Abusir To Agathocles


A site south of giza dating to the Fifth Dynasty (2465-2323 b.c.e.) and containing a vast cemetery and pyramidal complexes. The large pyramid of sahure (r. 2458-2446 b.c.e.) dominates the site that once contained 14 such structures, most now reduced to cores of rubble or stone. Sahure’s pyramid has a causeway, valley temple, and a canal intact. The portico of the valley temple has eight columns as well as a large hall provided with wall reliefs and a black basalt pavement. A temple area dedicated to the goddess sekhmet appears to have been refurbished as a shrine in later eras, aiding in its preservation. Storerooms, corridors, and niches form two levels, and red granite papyrus columns support the upper floor. Cultic chambers, a sanctuary with an altar, and a granite false door were also found there. An elaborate drainage system was incorporated into the complex, using lion-headed gargoyles and open channels. Copper-lined basins were connected to underground copper pipes in this system. These are still visible. Called “the Soul of Sahure Glistens” at its dedication, this pyramid has a limestone core as the foundation, filled with sand and rubble and faced with fine stone.
The mastaba of the nobleman ptahshepses, a relative of niuserre (r. 2416-2392 b.c.e.) and a court official, is a fully developed structure to the north of Niuserre unfinished monument. Ptahshepses’ tomb has a colonnaded court with 20 pillars, a portico, a hall, and a chamber depicting family portraits.
Niuserre’s pyramidal complex was dedicated as “the Places of Niuserre are Enduring.” In erecting his valley temple, Niuserre usurped part of kakai’s original structure. The core was made of limestone and included a colonnaded court and cultic chamber.
The pyramid of Kakai (Neferirkare; r. 2446-2426 b.c.e.) was built out of mud brick and completed by his successor. It was dedicated as “Kakai Has Become a Soul” or as “the Pyramid of the Ba-spirit.” Local limestone formed the core, and the facing was a fine limestone and red granite.
The pyramid of neferefre (r. 2419-2416 b.c.e.) is also located on the site of Abusir. It was dedicated as “the pyramid which is Divine of the Ba-spirits” but was never completed. It was a low mound of limestone, with no causeway or temple. Another ruin at Abusir is associated with Queen khentakawes, the consort of shepseskhaf (r. 2472-2467 b.c.e.).
A new tomb was recently discovered at Abusir, dating to the Sixth Dynasty (2323-2150 b.c.e.) and built for a judge named Inti. Large, with ground and subterranean levels, the tomb is part of a complex of sites belonging to Inti’s family. Elaborate decorations and statues have also been found.
Abydos A city north of dendereh, capital of the eighth nome, or district, called the Thinite nome, Abydos was considered the greatest of all cemeteries and home to the god osiris. The necropolis area of the city was in use from the earliest times and benefited from royal patronage throughout its history.
Of the royal monuments erected in Abydos, the temple of seti i (r. 1306-1290 b.c.e.) is the largest, built of fine white limestone and containing splendid reliefs. The first two courts of the temple, as well as the portico, were probably completed by ramesses ii (r. 1290-1224 b.c.e.) after Seti I’s death. One scene in the temple depicts Ramesses II adoring the gods isis and Osiris as well as Seti I deified. Ramesses II is also credited with the decoration in the first hypostyle hall of the temple, which has seven doors leading to chapels beyond a second hypostyle hall. The second hypostyle hall serves as a vestibule for the seven chapels incorporated into its west wall. False vaults cover the chapels, and all have reliefs. The chapels honored six gods and the deified Seti I.
A king list was discovered in a gallery in the shrine, showing Seti I and Ramesses II as a prince offering honors to their royal predecessors. Beside the Gallery of Lists there are halls for the preservation of the barks of the gods, butchers’ quarters, and magazines. Immediately behind the temple is an area called the osireion, actually a cenotaph, or false tomb, built by Seti I but probably completed by merenptah, his grandson. A feature in this shrine is an island, formed by canals of water that were kept filled at all times, upon which the sarcophagus and canopic chests were maintained.
