Ancient Egypt Wiki
Preceded by:
Ramesses II
Pharaoh of Egypt
19th Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Seti II
Alternative Spelling: Merneptah
Manetho: Amenephthes

Bust of Merenptah at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

1213-1203 BC (10 years)
R8 R8 R8
The Soul of Re,
Beloved of the Gods
D2 Z1
Beloved of Ptah,
Ma'at is Pleased/Satisfied
Horus name
Strong Bull,
Who Rejoiced in Truth
Nebty name
Who Exercised Power
against the land of Tahemu
Golden Horus
Lord of Fear, Great of Majesty
Father Ramesses II
Mother Isetnofret I
Consort(s) Isetnofret II, Takhat (?),
Sutererey (?)
Issue Seti II, Merenptah, Khaemwaset,
Amenmesses (?), Tausret (?),
Siptah (?), Isetnofret,
Tiye-Mereniset (?)
Born c. 1278 BC
Died 2 May 1203 BC (aged c. 75)
Burial KV8
Monuments Royal palace at Memphis,
Mortuary temple, Israel Stela
For other pages by this name, see Merenptah.

Baenre-Merynetjeru 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.[1] Manetho (Africanus) attributes Merenptah a reign of 20 years. Merenptah was a son of Pharaoh Ramesses II and Queen Isetnofret I. By the time he ascended to the throne, he was probably between sixty and seventy years old.


Known as Amenephthes (Aμενεφθης) in Africanus' version of Manetho's Epitome, upon his accession, Merenptah assumed the throne name (or prenomen) Baenre-Merynetjeru (transliteration: bꜣ-n-rꜥ mry-nṯr.w, meaning: "The Soul of Re, Beloved of the Gods"). Merenptah's birth name (or nomen) often included the epithet Hotephermaat (transliteration: ḥtp-ḥr-mꜣꜥt, meaning: "Ma'at is Pleased"). His whole name is thus realised as Baenre-Merynetjeru Merenptah-Hotephermaat.


See also: 19th Dynasty Family Tree.

In terms of succession, he was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II (biologically his father probably had more than 12 children before him, but children by principal wives had priority in line of succession). Merenptah's mother was Queen Isetnofret I. He came to power because his older brothers had died, including his full-brothers; Ramesses and Khaemwaset. Merenptah's Great Royal Wife was Isetnofret II, who was either his full sister or his niece (the daughter of Khaemwaset). They had at least two sons, Merenptah and Seti II, and a daughter, Isetnofret. Takhat may have been his secondary queen, in which case Pharaoh Amenmesses would be their son. Merenptah might also have been the father of later pharaohs; Siptah and Tausret. The latter first became Seti II's Great Royal Wife before eventually becoming pharaoh in her own right.

Later queen, Tiye-Mereniset, is speculated to perhaps be a daughter of Merenptah, due to both their names containing the Meren[..] part and the connection of women in Merenptah's family with the goddess, Isis. If this were the case, Tiye-Mereniset's marriage to Setnakhte would explain the latter's rise to kingship as Merenptah's son-in-law.

Prior to Accession[]

Some time around Year 21 of Ramesses II a minor revolt took place in Nubia. Ramesses sent an army led by princes Setemwia and Merenptah to assist the Viceroy of Kush which crushed the rebels. Seven thousand prisoners were captured and the triumph was commemorated on the main gate at the town of Amara.[2]

Ramesses II lived well into his nineties and was one of the oldest pharaohs in Egyptian history, if not the oldest. Ramesses outlived many of his heirs and eventually Merenptah would be the son to succeed him. Merenptah would have been prepared to be pharaoh through the responsibility of his government roles. By Year 40, Merenptah had been promoted to Overseer of the Army. In Year 55, he was officially proclaimed Crown Prince, after the death of prince Khaemwaset. At that point, he gained additional responsibilities by serving as prince regent for the last twelve years of Ramesses II's life. A position which included being completely in charge over the Egyptian army as Generalissimo.

