Amenhotep in Ancient Egypt

The tomb inscriptions of Amenhotep I speak to his power as a political leader.
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Amenhotep I -- sometimes transliterated as Amenophis I -- was the second pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, ruling from around 1526 to 1506 B.C. Born to Pharaoh Ahmose I and his wife Ahmose-Nefertari, Amenhotep had two older brothers and was therefore not expected to inherit the throne. However, Ahmose I’s heir died during his 17th year on the throne and Amenhotep became the heir apparent, eventually going on to reign for almost 21 years.

1 Main Achievements

The reign of Amenhotep is poorly documented in classical Egyptian literature, but historians and archaeologists have pieced together his notable achievements. Ahmose, Amenhotep’s father, had united the Egyptian kingdom through a series of conquests, including those of Nubia and parts of the Nile Delta. Amenhotep kept these territories safely guarded as part of the kingdom, but did not attempt to keep power in Syrio-Palestine as his father had done. However, he is probably best remembered for building elaborate temples in Upper Egypt. Chief among his innovations was the division between the mortuary tomb and the mortuary temple. This trend would continue throughout the Egyptian New Kingdom.

2 Foreign Policy

Like his father, Amenhotep was keenly interested in expanding Egypt’s presence in the region. His Horus and "Two Ladies" names -- in other words, the royal titular protocol -- were “Bull who conquers the lands” and “He who inspires great terror.” Two tomb texts indicate that he led military campaigns to Nubia in efforts to expand the Egyptian border southward. There are also temples in the Saï island of the Nile that indicate that Amenhotep established settlements there and along the Third Cataract of Tombos/Hannek. While no evidence of his involvement in Syrio-Palestine is evident, there is also little evidence to indicate why he decided to pull away from this once-vital territory.

3 Support for the Arts

One of the key sources of information about Amenhotep’s reign is the large number of statues dedicated to him. However, most of them are from the Ramessid period, which means they would have been erected posthumously. What is clear is that Amenhotep heavily supported art and design during his reign. In terms of the construction of buildings and temples, he largely copied the Middle Kingdom styles that preceded him -- particularly mimicking art and statutes produced under the reigns of Mentuhotep II and Senusret I. However, for his own original contribution, Amenhotep opened an artisan’s village at Deir el-Medina. These artisans worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the 18th to 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom period.

4 Death and Legacy

Some Egyptologists argue that Amenhotep appointed Thutmose I, his successor, to be his coregent just before he died. However, the evidence to support this claim is scant, and many historians suggest that Thutmose may have simply wanted to associate himself closely with Amenhotep, since Amenhotep was seen as such a powerful leader. Scholars are also uncertain where Amenhotep was initially entombed, as his body was found in the Deir el-Bahri Cache above the mortuary temple of another pharaoh named Hatshepsut. The mummy is thought to have been looted during the 21st dynasty and moved by priests to keep the remains intact. Amenhotep’s face mask is so impressive that Egyptologists have not unwrapped or examined the mummy. After his death, Amenhotep was deified as the patron god of Deir el-Medina.

Jeremy Bradley works in the fields of educational consultancy and business administration. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree.