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Piye (once transliterated as Piankhi;[2] d. 721 BC) was a Kushite king and founder of the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt who ruled Egypt from 747 BCE to c. 722 BCE.[3] He ruled from the city of Napata, located deep in Nubia, modern-day Sudan.


  • Name 1
  • Family 2
  • Conquest of Egypt 3
  • Length of reign 4
  • Burial 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8


Piye adopted two throne names: Usimare and Sneferre. He was passionate about the worship of the god Amun, like many kings of Nubia. He revitalised the moribund Great Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal, which was first built under Thutmose III of the New Kingdom, employing numerous sculptors and stonemasons from Egypt. He was once thought to have also used the throne name 'Menkheperre' ("the Manifestation of Ra abides") but this prenomen has now been recognised as belonging to a local Theban king named Ini instead who was a contemporary of Piye.


Piye was the son of Kashta and Pebatjma. He is known to have had three or four wives. Abar was the mother of his successor Taharqa. Further wives are Tabiry, Peksater and probably Khensa.[4]

Piye is known to have had several children. He was the father of:

  • King Shebitku. Said to be a son of Piye,[5] or alternatively a brother of Piye.[4][6]
  • King Taharqa. Son of Queen Abar. He would take the throne after his uncle Shabaka and another male relative Shebitku.[4]
  • God's Wife of Amun Shepenwepet II. Installed in Thebes during the reign of her brother Taharqa.[4]
  • Qalhata, wife of King Shabaka, she was the mother of king Tanutamun and probably of King Shabataka as well.[4]
  • Tabekenamun married her brother Taharqa.[4]
  • Naparaye married her brother Taharqa.[4]
  • Takahatenamun married her brother Taharqa.[4]
  • Arty, married king Shebitku.[4]
  • Har. Known from an offering table of his daughter Wadjrenes from Thebes (TT34).[4]
  • Khaliut, Governor of Kanad according to a stela found at Barkal.[4]
  • Princess Mutirdis, Chief Prophet of Hathor and Mut in Thebes and daughter of Piye according to Morkot.[6] Thought to be a daughter of a local ruler named Menkheperre Khmuny from Hermopolis by Kitchen.[5]

Conquest of Egypt

As ruler of Nubia and Upper Egypt, Piye took advantage of the squabbling of Egypt's rulers by expanding Nubia's power beyond Thebes into Lower Egypt. In reaction to this, Tefnakht of Sais formed a coalition between the local kings of the Delta Region and enticed Piye's nominal ally—king Nimlot of Hermopolis—to defect to his side. Tefnakht then sent his coalition army south and besieged Herakleopolis where its king Peftjauawybast and the local Nubian commanders appealed to Piye for help. Piye reacted quickly to this crisis in his regnal year 20 by assembling an army to invade Middle and Lower Egypt and visited Thebes in time for the great Opet Festival which proves he effectively controlled Upper Egypt by this time. His military feats are chronicled in the Victory stela at Gebel Barkal.

Piye viewed his campaign as a Holy War, commanding his soldiers to cleanse themselves ritually before beginning battle. He himself offered sacrifices to the great god Amun.[7]

Piye then marched north and achieved complete victory at Herakleopolis, conquering the cities of Hermopolis and Memphis among others, and received the submission of the kings of the Nile Delta including Iuput II of Leontopolis, Osorkon IV of Tanis and his former ally Nimlot at Hermopolis. Hermopolis fell to the Nubian king after a siege lasting five months. Tefnakht took refuge in an island in the Delta and formally conceded defeat in a letter to the Nubian king but refused to personally pay homage to the Kushite ruler. Satisfied with his triumph, Piye proceeded to sail south to Thebes and returned to his homeland in Nubia never to return to Egypt.

Despite Piye's successful campaign into the Delta, his authority only extended northward from Thebes up to the western desert oases and Herakleopolis where Peftjauawybast ruled as a Nubian vassal king. The local kings of Lower Egypt especially Tefnakht were essentially free to do what they wanted without Piye's oversight. It was Shabaka, Piye's successor, who later rectified this unsatisfactory situation by attacking Sais and defeating Tefnakht's successor Bakenranef there, in his second regnal year.

