Universal Brotherhood – September 1899


V. — Kings After Kheops — End of the "Old Empire" — The Queen Neitokris.

The history of the Fifth Dynasty is involved in much confusion. The kings are described by Manetho, as belonging to Elephantina at the farther extremity of Upper Egypt. Reginald Poole, however, positively asserts that they reigned at Memphis, and Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson conjectures from the fact that they are enumerated as Memphite kings, that the name of the Island had been erroneously substituted for that of some place in the Northern country. What evidence is now at hand tends to corroborate the judgment that the dynasty was Memphitic. We are indebted to the labors of Count de Rouge for much that is known.

The first king in the new line adopted the designation Osir-kaf or Oserkheris. He reigned twenty-eight years, but left little record. His pyramid bore the title of Ab-setu, the place of purity, and Num-het-ep, the priest of the goddess Hathor held also the same office there; but which of the seventy pyramids was the monument of this king is unknown. It is truly a "desolate place."

Sahu-Ra or Sepheres succeeded. The peninsula of Sinai had fallen into the possession of the Arabian tribes, but he recovered it from them. The achievement was duly sculptured on the rock and an inscription designates him as "God who strikes all peoples and smites all countries with his arm." Records have been found in the tombs of Sakkara of persons who lived in his reign; and a block in the pyramid at Abusir bears his name traced in red. He was a builder of cities, and the "house of Sahu-Ra" is mentioned in an inscription on the wall of the temple at Esne. There was also a sanctuary dedicated to him at Memphis, still standing, while the Ptolemies ruled in Egypt, and its priests continued to perform their sacred offices. His pyramid has been found near Abusir on the margin of the Libyan desert and bears the title of "Kha-Ba," or Sha-Ba, "the risen soul."

The third king took the name of Nefer-ar-ka-ra or Nepherkheres. We have little account of his achievements, but the names of several of his officers are found in tombs at Gizeh. One of them was that of his grandson Ur-khuru. Count de Rouge translated the inscriptions disclosing to us his importance. He was described by them as "the royal scribe of the palace, the learned man, the master of writing, who serves as a light to all the writing in the house as Pharaoh." In addition he was "master of writing for the petitions of the people, the one who serves as a light to all the writing which relates to the administration, chief of the provision-chamber and general of the forces composed of all the young men."

Another official of this reign was Peh-enuka, who would now be regarded as a Secretary of State. He is styled in the inscriptions, "overseer of the treasure-houses, offerings and provision-chambers, chief of the works of Pharoah, chief in the writings of his king, and councillor for every speech which the king utters."

Neferarkara reigned twenty years. His pyramid bore the significant designation of "Ba," the soul.

His successor, Ra-en-user or Rathoures, adopted the practice of adding his personal name, "An," to the throne-name or official title on the royal shield. He was also obliged to dislodge the native inhabitants of the peninsula of Sinai. They had compelled his predecessors to suspend their mining operations, but he was resolute in his purpose to resume this work. His pyramid was styled "Mensetu," the permanent monument. His reign of forty-four years was a period of great prosperity to Egypt.

De Rouge has disclosed to us the memorials of the man of this reign who, like Sully, Cecil, Kaunitz and Bismarck made his royal master distinguished. The minister Ti was "without a pedigree," the son of the common people, but he made himself noble by his ability and loyal service. He was permitted to erect his tomb in the Necropolis at Memphis. It was vast in dimensions, richly ornamented by paintings, and inscribed with glowing accounts of his industry, fidelity and honors. The very chamber of death was made alive with his praises. Ti had served as scribe at all the royal abodes, prepared all the decrees of the king, superintended his writings and conducted the works for which the reign was distinguished. He was a priest at the principal temples and renowned for his piety. His wife, Nefer-hetep, the daughter of the king, was also honored and esteemed for her conjugal devotion and personal merits.

Men-kau-Hor or Menkheres, is named as the successor to King Raenuser. A slab unearthed at Memphis containing his portrait shows him to have been young, and to have had the characteristic full Egyptian features. He in his turn made war with the native tribes and continued the explorations of the Sinaitic Peninsula. His reign extended only eight years, and although he likewise built a pyramid its site is not known.

