The forgotten pharaoh, p.1
The Forgotten Pharaoh, page 1
The Forgotten Pharaoh
By David Adkins
© David Adkins 2017
David Adkins has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
First published by Endeavour Press Ltd in 2017.
Table of Contents
Part 1 – Malkata
Part 2 – The Desert
It is the year 1365 BC. Amenhotep III, the magnificent king, is pharaoh in Upper and Lower Egypt. Amenhotep is the ninth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty and under his rule Egypt has enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. Amenhotep had three sons and four daughters by his great royal wife, Tiye. This is the story of the youngest of these sons, Prince Smenkhkare.
Very little is known of Smenkhkare because later pharaohs sought to erase much of his family from history due to what is known as the Amarna period when the pharaoh turned away from the traditional gods of old Egypt. The story therefore, though sprinkled with possible historical fact, is almost entirely fiction. Indeed, Smenkhkare is shrouded in mystery and though there is substantial evidence to his existence it is often conflicting in nature and disagreed upon by some Egyptologists.
The story begins about 3400 years ago and, though a great civilisation, the world of Ancient Egypt was vastly different from the world of today. When reading the story two things, in particular, should be remembered and that is the early age when a child passed into adulthood and alsothat intermarriage was common within the royal family. Children became adults at an age that might seem scandalously young to us. This was partly due to the short life expectancy in ancient times. A commoner could only expect a life of 40 years, if he was lucky, for his life would have been one of considerable hardship and lacking in the medical help that we now take for granted. Life expectancy in the royal family would have been higher for life was easier for them except that plots, conspiracies and murder were commonplace throughout Egyptian history and sometimes cut their lives short. Intermarriage was commonplace within the royal family even to the extent of fathers marrying daughters and brothers marrying sisters. This was believed to keep the royal blood pure.
The result of this was that with a shorter life expectancy everything was accelerated. Children passed into adulthood between the ages of 12 and 14, and marriage would often take place during these tender years. With early adulthood came responsibilities as children would begin work at the age of 12 or even before. Marriages, whether it was the commoner or the royal, would usually be arranged by the parents to the benefit of their family. Love would always be a factor but never a major one.
Religion was of massive importance in the Egyptian world as the entire civilisation centred around religious practices. Each individual had to know his place in the religious and social order. The pharaoh and his family, with the priests and other nobles, were the elite in the Egyptian world. In the middle were the soldiers, skilled workers and merchants. At the bottom were the farmers and labourers and below them the slaves. As a member of the royal family Smenkhkare held a great responsibility not only to the continued supremacy of his own family and to a successful war machine for the protection of his country but also for the well-being of his people.
The young Smenkhkare would be well educated and comfortable prior to his entry into the adult world. He would be looked after by his esteemed family until the day came when he would have to fulfil his destiny. This was the world that Smenkhkare entered at his birth about the year 1379 BC. In 1365 BC when the story begins Smenkhkare was 14.
Part 1 – Malkata
I walked slowly along the corridor of the Royal Palace with a sense of overwhelming dread engulfing me. My father, the all powerful pharaoh, had taken little interest in me since the day I was born and this unexpected summons brought with it a strong degree of foreboding. On the rare occasions he spoke with me it was usually to berate me for some offence that I had unwittingly committed. He treated me with disdain and that was not surprising for most of my family treated me in the same manner. Unlike my two charismatic elder brothers I was a disappointment to my father, Amenhotep, for I was credited with little sense or intelligence. He mistook my shyness for stupidity and my small stature for lack of strength in both mind and body. I knew that I was not as hopeless as most of my family believed but in a family as dysfunctional as mine it was perhaps prudent to appear unobtrusive. If you were inconspicuous then you appeared less of a threat and as I was the youngest of the royal siblings that was probably a good thing.
I hesitated, took a deep breath and then knocked firmly on the door to the royal apartment of the mighty pharaoh and then pushed it open. “Come in, Smenkhkare,” my father beckoned.
I entered the sumptuous audience chamber where foreign dignitaries were received and which was one of the largest of the many rooms in the grand palace of Malkata. “Thank you, father,” I muttered nervously.
My anxiety grew when I saw that my mother, Tiye, and my two brothers, Thutmose and Akhenamun, sat alongside my father and they were all smiling. I had never seen so many smiles. “Sit down, Smenkhkare,” my father commanded and I obeyed and waited for him to speak.
“Your older brother Thutmose is destined to be pharaoh one day when I pass into the next world. Your other brother Akhenamun I intend to make our High Priest in a few years time.” He looked at me in conspiratorial fashion. “Of course, that is just between the people in this room, for the moment anyway.”
I nodded agreement. “Yes, father.”
