first king of the sixth dynasty, Old Kingdom. A change in dynasties at the beginning of Teti's reign is specified by the third-century BCE Egyptian historian Manetho, but there is no perceptible break between the fifth and sixth dynasties in the archaeological record. Still, the Horus name of this king, Seheteptawi, “One Who Pacifies the Two Lands,” implies the role of peacemaker, indicating a new era.


Teti. Interior of the tomb of Teti at Saqqara, sixth dynasty. (Courtesy Dieter Arnold)

Like his predecessors, Teti ruled from the Memphite area, but during the sixth dynasty Upper Egypt became more prominent in written records. As settlements grew in areas away from the center of power, the king emphasized his sovereignty by connecting his name with those of local deities. For example, on a sistrum in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Teti's name is recorded alongside that of Hathor of Dendera. The prosperity of the temple of Osiris at Abydos was augmented by Teti: a stela in the British Museum records that the “fields and personnel” of that temple were exempted from taxes (fields were taxed according to their yield, and personnel were used as conscripted labor).

Abroad, there seems to have been no break in foreign relations during Teti's rule. Teti's name, together with those of other kings of the period appears on artifacts from Byblos, indicating a continuing trade with Syria. Expeditions to the south and west of Egypt were also conducted during Teti's reign: a number of graffiti carved during this time have been found at Tomas in Nubia, left by persons with titles that showed them to be leaders of caravans. We have no evidence of mining expeditions to Sinai during Teti's reign.

Saqqara is the burial place of Teti, his family, and his officials. His pyramid, the “Pyramid Which Is Enduring of Places,” was built at northern Saqqara. A ground-level entrance leads to the burial chamber, where the walls are inscribed with Pyramid Texts; the sarcophagus remains in situ. Little survives of Teti's mortuary temple; the causeway and valley temple are also lost. Two extant pyramids belonging to Teti's queens Iput mother of Pepy I, and Khuit, were built near his funerary complex. The existence of a third queen, Seshseshet, was discovered in 1988 on reused blocks bearing her name that were found in Teti's mortuary temple. Teti's officials were also buried near his pyramid, among them two of his viziers. The first was Kagemni, who was succeeded by Mereruka. Mereruka was married to a daughter of Teti, also named Seshseshet. His thirty-two chamber mastaba tomb is the largest at Saqqara.

Manetho records that Teti was murdered by his bodyguard. The validity of his account is uncertain, since there is no other evidence to verify the claim. It may, however, be a misplaced reference to the assassination of Amenemhet I.

The cult of Teti continued long after his death. It was prominent in the First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom, when officials of his cult were buried near his pyramid: the area around the pyramid is honey-combed with small tombs and shafts. Teti's pyramid may have provided a focal point for a nearby settlement, which accounts for the popularity of the area: his pyramid-town is mentioned in the tenth dynasty as a populous urban area.


  • Fakhry, Ahmed. The Pyramids. Chicago and London, 1961. Contains a description of Teti's pyramid.
  • Helck, Wolfgang. “Gedanken zum Mord an König Teti.” In Essays in Egyptology in Honor of Hans Goedicke, edited by B. M. Bryan and D. Lorton, pp. 103–112. San Antonio, 1994.
  • Lehner, Mark. The Complete Pyramids. London and New York, 1997.
  • Stadelmann, R. “König Teti und der Beginn der 6. Dynastie.” In Hommage à Jean Leclant, edited by C. Berger et al., vol. 1, pp. 327–335. Paris, 1994.

Diana Magee