Tat-ka-Ra or Tarkheres, the next king, also surnamed Assa, was the most famous of all in the Fifth Dynasty. His long reign of forty-four years enabled him to carry out the projects of his predecessors and to excel them by his own achievements. His pyramid, bearing the designation of "Nefer," good or beautiful, would rightly describe his administration. Among the priests of this shrine we have the names of "holy men," like Seneferu-nefer, Ra-ka-pu and Kha-hetep; and the graves at Sakkara as well as Gizeh bore the names of other nobles who lived at the royal court and held offices of honor.

King Assa prosecuted the mining operations at Mt. Sinai with increased energy. He sent commissions thither in the fourth year of his reign to investigate the condition of the mines and to open new veins. It is recorded that the precious mafka was found imbedded in serpentine rock through directions upon a tablet of stone which the god Thoth himself had written But to our later times the most admirable memorial of his reign is the roll of manuscript the "Oldest Scripture," which follows the erased writing in the Priss Papyrus. The writer was Ptah-hetep, the son of a former king. He styles himself, 'Meri-neter,'' lover of the one God, a silent testimony that the Egyptian priests and learned men of that time recognized only one Supreme Divinity.


The following extracts have been translated:


This is the wisdom of Ptah-hetep the governor, in the time of King Assa: Long may he live!


Be not ungrateful to thy Creator, for he has given thee life.


The two eyes are drawn small, the ears are stopped up, and what was strong is continually becoming weak. The mouth becomes silent, it speaks no clear word: the memory is dulled, it cannot recall days of the past; the bones refuse their service. The good has changed to bad. Even the taste has long since gone. (1)

The nose is stopped without air.

In every way old age makes a man miserable.


This is written to teach the ignorant the principles of good words, for the good of those who listen, to shake the confidence of those who wish to infringe.


With the courage that knowledge gives, discourse with the ignorant as with the learned: if the barriers of art are not carried, no artist is yet endowed of all his perfections.

But words shine more than the emerald which the hand of the slave finds on the pebbles.


The obedience of the docile son is a blessing; the obedient walks in his obedience.

He is ready to listen to all that can produce affection; it is the greatest of benefits.

The one who accepts the words of his father will grow old on account of it.

So obedience is of God; disobedience is hateful to God.

The heart is the master of man in obedience and disobedience, but man by obedience gives life to his heart.


The rebellious one who is not obedient will succeed in nothing; he conceives of ignorance as knowledge and of vices as virtue; he commits daily all sorts of crime, and lives as though he were dead.

What the wise know to be death is his daily life; he goes his own way laden with a heap of curses.


Let thy heart wash away the impurity of thy mouth.

Fulfil the word of thy master; good for a man is the discipline of his father, of him from whom he has sprung.

It is a great satisfaction to conform to his words, for a good son is the gift of God.


Let thy countenance shine joyfully as long as thou livest; did a man ever leave the coffin after having once entered it?


And if thou hast become great after thou hast been lowly, and if thou hast amassed riches after thou wast poor, so that thou hast become because of this the first in the community; and if the people take cognizance of thee on account of thy wealth and thou hast become a mighty lord; then let not thy heart be lilted up because of thy riches, for the author of them is God. Despise not thy neighbor who is as thou wast; but treat him as thy equal.


It is thus that I hold out for thee health of body and the favor of the king, and that you will pass through your years of life without falsehood.

I am become one of the aged men of the earth.

I have passed one hundred and ten years of life (2) by the gift of the king and the approbation of my superiors, fulfilling my duty to the king in the place of his favor.

After King Assa, the Royal Turin Papyrus enumerates three more monarchs in this dynasty. There is some discrepancy in regard to them, but we may very safely understand them to be Mer-en-Hor or Merkheres, Teta, Tet-karra or Tetkheres and Unas or Onnus. From the last of these, Egyptians were accustomed to take their point of departure.

