Pepi II Neferkare

Pepi II Neferkare
Pepi II Neferkare
Pepy, Phiops or Fiops

Alabaster statue of Ankhesenmeryre II and her son Pepi II.
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign 2278–2184 BC[1], 6th Dynasty
Predecessor Merenre Nemtyemsaf I
Successor Merenre Nemtyemsaf II
Consort(s) Neith, Iput II, Ankhesenpepi III, Ankhesenpepi IV, and Udjebten
Born 2284 BC
Died 2184 BC (aged 100)
Burial Pyramid in South Saqqara
Monuments Pyramid in South Saqqara

Pepi II (reigned c. 2278 BC – c. 2184 BC) (2284 BC - 2184 BC)[3] was a pharaoh of the Sixth dynasty in Egypt's Old Kingdom. His throne name, Neferkare (Nefer-ka-Re), means "Beautiful is the Ka of Re". He succeeded to the throne at age six, after the death of Merenre I, and is generally credited with having the longest reign of any monarch in history at 94 years (c. 2278 BC – c. 2184 BC) although this figure has been disputed by some Egyptologists who favour a shorter reign of not much more than 64 years.[4][5] This is based on the complete absence of higher attested dates for Pepi beyond his Year after the 31st Count (Year 62 on a biannual cattle count).

He was traditionally thought to be the son of Pepi I and Queen Ankhesenpepi II but the South Saqqara Stone annals record that Merenre had a minimum reign of 11 years. However, several 6th dynasty royal seals and stone blocks—the latter of which were found within the funerary temple of Queen Ankhesenpepi II, the known mother of Pepi II—were discovered in the 1999/2000 excavation season at Saqqara which demonstrate that she also married Merenre after Pepi I's death and became this king's chief wife.[6] Several inscribed inscriptions on these stone blocks give Ankhesenpepi II the royal titles of the:

"King's Wife of the Pyramid of Pepy I, King's Wife of the Pyramid of Merenre, King's Mother of the Pyramid of Pepy II".[7]

Therefore, today, many Egyptologists believe that Pepi II was likely Merenre's own son.[8] Pepi II would, therefore, be Pepi I's grandson while Merenre was, most likely, Pepi II's father since he is known to have married Pepi II's known mother, Queen Ankhesenpepi II. This would also conform well with the evidence from the South Saqqara Stone which shows no coregency between the reigns of Pepi I and Merenre thus making it far more likely that Pepi II was Merenre's own son.

Pepi II's reign marked a sharp decline of the Old Kingdom. As the power of the nomarchs grew, the power of the pharaoh declined. With no dominant central power, local nobles began raiding each other's territories and the Old Kingdom came to an end within mere decades after the close of Pepi II's reign.


Early years of Pepi II's reign

His mother Ankhesenpepi II (Ankhesenmeryre II) most likely ruled as regent in the early years of his reign. An alabaster statuette in the Brooklyn Museum depicts a young Pepi II, in full kingly regalia, sitting on the lap of his mother. Despite his long reign, this piece is one of only three known 3D representations (i.e. statuary) in existence of this particular king. She may have been helped in turn by her brother Djau, who was a vizier under the previous pharaoh. Some scholars have taken the relative paucity of royal statuary to suggest that the royal court was losing the ability to retain skilled artisans.

A glimpse of the personality of the pharaoh while he was still a child can be found in a letter he wrote to Harkhuf, a governor of Aswan and the head of one of the expeditions he sent into Nubia. Sent to trade and collect ivory, ebony, and other precious items, he captured a pygmy. News of this reached the royal court, and an excited young king sent word back to Harkhuf that he would be greatly rewarded if the pygmy were brought back alive, where he would have likely served as an entertainer for the court. This letter was preserved [9] as a lengthy inscription on Harkhuf's tomb, and has been called the first travelogue [10]


Over his long life Pepi II had several wives, including:

  • Neith - She was the mother of Pepi's successor Merenre Nemtyemsaf II.[11] She may be a daughter of Ankhesenpepi I and hence also Pepi II's cousin and half-sister.[12]
  • Iput II - A half-sister of Pepi II.[11]
  • Ankhesenpepi III She was the daughter of Merenre Nemtyemsaf I and hence a grand-daughter of Pepi I.[11][12]
  • Ankhesenpepi IV - The mother of King Neferkare according to texts in her tomb. It is not known which Neferkare as there are several kings with that name during the First Intermediate Period.[11] His name may be Neferkare Nebi.[12]
  • Udjebten [11] She was also a daughter of Pepi I.[12]

Of these queens, Neith, Iput, and Udjebten each had their own minor pyramids and mortuary temples as part of the king's own pyramid complex in Saqqara. Queen Ankhesenpepi III was buried in a pyramid near the pyramid of Pepi I Meryre, and Ankhesenpepi IV was buried in a chapel in the complex of Queen Udjebten.[11]

Two more sons of Pepi II are known: Nebkauhor-Idu and Ptashepses (D).[11]

Foreign policy

Pepi II carried on in ways very similar to his predecessors. Copper and turquoise were mined at Wadi Maghareh in the Sinai, and alabaster was quarried from Hatnub. He is mentioned in inscriptions in Byblos in ancient Palestine.[13]

In the south the trade relations consist of caravans trading with the Nubians. Harkhuf was a governor of Upper Egypt who led several expeditions under Merenre and Pepi II. His last expedition was a trip to a place called Iam.[14] Harkhuf brought back with him what his correspondence with the young pharaoh referred to as a dwarf, apparently a pygmy.[15] Egypt received goods such as incence, ebony, animal skins, and ivory form Nubia.[13]

The Western desert was known to have extensive caravan routes. Some of these routes allowed for trade with the Kharga Oasis, the Selima Oasis, and the Dakhla Oasis.[13]

Decline of the Old Kingdom

A decree from Pepi II, granting tax immunity to the temple of Min, on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The decline of the Old Kingdom arguably began before the time of Pepi II, with nomarchs (regional representatives of the king) becoming more and more powerful and exerting greater influence. Pepi I, for example, married two sisters who were the daughters of a nomarch and later made their brother a vizier. Their influence was extensive, both sisters bearing sons who were chosen as part of the royal succession: Merenre and Pepi II.

