be Merenre's queen, but also his stepmother and aunt. Pepi II would not only be his half brother and his cousin, but also his stepson. In addition, the Labrousse team excavating at Saqqara now believes that a Queen Ankhnesmerire III (Ankhesenpepi III) who's pyramid is located very near Pepi I's was a daughter of Merenre, and became the wife of Pepi II. Lets see. That would make her Pepi II's wife, niece and if Ankhnesmerire II was her mother, also his half sister. He had another daughter named Ipwet (Iput II) who's pyramid is also in the South Saqqqara pyramid field.
The copper statue found with a much larger copper statue of Pepi I has long been assumed to be of Merenre and a boy or young man. However, it has been questioned lately whether it is instead a statue of Pepi II.
Merenre may have served as his father's coregent for a few years prior to Pepi I's death. Uni (Weni?), who had worked under Pepi I, continued to make expeditions, and the governor of Aswan, Harkhuf, also led expeditions into Africa. Around, his ninth regnal year, Merenre himself visited Aswan to receive a group of southern chieftains. It is interesting to note that this was a time when new people, who archaeologists refer to as the Nubian C Group, were migrating from the south into northern Nubia. Because of the growing relationship with Nubia during this period, merenre also attempted to improve travel in the first cataract region which was navigated by way of the Dunqul Oasis and canals. We are told that:
His majesty sent (me) in order to dig 5 canals in Upper Egypt and in order to build 3 barges and 4 tow-boats of acacia wood of Wawat, the rulers of the Medja hills Irtjet, Wawat, Yam, Medja were cutting the wood for them. (I) did it entirely in one year, floated and loaded with very large granite (blocks) for the pyramid 'Merenre -appears-in-splendor' . Indeed, I made a saving for the Palace with all these 5 canals.
Autobiography of Weni the Elder
The Nubian rulers are said to have helped by supplying the wood needed to construct the barges. (Since there was no wood in Lower Nubia, they would have had to procure it from sources much farther south). At the same time the Lower Nubian rulers seem also to have profited greatly by sending their fighting men to Egypt for hire. By the end of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2150 BC), the Egyptian armies were mainly composed of Nubian mercenaries, many of whom would ultimately settle in Egypt, marry Egyptian women, and become assimilated into the Egyptian population. During the Old Kingdom, Egyptian texts speak of a land in Upper Nubia called "Yam." Besides troops from "Wawat, Irtjet, and Setju" (Lower Nubia), troops from Yam, too, were hired for service in the Egyptian army. The only source that provides any real information about Yam is a biography of the Aswan governor, Harkhuf, preserved in his tomb at Aswan. Harkhuf tells us that, on behalf of the pharaohs Merenre and Pepi II, he led four expeditions to Yam, each of which took eight months.
It is believed that during his reign, Merenre not only continued his his fathers policies in northern (lower) Nubia, but actually sent officials to maintain Egyptian rule as far south as the third cataract. We are told that the conquest of Nubia resulted from the control of the caravan routes and the Western Oasis that relied on trade. Three were successive expeditions to Tomas in Nubia, which connected the Nile to the caravan routs.
Merenre, like his predecessors, maintained diplomatic and commercial relations with Byblos, and we know from inscriptions and tomb biographies that he had alabaster quarried from Hatnub and greywacke and siltstone from Wadi Hammamat.
A copper statue of Merenre as a young boy was found with a much larger copper statue of his father, Pepi I. These are believed to be the oldest, large copper statues ever found, but some are now questioning whether the statue of the boy is actually that of Merenre, or rather a young Pepi II. There is also a very small sphinx of Merenre in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Merenre is further attested to by a Box (Hippopotamus ivory) in Paris, Louvre Museum, a rock inscriptions near Aswan, the inscriptions on an ivory mother monkey that was probably a gift to an official, decrees of the king found at the pyramid temple of Menkawre and in biographies of Uni (Weni) in his tomb at Abydos, Djaw from his tomb also at Abydos, The tomb of Harkhuf at Elephantine, The tomb of Ibi at Deir el-Gabrawi, the Tomb of Qar at Edfu, and an unknown persons tomb at Saqqara.. He is also mentioned in an inscription in the tomb of Maru at Giza (though this inscription is now in Brussels). Recently another inscription has also been found by a Polish team that mentions Merenre on a rock wall at Deir el-Bahari on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes).
Merenre was probably buried in his pyramid at South Saqqara, though apparently because of his unexpected death, this pyramid was not yet completed. Until fairly recently, it was believed that the first ever mummy was that of Merenre I, though in reality the mummy found in his pyramid may not have been that of Merenre. Nevertheless, in 1997, excavations began at Hierakonopolis revealing a large predyanstic cemetery full of older mummies. However, if the mummy is indeed that of Merenre, it would remain the oldest know royal mummy.
Pepi II, Last ruler of the 6th Dynasty and Egypt's Old Kingdom:
Other spelling: Piopi, Neferkare.
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.
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 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 king.
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, Merenre.
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.
shows Pepi II as a very young naked child
but wearing the Uraeus of a king
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 Isesi.
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.
Calcite lid of a vessel.
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 able ruler.
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.Right: A relief fragment from Koptos
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.Right:The South Saqqara Mound Mystery
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.