Smendes in Tour Egypt
SMENDES, THE FIRST KING OF THE 21ST DYNASTY AND THE THIRD
by Jimmy Dunn --
The founders of Egyptian Dynasties frequently worked to
establish their legitimacy to the throne, and yet, in later
years were just as frequently
honored by their successors as great men. Fables came to
surround these men, but at the same time, it is not uncommon
for us to know little of their
background, because they often rose from non-royal or at
least obscure circumstances.
Smendes (Smedes), who we believe founded the 21st Dynasty,
ending the New Kingdom at the beginning of the Third
Intermediate Period, is a very
difficult individual with almost intractable origins and
affiliations. His reign, which Manetho assigns 26 years,
produced only a tiny handful of
monuments and we have never discovered either his tomb or
his mummy (though many believe his tomb to be NRT-I at
Tanis, this structure offers up no
clues concerning Smendes).
Smendes is a Greek rendering of this king's name. His birth
name and epithet were Nes-ba-neb-djed (mery-amun), meaning
"He of the Ram, Lord of
Mendes, Beloved of Amun". His throne name was Hedj-kheper-re
Setep-en-re, meaning "Bright is the Manifestation of Re,
Chosen of Re".
In fact, most of what we know of Smendes predates his rise
to the throne. From the Report of Wenamun, dating to Year 5
of the "Renaissance Era"
during the last decade of the reign of Ramesses XI, we learn
much of what we know of this future king. While on the way
to Lebanon to obtain wood
for the renewal of the divine barque of Amun-Re, Wenamun
stopped at Tanis, which he describes as "the place where
Smendes and Tentamun are". Smendes
is specifically described as being the one to whom Wenamun
gave his letters of credence from Herihor, the High-Priest
of Amun and a powerful general
in the south. Wenamun was then sent in a ship by Smendes to
Syria. Smendes, along with Herihor and others, was cited as
having contributed money to
Smendes, together with Tentamun, are therefore shown to be
of great importance in Egypt's Delta, equals at least of the
High-Priest of Amun in the
south. Consider the fact that Ramesses XI at this time
presumably lived at Piramesses, only about 20 kilometers to
the southwest of Tanis, and yet
Wenamun came to Smendes for assistance rather than to the
king. In fact, Herihor assumed some royal titles even while
Ramesses XI was still alive,
and the implication would seem to be that Smendes had a
similar standing in the north.
Nevertheless, we can only guess at Smendes' origins. It has
been suggested that he was a brother of Nodjmet, the wife of
Herihor, but it has also
been suggested that Nodjmet could have been a sister of
Ramesses XI. However, Tentamun, who was presumably Smendes'
wife, may have been a member of
the royal family. She could have been a daughter of another
woman named Tentamun, who may have been the wife of Ramesses
XI (or possibly another
Ramesside king). The older Tentamun was certainly the mother
of Henttawy, who later became the wife of the High-Priest of
Amun, Pinedjem I, who also
acquired kingly status in the south. As a royal son-in-law,
Smendes' status is more easily understood, though perhaps
not his total eclipse of the
Obviously there is a great deal of confusion concerning the
origin of Smendes. Nevertheless, it is very probable that
the families of Smendes and
Herihor, or at least their descendants, were linked.
Whatever his original status, after the death of Ramesses
XI, Smendes became a king of Egypt, and is recorded as such
in most reference material.
However, only two sources specifically name him as pharaoh,
consisting of a stela in a quarry at Dibabia near Gebelein
(Jebelein), and a small
depiction in the temple of Montu at Karnak. Interestingly,
while there are no known unambiguously dated documents from
his reign, the contemporary
High-Priests of Amun used year numbers without a king's
name, and it is generally believed that, at least through
year 25, these refer to Smendes'
In fact, Smendes probably never ruled over a united Egypt as
such, a condition which probably also existed at the end of
the reign of Ramesses XI.
During much of what we refer to as the 21st Dynasty, there
was also a dynasty of High-Priests of Amun at Thebes who
effectively ruled Upper Egypt,
while the kings at Tanis ruled the north. However, there
appears to have been a rather delicate balance of powers,
and perhaps even a formal
arrangement for this division of Egypt. The Priests at
Thebes seem to have held sway over a region which stretched
from the north of el-Hiba
(south of the entrance to the Fayoum) to the southern
frontier of Egypt, and their aspirations became apparent
around year 16 of Smendes' reign,
when Pinedjem I apparently began to take on full pharaonic
titles, yet at all times he continued to defer to Smendes as
at least a senior king.