Length of reign

Piye's Highest known Date was long thought to be the Year 24 III Akhet day 10 date mentioned in the "Smaller Dakhla Stela" (Ashmolean Museum No.1894) from the Sutekh temple of Mut el-Kharab in the Dakhla Oasis.[8] However, the inscriptions within a vizier's tomb, discovered in 2006 in Deir El-Bahari, indicate that the vizier died in the 27th year of Piye.[9] Another possible relevant information are the reliefs from the Great Temple at Jebel Barkal, which depict Piye celebrating a Heb Sed Festival. Such Festivals were traditionally celebrated in a king's 30th Year. It is debated whether they portrayed an historical events, or were prepared in advance for the festival - in which case Piye might have died before his 30th regnal year. The 2006 discovery lends more weight to the former option.

Kenneth Kitchen, has suggested a reign of 31 years for Piye based on the Year 7 donation stela of a certain Shepsesre Tefnakht whom he viewed as Piye's opponent.[10] However, this stela is now believed to refer instead to king Tefnakht II from the late Nubian era because of stylistic similarities to another, dated to Year 2 of Necho I's reign.[11]

More recently, in the February 2008 issue of National Geographic, Robert Draper wrote that Piye ruled for 35 years and invaded all of Egypt in his 20th regnal year in about 730 BC;[7][12] however, no archaeological source gives Piye a reign of more than 31 years at present.


Piye's pyramid at El-Kurru

Piye was buried east of his Pyramid, at el-Kurru near Jebel Barkal in what is now Northern Sudan. Down a stairway of 19 steps opened to the east, the burial chamber is cut into the bedrock as an open trench and covered with a corbelled masonry roof. His body had been placed on a bed which rested in the middle of the chamber on a stone bench with its four corners cut away to receive the legs of the bed, so that the bed platform lay directly on the bench. Beside the pyramid (the first pharaoh to receive such an entombment in more than 500 years)[7] his four favorite horses had been buried. This site would be also occupied by the tombs of several later members of the dynasty.


  1. ^ Piy (Piankhi)
  2. ^ Karola Zibelius-Chen. 2006. "Zur Problematik der Lesung des Königsnamens Pi(anch)i." Der Antike Sudan 17:127-133.
  3. ^ R. Krauss and D.A. Warburton, "Chronological Table for the Dynastic Period" in Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss & David Warburton (editors), Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Handbook of Oriental Studies), Brill, 2006. p.494
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. ISBN 0-500-05128-3
  5. ^ a b Kitchen, Kenneth A. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, 1100-650 B.C. (Book & Supplement) Aris & Phillips. 1986 ISBN 978-0-85668-298-8
  6. ^ a b Morkot, Robert G., The Black Pharaohs: Egypt's Nubian Rulers, The Rubicon Press, 2000, ISBN 0-948695-24-2
  7. ^ a b c "The Black Pharaohs", by Robert Draper, National Geographic, February 2008.
  8. ^ Janssen, Jac. J. (1968-08-01). "The Smaller Dâkhla Stela (Ashmolean Museum No. 1894. 107 b)". The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 54: 165–172.  
  9. ^ Łucyk, Szymon (March 6, 2006). "Polish archaeologists have discovered a tomb of a vizier in the temple of Hatshepsut". Nauka w Polsce. Polish Press Agency. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2014-06-17 – via Egyptology Blog, Translated from Polish by A. Bak. 
  10. ^ Kenneth Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC). 3rd ed. (1996) Warminster: Aris & Phillips
  11. ^ This new document was analysed by Olivier Perdu in CRAIBL 2002. Olivier Perdu, "La Chefferie de Sébennytos de Piankhy à Psammétique Ier", RdE 55 (2004), pp. 95–111
  12. ^ Brittanica, p.817


  • Roberto B. Gozzoli: The Writing of History in Ancient Egypt during the First Millennium BC (ca. 1070-180 BC), Trends and Perspectives, London 2006, S. 54-67 ISBN 0-9550256-3-X

External links

  • The Victory Stela of Piankhy
  • The Stela of Piye (Verbatim text)
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