ninth king of the eighteenth dynasty, New Kingdom. One of the wealthiest and best-attested rulers, Amenhotpe III, governed Egypt for more than thirty-eight years. Presumably the chosen heir of his father Thutmose IV, Amenhotpe probably became king before the age of twelve. Monuments dated to the first ten years of Amenhotpe III's reign can be counted in single digits, perhaps an indication of the king's youth. A punitive expedition to Nubia in the fifth year of his reign was carried out by the king's army and may have taken the troops as far south as the Shendi reach of the Nile River, above the Fifth Cataract. Three stelae, at Aswan and Sai Island near the Third Cataract, commemorate this expedition; another, left by the viceroy of Nubia, Merymose, at the fortress of Semna may refer to another expedition in lower Nubia, north of the Second Cataract. Sometime later in his reign, Amenhotpe III ordered the construction of a temple and fort a little to the south of Sai Island at Soleb.
Although the kings of the eighteenth dynasty primarily ruled from Memphis, Amenhotpe III built a residential complex on the western bank of the Nile at Thebes, at a site now called Malqata. Jar labels, primarily from festival provisions of food and drink, attest to the king's occupation of Malqata from after his Year 20 through the end of his reign. Whether Amenhotpe lived at Malqata year-round or spent the hotter months in the North is unknown. However, his complex at Thebes included houses for his family and close court associates. During the second half of his reign, the king oversaw, personally or through advisors, a near transformation of the existing religious monuments in Thebes, and he added to them his enormous funerary temple at Kom el-Hetan. Amenhotpe III celebrated the sed-festivals that rejuvenated the king, guaranteeing his continued fitness to rule, in his Years 30/31, 33/34, and 37. The festivals took place in Thebes and, particularly for the all-important first sed-festival, Amenhotpe conducted the rituals to ensure the favor of the gods, especially the solar deities.
Amenhotpe III's primary wife was Queen Tiye, to whom he was married in Year 2. The daughter of a court noble with land holdings near modern Akhmim, Tiye shared Amenhotpe's throne and produced his heir Amenhotpe IV, along with a number of male and female children. Among the women whom Amenhotpe III married were three of his daughters, one of whom, Sitamun, bore the chief title “Great Royal Wife.” It remains a possibility that the title “King's Wife” was, in the case of the daughters, merely a rank title, conferred as a courtesy to ensure revenues. In any case, it is unclear exactly what roles these princesses fulfilled as royal wives, but they did not unseat their mother. In religious and royal ideology of the reign, Tiye was considered to be the mother sky goddess, while the daughters were treated as the consorts or daughters of the sun god.
The diplomatic correspondence of Amenhotpe III and his contemporary Near Eastern rulers is partially preserved in the Amarna Letters, cuneiform tablets found at Amarna. The gold wealth of the king was envied by the rulers of Babylonia and Mitanni, and Amenhotpe used his affluence to bring the princesses from those countries to Egypt as his wives; he negotiated marriage with princesses from Arzawa, Syria, and Mitanni. No doubt the prestige attached to Amenhotpe's diplomatic marriages was considerable, but whatever alliance may have existed between Egypt and Mitanni, it did not help the Syrian ruler fend off a fatal attack by the Hittites. Amenhotpe III's second Mitanni marriage negotiation was completed by his son and successor Amenhotpe IV, with Queen Tiye serving as an intermediary.
Amenhotpe's sobriquet, while he lived, was “the Dazzling Sundisk,” and his court became proverbial for luxury. His courtiers and administrators came from old noble families, in conformity with his explicit policy of not choosing any but “blue bloods.” One, Amenhotep, son of Hapu the labor minister, became the subject of legend after his death—revered a thousand years later as a god of healing (sometimes identified with Asklepios).
The heir apparent during the early years of the reign was the little-known Thutmose, presumably Amenhotpe III's firstborn. He disappears from the record, however, by the fourth decade and presumably met a premature death. His younger brother, named Amenhotpe after his father, was then promoted to crown prince. Although it is certain that Amenhotpe IV (who became Akhenaten) succeeded his father, scholars remain divided on whether there was a coregency between the two rulers and whether such a joint rule would have been of two or twelve years. Given the numerous Near Eastern rulers and vassals known from the Amarna Letters, a twelve-year shift in the chronology of the correspondence means that their historical circumstances must remain unclear for many events.
See also TIYE.
- Berman, Lawrence, ed. The Art of Amenhotep III: Art Historical Analysis. Cleveland, 1990. Proceedings of a symposium held in 1987, with important contributions.
- Kondo, Jiro, “A Preliminary Report on the Re-clearance of the Tomb of Amenophis III (WV 22).” In After Tutankhamun: Research and Excavation in the Royal Necropolis at Thebes, edited by C.N. Reeves, pp. 41–54. London, 1992. New finds and indications of the uses of the tomb.
- Kozloff, Arielle, and Betsy M. Bryan, with Lawrence M. Berman. Egypt's Dazzling Sun Amenhotep III and his World. Cleveland, 1992. Essays and catalog of an exhibition on the reign.
- O'Connor, David, and Eric H. Cline, eds. Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign. Ann Arbor, 1998. This superb volume contains the viewpoints of a number of leading researchers.
- Topozada, Z. “Les deux campagnes d'Amenhotep III en Nubie.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 88 (1988), 153–165.
Betsy M. Bryan