April 15, 2012

The Early and Opulent Years | Amenhotep III Pharaoh

The Early Years
Amenhotep's reign falls essentially into two unequal parts. The first decade reflected a young and vigorous king, promoting the sportsman Amenhotep's reign falls essentially into two unequal parts. The first decade reflected a young and vigorous king, promoting the sportsman

One of the few surviving three-dimensional representations of Amenhotep I contemporary to his reign, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Image laid down by his predecessors and with some minor military activity. In Year 5 there was an expedition to Nubia, recorded on rock inscriptions near Aswan and at Konosso in Nubia. Although couched in the usual laudatory manner, the event recorded seems to have been rather low key. An undated stele from Semna (now in the British Museum) also records a Nubian campaign, but whether it is the same one or a later one is uncertain. A rebellion at Ibhet is reported as having been heavily crushed by the viceroy of Nubia, 'King's Son of Kush', Merymose. Although the king, 'mighty bull, strong in might . . . the fierce-eyed lion' is noted as having made great slaughter within the space of a single hour, he was probably not present; nevertheless, 150 Nubian men, 250 women, 175 children, 110 archers, and 55 servants - a total of 740 - were said to have been captured, to which was added the 312 right hands of the slain.

The opulent years
The last 25 years of Amenhotep's reign seem to have been a period of great building works and luxury at court and in the arts. The laudatory epithets that accompany the king's name are more grandiose metaphors than records of fact: he took the Horus name 'Great of Strength who Smites the Asiatics', when there is little evidence of such a campaign,- similarly, 'Plunderer of Shinar' and 'Crusher of Naharin' seem singularly inappropriate, particularly the latter since one of his wives, Gilukhepa, was a princess of Naharin.

The wealth of Egypt at this period came not from the spoils of conquest, as it had under Tuthmosis III, but from international trade and an abundant supply of gold (from mines in the Wadi Hammamat and from panning gold dust far south into the land of Kush). It was this great wealth and booming economy that led to such an outpouring of artistic talent in all aspects of the arts.

Since the houses or palaces of the living were regarded as ephemeral, we unfortunately have little evidence of the magnificence of a palace such as Amenhotep's Malkata palace. Fragments of the building, however, indicate that the walls were once plastered and painted with lively scenes from nature. Many of the temples he built have been destroyed too. At Karnak he embellished the already large temple to Amun and at Luxor he built a new one to the same god, of which the still standing colonnaded court is a masterpiece of elegance and design. Particular credit is owed to his master architect: Amenhotep son of Hapu.

On the west bank, his mortuary temple was destroyed in the next (19th) dynasty when it, like many of its predecessors, was used as a quarry. All that now remains of this temple are the two imposing statues of the king known as the Colossi of Memnon. (This is in fact a complete misnomer, arising from the classical recognition of the statues as the Ethiopian prince, Memnon, who fought at Troy.) Of the two, the southern statue is the best preserved. Standing beside the king's legs, dwarfed by his stature, are the two important women in his life: his mother Mutemwiya and his wife, Queen Tiy. A quarter of a mile behind the Colossi stands a great repaired stele that was once in the sanctuary and around are fragments of sculptures, the best of which, lying in a pit and found in recent years, is a crocodile-tailed sphinx.

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