“That left me with a problem, Smenkhkare. What was I to do with you? You are not intelligent enough to be an administrator. I do not say that in a cruel way but I have to face facts. The only obvious way to make use of you is in a similar way to your sisters, in a useful marriage.”
I gasped. “I am to be married, father?”
“Yes and very soon,” he replied. “I have officials in the Mitanni capital, Washukanni, even as we speak. They have sent a messenger to inform me that they have reached agreement with the Mitanni King, Shatuarra, that you will marry his daughter, Taduheppa. When they return to Thebes they will bring Taduheppa with them and you will marry immediately. It will herald in a new era of peace with the Mitanni. You will live here in Malkata with your new bride. Do you have any questions?”
I was dumbfounded and stared at him blankly. This had come as a complete surprise to me.
“Well?” he asked again.
“Is she beautiful?” I stammered.
“An excellent and most important question,” laughed Thutmose.
My father showed more gravity. “I do not know and that should not be important. The most important thing is for you to do your duty.”
“The officials say she is passable,” grinned Thutmose.
“Why do you look so astonished?” my father asked, sounding a little irritated.
“I am surprised I am to be married before my two elder brothers,” I said.
“I am to be High Priest and so I cannot marry,” interrupted Akhenamun.
“And I must eventually marry into our royal family though to whom it has not yet been decided,” stated Thutmose.
“Do you have
“How old is she?” I blurted out.
I could tell my second question had annoyed him as much as my first but he deemed to answer it. “She is 21 years. I know that is a lot older than you.” He turned to my mother. “Tiye, how old is he?”
“Your son is 14 years old,” she replied.
“Is he that old?” He looked at me with contempt. “As I was saying, she is a lot older than you now but the gap will seem to decrease as you both get older. Now if you do not have anything useful to say you are dismissed.”
I was only too glad to leave. I stood up. “Thank you, father, for the truly wonderful news.” He did not even realise that I was capable of sarcasm though Thutmose knew I was and grinned.
I left his divine presence and made my way back along the corridor to my own quarters which it now seemed I was soon to share with the Mitanni princess, Taduheppa. Then I remembered that I had promised to meet my sister, Nebetah, perhaps my one true friend, in the palace gardens after my interview with our father. My head was all over the place after the unexpected news he had inflicted on me.
Nebetah was waiting for me and I sat down disconsolately on the bench next to her. “Bad news then,” she said and looked at me with tempered eagerness.
I nodded sadly.
“It cannot be that bad surely.”
“I am to be married,” I said.
“Is that bad news? I thought they would find me a husband before they found you a wife for I am older than you.”
“Only by 18 months,” I reminded her.
She took my hand. “It is not bad news, Smenkhkare. It had to happen. I will be here to advise you on being a husband.”
“I like my privacy apart from when I am with you and perhaps Thutmose. I do not want to share my apartment with a wife and knowing my luck she is bound to be ugly and not beautiful like you.”
Her face reddened and then so did mine when I realised what I had said. “I am not beautiful,” she said modestly.
“Yes you are, Nebetah. You are more beautiful than our other three sisters and everyone agrees you are. Even our brothers are handsome and nobody is ugly like me.”
“Now you are just feeling sorry for yourself. You are not ugly,” she reassured me.
“I am small, spotty and often tongue-tied. Almost everyone in the family including mother and father treat me with contempt because they think I am also stupid.”
“Mother does not.”
“She does,” I reiterated. “Father treats me with hostile contempt and mother treats me with kindly contempt. Because they see little of me they think I have no intelligence. They compare me with my handsome, charismatic brothers and find me sadly lacking.”
“Stop that,” she scolded. “Tell me about your bride.”
“I do not know much. Her name is Taduheppa and she is the daughter of the Mitanni King. Even as we speak she is preparing to leave Washukanni and come to Thebes. She is 21 years old. That is all I know except that our marriage is to bring peace between our nations.”
“She will probably be given her own apartment in the palace so you may not lose your privacy entirely.” She did some calculations. “She will probably arrive within three months. You must be ready for her.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You know,” she grinned. “You do know what to do, don’t you?”
“I am not sure,” I confessed, “I may need you to help me with that.” I laughed nervously and she giggled.
“What is the big joke between my little sister and my little brother?” asked Thutmose who had approached us unnoticed.
“A private joke and not for older brothers,” teased Nebetah.
Thutmose looked disappointed and then laughed. He turned to me. “I came to see how you had taken father’s announcement.”
“I am worried that I might let everyone down,” I admitted.
“Well it will be months before she arrives and so forget about your worries for now. If they persist then you can always come to me with them,” he said kindly. “That is what big brothers are for.” He turned back to Nebetah. “I have something to show you at the lake.” He took her arm. “Would you like to come too, Smenkhkare?”