The reign of Unas is computed at thirty-three years. Little is known of the events of that period. His tomb at Sak-kara is described as a gigantic structure in the form of a truncated pyramid. It was built of limestone and inlaid with hard stones, and was styled "Nefer-seter." the beautiful place. The Arabs of this region now call it. "Mastabat el Pharoun," the Masba of Pharoah. Mariette-Bey opened it, and found on a stone near the entrance the single name, "Unas." There was a city in Middle Egypt with the same name, which may have been given it from him. His son-in-law Snath-en-hat also had a magnificent tomb at Gizeh.

Thus much is historic; that the first series of kings in the "Old Empire" began with Mena and ended with Unas. The Turin Roll shows us so much; "for it proves," says Brugsch-Bey. "that the house of Mena extended in the long line of kings of Memphis down to Unas, and that after him there arose a new race, a second line of Pharoahs."

Henceforth, we must look southward for monuments of the Empire. It is proper and even necessary to verify their record by the Royal Papyrus at Turin and the Tablet of Abydos. (3) Memphis was no more the only national metropolis. Middle and Southern Egypt were rising again to their former importance. A second and younger family came now to the throne. It has been classed as Meniphitic; but some have conjectured that it came from Elephantina. The influences of the South were extending Northward, and the tutelary gods of Southern Egypt were now becoming better known in the northern provinces. Khufu had already naturalized Nut at Memphis, and now the title of "son of Ra" was permanently adopted.

The beginning of the Sixth Dynasty is a matter not quite free from question. Teta or Othoes is named by Manetho as the first monarch of the new line and to have reigned thirty years, when he was killed by his guards. Bunsen doubts this and considers the record to pertain to Akhthoes, whom Manetho has named as founder of the Ninth Dynasty. He conjectures that this king last named was ''a tyrant usurper who, after the Fourth Dynasty, reigned over all Egypt from Herakleopolis contemporaneously with an Elephantinean (Fifth) supremacy in the South. The Chronicle of Manetho describes Ahkthoes "as being worse than those who were before him; that he did evil to all in Egypt, was seized with madness and killed by a crocodile."

Tombs of officials at Sakkara preserve records of Teta's supremacy. The sepulcher of Ptah-Shepses contains inscriptions in which the occupant is described as prophet of the pyramids of King Unas and King Teta. Another record in the tomb of Abeba sets him forth likewise as the friend or companion of King Teta, and enjoying the closest intimacy with that monarch. The pyramid of the king himself bore the title of "Tat-seter," the most stable of places, which seems both like a play upon his name and a challenge to his foes.

To add to the confusion about this matter, there was a King Teta in the Fifth Dynasty, and the Tablet of Abydos names Us-ka-Ra as his successor. It appears also that a King Ati has been regarded by some writers as the actual founder of the Sixth Dynasty. It may be true that Teta, the usurper, did reign as has been described, and that Ati, who was perhaps the same as Us-ka-Ra, was at the same time king over Middle Egypt. That he did reign is confirmed by the fact that he erected a pyramid which bore the designationof "Bai" or souls. It may be then, that Teta, being regarded as having no lawful title to the throne, was killed as a usurper. "One thing only is certain," says Brugsch-Bey; "that a nobleman named Una passed directly from the service of King Ati to that of his successor, who bore the official name of Meri-Ra (the friend of Ra), and the family name of Pepi. (4)

It is not certain that the Sixth Dynasty replaced the Fifth in any regular form. There was conflict and evidently two, or perhaps more kings sometimes reigning simultaneously. The titles and records exhibit so much confusion that investigators have been perplexed in their endeavors to fix correctly the dynasty to which several of the kings actually belonged.

The reign of King Pepi, or Phiops as he is termed by Manetho, is curiously set forth in the Chronicle, first as lasting fifty-three years, and again as beginning in his sixth year and continuing till he had completed one hundred years. This discrepancy is due to the corrupt condition of the manuscript, or perhaps to some twofold method of computing time. It may be also that he came to the two crowns at two distant periods.

The history of the Sixth Dynasty is very largely that of a long career of war and conquest. The monarchs took less interest in the arts of peace. The sculptures were less carefully made, and the tombs exhibit less pains in excavation. There was a zeal for the expanding of dominion over wider territory, and religion became largely subordinate to personal ambition.

