first king of the twelfth dynasty, Middle Kingdom. In the fictitious prophecy of Amenemhet I's accession, as told by the sage Neferti at King Sneferu's court, Amenemhet is styled as the savior of his country and a terminator of the alleged chaotic conditions that prevailed before he attained kingship; there are no hard facts beneath the text, however. Amenemhet I's attestation in history is meager: he was not the son of his predecessor Montuhotep III, and Egyptologists assume that Montuhotep's vizier, Amenemhet, is identical with this founder of the twelfth dynasty.

Amenemhet I's throne name Sehtepibre means “who pacifies the heart of the sun god Re,” and his Horus name is similarly modeled: Sehtepibtowy means “who pacifies the heart of the Two Lands.” The reconciliation theme was felt appropriate, but it had its forerunner in the titulary of Teti, the first king of the sixth dynasty (Sehoteptowy, “who pacifies the Two Lands”). Amenemhet I's reign should be understood as a continuation of the glorious past but, at the same time, as a new beginning. That idea was condensed into his second Horus name, Wehem-meswet (“repeater of births”), which labeled his reign as one of renaissance and restoration.

The change of the king's titulary could be hypothetically combined with a change of royal residence: the majority of his reign was spent at Thebes, where he began preparations for his tomb, but later he moved his court north to el-Lisht, to a place called Itjtawy (Ḻt-tʒwy; “[Amenemhet] is-he-who seizes the Two Lands”). The new residence marked the end of the Thebes-centered policy of his predecessors. At Itjtowy, the royal precinct became the place for his new pyramid and burial.

Amenemhet I launched activities in the temples of Tod, Armant, Karnak, Coptos, Dendera, Medinet el-Faiyum, Memphis, and Bubastis, as well as in the Qantir region. Only one government expedition to the Wadi Hammamat quarries is known for his reign. He devoted significant efforts toward establishing a royal presence in the Nile Delta and in strengthening the Egyptian frontiers; although known only from textual evidence, in the eastern Delta he initiated the “Walls of the Ruler,” a fortification designed to prevent intrusion by adjacent countries. He did the same in the western Delta against the Libyans; at Qaret el-Dahr, to the south of the Wadi Natrun, a monumental temple gate has been found, once part of a frontier fortress. Military expeditions to the south to vanquish Lower Nubia were recorded for his last year of reign, his twenty-ninth. Their organization was due to the vizier Antefoqer, and the Story of Sinuhe reports a military raid against the Libyans led by the king's son, Senwosret I. Just before Amenemhet I's sed-festival, he was killed as a victim of a harem conspiracy, and the attack on him was reflected in his Instructions of Amenemhet to his son. There, the king, speaking in the hereafter, advised his son from his own bad experience with courtiers. Scholars still debate whether a ten-year coregency existed for Amenemhet I with his son Senwosret I.

See also INSTRUCTIONS OF AMENEMHET.

Bibliography

  • Allen, James P. “Some Theban Officials of the Early Middle Kingdom.” In Studies in Honor of William Kelly Simpson, edited by Peter Der Manuelian, vol. 1, pp. 1–26. Boston, 1996.
  • Arnold, Dorothea. “Amenemhat I and the early Twelfth Dynasty at Thebes.” Metropolitan Museum Journal 26 (1991), 5–48. Ascribes the unfinished royal tomb in the valley northwest of the Ramesseum to Amenemhet's Theban years; study of the early twelfth dynasty's history, art, ceramics, and other materials.
  • Berman, Lawrence M. “Amenemhet I.” Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1985. Collection of relevant sources, but somewhat out of date.
  • Franke, Detlef. “The Middle Kingdom in Egypt.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by J. M. Sasson et al., vol. 2, pp. 735–738. New York, 1995. General outline of Amenemhet's reign, with bibliography.
  • Vandersleyen, Claude. L'Égypte et la vallée du Nil. 2 vols. Paris, 1995. Archaeological and textual sources of the reigns of Montuhotep III and Amenemhet I, in volume 2.

Detlef Franke