Merneptah or Merenptah (reigned July or August 1213 BC – May 2, 1203 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records.[2] He was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II[3] and only came to power because all his older brothers, including his full brother Khaemwaset or Khaemwase, had died. By the time he ascended to the throne, he was probably around seventy years old. His throne name was Ba-en-re Mery-netjeru, which means "The Soul of Ra, Beloved of the Gods".

Merneptah was probably the fourth child of Isetnofret I, the second wife of Ramesses II, and he was married to Queen Isetnofret II, his royal wife, who was likely his full sister bearing the name of their mother. It is presumed that Merneptah was also married to Queen Takhat and one of their sons would succeed him as Seti II. They also were the parents of Prince Merenptah and possibly the usurper, Amenmesse, and Queen Twosret, wife of Seti II and later pharaoh in her own right.

Statue of Merenptah on display at the Egyptian Museum.
Statue of Merenptah on display at the Egyptian Museum.
Reign1213–1203 BC (10 years) (19th Dynasty)
PredecessorRamesses II
SuccessorSeti II/Amenmesse
ConsortIsetnofret II, Takhat?
ChildrenSeti II, Merenptah, Khaemwaset, Isetnofret
FatherRamesses II
Died2 May 1203 BC


Merneptah was probably the thirteenth son of Ramesses II.[4][5][6] This is a result of the latter's advanced age and the fact that he outlived many of his heirs (In his 90s, Ramesses was one of the oldest pharaohs in Egyptian history, if not the oldest). By year 40 of Ramesses II, Merneptah had been promoted to Overseer of the Army, and in year 55 of Ramesses II, Merneptah was officially proclaimed heir and crown prince as Ramesses celebrated his eightieth birthday. After becoming heir, Merneptah took on new responsibilities in administration, mainly becoming prince regent for his elderly and perhaps senile father for the last twelve years of the king's life.[7]


According to one reading of contemporary historical records, Merneptah ruled Egypt for almost ten years from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on 2 May 1203 BC.[8] Alternatively, astronomical calculations of a potentially reported annular eclipse (Joshua 10:10-14) that precedes Merneptah's Canaanite campaign against the Israelites place the beginning of his reign in 1209 or 1210 BC.[9]


Limestone block showing a pair of unfinished cartouches of Merenptah (Merneptah) I. 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Limestone block showing a pair of unfinished cartouches of Merenptah (Merneptah) I. 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

Merneptah had to carry out several military campaigns during his reign. In year 5 he fought against the Libyans, who— with the assistance of the Sea Peoples— were threatening Egypt from the West. Merneptah led a victorious six-hour battle against a combined Libyan and Sea People force at the city of Perire, probably located on the western edge of the Delta. His account of this campaign against the Sea Peoples and Libu is described in prose on a wall beside the sixth pylon at Karnak, which states:

[Beginning of the victory that his majesty achieved in the land of Libya] -I, Ekwesh, Teresh, Lukka, Sherden, Shekelesh, Northerners coming from all lands.

Later in the inscription, Merneptah receives news of the attack:

... the third season, saying: 'The wretched, fallen chief of Libya, Meryre, son of Ded, has fallen upon the country of Tehenu with his bowmen--Sherden, Shekelesh, Ekwesh, Lukka, Teresh, Taking the best of every warrior and every man of war of his country. He has brought his wife and his children--leaders of the camp, and he has reached the western boundary in the fields of Perire.'[10]

In the Athribis Stele, in the garden of Cairo Museum, it states "His majesty was enraged at their report, like a lion", assembled his court and gave a rousing speech. Later he dreamed he saw Ptah handing him a sword and saying "Take thou (it) and banish thou the fearful heart from thee." When the bowmen went forth, says the inscription, "Amun was with them as a shield." After six hours the surviving Nine Bows threw down their weapons, abandoned their baggage and dependents, and ran for their lives. Merneptah states that he defeated the invasion, killing 6,000 soldiers and taking 9,000 prisoners. To be sure of the numbers, among other things, he took the penises of all uncircumcised enemy dead and the hands of all the circumcised, from which history learns that the Ekwesh were circumcised, a fact causing some to doubt they were Greek.

There is also an account of the same events in the form of a poem from the Merneptah Stele, widely known as the Israel Stele, which makes reference to the supposed utter destruction of Israel in a campaign prior to his 5th year, in Canaan: "Israel has been wiped out...its seed is no more." This is the first recognised ancient Egyptian record of the existence of Israel--"not as a country or city, but as a tribe" or people.[11]


Merneptah makes an offering to Ptah on a column
Stone sarcophagus of Merneptah in KV8.