Dates and Length of Reign[]

The accession of Merenptah occurred between 19/I and 13/II/Akhet according to an ostracon (O. Cairo CG 25504). His highest known date is IV/Shemu in Year 9. Merenptah presumably died in his Year 10 and ruled 9 years and 6 months.[3] If the low chronology is followed, this leads to a reign from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on 2 May 1203 BC.[1]

Alternatively, astronomical calculations of a potentially reported annular eclipse (Joshua 10:10-14) that preceded Merenptah's Canaanite campaign against the Israelites, would place the beginning of his reign in 1209 or 1210 BC.[4]

Foreign Policy[]

Great Karnak inscription (first part) - plate 52 from Mariette Bey

thanks to A marriette bay

Merenptah 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. Merenptah 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 Nile 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, Merenptah 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."[5]
Merenptah Israel Stele Cairo

The Israel Stela at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

An inscription on the Athribis Stela, now in the garden of Cairo Museum, declares "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 that they were Greek.

There is also an account of the same events in the form of a poem from the Merenptah Stela, widely known as the Israel Stela, which makes reference to the supposed utter destruction of Israel in a campaign prior to his fifth 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.

Monuments and Attestation[]

Merenptah moved the administrative center of Egypt from Per-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.

Burial and Succession[]

Merenptah was eventually succeeded at death by his son Seti II after reaching an advanced age of between seventy and eighty years. He was originally buried in his KV8 rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was later moved to the mummy cache in KV35, the tomb of Amenhotep II, where it was found upon the tomb's discovery in 1898 by Victor Loret. Merenptah's mummy was taken to the Cairo Museum.

However, Seti II's accession to the throne was not unchallenged: the rival king Amenmesses seized control of Upper Egypt and Kush during the middle of the reign of Seti II. Only after he overcame Amenmesses, was Seti II able to reassert his authority over Thebes in his fifth year.


Merenptah's mummy has the inventory number CG 61079.[6] He suffered from arthritis and atherosclerosis and died as an old man after a reign that lasted for nearly a decade. Merenptah's mummy was unwrapped by Dr. G. Elliott Smith on July 8, 1907. Dr. Smith notes that:

Merenptah Mummy

Mummy of Merenptah (Smith 1912).

"The body is that of an old man and is 1 meter 714 millimeters in height. Merenptah 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."[7]

In April 2021 his mummy was moved from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to National Museum of Egyptian Civilization along with those of 17 other kings and 4 queens in an event termed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade.[8]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Von Beckerath 1997, p. 190.
  2. Tyldesley 2000.
  3. Hornung et al. 2006, p. 212.
  4. Humphreys & Waddington 2017.
  5. Drews 1993, p. 49.
  6. Habicht et al. 2016.
  7. Smith 1912, p. 65-70.
  8. Parisse, Emmanuel (5 April 2021). "22 Ancient Pharaohs Have Been Carried Across Cairo in an Epic Golden Parade". ScienceAlert.


  • Beckerath, J. von, 1997: Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten. Mainz.
  • Drews, R., 1993: The End of the Bronze Age. Princeton University Press.
  • Habicht, M./Rühli, F./Bouwman, A., 2016: Identification of Ancient Egyptian Royal Mummies from the 18th Dynasty reconsidered. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
  • Hornung, E./Krauss, R./Warburton, W., 2006: Handbook of Ancient Egyptian Chronology. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Brill.
  • Humphreys, C./Waddington, G., 2017: Solar eclipse of 1207 BC helps to date pharaohs. Astronomy & Geophysics, Vol. 58, Issue 5, p. 5.39–5.42.
  • Smith, G.E., 1912: The Royal Mummies. (2000 reprint ed.). Bath, UK: Duckworth.
  • Tyldesley, J., 2000: Ramesses: Egypt's Greatest Pharaoh. London: Viking/Penguin Books.
Ramesses II
Pharaoh of Egypt
Nineteenth Dynasty
Seti II