The long reign of Pepi afforded opportunity as well as occasion for numerous memorials. The cliffs of the Wadi Magara in the peninsula have preserved his record as of the Pharoahs who ruled before him. A bas-relief carved in the rock informs us that in the eighteenth year of his reign a commissioner named Ab-ton visited the mines to inspect the progress of the work. The king himself is also depicted in the tablet as the conqueror of the tribes that had built their dwelling in this valley of caves. (5)

Another memorial, a block of stone was also found in the ruins of Tanis, or Zoan, in the Delta, which was carved with the names and titles of the King Pepi. This shows that this place was older than has been generally supposed. (6) Pepi also enlarged the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, which had been founded by Khufu. This is stated in an inscription on the wall of a secret chamber. (7) The rocks at Syene, the walls of the quarries, and other places abound with similar records, showing that Pepi was really sovereign over all Egypt, and was diligent in these works executed in the hard stone, which were destined to transmit his memory to later ages.


An important record of the reign of King Pepi is contained in the Inscription of Una, a priest and officer, which was found at the ruins of San or Tanis by Mariette-Bey. This officer had been crown-bearer, while yet young, to King Teta, and rose to the dignity of superintendent to the Storehouse and Registrar of the Docks. Pepi, after his accession to the throne, advanced him to higher and confidential positions. "The king was pleased with me," the inscription says, "more than with any of his chiefs, of his family, of his servants." He received numerous appointments of the most confidential and responsible character; as "Chief of the Coffer," "Private Secretary," "Priest of the Place of the Royal Pyramid," "Salit or Vizier, " and "receiver of things in the royal boat for the great royal wife Aa-me-ta in private." He was also charged with the commission to quarry a "white stone sarcophagus" out of the limestone near Memphis, and to bring it by boat entire to the royal pyramid.

King Pepi became likewise engaged in war against the Amu and the Herusha, the tribes of Palestine, Eastern Egypt and Arabia. There was no military class and the Egyptian Fellahs were not a warlike race. He determined, therefore, to levy in addition to the native militia, an army of negroes. This is the first mention of the negroes that we have in history. Heretofore they had been apart as beings of another nature. "Numerous ten-thousands were recruited from Zam, Amam, Wawa-t-Kar and Tatam." "His Holiness" placed Una in command, and the various Egyptian officials, priests and rulers, drilled them. Una then took the field.

"And the warriors came and destroyed the land of the Herusha:

And returned successfully home.

"And they took possession of the land of the Herusha:

And returned successfully home.

"And they destroyed the fortresses:

And returned successfully home.

"And they cut down the fig-trees and the vines:

And returned successfully home.

"And they set fire to the dwellings of the enemy:

And returned successfully home.

"And they killed their chief men by tens of thousands:

And returned successfully home.

"And the warriors brought back a great number of prisoners alive, and on that account they were praised beyond measure by the king. (8) And the king sent out Una five times to fight in the land of the Herusha, and to put down the rebellion with his warriors. And he acted so that the king was in every way content."


After this a war broke out at the north of the country of the Herusha, in the "Land of Khetam," and Una was dispatched by water, probably by the Nile and Mediterranean, or as Brugsch-Bey conjectures, by Lake Menzaleh. On his return in triumph he was exalted to the highest rank, second only to the king, and was also appointed governor of the South.

The eighteenth year of Pepi was also memorable for the occurring of the festival of Hib Set, the end of the old cycle and the beginning of another. This was a stated period of thirty years, which was reckoned according to a fixed rule of numbers so as to regulate the coincident points of the solar and lunar years. This was effected by the intercalating of eleven synodic months in the years of the cycle. Mention of this cycle is found on the monuments.