Merneptah was already an elderly man in his late 60s, if not early 70s, when he assumed the throne.[12] Merneptah moved the administrative center of Egypt from Piramesse (Pi-Ramesses), his father's capital, back to Memphis, where he constructed a royal palace next to the temple of Ptah. This palace was excavated in 1915 by the University of Pennsylvania Museum, led by Clarence Stanley Fisher.

Merneptah's successor, Seti II, was a son of Queen Isetnofret. However, Seti II's accession to the throne was not unchallenged: a rival king named Amenmesse, who was either another son of Merneptah by Takhat or, much less likely, of Ramesses II, seized control of Upper Egypt and Kush during the middle of Seti II's reign. Seti was able to reassert his authority over Thebes in his fifth year, only after he overcame Amenmesse. It is possible that before seizing Upper Egypt, Amenmesse had been known as Messuy and had been viceroy of Kush.


Merneptah mummy head

Merneptah mummy head

Merneptah suffered from arthritis and atherosclerosis and died an old man after a reign which lasted for nearly a decade. Merneptah was originally buried within tomb KV8 in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was not found there. In 1898 it was located along with eighteen other mummies in the mummy cache found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) by Victor Loret. Merneptah's mummy was taken to Cairo and eventually unwrapped by Dr. G. Elliott Smith on July 8, 1907. Dr. Smith notes that:

The body is that of an old man and is 1 meter 714 millimeters in height. Merneptah was almost completely bald, only a narrow fringe of white hair (now cut so close as to be seen only with difficulty) remaining on the temples and occiput. A few short (about 2 mill) black hairs were found on the upper lip and scattered, closely clipped hairs on the cheeks and chin. The general aspect of the face recalls that of Ramesses II, but the form of the cranium and the measurements of the face much more nearly agree with those of his [grand]father, Seti the Great.[13]


  1. ^ "King Merenptah", Digital Egypt, University College London (2001). Accessed 2007-09-29.
  2. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, Mainz, (1997), pp.190
  3. ^ Gae Callender, The Eye Of Horus: A History of Ancient Egypt, Longman Cheshire (1993), p.263
  4. ^ Merrill, J. Marc (2012-05-02). 1: Building Bridges of Time, Places and People: Volume I: Tombs, Temples & Cities of Egypt, Israel, Greece & Italy. AuthorHouse. p. 213. ISBN 978-1468573695.
  5. ^ Bart, Anneke. "Merneptah". Saint Louis University. Retrieved 2017-12-21. Merneptah was the 13th son of Ramses II.
  6. ^ "Penn Museum - Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery". Penn Museum. Penn Museum. Retrieved 2017-12-21. Merenptah was the 13th son and eventual successor of the famous Ramses II.
  7. ^ "Merneptah". Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Retrieved 2017-12-21. Already a man in his sixties, Merneptah had helped to manage state affairs for his father in the city of Pi-Ramesse and in the Delta and he now took on new responsibilities, ruling as prince regent for the elderly king throughout the last twelve years of his reign.
  8. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, Mainz, (1997), pp.190
  9. ^ Colin Humphrys, Graeme Eaddington (1 October 2017). "Solar eclipse of 1207 BC helps to date pharaohs". Astronomy & Geophysics. 58 (5): 5.39–5.42. doi:10.1093/astrogeo/atx178.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze Age, Princeton University Press, 1993. p.49
  11. ^ Jacobus Van Dijk, "The Amarna Period and the Later New Kingdom" in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw, Oxford University Press (2000), p.302
  12. ^ Joyce Tyldesley (2001). Ramesses: Egypt's Greatest Pharaoh. Penguin Books. p. 185.
  13. ^ Grafton Elliot Smith, The Royal Mummies, Cairo (1912), pp. 65-70

Further reading

  • Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song, and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), Vol. III: Egypt, Africa, and Arabia, trans. W. K. Flinders Petrie, pp. 47–55, scanned by J. S. Arkenberg, Department of History, California State Fullerton; Professor Arkenberg has modernized the text and it is available via Internet Ancient History Sourcebook

The Temple of Amada, the oldest Egyptian temple in Nubia, was first constructed by Pharaoh Thutmose III of the 18th dynasty and dedicated to Amun and Re-Horakhty. His son and successor, Amenhotep II continued the decoration program for this structure. Amenhotep II's successor, Thutmose IV decided to place a roof over its forecourt and transform it into a pillared or hypostyle hall. During the Amarna period, Akhenaten had the name Amun destroyed throughout the temple but this was later restored by Seti I of Egypt's 19th dynasty. Various 19th dynasty kings especially Seti I and Ramesses II also "carried out minor restorations and added to the temple's decoration." The stelas of the Viceroys of Kush Setau, Heqanakht and Messuy and that of Chancellor Bay describe their building activities under Ramesses II, Merneptah and Siptah respectively. In the medieval period the temple was converted into a church.


