a name of Libyan origin given to five kings of ancient Egypt and several high dignitaries.
Osorkon the Elder.
(r. 990–984 BCE) was the fifth king of the twenty-first dynasty known by Manetho's reference to a king as Osochor. He was son of the Libyan chief of the Meshwesh, Sheshonq A, by Lady Mehtenweskhet A, and hence uncle to the future Sheshonq I, founder of the fully Libyan twenty-second dynasty. Only one damaged text, from the Karnak temple at Thebes, has been found from Osorkon/Osochor's reign.
Osorkon I, born of Karamat A to Sheshonq I, was the second king of the twenty-second dynasty; he reigned from 924 to 889 BCE, based on the existence of tabs on a mummy that mention Years 33 (Osorkon I?) and 3 (Sheshonq II or Takeloth I?). His family relationships, the sequences of generations of Theban priests within his reign, and the probability of his having celebrated two jubilees (normally held in a king's thirtieth and thirty-third regnal years) tabulate as a reign of thirty-five years rather than the fifteen years ascribed by Manetho. In Thebes, Osorkon I appointed his own eldest son, Sheshonq (II), as high priest of Amun and as military governor of Upper Egypt. Osorkon I added a court and pillared hall to the goddess Bastet's temple in Bubastis, as well as a new temple for Atum, with a long inscription celebrating in detail the enormous gifts (over 370 tons of silver and gold) given to the deities of Egypt in his first four years of reign. He built at Memphis, Atfih, and El-Hibeh, and he continued work on his father's forecourt at Karnak in Thebes. He also founded a fortress at the entry to the Faiyum. He maintained relations with Byblos, whose king, Elibaal, added his own inscription to a statue sent by Osorkon.
Osorkon II, born of Kapes to Takeloth I, reigned as fifth king of the twenty-second dynasty. He added a forecourt to the temple of Amun at Tanis, and a small temple behind it. At Bubastis, he later added a festival gateway in honor of the royal jubilee festival of the twenty-fourth year of his reign. Other traces of his activities occur at Memphis and at the Karnak temple in Thebes, where he appointed a high priest, Harsiese A, who took royal titles. Abroad, Osorkon II sent a statue to Byblos in Phoenicia; he also made an alliance with Levantine states (including Israel, judging from a vase found at Samaria) to ward off Assyria, sending one thousand troops to the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE.
Osorkon III, born of Kama(ma) F, was the second king of the twenty-third dynasty. He reigned for thirty-eight years (783–745 BCE); his son Takeloth III was co-regent for five years (c.764–759 BCE). His mother may have been Queen Kama(ma), who was buried at Tell Moqdam (Leontopolis). His daughter, Shepenupet I, became God's Wife of Amun in Thebes.
Osorkon IV, born of Tadibast, was the last king of the twenty-third dynasty and was based in Bubastis and the Tanis district. He submitted to the Kushite conqueror Piankhy around 728 BCE. He was probably the “So, king of Egypt” from whom the Israelite king Hoshea sought help against Assyria in 726–725 BCE (2 Kings 17.4); some would read this passage “to Sais, [city], [to] the king of Egypt,” but this involves emending the text. In 720 BCE, Osorkon IV probably sent the commander Re'e to help Hanun of Gaza against Sargon II of Assyria, who defeated them. Thus, in 716 BCE, when Sargon penetrated the northern Sinai, Osorkon (named as “(U)shikanni”) quickly sent him a propitiatory present.
The name Osorkon also occurs in the historical record as that of elite persons who were not kings, as follows:
- Osorkon A, high priest of Ptah at Memphis, c.895–870 BCE; last of nine generations.
- Osorkon B, or Prince Osorkon, son and heir of Takeloth II, held (or later, claimed) office as high priest of Amun of Thebes from year 11 of Takeloth II to year 39 of Sheshonq III, c. 840–787 BCE, a total of at least fifty-three years. From year 15 of Takeloth II, the Thebans rebelled, appointing their own high priests; Prince Osorkon also lost the throne to Sheshonq III.
- Osorkon C, Libyan “chief of the Meshwesh” at Sais in the Delta, c. 750 BCE, probably the direct predecessor of Tefnakht; he held much of the western Delta.
- Osorkon D, ordinary priest of Amun, c. 900 BCE, son of the high priest Sheshonq (II).
- Osorkon E, a priest of Ptah in Memphis, c. 830 BCE, grandson of Osorkon A.
- Osorkon, F, son of Takeloth III and high priest of Amun in Thebes, c. 754–734 BCE.
- Osorkon [G], seventeenth son of the Theban high priest Herihor, c. 1080 BCE.
- Caminos, Ricardo A. The Chronicle of Prince Osorkon. Rome, 1958.
- Kitchen, Kenneth A. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC). 2d ed. with suppl. Warminster, 1996. Includes all the Osorkons with data, and the course of scholars' discussions about them to 1995.
- Young, Eric E. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 2 (1963), 100–101. Identifies the only certain inscription so far known of Osorkon/Osochor.
- Yoyotte, Jean. “Le talisman de la victoire d'Osorkon, Prince de Saïs et autres lieux.” Bulletin de la Société Française d'Égyptologie 31 (1960), 13–22.
- Yoyotte, Jean. “Les principautés du Delta au temps de l'anarchie libyenne.” In Mélanges Maspero, vol. 1: Orient Ancient, pp. 121–181. Memoires publies par les membres d'l'Institut Français d'archéologie orientale du Caire, 66. Cairo, 1961.
Kenneth A. Kitchen