Pepi was also a founder of cities, and the City of Pepi in Middle Egypt served to preserve his memory. The names of the principal nobles who constituted his court and supported his power, are found on monuments at Sakkara, Bersheh, Abydos, and elsewhere. One of these, Meri-Ra-ankh, is recorded in his tomb as Governor of Taroa, the district of quarries, and Commissioner of Public Works. Another, with similar functions, bore the name of Meri-Ra and Meri-Ptah-ankh, friend of Ra and also of the ever-living Demiurgos. Pepi-nakht was Governor of the City of Pyramids. This was emphatically the "holy place," and here sacrifices were offered to deceased kings, hymns were chanted, incense burned and other ceremonies performed which might be supposed to be of service to the one thus honored, and to placate his displeasure. The pyramid of King Pepi had the particular name of Men-nefer, the abode of the Good One, and the office of guardian, prophet and priest was rilled by Pepi-na, who after the death of the king was appointed to the like duties at the pyramid of his son and successor.

Pepi had married a wife who was not of royal descent, but after her exaltation to the rank and honors of queen, she was named anew, Mer-Ra-ankh-nes. Her tomb was at Abydos and from its inscriptions we learn that she was the mother of two sons, the princes Meri-en-Ra and Nefer-ka-Ra.

At the death of Pepi the older son, Meri-en-Ra, succeded to the throne. He appears to have been a monarch of energy, and he lost no time in investigating the state of affairs. He made a voyage up the Nile to the Cataracts and took decided measures to sustain the royal authority in that region. Una was now promoted by the king to be governor of all the southern country. The inscription is a record of his services. The king began the erection of his pyramid, the "Kha-nefer," or beautiful altar, and Una was charged with the preparing of the necessary material. He took six transports, six other boats and a vessel of war to Abahat to prepare and bring away a sarcophagus and cover, and likewise a small pyramid and statue of the king. "Never had it happened." says the record, "that the inhabitants of Abahat or of Elephantina, had constructed a vessel for warriors in the time of the old kings who reigned before."


Hardly was this commission executed, when Una was hurried to the district in the vicinity in Hat-nub or Siut to bring away a large slab of alabaster. The energetic official procured this from the quarry and made it ready in seventeen days. But it was September, or Epiphi, and the water of the Nile was too low to float his rafts. These had been constructed a hundred feet by fifty in dimension, but they were now unserviceable, by reason of the shallow water. "His Holiness, the Divine Lord, then commanded to make four docks for three boats of burden and four transports in the small basin in Ua-uat." The negro chiefs of the region supplied the necessary timber, and all was ready by the time of the next inundation. Three large vessels and four towing boats had been constructed of acacia wood, and as the waters rose the rafts were loaded with the huge blocks of granite for the royal pyramid.

Chapels were also built at each of the four docks, at which to invoke the protecting spirits of the king. "All these things were done, as His Holiness, the Divine One, commanded," says Una. "I was the beloved of his father, the praised of his mother, the chief, the delight of his brothers, the hyk or Governor of the South, the truly devoted to Osiris."

Little more has been disclosed in relation to the earlier monarchs of the Sixth Dynasty. Meri-en-Ra was succeeded by his brother, Nefer-ka-Ra. The new king sent a commission of twelve persons with the chancellor Hapi, in the second year of his reign, to examine the condition of the mines at Wadi-Magara. This, also, is recorded in an inscription at one of the caves. The names of several noblemen who held office under him are preserved in tombs in Middle Egypt. One of them was Beba of the City of Pepi. This king also built a pyramid to commemorate himself, bearing the significant appellation of '"Menankh," the abode of the Living One.

Other names of kings have been preserved on the walls of Abydos and Sak-kara, "names without deeds, sound without substance, just like the inscriptions on the tombs of insignificant men unknown to fame." In the complete silence of the monuments, one name alone lives for our notice. The Papyrus of Turin has recorded the queen Neit-akar, or Nitokris, as reigning before King Nefer-ka-Ra; but it is generally understood that she came at a later date. Manetho describes her as of a rosy complexion and the most courageous and beautiful woman of the time; adding that she reigned twelve years and built the third pyramid.

When we recall the fact that the coffin of Men-ka-Ra was actually found in the pyramid, and taken away by General Vyse, that the lid is now in London, and that its inscriptions have been read and explained, we may be surprised that a writer like Manetho should seem to go wrong. Perring, however, has explained that the pyramid had been altered and enlarged in later times. It now appears that Queen Nitokris actually took possession of the structure and placed her sarcophagus in the chamber before that of the pious king. She also doubled the dimensions of the monument, and placed over it a costly ornamental casing of polished granite.