Amenmesse (also Amenmesses or Amenmose) was the fifth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty in Ancient Egypt, possibly the son of Merneptah and Queen Takhat. Others consider him to be one of the innumerable sons of Ramesses II. Very little is known about this pharaoh, who ruled Egypt for only three to four years. Various Egyptologists date his reign between 1202 BC–1199 BC or 1203 BC–1200 BC with others giving an accession date of 1200 BC. Amenmesse means "born of or fashioned by Amun" in Egyptian. Additionally, his nomen can be found with the epithet Heqa-waset, which means "Ruler of Thebes". His royal name was Menmire Setepenre.


Bintanath (or Bentanath) was the firstborn daughter and later Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II.

Flinders Petrie

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, FRS, FBA (3 June 1853 – 28 July 1942), commonly known as Flinders Petrie, was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artefacts. He held the first chair of Egyptology in the United Kingdom, and excavated many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt in conjunction with his wife, Hilda Petrie. Some consider his most famous discovery to be that of the Merneptah Stele, an opinion with which Petrie himself concurred.Petrie developed the system of dating layers based on pottery and ceramic findings.

Great Karnak Inscription

The Great Karnak Inscription is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription belonging to the 19th dynasty Pharaoh Merneptah. A long epigraph, it was discovered at Karnak in 1828–1829. According to Wilhelm Max Müller, it is "one of the famous standard texts of Egyptology... [and has been] ... one of the greatest desiderata of scholars for many years."The Great Karnak Inscription is located on the west (inside) of the east wall of the Cachette Court, in the Precinct of Amun-Re of the Karnak temple complex, in modern Luxor. It runs from the fourth pylon of the great sanctuary to the eighth pylon.It was first identified by Champollion, and later partly published by Karl Richard Lepsius.It includes a record of the campaigns of this king against the Sea Peoples.The 79-line inscription (which has now lost about a third of its content) shows the king's campaigns and eventual return with booty and prisoners.It is the longest surviving continuous monumental text from Egypt.It has been designated KIU 4246 by the Centre Franco-Égyptien d'Étude des Temples de Karnak.

Great Sphinx of Tanis

The Great Sphinx of Tanis is a granite sculpture of a sphinx, dated to the 26th century BC. It was discovered in the ruins of the Temple of Amun-Ra in Tanis, Egypt's capital during the 21st Dynasty and the 23rd Dynasty. All that is left of its original inscription are the parts alluding to pharaohs Amenemhat II (12th Dynasty), Merneptah (19th Dynasty) and Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty). It is on display at the Louvre, which acquired it in 1826.

Hori I (High Priest of Ptah)

Hori was the High Priest of Ptah at the very end of the reign of Ramesses II. Hori succeeded Neferronpet in office.

Hori was a son of prince Khaemwaset and hence a grandson of Ramesses II. Hori had an older brother named Ramesses who had served as Sem priest of Ptah. It was Hori however who would eventually follow in his father's footsteps and become high priest. Hori also had a sister named Isetnofret. It is possible that Isetnofret married her uncle Merneptah and served as his queen. If so, Hori would have been both a nephew and a brother-in-law to pharaoh Merneptah, the thirteenth son and successor of Ramesses II.Hori is attested on:

A pillar originally from his tomb in Saqqara. Hori uses the titles Noble, Chief in charge of Both Lands, Sem Priest and High Priest. He is explicitly said to be the son of Khaemwaset.

A stela (BM 167) from the Scribe of the Royal Harem named Ptahemwia.


Isetnofret (or Isis-nofret or Isitnofret) (Ancient Egyptian: "the beautiful Isis") was one of the Great Royal Wives of Pharaoh Ramesses II and was the mother of his heir, Merneptah. She was one of the most prominent of the royal wives, along with Nefertari, and was the chief queen after Nefertari's death (around the 24th year of the pharaoh's reign).


The Libu (Ancient Egyptian: rbw; also transcribed Rebu, Lebu) were an Ancient Libyan Berber large group of tribes, from which the name Libya derives.

Merneptah Stele

The Merneptah Stele—also known as the Israel Stele or the Victory Stele of Merneptah—is an inscription by the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (reign: 1213 to 1203 BC) discovered by Flinders Petrie in 1896 at Thebes, and now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.The text is largely an account of Merneptah's victory over the Libyans and their allies, but the last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in Canaan, then part of Egypt's imperial possessions. The stele is sometimes referred to as the "Israel Stela" because a majority of scholars translate a set of hieroglyphs in line 27 as "Israel". Alternative translations have been advanced but are not widely accepted.The stela represents the earliest textual reference to Israel and the only reference from ancient Egypt. It is one of four known inscriptions, from the Iron Age, that date to the time of and mention ancient Israel, under this name, the others being the Mesha Stele, the Tel Dan Stele, and the Kurkh Monolith. As a result, some consider the stele to be Flinders Petrie's most famous discovery, an opinion with which Petrie himself concurred.


