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Pharaoh in hieroglyphics

Per aa
Pr ˁ3
Big House
after  Herodotus
after  Manetho
Pheros / Pharao
Herodotus name
Manetho name
Pharaoh with Nemes headscarf , ceremonial beard , collar and what scepter

Pharaoh was a title used since the New Kingdom for the king of Upper and Lower Egypt . The term goes back to the Egyptian word Per aa ("big house"), which was originally neither a ruler nor a proper name, but the name for the royal court or palace . As a name for the person of the king it came only from Thutmose III. on. But even after that, this title was not the rule and only rarely part of the official protocol . In Coptic - the last language level of Egyptian - it is the normal word for king.

In the Hebrew language of the Bible , "Pharaoh" anachronistically refers to all kings of ancient Egypt . Likewise, numerous Egyptologists use the word "Pharaoh" for all Egyptian rulers, although the title "King" would be the correct form at least up to Siamun . Siamun was the first ruler to carry Per aa as a royal title. He ruled as the sixth king of the 21st Dynasty ( Third Intermediate Period ).

In the German-language Wikipedia, every ruler from predynastics to Siamun bears the title “King”, followed by “Pharaoh” in brackets. For the time after that, only the title "Pharaoh" is used.

Use of terms

Roman period relief at the Kalabsha temple: Horus and Thoth clean the king, in both cartouches only as
O1 O29
"Pharaoh" called.

Apart from the complete five-part royal statute, the ancient Egyptian texts also list other names or so-called epithets of the king. These are documented both within and outside of his title: "the perfect (good) God", "the great God", " lord of the crowns ", "lord of the two countries", "lord of the making of things (of ritual acts) "And" Lord of the Sedfests ".

Clear evidence that a ruler saw himself as a pharaoh is often that he wrote his name in a cartouche that was reserved only for royal names. However, names of queens and even princesses have sporadically since the end of the 12th dynasty , later regularly, cartouches. On the other hand , the rulers of the 16th dynasty , who are only recorded on scarabs , often do not have a cartouche, but are clearly identified as rulers by the titles Netjer-nefer ("the perfect God") and Sa Ra ("son of Re").

The local kings of all ancient Egyptian small states during the Second (16th Dynasty) and the Third Intermediate Period can rightly be called pharaohs, as they all bore a mostly full royal title. Some of these rulers - including high priests, wives of God and local Libyan princes - can even be assigned throne names, which shows that they saw themselves in the tradition of greater rulers. In addition, the Ptolemies are not the last pharaohs, the Roman emperors are also basically among the Egyptian pharaohs, as this area belonged to their domain and they are at least partially also hieroglyphically occupied in ancient Egypt .

Self-image of the king (Pharaoh)

God kingship

Since the early dynastic period the king (Pharaoh) saw himself as the son of the heavenly deities; he was at the same time their agent, envoy, partner and successor. The latter equation refers to the reign of the gods who, according to ancient Egyptian mythology, previously ruled the earth. The divine identification with Horus , which has often been postulated in the past , does not correspond to the sources and the worldview, which consisted of three levels. Rather, the king saw himself on a plane of his own between the divine heaven and the people on earth. With his coronation, the king was given the office of "divine Horus". This process manifested itself in the name of Horus . With this, the king took over the "paternal office of Horus" as earthly ruler and was also considered the "son of Re " since the 4th dynasty .

In the meantime, Egyptology rejected the concept that was held well beyond the middle of the 20th century, which equated the king with a deity, and based on the sources, redefined the role of the king in accordance with ancient Egyptian mythology. Only a few researchers still refer to a divinity of the king, for example the Old Testament scholar Klaus Koch , but without citing evidence for this assumption. The special role identified the king as a “divine mediator”, who passed on the plans of the heavenly gods to the people and made sure that the “divine will” was implemented accordingly. The “divinity of the king” was therefore limited to his office and did not refer to himself. Thus, the king only achieved a divine status in connection with his rulership, but without being identified with a deity himself. In Egyptology, the term “god-kingship” is used in this context, which refers to the activities of the king that are representative of the divine commission. It remains unclear whether the early dynastic kings referred directly to the deity Horus or only used the Horus falcon as a general “ symbol of the distant heavenly deities”. After the death of the king (Pharaoh), he began his ascent into the heavens in order to be able to exercise his office there as a deified king "born again in association with other deities and ancestors ".

