Page images


“The land of Egypt was in chiefships and in princedoms; each killed the other among noble and mean."

From this state of lawlessness, the kingdom was redeemed, according to Ramses, by his father Setnekht. If this account is true, Setnekht must have been a ruler of extraordinary ability, to have accomplished so great a work of regeneration in his short reign, which does not seem to have lasted for much more than a year.

Queen Thyi-merenast's brief appearance on the throne of Egypt has left few memorials. Besides the tomb and the Abydos stela before mentioned, her name and figure occur in two re-used pavement slabs at Abydos. The stela of Merenatef shows this queen as a graceful figure with extended arms holding two sistra which she apparently sounds before the gods.

· Harris Papyrus, 75, trs. BIRCH.
· P., H.E., III, 136.



Thebes. From about 1200 to 1100 B.C.

This dynasty was founded by Ramses III., whose brilliant reign left many memorials throughout the kingdom. After this one vigorous monarch, the history of the dynasty is an account of the waning fortunes of the Ramesside family, which weakened and degenerated until its power fell before the priestly dynasty of Thebes.

AST-AMASERETH, “Royal Wife, Great Lady, Lady of the two Lands," was the Queen of Ramses III. She appears on a statue of the king,' and is probably the same as the Queen Ast, mentioned on a stela of an official, Amenemapt, and in the Queens' Tombs, where No. 10 seems to have belonged to Queen Ast, “Great Royal Mother" of Ramses VI., who was a son of Ramses III.3 She is also mentioned in the Abbott Papyrus. A “Royal Mother,” Humazery, who appears in a mutilated inscription of Ramses VI. at Gurnah, may be a second queen of Ramses III.; as, however, Queen Ast appears from her tomb to have been the mother of Ramses VI., it seems probable that Humazery, Ast, and Ast-amasereth, are all one and the same personthe chief queen of Ramses III., whose Egyptian name Ast adds the Syrian one, Amasereth. Brugsch gives her father as Hebuan-rozenath, and suggests that Ramses, like many of his predecessors, had chosen a foreign princess to share his crown. 1 L., D., iii, 207 8.

· Berlin, 3422. ; L., D., iii, 224 a.

R.P., xii, 109. 5 L., D.T., ii, 101.

• BRUGSCH, E.P., 342.

As the monuments of Ramses give ten sons, beside the portraits of 22 nameless princes and princesses, it is possible that the king had more than one “Great Royal Wife," and that the Ast-humazery of the records of Ramses VI., is a different person from the Ast-amasereth who figures as queen-consort on the statue of the king at Cairo.

A further mention of Ramses' queen is found in the Abbott Papyrus, where during the official inquiry under Ramses X. into the robberies of royal tombs, a thief confessed to having broken into the tomb of Queen Ast. This was afterwards proved to be a mistake, as the queen's tomb on examination was found intact.

It was against one of the sons of the queen that the famous harem conspiracy of this reign was formed. Ramses had a secondary wife or concubine, Thi by name, who was evidently a woman of strong will and unprincipled determination ; she had, moreover, a high ambition for her son, who, being the child of a slave, could not hope to inherit his father's crown. She therefore plotted the murder or dethronement of Ramses and his legitimate heir. The power of Thi's influence, and perhaps also the unpopularity of the king, induced many high officials of the court, including councillors, stewards, secretaries, land surveyers, women of the royal harem, attendants and servants, to conspire together against the life and crown of their sovereign.

Thi hoped to stir up such a revolt against Ramses as to overthrow his government, and to place her son, the prince who is mentioned as Pentaurt, on the throne. The numerous officials and members of the harem who joined the conspiracy had doubtless many acts of oppression to revenge on a king who, to judge from his sculptures and the actual features of his mummy, may well have been both a brutal and a selfish master.

· Abbott Pap., R.P., xii, 109.

The plot of Thi and her son included the use of magic, whereby certain wax figures and amulets were supposed to alienate such servants of the king as remained faithful, or to cause the monarch's death by disease. The charms failing, one of the conspirators, through compunction or fear, revealed the plot to Ramses, who caused the arrest of all the accused, and appointed a court of twelve judges to try the prisoners and award their punishment.

Three reports of this famous conspiracy remain ;' the “Judicial Papyrus" of Turin, and the papyri of Lee and Rollin. The court was charged to pursue the inquiry with vigour, and they therefore tried, and apparently condemned, all of the accused. The “chief culprit,” Beka-kamen, house steward, was “brought up because of actual parti“cipation in the doings of the wife Thi, and the women of “ the harem.” Fourteen other“ chief culprits," the councillors, secretaries and land surveyors of the harem for the service “ of the women's house,” were each “set before the elders “of the judgment-seat. They judged his offence; they " found him guilty, and awarded him his punishment."

Six women attached to the harem were also found guilty and punished. Ten officials who were “set before “the elders of the judgment-seat to be tried ” were found guilty. “They laid them down before the tribunal. They "died by their own hand.” The captain of the foreign legion of the “Cushi," who had received a message regarding the revolt from his sister in the harem, was likewise tried and condemned.

In all, six women and forty men were found guilty of crime against the Pharaoh, and suffered the penalty for treason, some of them for only having been aware of the plot without revealing it. No reference is made to punishments which may have been meted out to the women of the harem, and to the leader of the conspiracy, "the wife

· Pub. and trans. by DÉVÉRIA, 1868; later by LEPAGE-RENOUF in R.P., 1st Series, vol. viii, 53-65.

Thi,” on whom the chief responsibility of the plot lay. If she endured no other penalty, she had at least the sorrow of knowing that the schemes for her son's advancement had resulted only in bringing him to trial and to death. “ Pentaurt, who is also known by another name, was brought “ up because of his actual participation with his mother “ Thi, made with the women of the harem, and because " of the crime which was to have been committed against " their lord ; having been judged by the councillors, they “ found him guilty, they laid him down where he stood. " He died by his own hand.” This phrase, also translated

they died of themselves," has been understood to mean a forced suicide, by which public execution was avoided.

It is just possible that a ghastly memorial of this conspiracy still exists. Among the mummies of the Ramesside house, there was found one which had no inscriptions on its wrappings, and lay in a plain unmarked coffin. The mummy was examined with startling results; the body had not been prepared in the usual way before wrapping ; the viscera were not removed; the hands and feet were strongly bound together, and a layer of natron had been laid over the skin; after which the body had been hastily wound, and the whole sewed up in a sheep-skin.

The state of the mummy, and contortion of the face, suggest that the man was a criminal, who died from the effects of a powerful poison; or who suffered the dreadful fate of having been “invested while still alive, with the wrappings " of the dead." This nameless mummy, found without inscription among the family of the Ramses, may have been Pentaurt, the traitor of the house of Ramses III., who, after suffering for his crime, was laid to rest with his fathers.

The king reigned for thirty-six or thirty-seven years. His great memorial is the so-called Harris Papyrus,3 133

i M.'s S.N., 479. 2 MASPERO, Mumies Royales de Deir el-Bahari, 548; S.N., 480. B.M., BIRCH.


« PreviousContinue »