Herihor in Tour Egypt
HERIHOR, A RULER BUT NOT A KING
by Jimmy Dunn -
Under Ramesses XI at the end of the New Kingdom, the steadily increasing power of the Amun Priesthood at Thebes finally came to a
head. Homer said of Thebes in the Iliad, Book 9, that "in Egyptian Thebes the heaps of precious ingots gleam, the hundred-gated
Thebes". By this time, the priesthood at Amun was in control of two-thirds of all temple land in Egypt, which was extensive. They
also owned 90 percent of all ships, and 80 percent of all factories, as well as many other resources, so their grip on the Egyptian
economy was paramount. No wonder that, by the end of Ramesses XI's reign, he was virtually powerless and it was but a short step
for the priesthood at Thebes to enforce supremacy, at least in the south. Earlier in Ramesses XI's reign, after Amunhotpe assumed
the position of High-Priest of Amun, he attempted to inflate his status, probably resulting in a nine month period when Amunhotpe
was "suppressed", clearly as some sort of major civil upheaval, This seemingly included an attack on the fortified temple complex
of Medinet Habu on the West Bank at Thebes (modern Luxor). This problem was ultimately settled by Paneshy, who was the Egyptian
Viceroy of Nubia. He marched north to Thebes to restore order, and for probably a period of years, continued to hold sway over
southern Egypt and Nubia. Apparently this too was unacceptable, and he in
tern was eventually ousted by General Herihor.
This all seems to have been, in the end, a situation of the survival of the fittest, for apparently there were never any gains for
the king himself. After having driven Paneshy into Nubia, and even though campaigning against the now-renegade Paneshy continued
for some years, prosecuted by Herihor's son-in-law and eventual successor, Piankh, General Herihor at least nominally assumed the
viceroyalty of his opponent, and additionally was appointed as the High-Priest of Amun. He thus acquired the authority of a
military dictator as well as the economic resources of the Amun temple at Karnak. One must wonder whether his appointment to this
high office by Ramesses XI was due to the king's stupidity, or more likely forced upon him. However, Herihor's wife, Nodjmet, may
have been a sister of Ramesses XI, which might help to explain the king's allowances. Herihor marked the establishment of his new
regime by initiating a new dating era, known as the Renaissances, or "Repeating of Births", a term that had previously been used by
kings who founded new dynasties. The first year of this system began with the nineteenth regnal year of Ramesses XI. Herihor was
this individual's birth name, and he had as an epithet, Si-amun, which can all be translated to mean "Horus Protects Me, Son of
Amun". His title became Hem-netjer-tepy-en-amun, which means "The First Prophet [High-Priest] of Amun". It has been suggested that
Herihor's family may have been Libyan, though there is no clear cut evidence.
Though clearly dominate over southern Egypt, however, the reason he is not referenced as a true king of a divided Egypt in most
sources is that he never took on outwardly the titles of a king, though he did use cartouches, usually reserved only for kings
These can be found today within the temple of Khonsu at Karnak. This temple, located on the south side in the complex of Amun at
Thebes, was also his most major building work. There, he had constructed the forecourt and pylons. We also here about Herihor in
the famous report of Wenamen, who he sent abroad to purchase wood for a new barque of Amun. This report is very valuable to us
today, because, not only does it point out Egypt's weakness during this period, it also provides some information on the dynamics
of leadership in Egypt while Herihor controlled the south. Herihor apparently sent his envoy not to Ramesses XI, who probably lived
in Pi-Ramessse, but rather to Smendes at Tanis, not very far from Pi-Ramessse in the Delta for assistance along his journey. The
implications are that, by this point, Ramesses XI was virtually powerless Otherwise, the records of him are the pious restorations
written on some of the coffins and dockets on the mummies from the Royal cache (DB 320) of mummies discovered at Deir el_Bahri.
Just as in the case of Ramesses IX, there were tomb robberies at Thebes, and at least some of the mummies of previous rulers were
initially moved to caches by Herihor in order to save them from vandalism.
Among these mummies was found Herihor's wife, though their joint funerary papyrus, a magnificent illustrated copy of the Book of
the Dead, had come on to the antiquities market some years before the formal discovery. A linen docket on the mummy shows that the
queen was embalmed in or after year one of Smendes' rule, indicating that she apparently outlived her husband by as many as five
years. She had apparently been hidden in another cache of mummies before being transferred to this second cache, and it would also
seem that husband and wife were not buried together despite having a joint funerary papyrus. In fact, there has so far been no
trace of Herihor's burial apart from this papyrus. Herihor probably died some five years prior to Ramesses XI. One must wonder how
different Egypt's history might have been had he outlived Ramesses XI. Nevertheless, the heirs of his office would change Egypt for
many years to come. No funerary figurines, canopic jars or other fragments of funerary equipment have ever been discovered. There
is good reason to suspect, from rock graffiti, that Herihor's tomb may still remain intact somewhere in the Theban hills.
Herihor in Wikipedia
Herihor was an Egyptian army officer and High Priest of Amun at Thebes (1080 BC to 1074 BC) during the reign of
Pharaoh Ramesses XI.
While his origins are unknown, it is thought that his parents were Libyans. Recent studies by Karl Jansen-Winkeln
in ZAS 119 (1992) suggest that Piankh-originally thought to be Herihor's successor-was actually Herihor's father-in-
law and predecessor.
Herihor advanced through the ranks of the military during the reign of Ramesses XI and was integral to restoring
order by ousting Pinehesy, viceroy of Nubia, from Thebes. His wife Nodjmet, may have been Ramesses XI's daughter.
After that, he assumed more and more titles, from high priest to vizier, before finally openly taking the royal title
at Thebes even if he still nominally recognised the authority of Ramesses XI, the actual king of Egypt. Herihor never
really held power outside the environs of Thebes, and Ramesses XI actually outlived him by at least two years. While
both Herihor and his wife Nodjmet were given royal cartouches in inscriptions on their funerary equipment, their
'kingship' was limited to a few relatively restricted areas of Thebes whereas Ramesses XI's name was still recorded
in official administrative documents throughout the country. The two men quietly agreed to accept the new
political situation where the High Priest was as powerful as Pharaoh. The report of Wenamun (also known as Wen-Amon)
was made in Year 5 of Herihor and Herihor is mentioned in several Year 5 and Year 6 mummy linen graffitos.
The de facto split between Ramesses XI and his 21st Dynasty successors with the High Priests of Amun at Thebes
(referred to in Ancient Egyptian as Wehem Mesut) resulted in the unofficial political division of Egypt between Upper
Egypt and Lower Egypt with the Tanite kings ruling the latter from Tanis. In practice, these were often two branches
of the same family through intermarriage and the division between these two dynasties is somewhat artificial:
Herihor's great-grandson was crowned Psusennes I at Tanis. Another Theban High Priest would later assume the throne
of all Egypt as Psusennes II. This division was not completely ended until the country was finally reunited with the
accession of the Libyan Dynasty 22 king Shoshenq I in 943 BC; Shoshenq was able to appoint his son Iuput to be the
new High Priest of Amun at Thebes and thus exercise authority over all of the country.