Horemheb

Horemheb (sometimes spelled Horemhab or Haremhab and meaning Horus is in Jubilation) was the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled for 14 years somewhere between 1319 BC and 1292 BC.[1] He had no relation to the preceding royal family other than by marriage to Mutnedjmet, who is disputed to have been the daughter of his predecessor Ay; he is believed to have been of common birth.

Before he became pharaoh, Horemheb was the commander in chief of the army under the reigns of Tutankhamun and Ay. After his accession to the throne, he reformed the Egyptian state and it was under his reign that official action against the preceding Amarna rulers began. Due to this, he is considered the man who restabilized his country after the troublesome and divisive Amarna Period.

Horemheb demolished monuments of Akhenaten, reusing their remains in his own building projects, and usurped monuments of Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb presumably remained childless since he appointed his vizier Paramesse as his successor, who would assume the throne as Ramesses I.[2]

Early career

Horemheb is believed to have originated from Herakleopolis Magna or ancient Hnes (modern Ihnasya el-Medina) on the west bank of the Nile near the entrance to the Fayum since his coronation text formally credits the God Horus of Hnes for establishing him on the throne.[3]

A statue of Horemheb as a scribe

His parentage is unknown but he is believed to have been a commoner. According to the French (Sorbonne) Egyptologist Nicolas Grimal, Horemheb does not appear to be the same person as Paatenemheb (Aten Is Present In Jubilation) who was the commander-in-chief of Akhenaten's army.[4] Grimal notes that Horemheb's political career first began under Tutankhamun where he "is depicted at this king's side in his own tomb chapel at Memphis."[5]

In the earliest known stage of his life, Horemheb served as "the royal spokesman for [Egypt's] foreign affairs" and personally led a diplomatic mission to visit the Nubian governors.[5] This resulted in a reciprocal visit by "the Prince of Miam (Aniba)" to Tutankhamun's court, "an event [that is] depicted in the tomb of the Viceroy Huy."[5] Horemheb quickly rose to prominence under Tutankhamun, becoming commander-in-chief of the army and advisor to the pharaoh. Horemheb's specific titles are spelled out in his Saqqara tomb, which was built while he was still only an official: "Hereditary Prince, Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King, and Chief Commander of the Army"; the "attendant of the King in his footsteps in the foreign countries of the south and the north"; the "King's Messenger in front of his army to the foreign countries to the south and the north"; and the "Sole Companion, he who is by the feet of his lord on the battlefield on that day of killing Asiatics."[6]

When Tutankhamun died while a teenager, Horemheb had already been officially designated as the rpat or iry-pat (basically the "hereditary or crown prince") and idnw ("deputy of the king" in the entire land) by the child pharaoh; these titles are found inscribed in Horemheb's then private Memphite tomb at Saqqara which dates to the reign of Tutankhamun since the child king's

... cartouches, although later usurped by Horemheb as king, have been found on a block which adjoins the famous gold of honour scene, a large portion of which is in Leiden. The royal couple depicted in this scene and in the adjacent scene 76, which shows Horemheb acting as an intermediary between the king and a group of subject foreign rulers, are therefore to be identified as Tut'ankhamun and 'Ankhesenamun. This makes it very unlikely from the start that any titles of honours claimed by Horemheb in the inscriptions in the tomb are fictitious.[7]

Relief from Horemheb's tomb. Receiving 'gold of honour' collars.

The title iry-pat (Hereditary Prince) was used very frequently in Horemheb's Saqqara tomb but not combined with any other words. When used alone, the Egyptologist Alan Gardiner has shown that the iry-pat title contains features of ancient descent and lawful inheritance which is identical to the designation for a "Crown Prince."[8] This means that Horemheb was the openly recognised heir to Tutankhamun's throne and not Ay, Tutankhamun's ultimate successor. As the Dutch Egyptologist Jacobus Van Dijk observes:

There is no indication that Horemheb always intended to succeed Tut'ankhamun; obviously not even he could possibly have predicted that the king would die without issue. It must always have been understood that his appointment as crown prince would end as soon as the king produced an heir, and that he would succeed Tut'ankhamun only in the eventuality of an early and/or childless death of the sovereign. There can be no doubt that nobody outranked the Hereditary Prince of Upper and Lower Egypt and Deputy of the King in the Entire Land except the king himself, and that Horemheb was entitled to the throne once the king had unexpectedly died without issue. This means that it is Ay's, not Horemheb's accession which calls for an explanation. Why was Ay able to ascend the throne upon the death of Tut'ankhamun, despite the fact that Horemheb had at that time already been the official heir to the throne for almost ten years?[9]

The aged Vizier Ay sidelined Horemheb's claim to the throne and instead succeeded Tutankhamun, probably because Horemheb was in Asia with the army at the time of Tutankhamun's death. No objects belonging to Horemheb were found in Tutankhamun's tomb, but items donated by other high-ranking officials such as Maya and Nakhtmin were found in there by Egyptologists. Further, Tutankhamun's queen, Ankhesenamun, refused to marry Horemheb, a commoner, and so make him king of Egypt.[10] Having pushed Horemheb's claims aside, Ay proceeded to nominate the aforementioned Nakhtmin, who was possibly Ay's son or adopted son, to succeed him rather than Horemheb.[11][12]

After Ay's reign, which lasted for a little over four years, Horemheb managed to seize power, presumably thanks to his position as commander of the army, and to assume what he must have perceived to be his just reward for having ably served Egypt under Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb quickly removed Nakhtmin's rival claim to the throne and arranged to have Ay's WV23 tomb desecrated by smashing the latter's sarcophagus, systematically chiselling Ay's name and figure out of the tomb walls and probably destroying Ay's mummy.[13] However, he spared Tutankhamun's tomb from vandalism presumably because it was Tutankhamun who had promoted his rise to power and chosen him to be his heir. Horemheb also usurped and enlarged Ay's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use and erased Ay's titulary on the back of a 17-foot colossal statue by carving his own titulary in its place.

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Afrikaans: Horemheb
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Deutsch: Haremhab
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עברית: חרמחב
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مصرى: حور محب
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中文: 霍朗赫布