April 4, 2012

Menkaure Pharaoh Biography 2532-2504 BC 4th Dynasty

Menkaure
(Mycerinus)
Dynasty 4
 2532 - 2504 BC

Menkaure with, in both statues, Hathor on his right, and nome figures on his left
Menkaure (also known as Mycerinus) succeeded his father in about 2532 BC. According to legend, Menkaure's benevolent rule was an affront to the gods. They had decreed that Egypt would suffer 150 years of hardship, and this had indeed been evident during the reigns of Khufu and Khafre, who were said to have been particularly harsh during the building of their pyramids. Menkaure, by contrast, adopted a much more benign attitude (which does seem to be reflected in his portraits), reopening temples and repealing many of the oppressive measures of his predecessors, and thus flouted the dictate of the gods. The deities therefore decreed, through the oracle of Buto (an ancient capital in the Delta whose patron goddess was Wadjet, the sacred cobra or uraeus that protected pharaoh), that Menkaure would only enjoy a reign of six years, after which the oppression would return. Menkaure considered this an unwarranted stricture and determined to overcome it. He ordered that as night fell, candles were to be lit, and he continued to live by day and night, in theory expanding his reign from six to twelve years. The gods, however, were not to be denied: Menkaure, the legend said, died after the six stipulated calendar years.

Manetho ascribes to Menkaure a reign of 63 years. In fact we now believe he ruled for 28 years - which should have been long enough to build a monument much larger than his small pyramid at the south end of the Giza plateau. With an original height of 228 ft (70 m) - and now a mere 204 ft (62 m) - the so-called Third Pyramid is less than half the height of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The stunted size has intrigued many commentators, and various explanations have been proposed, the most likely being that its small scale resulted from internal political problems - perhaps the strain on human and other resources caused by the huge building projects of his father and grandfather.

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