Ancient Egypt Wiki
Preceded by:
Seti II
Pharaoh of Egypt
19th Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Seti II
Manetho: Ammenemnes

Head from a statue of Amenmesses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

1202-1199 BC (3 years)
Eternal like Re, Chosen of Re
Born of Amun, Ruler of Thebes
Horus name
Strong Bull, Beloved of Ma'at,
Who Strengthen the Two Lands
Nebty name
He who is great of miracles
in the Temple of Karnak
Golden Horus
S40t O49
The one great of might,
who has magnified Thebes
for the one who bore him
Father Merenptah (?)
Mother Takhat
Consort(s) Sutererey (?)
Issue Siptah (?)
Died 1198 BC
Burial KV10

Menmire-Setepenre Amenmesses was the sixth Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty during the New Kingdom. Very little is known about this pharaoh, who seized control over Upper Egypt and Nubia as a rival king to Seti II during the latter's second to fourth regnal years.


Amenmesses means "born of Amun" or "fashioned by Amun" in ancient Egyptian. Additionally, his nomen can be found with the epithet Heqawaset, which means "Ruler of Thebes".[1] His throne name was Menmire-Setepenre, which translates as "Eternal like Re, Chosen of Re".


See also: 19th Dynasty Family Tree.

The mother of Amenmesses is known to be Takhat.[2] Among her titles are "King's Daughter", which would make her a daughter of Merenptah or Ramesses II or possibly a granddaughter of the latter. She is probably identical with Takhat, the daughter of Ramesses II, who appears in a list of princesses on an ostracon dated to his Year 53 (Louvre 666).[3] If so, she was the aunt of Seti II, but since she was among the youngest children of Ramesses, it is very likely that she was the same age or even younger than Seti II who was the grandson of Ramesses.[4]

The identity of Amenmesses' father is a matter of interpretation complicated by inscriptions being revised by Seti II and Amenmesses. A monument from Karnak, carved while Amenmesses was in control of the area, includes the relief of his mother Takhat titled "King's Daughter" and "King's Mother". The monument was reinscribed from 'Mother' to 'Wife', suggesting that Amenmesses' father was a pharaoh. Another statue of Seti II (Cairo CG1198) bears Seti's name surcharged over someone else's while the names of Takhat were left alone. Especially the recarving to the title "King's Wife" by Seti II has been interpretated as evidence that Takhat was married to Seti II as well as mother to Amenmesses.[5] However, since it was recarved to an original title that may predate Seti's reign it may just as well refer to Merenptah instead. If Takhat really was Seti II's wife, it would imply that Amenmesses usurped the throne from his own father, which is unprecedented – given ancient Egyptian theology regarding kingship – and should be deemed unlikely. Others such as Frank Yurco believe Takhat was wife to Merenptah making the rivals Seti II and Amenmesses half-brothers.[6] Amenmesses could even have been one of the innumerable sons of Ramesses II.

Amenmesses has been considered to be the father of the later pharaoh Siptah, since both spent their youth in Panopolis (modern: Akhmim)[7] and both are specifically excluded from Ramesses III's Medinet Habu procession of statues of ancestral kings unlike Merenptah or Seti II. This suggests that the Twentieth Dynasty kings formally considered Seti II the last legitimate ruler, making it unlikely that Siptah was his son, since father to son succession was traditional. It may also suggest that Amenmesses and Siptah were inter-related in such a way that they were "regarded as illegitimate rulers and that therefore they were probably father and son".[8] Although the fact that Siptah later changed his royal name or nomen to Siptah-Merenptah after his Year 2 suggests rather that his father was either Merenptah or Seti II (his nomen includes Merenptah). Amenmesses and Siptah would therefore probably be sons of Merenptah by minor wives and thus half-brothers of Seti II, in order to later be considered illegitimate. As (half-)brothers, Amenmesses and Siptah may well have been raised at the same harem palace, which was apparently situated at Panopolis.

Rivalry for the Throne[]

Seti II was Merenptah's son and Crown Prince, who should have been next in the line of royal succession, but it is evident that Amenmesses usurped the throne from him. The reign of Seti II was traditionally thought to have followed upon that of Amenmesses. Egyptologists such as Kenneth Kitchen and Jürgen von Beckerath have theorized that Amenmesses succeeded Merenptah instead of the intended heir, Seti II. Kitchen has written that Amenmesses may have taken advantage of a momentary weakness of Seti II or seized power while the crown prince was away in Asia.