In the course of his official duties, the king had various surnames , for example “Perfect God”, in which the divine sonship with the process as a reborn imperial god was to be expressed in the figure of the king. The term "Great God" additionally used by Ramses II , on the other hand, refers to the upgrading of the earthly royal office, which was located below the gods in the divine hierarchy. However, Ramses II was not satisfied with holding a “subordinate office” as a “god-king who was bound by instructions”, which is why he attempted in his office philosophy to raise the office of kings to a level equal to the gods by using appropriate nicknames. The "efforts of equality" of Ramses II could not prevail, but reflect the failed counter-reactions of some kings who tried to increase the value of the divine royal office.

Divine legitimation

The “ ritually activated divinity” with regard to the office of king at the coronation put the king in the role of the earthly representative of the gods. Associated with the deities handed over "their thrones, long years of rule, and the land of Egypt," so that the king with divine blessing the world order Maat maintains and protects against foreign conquerors. From the second millennium BC A text is known that was installed in numerous temples and describes the divine legitimation:

“Re instituted the King on the earth of the living forever and ever. (This is how he works) in judging people, in satisfying the gods, in letting the truth arise and in the annihilation of sin. He gives food to the gods, sacrifices to the transfigured. "

- The king as a sun priest

Ban on naming the king (Pharaoh)

Particularly striking is the ban on naming the names (ancient Egyptian ren ) of deities. Such taboos are only secondary and partially investigated in Egyptology for the ancient Egyptian religion . Herodotus reported on the ban on pronouncing the name of Osiris publicly in certain contexts. The negative confession of Ramses VI belongs to this subject area . who boasted not having pronounced Tatenen's name . The rite of not naming the king's name, but only of writing it down and reading it, is often attested; for example in the Middle Kingdom in the " Doctrine of a man for his son " and in sources that deal with "right behavior towards the king". Reasons for this taboo are probably to be seen in the reverence and fear of the respective deity, since the reception of negative magical powers was associated with public expression . In the case of the ban on pronouncing the king's name, the main motive is likely to be the fear of magical consequences, which could lead to possible defamation due to carelessness. In this context, there is the wider taboo environment of naming the "hidden and secret names of certain gods".


Thutmose III. with a cartouche of his throne name, in front of which the characters for “perfect God” are on a neb sign ( Brooklyn Museum , New York); Reading from right to left

The cartridge , also known as the king 's ring , was probably originally created from the so-called Schen ring . It is a rope loop with overlapping ends, the ancient Egyptian symbol for eternity or infinity and protection, developed with the length of the respective king's name to a more elongated, elliptical shape. In addition, tying and untying knots was very important in the magic of ancient Egypt .

From particularly detailed representations it becomes clear that the cartouche line actually consists of a double cord that is looped around the king's name and tied with a knot at the end. In a more schematic representation, the node appears like a bar placed at an angle of 90 ° to the longitudinal axis of the cartridge, the length of which corresponds approximately to the width of the cartridge. The name hieroglyphs inside the cartridge always began on the side opposite this “bar”. The entire cartridge could be displayed both vertically (vertically) and horizontally (horizontally), with the latter being able to have the beginning of the cartridge either on the right or on the left, depending on the reading direction.

Name spelling

Within the cartridges, the name spelling usually follows the general principles of hieroglyphic writing . For example, the sign of an Egyptian deity contained in the name or part of the name is always placed in front of the entire name or the corresponding part of the name out of respect for this.

The throne name of Thutmose III. In the “Egyptological school pronunciation” (transliteration) it reads “Men-cheper-Re” and is read in the transcription as mn-ḫpr-Rˁ , in the German translation it reads as “Bleibend / Constant is the appearance (sform) of Re”. However, for the reasons already explained, the name spelling within the cartouche begins with the hieroglyph of the deity Re . In the order of the hieroglyphs reads: Rˁ-mn-ḫpr .

Name and title

Horus , throne, and proper names often appear on the monuments of a king. In the early dynastic period (1st and 2nd dynasties) the name Horus is the most important name, while later the name of the throne becomes more common. Nebti and gold names , on the other hand, are used less often and are therefore not known by many rulers.

Horus name

Systematic representation of names in the Pharaoh's articles
Horus name
Name hieroglyphs
Horus name
Name hieroglyphs
Gold name
Name hieroglyphs
Gold name
Throne name
Hiero Ca1.svg
Name hieroglyphs
Hiero Ca2.svg
Throne name
Proper name
Hiero Ca1.svg
Name hieroglyphs
Hiero Ca2.svg
Proper name or maiden name

The name of Horus is the oldest documented title of the king and comes up shortly before the 1st dynasty. The name is written in a so-called serech , a rectangle on which a falcon is enthroned. The lower part of the rectangle is decorated with the facade of the royal palace (" palace facade "), the upper part symbolizes the courtyard / house ( per ). The king's name is written in hieroglyphics in this free space. From the 4th dynasty onwards, the title can be written without serech. The title is then written in horizontal text with the Horus falcon at the beginning.