Meryey was a king of ancient Libya (or the Libu), during the late 13th century BC. He was the son of Ded. His reign was contemporary with pharaoh Merneptah of Egypt (1213-1203 BC). He is mentioned as the architect of a major military alliance amongst his nation, the Meshwesh, Lukka, and the Sea Peoples known as the Ekwesh, Teresh, Shekelesh, and the Sherden. This confederacy went to war against Merneptah in the western delta during the 5th and 6th years of his reign.


Messuy (Messuwy) was Viceroy of Kush, Governor of the South Lands, Scribe of the Tables of the Two Lands during the reign of Merneptah and perhaps Seti II and Amenmesse.

Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt

The Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt (notated Dynasty XIX, alternatively 19th Dynasty or Dynasty 19) is classified as the second Dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom period, lasting from 1292 BC to 1189 BC. The 19th Dynasty and the 20th Dynasty furthermore together constitute an era known as the Ramesside period. This Dynasty was founded by Vizier Ramesses I, whom Pharaoh Horemheb chose as his successor to the throne.

Panehesy (Vizier)

Panehesy (also written Panehsy) was a Vizier of Ancient Egypt. He served during the reign of Merenptah during the 19th Dynasty.


Pharaoh (, US also ; Coptic: ⲡⲣ̅ⲣⲟ Pǝrro) is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty (c. 3150 BCE) until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

In Egyptian society, religion was central to everyday life. One of the roles of the pharaoh was as an intermediary between the gods and the people. The pharaoh thus deputised for the gods; his role was both as civil and religious administrator. He owned all of the land in Egypt, enacted laws, collected taxes, and defended Egypt from invaders as the commander-in-chief of the army. Religiously, the pharaoh officiated over religious ceremonies and chose the sites of new temples. He was responsible for maintaining Maat (mꜣꜥt), or cosmic order, balance, and justice, and part of this included going to war when necessary to defend the country or attacking others when it was believed that this would contribute to Maat, such as to obtain resources.During the early days prior to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Deshret or the "Red Crown", was a representation of the kingdom of Lower Egypt, while the Hedjet, the "White Crown", was worn by the kings of the kingdom of Upper Egypt. After the unification of both kingdoms into one united Egypt, the Pschent, the combination of both the red and white crowns was the official crown of kings. With time new headdresses were introduced during different dynasties like the Khat, Nemes, Atef, Hemhem crown, and Khepresh. At times, it was depicted that a combination of these headdresses or crowns would be worn together.

Seti II

Seti II (or Sethos II) was the fifth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and reigned from c. 1203 BC to 1197 BC. His throne name, Userkheperure Setepenre, means "Powerful are the manifestations of Re, the chosen one of Re." He was the son of Merneptah and Isetnofret II and sat on the throne during a period known for dynastic intrigue and short reigns, and his rule was no different. Seti II had to deal with many serious plots, most significantly the accession of a rival king named Amenmesse, possibly a half brother, who seized control over Thebes and Nubia in Upper Egypt during his second to fourth regnal years.


The Shasu (from Egyptian š3sw, probably pronounced Shaswe) were Semitic-speaking cattle nomads in the Southern Levant from the late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age or the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt. They were organized in clans under a tribal chieftain, and were described as brigands active from the Jezreel Valley to Ashkelon and the Sinai.Some scholars link the Israelites and YHWH with the Shasu.


Akhenre Setepenre Siptah or Merenptah Siptah was the penultimate ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. His father's identity is currently unknown. Both Seti II and Amenmesse have been suggested although the fact that Siptah later changed his royal name or nomen to Merneptah Siptah after his Year 2 suggests rather that his father was Merneptah. If correct, this would make Siptah and Seti II half-brothers since both of them were sons of Merneptah.

He was not the crown prince, but succeeded to the throne as a child after the death of Seti II. His accession date occurred on I Peret day 2 around the month of December.


Tiras was, according to Genesis 10 and Chronicles 1, the last-named son of Japheth who is otherwise unmentioned in the Hebrew Bible. The name is sometimes associated by scholars with the Teresh or Tursha, one of the groups which made up the Sea Peoples, a naval confederacy which terrorized Egypt and other Mediterranean around 1200 BCE. These Sea People are referred to as "Tursha" in an inscription of Ramesses III, and as "Teresh of the Sea" on the Merneptah Stele.Some other scholars associate Tiras with Thrace or the Etruscans. In 1838, the German scholar Johann Christian Friedrich Tuch suggested identifying Tiras with the Etruscans — who, according to Greek and Roman sources such as Herodotus (I, 94), had been living in Lydia as the Tyrsenoi before emigrating to Italy as early as the 8th century BC.


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