The temple of Ramesses II, located to the northeast of the shrine of Seti I, is noted for its delicate reliefs, which provide a description of the Battle of kadesh, carved into limestone. A red granite doorway leads to a pillared open court, and more reliefs depict a procession of offerings for the king. A portico on the west side of the temple opens onto small chapels honoring Seti I as a deified being and various gods. Some of the deities have been provided with suites of rooms, and there is a humanoid djed Pillar in one of the apartment chambers. Granite statues honor Ramesses II, Seti I, the god amun, and two other goddesses. The temple of Osiris in Abydos is located in the northeast of Ramesses Il’s temple. Now called Kom el-Sultan, the region has only a few remains of a limestone portico and ramparts. Cenotaphs dedicated to individuals were erected in the area.
The shunet el-zabib, or “Storehouse of Dates,” an enclosure dating to the second Dynasty (2770-2649 b.c.e.), is in the northwestern desert. Two actual complexes, designed with massive inner walls and outer mud-brick walls, had main ramparts. The cenotaphs of the royal personages are located farther out in the desert, at a site known as umm el-ga’ab, the “Mother of Pots,” because of the large quantity of vessels discovered on the surface—jars used for funerary offerings of the graves. To the south, cenotaphs of the Middle Kingdom and early New Kingdom were also discovered. A temple of senwosret iii (r. 1878-1841 b.c.e.) stands at the edge of the desert. The ruler’s cenotaph is located near the face of the nearby cliffs. A pyramid, possibly erected by ‘ahmose (r. 1550-1525 b.c.e.) is located near the temple. A mortuary complex of tetisheri, the grandmother of ‘Ahmose and a leader in the Theban campaigns against the Hyksos and the start of the New Kingdom, is also in the area.
Abydos, as the seat of the Osirian cult, was a large city and was much revered during all eras of ancient Egypt. The city’s original deity was apparently a black dog-headed creature known as khentiamentiu, the “Chief of the Dwellers of the West,” a title assumed by Osiris when his cult grew popular along the Nile. The west, amenti, was always a territory of death in the nation’s religious and mythological texts. Osiris’s head was believed to have resided in Abydos, according to the mythological texts. In time, however, the tomb of djer (c. 2900 b.c.e.), the second king of the First Dynasty, was identified as the true burial site of the god osiris by his priests. The grave thus became involved in the annual celebration of Osiris’s death and resurrection.
Temple remains from Seti I's cenotaph at Abydos, displaying a truly ancient form of architecture.
Temple remains from Seti I’s cenotaph at Abydos, displaying a truly ancient form of architecture.
Two stelae were discovered in Abydos. One measuring six feet by three feet was from the Thirteenth Dynasty, placed there by neferhotep i (r. c. 1741-1730 b.c.e.). The second records the plans of tuthmosis i (r. 1504-1492 b.c.e.) to honor Osiris by endowing the god’s temple with gifts. Neferhotep I and other rulers had to limit the number of individual burials taking place within the city limits and in the necropolis areas. People from other regions brought their loved ones to Abydos to bury them beside the god Osiris.
A temple founded by tuthmosis iii (r. 1479-1425 b.c.e.) was recently discovered that was built to the southwest of the osiris Enclosure in the northern section of the site. Tuthmosis III erected the temple to honor osiris and included colossal osiride statues of himself in the precincts. Ramesses II later built in the same area at the Portal Temple.
In the southern part of Abydos, Senwosret III built a mortuary temple and channels to provide water to the site for rituals. The cenotaph tomb has a pole roof chamber, corridors, and a burial room with a concealed sarcophagus and canopic box of red granite set into niches concealed by masonry. The limestone mortuary temple has an enclosed wall and a pylon gate. Colonnades, courts, and cultic chambers were discovered in fragmented condition in the complex.
Abydos Fleet An armada of 12 or 14 royal vessels discovered buried near abydos, some eight miles from the Nile. Each vessel, from 50 to 60 feet in length, was encased in a mud-brick coffin and pit. They date to the earliest eras of Egypt. Shorter, less elaborate vessels have been found at saqqara and halwan. Like the vessel found at the Great pyramid of khufu (Cheops, r. 2551-2528 b.c.e.) these ships were part of the mortuary rituals of the early eras. Excavations at the site give indications that more vessels may be part of the necropolis treasures of Abydos.