However, this is currently proven incorrect. It is well known that Neferhotep, the chief at Deir el-Medina, was killed during the brief reign of Amenmesses on the orders of a certain Msy who was either Amenmesses himself or one of this king's agents, according to Papyrus Salt 124.[9] However, Neferhotep is attested in office in the work register list of Ostraca MMA 14.6.217, which also recorded Seti II's accession to the throne and was later reused to register workers' absences under this king's reign.[10] If Seti II's 6-year reign followed that of the usurper Amenmesses, then Neferhotep would not have been mentioned alive in a document which dated to the start of Seti II's reign.[11] This indicates undoubtedly that Amenmesses' reign did not precede Seti II's, and that it was therefore the latter who directly succeeded Merenptah.

Rolf Krauss and Aidan Dodson had already provided evidence suggesting that Seti II was in fact the immediate successor of Merenptah.[12] Under this scenario, Amenmesses did not succeed either Merenptah or Seti II on the throne of Egypt and was rather a rival king who briefly usurped power sometime during Years 2 to 4 of Seti II's reign in Upper Egypt and Nubia where his authority is monumentally attested.[13] Wolfgang Helck has shown that Amenmesses is only attested in Upper Egypt by several Year 3 and a single Year 4 ostracon; Helck also noted that no Year 1 or Year 2 ostracas from Deir el-Medina could legitimately be assigned to the reign of Amenmesses.[14]

The treatment of Amenmesses as a rival king also best explains the pattern of destruction to Seti II's tomb which was initially ransacked and later restored again by Seti II's officials.[15] This implies that the respective reigns of Amenmesses and Seti II were parallel to one another; Seti II must have initially controlled Thebes in his first and second years during which time his tomb was excavated and partly decorated. Then Seti was ousted from power in Upper Egypt and Nubia during his regnal Years 3 to 4 (perhaps earlier in Nubia) by Amenmesses whose agents desecrated Seti II's tomb. This conforms well with the clear evidence of Seti II's control over Thebes in his first two years, which is attested by various documents and papyri. In contrast, Seti II is absent from Upper Egypt during his third and fourth years which are notably unattested— presumably because Amenmesse controlled this region from Thebes during this time.[16]

Seti would finally defeat his rival prior to Year 5 and return to Thebes in triumph whereupon he ordered the restoration of his damaged tomb. Seti also launched a damnatio memoriae campaign against all inscriptions and monuments belonging to both Amenmesses and this king's main supporters in Thebes and Nubia, which included a certain Khaemtir, a former Viceroy of Kush, who had served as Amenmesses' Vizier. Seti II's agents completely erased both scenes and texts from KV10, the royal tomb of Amenmesses.[17]

There has been a suggestion that the narrative of the "Tale of Two Brothers", a fabulous story of troubles within a family on the death of their father, may have been a veiled reference to the struggle between the two half-brothers; Seti II and Amenmesses.

Monuments and Attestations[]

Amenmesses Jar

Jar inscribed with the prenomen and nomen of Amenmesses.©

Six quartzite statues originally placed along the axis of the hypostyle hall in the Amun Temple at Karnak are thought to be his, although these were defaced and overwritten with the name of Seti II.[18] One of these statues, with the inscription, "the Great Royal Wife Takhat" might suggest that Amenmesses gave his mother the title of queen (similar to the cases of Thutmose IV's mother Tiaa and Amenhotep III's mother Mutemwia) or perhaps Takhat succeeded Isetnofret II as the queen consort of Merenptah. Amenmesses was also responsible for restoring a shrine dating from Thutmose III that stands before the temple of Montu at Touphion.


Amenmesses' intended burial was his KV10 rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings. However, almost all of its texts and scenes were either erased or usurped by Seti II's agents and no mention of Amenmesses was spared.[19][20] Amenmesses mummy was not amongst those found in the royal cache at Deir el-Bahari, and from the destruction of his tomb, it is assumed that Seti II broke into the tomb and had Amenmesses' remains desecrated since his mummy was never found. It seems highly unlikely that Amenmesses was even properly buried there. A number of officials associated with Amenmesses were also attacked or replaced, chief among them being the Theban High Priest of Amun, Roma-Iry, and Khaemtir, a former Viceroy of Kush, who may have supported Amenmesses' usurpation.[21]

The looted and desecrated KV10 tomb was later redecorated and used during the Twentieth Dynasty for the burials of Takhat and Baketwerenro, who were the mother and queen of Ramesses IX respectively.[22][23] Because of this fact, they were previously mistakingly thought to have been Amenmesses' wife[24] and mother respectively. The evidence thus suggests an "extremely odd situation" of a king whose mother had the same name as a later usurper of his tomb.[25]

Upon KV10's modern discovery, the remains of three mummies were found in this tomb; two women and one man. It is uncertain if any of these remains belong to Amenmesses or the later Baketwerenro and Takhat or whether they were later intrusions without further testing.