The side name or mistress name is already used as an epithet in the predynastics ; there, however, with a different hieroglyphic composition . In the early dynasty , under King Hor Den ( 1st dynasty ), the Nebti sign was introduced with the two goddesses Nechbet (for Upper Egypt) and Wadjet (for Lower Egypt). Both sit on a basket each , the symbol for neb ( Hieroglyph Gardiner V30), which means "Lord". The nebtiname is derived from the two existing neb characters and the two goddesses. The sign for neb also belongs to another designation of the king: "Lord of the two countries" ( Neb-taui - nb-t3wj ).

Gold name

The gold name or gold horus name is often known as the fifth title . The symbol for the Gold Horus name consists of a falcon ( Horus ) sitting on the hieroglyph for gold ( nebu - nbw ). The gold horus name was first used as an official additional title by Djoser in the 3rd dynasty . Since King Sneferu , this title has been introduced by the hawk sitting on the necklace, although this spelling remained the same until the Middle Kingdom .

Throne name

The most common name added to the throne name is Nesut or Nisut ( njswt ) when reference is made to the king as a secular ruler. That means: “the one from the rush”, but only referred to the ruler of Upper Egypt , that is, of South Egypt. The title of the Pharaoh of Lower Egypt was Biti ( bjtj ), which means: "The one of the bee". The two titles were linked in official inscriptions to Nesut-biti . If the name of the throne cartouche was preceded by the designation Nesut-biti , the pharaoh was both ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt. Nevertheless, the term "Pharaoh" has been used in most languages ​​to this day for the name of the ancient Egyptian ruler. The pharaoh cartridges were not always preceded by the additional names Sa Ra or Nesut-biti . Often the cartouches can be found on statues , steles , temple or grave inscriptions and papyrus texts .

Proper name

An Egyptian king had in addition to his proper name (also "birth name"), which has been made clear since the 5th dynasty by the name Sa Ra ( S3 Rˁ ), translated as "Son of Re", a total of four other titles and one later resulting name. The birth of a king's son did not determine whether he would succeed his father on the throne. His real name or birth name was like that of a normal citizen and did not contain a “program”, as expressed by the complete royal title with all five titles. However, it happened that he received the name of his father or grandfather. The name of a prince was introduced with the words "son of the king, from his own body" and not written in a cartouche .

Other names

In texts or official titles in which the king is not named by name, the word nesut (also nisut ) is usually used as the ruler title (for example sesch-nesut , " scribe of the king"), very rarely biti (for example chetemti-biti , "Seal of the King").

In religious texts or biographical inscriptions by officials, the Egyptian king is often referred to only as " Horus " without naming the ruler. In a more secular context, the terms Neb ("the Lord") or Neb-taui ("Lord of the Two Lands") occur. The latter also often introduces a name of the ruler. Here there is also a further additional variant Hem which is translated as "Majesty" over and over again. It actually only means “servant”, although the translation “person” is being preferred more and more in recent literature. This additional designation usually appears in formulations such as hem-ef (transliteration: Hm = f ), "his majesty", and also appears in the form Hem en neb-taui , (ḥm n nb t3wj) , "servant (or: the majesty) of the Lord of the Two Lands ”. The term Chu-Baq (“ruling ruler”) is rarely found, especially in the Second Intermediate Period .

Manetho was a temple scribe from Sebennytos in the ancient Egyptian Thebes . He wrote around the middle of the third century BC. BC under the reign of Ptolemy I, based on the writings of the Egyptians in Greek, the history of Egypt from the earliest times to the Macedonian conquest in three books ( Aegyptiaca ). This work went under early, only the list of the dynasties , a third of the royal names (Manetho names) and some fragments have been preserved. Some of the Manetho names (e.g. Amenophis from the Egyptological vocalization Amenhotep ) are still used today; in addition, the forms of name handed down from Herodotus (e.g. Cheops ). Many researchers prefer to use these Greekized names, as they may be closer to pronunciation than Egyptological vocalization.

Royal insignia

Women as king (pharaoh)

There were four women who were proven to have sole rule over Egypt. The most famous of these is Hatshepsut , who first acted as guardian for her stepson Thutmose III. functioned and later exercised the reign in his place. Nofrusobek ruled for a few years at the end of the 12th Dynasty. She is the first queen with a full royal title. Tausret ruled at the end of the 19th dynasty. Another example is Cleopatra .

Other cases are women who ruled for a man but did not have a royal title. Anchenespepi II. , The mother of Pepi II. Ruled for her underage son. Evidence also confirms that the great royal wife Teje during the reign of her husband Amenophis III. Performed government duties and later presumably also for her son Akhenaten .