Achaean League

A confederation of Greek city-states and allies that achieved considerable prominence in the reign of ptolemy ii philadelphus (r. 285-246 b.c.e.). This league impacted upon Egyptian trade practices until it became embroiled in a dispute with Rome, a rising power in the Mediterranean that began to assert its influence, around the second century


(d. c. 460 b.c.e.) Prince of Persia slain by an Egyptian rebel
He was the son of darius i (r. 521-486 b.c.e.). The prince was appointed satrap, or governor, of the Nile by his brother xerxes i (r. 486-466 b.c.e.), Darius I’s heir. In 481 b.c.e., Achaemenes led a military force composed of conscripted Egyptians amassed to conduct various military campaigns, including assaults on the Greeks. These units were defeated at the Battle of salamis by the Greeks. Returning to Egypt, Achaemenes carried out the harsh ruling policies of Xerxes, enslaving Egypt as a Persian province with little value. Such a policy stemmed from Persian disdain for the Egyptian religious or philosophical heritage and a firm belief in the unique revelations concerning human affairs which had been bestowed upon the Persian people. The confiscation of temple wealth was carried out at least in one instance, and Xerxes did not endear himself to the conquered Egyptians by assuming ancient titles or roles in keeping with Nile traditions.
In 460 b.c.e., inaros, a native Egyptian and a prince of heliopolis, started a full-scale insurrection. Inaros, listed in some records as a son of psammetichus iii (Psamtik) (r. 526-525 b.c.e.), set up an independent capital at Memphis. Achaemenes led an army against Inaros, confronting him at Papremis, a Delta site. There the Persian prince died on the field. His death prompted the terrible punitive campaign conducted against inaros by a veteran Persian general, megabyzus. Queen Atossa,Prince Achaemenes’ mother, demanded that Inaros be crucified, an act protested by General Megabyzus.

Achaemenians(Achaemenids, Hakhamanishiya)

A royal house of Persia. This dynasty of Persia (modern Iran) ruled Egypt as the Twenty-seventh Dynasty (525404 b.c.e.) and as the Thirty-first Dynasty (343-332 b.c.e.). The Achaemenians were descendants of Achaemenes, the ruler of a vassal kingdom in the Median Empire (858-550 b.c.e.). Cyrus the Great (c. 590-529 b.c.e.), a descendant of the dynasty’s founder, overthrew the Median line ruling persia and expanded his control of neighboring lands. His son, cambyses, took Egypt in 525 b.c.e. The Achaemenians included: darius i, who came from a collateral branch of the royal line; xerxes i; arta-xerxes i Longimanus; Xerxes II; darius ii Nothus; arta-xerxes ii Memnon; artaxerxes iii ochus; arses; and darius iii Codomanus, who fell before the armies of alexander iii the great in 330 b.c.e.

Achillas (d. c. 47 b.c.e.)

Military officer of Egypt He served ptolemy xiii (r. 51-47 b.c.e.) and was possibly present when the murder of pompey the Great took place. pompey had fled to Egypt for safety but was assassinated on September 28, 48 b.c.e. His head was reportedly preserved and presented as an offering to Julius caesar. When Caesar occupied Alexandria, Achillas was involved in a siege of that capital, an offensive that proved unsuccessful.
A veteran of many battles, esteemed by other military figures, even among his political foes, Achillas ran afoul of arsinoe (4), the royal sister of cleopatra vii. Arsinoe was an enemy of Cleopatra and Caesar, wanting the throne of Egypt for herself. She raised an army to depose her sister and her Roman allies, and she asked Achillas to serve as her commanding general. Not skilled in court intrigues or in the murderous ways of Arsinoe and her predecessors, Achillas managed to confront and infuriate the princess, who had him executed.

Achoris (1)

A site located just south of the faiyum and north of modern Tihna el-Gebel. The famed “Fraser Tombs,” rock-cut grave enclosures, were discovered in Tihna el-Gebel. These date to the Old Kingdom (2575-2134 b.c.e.). The other ruins at Achoris contain three small temples and a Greco-Roman necropolis. Achoris was used by nomarchs of the Fifth Dynasty (2465-2323 b.c.e.).