Hence, to the outside world, Egypt appears to have been a
united entity during this period, and in a certain respect,
it was. While Egypt was
effectively divided between the north and south by powerful
men, the government of Egypt became a theocracy, with the
supreme political authority
being vested in the god Amun himself. In a hymn to Amun on a
papyrus from Deir el-Bahri, which has been dubbed the "credo
of the theocracy", the
god's name is written in a cartouche and he is addressed as
the superior of all the gods, the fountainhead of creation,
and the true king of Egypt.
In fact, Wenamun also says in his tale that Smendes and
Tentamun are "the pillars which Amun has set up for the
north of his land.
Apparently, Tanis was developed as a northern counterpart to
Thebes, and therefore a principal cult center for Amun in
Lower Egypt. However, there
is also evidence that Memphis functioned as a residence for
the northern kings, for a decree of Smendes is recorded as
having been issued there. The
city may have once more served as a major administrate base
at this time.
During this period, the High-Priesthood of Amun at Thebes
was passed on from father to son, more or less, so that
Pinudjem's heirs inherited both
the position of High-Priest and control of southern Egypt.
Intriguingly, however, it was also one of Herihor probable
sons, Amenemnisu, who
succeeded Smendes on the throne for a brief period.
Smendes in Wikipedia
Hedjkheperre Setepenre Smendes was the founder of the Twenty-first dynasty of Egypt and succeeded to the throne after burying
Ramesses XI in Lower Egypt – territory which he controlled. His Egyptian nomen or birth name was actually Nesbanebdjed meaning
"He of the Ram, Lord of Mendes" but it was translated into Greek as Smendes by later classical writers such as Josephus and
Sextus Africanus. While Smendes' precise origins remain a mystery, he is thought to have been a powerful governor in Lower Egypt
during the Renaissance era of Ramesses XI and his base of power was Tanis.
Nesibanebdjedet (Smendes) may have been a son of a lady named Hrere. Hrere was a Chief of the Harem of Amun-Re and likely the wife
of a high priest of Amun. If Hrere was the mother of Nesibanebdjedet, then he was a brother of Nodjmet and through her brother in
law of the High Priests Herihor and Piankh. Nesibanebdjedet (Smendes) was married to Tentamun B, likely a daughter of Ramesses IX.
They may have been the parents of his successor Amenemnisu.
Report of Wenamun -
Smendes features prominently in the Report of Wenamun, dated to Year 5 of the Renaissance or Whm Mswt era (or Year 23 proper of
Ramesses XI), as a person of the highest importance. Wenamun states here that he had to visit Tanis and personally present his
letters of accreditation to Smendes in order to receive the latter's permission to travel north to modern Lebanon and procure
precious cedar wood for use in the Great Temples of Amun at Thebes. Smendes responded by dispatching a ship for Wenamun's travels
to Syria and the Levant.
Smendes' nominal authority over Upper Egypt is attested by a single inscribed stela found in a quarry at Ed-Dibabiya, opposite
Gebelein on the right bank of the Nile as well as a separate graffito inscription on an enclosure Wall of the Temple of Monthu at
Karnak dating from the reign of Tuthmose III. The quarry stela describes how Smendes "while residing in Memphis, heard of
danger to the temple of Luxor from flooding, gave orders for repairs (hence the quarry works), and received news of the success of
the mission." Smendes is assigned a reign of 26 Years by Manetho in his Epitome and was the husband of Tentamun. This figure is
supported by the Year 25 date on the Banishment Stela which recounts that the High Priest Menkheperre suppressed a local revolt in
Thebes in Year 25 of a king who can only be Smendes because there is no evidence that the High Priests counted their own regnal
years even when they assumed royal titles like Pinedjem I did. Menkheperre then exiled the leaders of the rebellion to the
Western Desert Oases. These individuals were pardoned several years later during the reign of Smendes' successor, Amenemnisu.
Smendes ruled over a divided Egypt and only effectively controlled Lower Egypt during his reign while Middle and Upper Egypt was
effectively under the suzerainty of the High Priests of Amun such as Pinedjem I, Masaharta and Menkheperre. His prenomen or throne
name Hedjkheperre Setepenre/Setepenamun--which means 'Bright is the Manifestation of Rê, Chosen of Rê/Amun'--became very
popular in the following 22nd Dynasty and 23rd Dynasty. In all, five kings: Shoshenq I, Shoshenq IV, Takelot I, Takelot II and
Harsiese A adopted it for their own use. On the death of Smendes in 1051 BC, he was succeeded by Neferkare Amenemnisu, who may
have been this king's son.