HOREMHEB, Pharaoh of Egypt c. 1323-1295,

His relations and contemporaries
Charles Woods

Tomb KV 57

Horemheb seems to have hailed from a common family (not of noble birth) from Herakleopolis Magna or Hnes (Hutnesu) and was in the Military. Herakleopolis Magna is in the region of Bene Suef, nome 20 in Upper Egypt. The modern name of the town is Ehnasya or Ihnasiyah al-Madinah.

It was once thought that Horemheb was Paatenemheb who built a tomb (no.5) at Amarna and that he was Commander-in-chief of Akhenaton’s army, but this is not now thought to be the case (Nicholas Grimal “A History of Ancient Egypt” pp.242). However, Horemheb was sufficiently wealthy to be able to afford the construction of a large tomb at Memphis in the coveted cemetery at Saqqara and probably began his career during the reign of Akhenaton. This tomb was flanked by two other important players in his future life and career, a certain Ramose and Maya, who appear to be two of his closest colleagues.

Horemheb was married to a woman called Amenia, and there are no known children from the marriage. Little else is know about this marriage or of any family connections.

His political career seems to have begun during the reign of Tutankhamun as spokesman for Foreign Affairs, and Tutankhamun is proudly displayed at his side in the tomb be began at Memphis. As spokesman for Foreign Affairs, one of Horemheb’s duties would have been to arrange a political visit from the Prince of Miam (Aniba) in Nubia through Tutankhamun’s Viceroy, Huy (named as the Kings Son of Kush). This visit was successfully arranged through the Governors of Nubia, and it is noted that, subsequently, Nubian slaves were provided in the form of taxes due to Egypt.

Horemheb seems to have played a major role in Tutankhamun’s government, the legal powers of which were split, north and south, (lower and upper Egypt respectively) between Viziers. The northern principality was Memphis and the southern Thebes. In Thebes it appears that Usermont was the Southern Vizier in Tutankhamun’s reign. He was also priest of Maat, the Provincial Governor, a Judge and an Hereditary Prince. It is likely that Horemheb played some part in his appointment as one of his duties may have involved the recommendation of judges and the appointment of religious authorities after the trauma of the Akhenaton years.

Another Southern Vizier, based at Thebes, during the Tutankhamun years was Pentu, Akhenaton’s Vizier and Chief Physician. Pentu was provided with a tomb in the royal necropolis at Amarna, and survived the Amarna interlude as a close associate of Ay, the Southern General and successor to Tutankhamun. Pentu undoubtedly disowned the Aten religion and became highly involved in the restoration of Amun. By stealth he seems have been appointed Tutankhamun’s Southern Vizier and would most probably have worked along side Ay.

When Tutankhamun moved his principality from Memphis to Thebes, it seems that Horemheb’s close friend, colleague and military General, Ramose, may have held the Northern Vizierate, possibly assisted by Horemheb. Indeed towards the end of the Tutankhamun reign, Horemheb had risen in power to become Army Chief and King’s Deputy. In addition, he was designated by Tutankhamun as “Crown Prince” which meant that he was the official Heir to the throne.

He would certainly have come into regular contact with Ay, another military general, and his son (or adopted son) the General Nakhtmin both of whom were closely related to the Amarna Royal family.

HoremhebMayaMaya's wife Meryt
Horemheb ..........................................................................Maya ................................................................Maya's wife Meryt

Horemheb would certainly have had close contact with his friend and colleague, the Noble Maya, an important courtier in Akhenaton’s government. Maya was the son of the noble family of Iawy and the Lady of the House of Weret. As a staunch supporter of Atenism, he may have been rewarded with a tomb in the royal necropolis at Amarna, if he is the same as “May”. Nevertheless he had already begun a magnificent tomb at the Saqqara necropolis next to that of Horemheb, at Memphis, where he was finally laid to rest. At some stage, Maya must have denounced the Aten heresy for on his accession to the throne, Horemheb appointed him as the King’s Scribe, Overseer of the Treasury, Overseer of the Works in the Place of Eternity and leader of the festival of Amun in Karnak.

Another important contemporary of Horemheb was the High Priest of Ptah at Memphis, a one Ptahemhat-Ty. He died about 4 years before Horemheb came to the throne, just after the time of Ay’s accession. In his tomb he depicts Horemheb being introduced to the people by Ay as his heir and successor.

However, on the death of Tutankhamun, the aged Vizier Ay totally sidelined Horemheb’s claim to the throne, performed the burial rites at Tutankhamun’s funeral, had himself crowned and then proceeded to nominate his son, the General Nakhtmin as his successor. This could only have been possible if Horemheb was away at the time of Tutankhamun’s death, and it is thought he was campaigning in the Beqa Valley at the time.

It is possible that Horemheb accepted the situation in view of Ay’s advanced years, but on the death of Ay, he succeeded in removing Naktmin’s rival claim. He then appears to have desecrated Ay’s tomb (WV23) by chiseling out his name and image wherever it occurred and smashed his sarcophagus into a number of pieces, possibly also destroying his mummy in the process. Finally, he then usurped Ay’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use together with a colossal statue.

There was obviously some disagreement and rivalry over the accession as it appears that Horemheb was raised to the throne by an oracle of the god Horus of Hnes. As this appears in his coronation text, it rather confirms his origins in Herakleopolis Magna (Hnes). Horemheb’s wife Amenia seems to have died some time during the 4-year reign of Ay (successor to Tutankhamun). Possibly to cement his rights to succession, he married the Lady Mutnodjmet, a songstress of Amun, believed to be a sister of Queen Nefertiti and possible daughter of Ay. However, there is no definite proof of this. Nevertheless Mutnodjmet became Queen and Horemheb became the Pharaoh; some say the last of the 18th Dynasty Kings and the End of the Amarna Period, and others maintain that he was the first king of the Ramesside era, the 19th Dynasty.

Horemheb was crowned at Karnak and began a reign which appears to have lasted for 27 years. His Queen and principle wife Mutnodjmet appears to have died during childbirth at around the age of 45, and there were no surviving known children. Horemheb named his friend and lifelong colleague, Ramose as his successor, who at the time of his enthronement was of advanced years, but he had a young and energetic military-minded son, Seti I, who very shortly took over the reigns of kingship. Ramose who had a tomb at Memphis next to that of Horemheb is thought to have changed his name to Ramesses and is the owner of Tomb No: KV 16.

If indeed the tomb of Ramses I (KV 16) was originally that of Ramose, and transmuted after the death of Horemheb into that of Ramses, then he appears to be the same individual who replaced Sementawy in Horemheb’s army days and who was held in great affection. He was described as the King’s Private Secretary and Scribe of the Army.

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