Identification with Messuy[]

Rolf Krauss, followed by Aidan Dodson, suggests that Amenmesses was identical to the Viceroy of Kush called Messuy.[26] In particular, two representations of Messuy on the temple of Amada allegedly show that a royal uraeus had been added to his brows in a way consistent with other pharaohs such as Horemheb, Merenptah and some of the sons of Ramesses III. An inscription at the temple of Amada also calls him "the king's son himself" but this may be merely a figure of speech to emphasize Messuy's high stature as Viceroy under Merenptah. However, Frank Yurco notes that various depictions of Messuy in several Nubian temples were never deliberately defaced by Seti II's agents compared to the damnatio memoriae meted out to all depictions of another Viceroy of Kush, Khaemtir, who had served as Amenmesses' Vizier.[27] This strongly implies that Seti II held no grudge against Messuy, which would be improbable if Messuy was indeed Amenmesses.[28] Yurco also observes that the only objects from Messuy's tomb which identified a Pharaoh all named only Merenptah, Seti II's father, which leads to the conclusion that Messuy died and was buried in his tomb at Aniba in Nubia during Merenptah's reign, and could therefore not be Amenmesses.[29]

See also[]


  1. Kitchen 1987, p. 134-135.
  2. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 179, 183.
  3. Dodson 2010, p. 42.
  4. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 175, 180.
  5. Dodson 2010, p. 40-42
  6. Dodson 2010, n. 38, n. 40.
  7. Aldred 1963, p. 41-48.
  8. Harris & Wente 1980, p. 147.
  9. Janssen 1997, p. 99-109.
  10. Janssen 1997, p. 104.
  11. Janssen 1997, p. 100.
  12. Hornung et al. 2006, p. 212.
  13. Krauss 1976, 1977, 1997.
  14. Hornung et al. 2006, p.213.
  15. Dodson 1999, p. 136-138.
  16. Wente & Van Siclen 1977, p. 252.
  17. Yurco 1997.
  18. Cardon 1979; Yurco 1997.
  19. Dodson 1985, p. 7-11.
  20. Dodson 1992, p. 53-59.
  21. Dodson & Hilton 2004.
  22. Yurco 1997, p. 54.
  23. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 192.
  24. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 286.
  25. Dodson 1987, p. 226.
  26. Krauss 1976; 1977.
  27. Yurco 1997, p. 53-54, 56.
  28. Yurco 1997, p. 56.
  29. Yurco 1997, p. 55-56.


  • Aldred, C., 1963: The parentage of King Siptah. JEA 49.
  • Cardon, P.D., 1979: Amenmesse: An Egyptian Royal Head of the Nineteenth Dynasty in the Metropolitan Museum. MMJ 14.
  • Dodson, A., 1985: The Tomb of King Amenmesse: Some Observations. DE 2.
  • Dodson, A., 1992: Death and Taxes in the Ancient Near East. ed. Sara E. Orel. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press.
  • Dodson, A./Hilton, D., 2004: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson.
  • Dodson, A., 1999: The Decorative Phases of the Tomb of Sethos II and their Historical Implications. JEA 85.
  • Dodson, A., 2010: Poisoned Legacy: The Decline and Fall of the Nineteenth Egyptian Dynasty. American University In Cairo Press.
  • Harris, J.E./Wente, E.F., 1980: An X-Ray Atlas of the Royal Mummies. Chicago.
  • Hornung, E./Krauss, R./Warburton, D., (editors), 2006: Handbook of Ancient Egyptian Chronology. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Brill.
  • Janssen, J.J., 1997: Amenmesse and After: The chronology of the late Nineteenth Dynasty Ostraca. In: Village Varia: Ten Studies on the History and Administration of Deir el-Medina. Egyptologische Uitgaven 11. Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, Leiden.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1987: The Titularies of the Ramesside Kings as Expression of Their Ideal Kingship. ASAE 71.
  • Krauss, R., 1976: Untersuchungen zu König Amenmesse (1.Teil). SAK 4.
  • Krauss, R., 1977: Untersuchungen zu König Amenmesse (2.Teil). SAK 5.
  • Krauss, R., 1997: Untersuchungen zu König Amenmesse (Nachträge). SAK 24.
  • Yurco, F.J., 1997: Was Amenmesse the Viceroy of Kush, Messuwy? JARCE 34.
  • Wente, E.F./Van Siclen, C.C., 1977: A Chronology of the New Kingdom. In: Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (SAOC), Vol. 39. Oriental Institute, Chicago.
Seti II
Pharaoh of Egypt
Nineteenth Dynasty
Seti II