Herodotus has also preserved an account of the career of this princess, which has its colors of romance. It was read to him from a Papyrus-roll, he affirms. "They said that she had succeeded her brother. He had been King of Egypt, and was put to death by his subjects, who then placed her upon the throne. Bent on avenging his death, she devised a cunning scheme by which she destroyed a vast number of Egyptians. She constructed a large underground chamber and on pretense of inaugurating it, contrived the following project: Inviting to a banquet those of the Egyptians whom she knew to have had the chief share in the murder of her brother, she suddenly, as they were feasting, let the river in upon them by means of a secret duct of large size. And this only did they tell me of her," he adds, "except that, when she had done this, she threw herself into an apartment full of ashes, that she might escape the vengeance to which she would have otherwise been exposed."

Other legends of this queen are still more fanciful. One resembles closely the story of Cinderella; (9) another represents her as still bewitching the Arab who ventures near her pyramid.

Fanciful as the story of the underground palace may be, it affords an illustration of the unhappy condition of Egypt. The throne was besieged by competitors; the people were reduced to abjectness, murder and intestine violence prevailed throughout the kingdom. The invaders had already come in from the East and taken possession of the more fertile regions of lower Egypt. With Nitokris ended the power of the Memphite Dynasty.

A chaos succeeded in which all Egypt was engulfed for long centuries.



1. Samuel II., xix, 34, 35. "And Bar-ziliai said unto the king: 'I am this day fourscore years old; can I discern between good and evil? Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?' " (return to text)

2. One hundred and ten years seem to have been esteemed by the Egyptians as the extreme limit of human life, and as an especial blessing of obedience. The story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis is in remarkable analogy to ancient Egyptian usages, as the last verse shows: "And Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." (return to text)

3. The Tablet of Abydos was found in the Temple of Osiris by Mr. Bankes in 1818. It is now in the British Museum. It contains a record in hieroglyphics, in which the kings of Egypt are described with their several titles, their throne names and personal descriptions. After Memphis ceased to be the chief metropolis of Egypt, the cities of Thebes and Abydos came into importance, and the records in the temple of Odeiris at the latter city and at Karnak became of greater importance in helping to determine the reign of monarchs and their matters of the history of the archaic period. (return to text)

4. A monument found by Sir J. G. Winkinson represents this king with the crown of upper Egypt, as Meri-Ra, and again sitting back to back with that former figure, wearing the crown of Lower Egypt, as Pepi. This shows a distinct custom in the two countries. (return to text)

5. The name Hor-eb, which was applied to the "Holy Mountain," is formed from Hor, a cave. Elijah, the prophet, is described as lodging in a cave at Horeb "the mount of God." (return to text)

6. Numbers xiii, 23. "Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt." It was probably a city of the Khetans or Hittites, who may have been cognate with the Hyk-sos of Egypt. (return to text)

7. This structure in the "City of Annu" held a very high rank in archaic Egypt, both as a religious and astronomic center. It was considered as the earthly house of Hathor, the Celestial Virgin-Mother of God. The name of the place, Dendera, or Tentyris, is derived accordingly by some Egyptologists from Ta-en-Hathor, "the abode of Hathor," and by others from Ta-em-ta-rer, which Brugsch-Bey renders "place of the hippopotamus," and others, "place of the Circle." It was situated two degrees from the tropic of Cancer, where the sun is vertical at the summer solstice. Khufu, the royal builder and astronomer, selected it for a Temple of the Universe, and in the fullness of time his great successor, Pepi, as Seken Ur, or Grand Patriarch, completed his plan by this new structure. It was famous for its Zodiac, or rather planisphere, and was doubtless a place for Initiatory Rites, as it was also famous for pilgrimages. (return to text)

8. This makes it evident that the war was largely for the procuring of slaves for the public works. (return to text)

9. This is a story which really belonged to a second Neitokris, the queen of Psametikh II., and tradition confounded it with the name of Rhodope, a woman from Thrace, living at Naukratis. (return to text)

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