I shook my head. “No, I am still trying to digest my news.”
I watched them as they walked towards the lake. I believed they were possibly the only two people that cared about me. I watched them laughing and chatting and I smiled with them though I could not hear their words. I wondered if my new wife would care about me.
Thutmose was always willing to talk with me and often chided Akhenamun for being abrupt with me. It was surprising that he found the time for he was busy preparing to be the next pharaoh. He was over ten years older than me and it was believed that on marrying, which would probably be soon, my father would declare him as fellow pharaoh and co-regent. My father doted on him for he was handsome, brave and intelligent and a great warrior with already many victories to his name.
My sister, Nebetah, was my greatest joy. She was 15, nearly 16, and we had played together all the time as children and then formed a deep friendship as we grew older. My other three sisters followed the lead of my parents and treated me with disdain. To be fair my sister Henuttaneb had married the vassal Nubian King two years previously and gone to live in his city of Napata, and I had not seen her since. My two oldest sisters, Sitamun and Iset, remained distant to me though they lived in the palace. They, by all accounts, were destined to marry my father and my brother Thutmose to continue the royal blood line. Nebetah, though, was by far the most beautiful in looks and nature, even at her tender age, and she was loved by all, even possibly Akhenamun.
I looked across at the lake. It was an engineering miracle dreamed up by my father and brought to reality by his most trusted architect. The lake was huge and shaped like a broad sword with a large hilt. Fish had been introduced and wild fowl had made the lake their home but there were thankfully no crocodiles. They were to be found in abundance in the river Nile, the harbour to which was on the other side of the royal palace. There were a few small boats out on the lake but I surmised that my brother and sister had gone to view the royal barque which was under construction. This would be used in future for the pleasure of the royal family. I wondered if Taduheppa would enjoy going on the lake with me but more to the point I wondered what she would be like.
It was some time before I wandered back to my apartment only to find my mother had been waiting for me. She was an attractive woman, noble in stature with an air of great authority derived from her many years as the great royal wife. She was still not yet 40 and had given birth to her oldest child Thutmose, my brother at the age of 15. My father had other minor wives, of course, living in the harem at the far side of the temple complex overlooking the great river, but mother was the important one. Father’s successor would be born from her body and this gave her a position of much power. Like my father she was a living god and had no rival except perhaps for the beautiful Magente. Among the harem women Magente was my father’s favourite and was often by his side, but her lowly birth meant that she was not a rival to my mother
“At last he returns. Where have you been, Smenkhkare?” she asked.
“Sitting in the gardens, watching the lake and thinking,” I replied.
“Daydreaming more like or thinking about your new wife,” she smiled benevolently.
“I was wondering about her,” I admitted.
“I am sure you were. The treaty between the Egyptians and the Mitanni is one of utmost importance. Both of us are threatened by the Hittites to the north and so your bond with the Mitanni Princess is of great importance. It is time you grew up and started to take your responsibilities seriously and so I have suggested to Thutmose that he takes you army training. You need to build a military background for these are troubled times for Egypt. I know you are not as talented as your brothers but I also know that you are not as foolish as you sometimes
A few days later I was collected by Thutmose for my first stint of army training. As we left the palace to walk down to the Nile we passed Akhenamun on his way to the temple of Isis, just a short walk south of the palace. He addressed Thutmose. “You cannot be expecting our little brother to learn how to use a sword,” he quipped.
“He might surprise you,” retorted Thutmose.
“He would not be able to lift it.”
“I could,” I said angrily as Akhenamun laughed. “You will never have to fight because you will be a priest,” I added for good measure.
He took me by surprise and pushed me and I stumbled and fell over backwards. “Leave him alone.” It was the voice of my sister Nebetah.
“I hardly touched him,” protested Akhenamun.
Thutmose, frowning, pulled me to my feet. “You took me by surprise,” I muttered between gritted teeth. It was not wise to antagonise Akhenamun but that did not worry my sister.
“Apologise to Smenkhkare now!” she ordered her elder brother.
“I never apologise to anyone with the exception of when my sweet little sister asks me to. I am sorry, Smenkhkare.” He turned to Nebetah. “Am I forgiven, sister?” He kissed her on the lips, a gesture which infuriated me but I said nothing. I knew that half the women in the palace would love a kiss from Akhenamun and my sister did not seem to mind. Akhenamun was even more handsome than Thutmose if that were possible. He had long dark hair, a swarthy complexion and was athletic in build. He often wore black which I suppose was fitting for a future priest but it gave him an air of mystery which seemed to appeal to his admirers.
“Let us go, Smenkhkare,” said Thutmose. “We have chariot racing to participate in. You must learn how to handle a chariot. Coreb is waiting for us.” He took my arm and hurried us away.
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