This promontory on the western coast of Greece at the entrance to the Ambracian Gulf is where a decisive battle for control of Egypt and the Roman empire took place in 31 b.c.e. Octavian, the future Augustus, met Marc antony and cleopatra vii (51-30 b.c.e.) at Actium. Antony was camped on the site, and the naval battle that took place outside of the gulf provided the name for the battle. Octavian’s 400 ships defeated the 500 vessels of Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII, and they fled to Alexandria. Antony committed suicide outside of Alexandria, and Cleopatra VII, facing imprisonment and humiliation, killed herself when the Roman forces took up residence in the city soon after the battle. Octavian (Emperor Augustus) initiated an Olympic-style series of games at Actium to commemorate his victory there.

Adda Stone

A worn fragment of a stela discovered at gebel adda in nubia, modern Sudan, inscribed with demotic and the Meroitic hieratic scripts. Despite lapses, the Adda stone provided keys to the translation of Meroitic, the language of the Nubian culture that dominated that region from c. 270 b.c.e. until 360 c.e.


(fl. fourth century b.c.e.) Royal woman of the Greeks
She was the wife of philip iii arrhidaeus (r. 323-316 b.c.e.), the half brother of Alexander iii the great. Adea-Eurydice was a half niece of philip and joined in the plot to slay him. She died in a similar purge conducted by the heirs of Alexander the Great.

Adicran (fl. sixth century b.c.e.)

Libyan ruler He was partially responsible for the fall of apries (r. 589-570 b.c.e.) of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. An ally of Egypt, Adicran faced a Greek invasion and appealed to Apries for aid in repelling the foe. The Greeks had established the colony of cyrene on the Libyan coast and were now threatening the Libyan ruler. Apries sent several units of Egyptian veteran troops to Adicran’s aid, and they suffered a stinging defeat at the hands of the Greeks. The Egyptian troops returned home and mutinied because of the incident. When Apries sent his general, amasis (r. 570-526 b.c.e.), to mediate the mutiny, Amasis sided with the troops and was proclaimed the rightful ruler of Egypt.
Adicran faced the Cyrene King Battus II the Lucky, who overcame the Libyans and Egyptians in c. 570 b.c.e. He founded new colonies and Hellenized the hump of eastern Libya, calling it Cyrenaica. In 525 b.c.e., the internal feuds between rival Egyptian families seeking the throne ended when the persians arrived with the army of cambyses.

‘Adjib (Merpubia, Enezib, Anedjib)

(fl. c. 2700 b.c.e.) Fifth ruler of the First Dynasty His name meant “Strong of Heart” or “Safe is His Heart.” ‘Adjib is the first Egyptian ruler in the Saqqara king list.
Manetho, the Ptolemaic Period historian, credits ‘Adjib with a reign of 26 years, but he is now believed to have ruled only 14 years. ‘Adjib is probably the first ruler to be recognized by most areas of Lower and upper Egypt as the ruler of united Egypt. He conducted military campaigns to gain territories and to consolidate his position. His principal wife was tarset, or Betresh, the mother of his heir, semerkhet.
He built two tomb complexes, one at saqqara and one in abydos, the holy city of osiris, the god of the dead. His Abydos tomb, small and poorly constructed, had stone vessels bearing his name. Semerkhet usurped some pieces after succeeding him on the throne. ‘Adjib’s Saqqara tomb was decorated in the “palace facade” style, a unique design of recessed panels.

Admonitions of Ipuwer

This is remarkable literary relic dating to the First Intermediate Period (2134-2040 b.c.e.), or perhaps later. Egypt, bereft of a strong royal house, suffered a series of rival kingdoms during this time and a reversal of the traditional social customs. The Admonitions are profoundly pessimistic for this reason, questioning the cosmic implications of Egypt’s fallen state. The text was discovered in the Leiden Papyrus 344, having been copied from an earlier version by Nineteenth Dynasty scribes (1307-1196 b.c.e.). Ipuwer calls for a strong pharaoh to restore the spirit of ma’at, justice, piety, and peace to the Nile kingdoms. Such didactic literature was always popular in Egypt. See also literature.