There is also the theory that the Amarna king Semenchkare was actually Akhenaten's Great Royal Wife Nefertiti , who adopted this name as a new proper name. This thesis support z. B. the Egyptologists Nicholas Reeves, Michael Höveler-Müller , Christine El-Mahdy and Cyril Aldred .

See also


  • Susanne Bickel : The connection between the worldview and the state. In: Reinhard Gregor Kratz: Images of Gods, Images of God, Views of the World (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-16-149886-2 , pp. 79-102.
  • Elke Blumenthal: The divinity of the Pharaoh: Sacrality of rule and legitimacy of rule in ancient Egypt. In: Franz-Reiner Erkens: The sacrality of rule: Legitimacy of rule in the change of times and spaces. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-05-003660-5 , pp. 53-61.
  • Marie-Ange Bonhême, Annie Forgeau: Pharaoh, son of the sun. The symbolism of the Egyptian ruler. Padmos, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2001, ISBN 3-491-69036-6 .
  • Hans Bonnet : King, Queen. In: Lexicon of Egyptian Religious History. Nikol, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-937872-08-6 , pp. 380-388.
  • Alan H. Gardiner : Egyptian Grammar. 3rd Edition, University Press, Oxford 1957, ISBN 0-900416-35-1
    (Contains a detailed list of characters and a list of Egyptian-English and English-Egyptian, plus the most extensive reference grammar of Middle Egyptian. To look up the meaning of individual characters, use the Gardiner is a must. On pages 71–76 (Excursus A) the titulature of the pharaohs is explained.)
  • Rolf Gundlach : The Pharaoh and his State: The foundation of the Egyptian royal ideology in the 4th and 3rd millennium. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-534-12343-3 .
  • Rainer Hannig : The language of the pharaohs. Part: Large concise dictionary of Egyptian-German. (= Cultural History of the Ancient World . Vol. 64; Hannig-Lexika. Volume 1). von Zabern, Mainz 1995, ISBN 3-8053-1771-9
    (Contains a dictionary part and some other lists, Pharaonic names, but Horus, Nebti and Gold Horus names are only in transliteration, not in hieroglyphs, and none is translated.)
  • Wolfgang Helck , Eberhard Otto : King, Queen. In: Small Lexicon of Egyptology. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-447-04027-0 , p. 147 f.
  • Stefan Pfeifer : Rulers and dynasty cults in the Ptolemaic empire: systematics and classification of cult forms. Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56933-3 .
  • Thomas Schneider : Lexicon of the Pharaohs. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-96053-3 .
  • Jürgen von Beckerath : Handbook of the Egyptian king names (= Munich Egyptological studies . Vol. 49). von Zabern, Mainz 1999, ISBN 3-8053-2591-6 , (The directory includes all occurring king names in hieroglyphic and hieratic texts in drawings and transcriptions as well as information on the king's tutular.)

Web links

Commons : Pharaohs  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b T. Schneider: Lexicon of the Pharaohs. Düsseldorf 2002, p. 23.
  2. ^ T. Schneider: Lexicon of the Pharaohs. Düsseldorf 2002
  3. a b S. Bickel: The combination of worldview and state image. Tübingen 2009, pp. 82-84 and 87-88.
  4. Klaus Koch: History of the Egyptian religion: from the pyramids to the mysteries of Isis. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-17-009808-X , p. 73.
  5. ^ S. Pfeiffer: rulers and dynasty cults in the Ptolemaic empire: systematics and classification of cult forms. Munich 2008, pp. 21-22.
  6. a b c E. Blumenthal: The divinity of the Pharaoh: sacrality of rule and legitimization of rule in ancient Egypt. Berlin 2002, pp. 58-59.
  7. Herodotus: Histories. II 61, II 170 f.
  8. Alexandra von Lieven : Floor plan of the course of the stars - The so-called groove book . The Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Eastern Studies (inter alia), Copenhagen 2007, ISBN 978-87-635-0406-5 , pp. 163-164.
  9. Lucia Gahlin: Egypt - gods, myths, religions. Edition XXL, Reichelsheim 2001, ISBN 389736-312-7 , p. 196.
  10. Rolf Felde: Egyptian gods. 2nd expanded and improved edition, R. Felde Eigenverlag, Wiesbaden 1995, p. 21.
  11. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbook of the Egyptian king names. Mainz 1999, p. 26
  12. R. Hannig: Egyptian Dictionary 2: Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period. Mainz 1995, p. 1850.
  13. AH Gardiner: Egyptian Grammar. Oxford 1957, pp. 75-76.