A site on the Red Sea near Massawa, Adule was used as a hunting ground for wild elephants by ptolemy ii philadelphus (r. 285-246 b.c.e.) and ptolemy iii euer-getes (r. 246-221 b.c.e.). Adule and other nearby areas on the shores of the Red sea were occupied by the Egyptians over the centuries, eventually becoming trade centers for goods imported from many distant lands and linked to well-known trade routes leading to the Nile.


A head covering shown on the goddesses selket and isis and on a statue of tut’ankhamun (r. 1333-1323 b.c.e.), discovered in his tomb. The afnet resembled the nemes, the royal headdress, but was not striped and lacked the front panels. Its use was probably restricted to royalty or to the images of divine beings, although commoners and nobles alike wore a similar head covering.


A semiprecious stone and a variety of quartz, agate was found in the Egyptian quarry at wadi


(fl. second century b.c.e.) Chronicler and trade expert
He served ptolemy viii euergetes ii (r. 170-163, 145-116 b.c.e.) in the capital of Alexandria. Born a Greek in Cnidus, a city on the coast of Anatolia (modern Turkey), Agatharchides went to Egypt’s capital to study the monumental archives in the library of Alexandria. As a result of his scholarly reputation, he was commissioned by ptolemy’s officials to prepare a comprehensive report on the city’s trade and commerce. Agatharchides produced On The Red Sea, a work that used testimony from contemporary merchants and traders. Their accounts provide historical authenticity to the report and offer vivid insights into the wide-ranging trade efforts of that time. Agatharchides is considered one of the most significant scholars of the second century b.c.e. He also wrote Events in Asia and Events in Europe, now lost.

Agathocles (1)

(fl. third century b.c.e.) Prince of Thales This prince fell victim to the political intrigues of arsinoe (2), the sister of ptolemy ii philadelphus (r. 285-246 b.c.e.). The son of King lysimachus, he was the ranking heir to the throne of Thrace, a region in the modern southeastern Balkans. Agathocles faced the political cunning of Arsinoe. She married Lysimachus and bore him two children, viewing Agathocles as an obstacle to the throne. He became the object of ridicule and rumors in the court of Thrace, all designed to isolate him and to alienate him from his father. Arsinoe and her followers then accused him of treason, claiming he was bent on murdering Lysimachus and taking the throne. Lysimachus believed the accusation and executed Agathocles. Arsinoe did not benefit from the death, however. When Lysimachus died, she faced her own tragic consequences seeing her sons barred from inheriting and having to flee to her half brother. The governor of Pergamum (modern Bergama in Turkey), so horrified by the unjust treatment of the Thracian prince, started a campaign of military retribution against Lysimachus. Thrace fell to the Seleu-cids of Syria as a result.

Agathocles (2)

(d. c. 205 b.c.e.) Court official and conspirator of the Ptolemaic Period
He became powerful in the court in the reign of ptolemy v epiphanes (r. 205-180 b.c.e.). Agathocles joined forces with a courtier named sosibius in a palace coup in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt. Ambitious and eager to control Ptolemy V, who was quite young, Agathocles and Sosibius murdered the king’s mother, arsinoe (3). Agathocles served as regent for the orphaned king, but he was unable to hold power.
Governor tlepolemus of the city of pelusium (near modern Port Said in Egypt) was so enraged by the murder of Queen Arsinoe that he marched on Alexandria with his frontier army. Along the way, Tlepolemus announced his intentions to the Egyptian people, who left their villages to swell the ranks of his forces. An angry horde of Egyptians thus faced Agathocles at the palace in the capital. He resigned on the spot and hurried home to prepare for a flight out of the city. Ptolemy V was carried to a large arena in Alexandria, surrounded by Tle-polemus’s troops. There the Egyptians bowed before the young king, swearing their loyalty. The governor then demanded retribution for the death of Queen Arsinoe, and Ptolemy V agreed. A crowd raced to Agathocles’ home, where they beat him to death along with his entire family

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