Increasing wealth and power appears to have been handed over to high officials during Pepi II's reign. Large and expensive tombs appear at many of the major nomes of Egypt, built for the reigning nomarchs, the priestly class and other administrators. Nomarchs were traditionally free from taxation and their positions became hereditary. Their increasing wealth and independence led to a corresponding shift in power away from the central royal court to the regional nomarchs.

Later in his reign it is known that Pepi divided the role of vizier so that there were two viziers: one for Upper Egypt and one for Lower, a further decentralization of power away from the royal capital of Memphis. Further, the seat of vizier of Upper Egypt was moved several times. The southern vizier was based at Thebes.

It is also thought that Pepi II's extraordinarily long reign may have been a contributing factor to the general breakdown of centralized royal rule. There are some doubts that he could have reigned as long as 94 years (some scholars such as Von Beckerath believe this to be a misreading of long-lost original texts by early historians such as Manetho, and ascribe a seemingly more realistic figure of 64 years, which seems more feasible if he was succeeded by his son as Egyptian tradition states, rather than a grandson). On the other hand, since his son and successor Merenre Nemtyemsaf II appears only to have reigned for one year, he may himself have been very old when he ascended the throne of Egypt. All scholars concede that Pepi II's reign was certainly unusually long. This situation almost certainly produced a succession crisis and also led to a stagnation of the administration, centred on an absolute ruler who may have survived into an extreme old age of hopeless physical and mental decline, but who could not be replaced because of his 'divine' status. A better documented example of this type of problem can be found in the long reign of much later Nineteenth Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses II and his successors. Pepi II's highest date is the "Year after the 31st Count, 1st Month of Shemu, day 20" from Hatnub graffito No.7, according to Spalinger.[16] This date would be equivalent to only Pepi II's Year 62 (on the biannual dating system) and conforms well with the suggestion of a 64 Year reign for him by Goedicke and Von Beckerath given the noticeable absence of known dates for Pepi II from his 33rd to 47th Counts. A previous suggestion by Hans Goedicke that the Year of the 33rd Count appears for Pepi II in a royal decree for the mortuary cult of Queen Udjebten was withdrawn by Goedicke himself in 1988 in favour of a reading of 'the Year of the 24th Count' instead, notes Spalinger.[16] Goedicke notes that Pepi II was attested by numerous year dates until the Year of his 31st count which strongly implies that this king died shortly after a reign of about 64 years.[17]

The 4.2 kiloyear event is very likely to have caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt.[18][19]

The Ipuwer Papyrus

In the past it had been suggested that Ipuwer the sage served as a treasury official during the last years of Pepi II Neferkare's reign.[20][21] The Ipuwer Papyrus was thought by some to describe the collapse of the Old Kingdom and the beginning of the dark age known as the First Intermediate Period.[22] It had been claimed that archaeological evidence from Syrian button seals supported this interpretation.[23] The admonitions may not be a discussion with a king at all however. Otto was the first to suggest that the discussion was not between Ipuwer and his king, but that this was a discussion between Ipuwer and a deity. Fecht showed through philological interpretation and revision of the relevant passages that this is indeed a discussion with a deity.[24] Modern research suggests that the papyrus dates to the much later 13th dynasty, with part of the papyrus now thought to date to the time of Pharaoh Khety, and the admonitions of Ipuwer actually being addressed to the god Atum, not a mortal king.[21] The admonitions are thought to harken back to the First Intermediate Period and record a decline in international relations and a general impoverishment in Egypt.[25]

Pyramid complex

Ruins of the pyramid complex of Pepi II

The pyramid complex was called

N5 nfr kA
> mn
anx O24

[26] which means "Neferkare is Established and Living".[27]

The complex consists of Pepi's pyramid with its adjacent mortuary temple. The pyramid contained a core made of limestone and clay mortar. The pyramid was encased in white limestone. An interesting feature is that after the north chapel and the wall was completed, the builders tore down these structures and enlarged the base of the pyramid. A band of brickwork reaching to the height of the perimeter wall was then added to the pyramid. The purpose of this band is not known. It has been suggested that the builders wanted the structure to resemble the hieroglyph for pyramid,[27] or that possibly the builders wanted to fortify the base of the structure due to an earthquake.[26]

The burial chamber had a gabled ceiling covered by stars. Two of the walls consisted of large granite slabs. The sarcophagus was made of black granite and inscribed with the king;s name and titles. A canopic chest was sunk in the floor.[27]

To the northwest of the pyramid of Pepi II, the pyramids of his consorts Neith and Iput were built. The pyramid of Udjebten is located to the south of Pepi's pyramid. The Queen's pyramids each had their own chapel, temple and a satellite pyramid. Neith's pyramid was the largest and may have been the first to be built. The pyramids of the Queens contained Pyramid Texts.[26][27]

The mortuary temple adjacent to the pyramid was decorated with scenes showing the king spearing a hippopotamus and thus triumphing over chaos. Other scenes include the sed festival, a festival of the god Min and scenes showing Pepi executing a Libyan chieftain, who is accompanied by his wife and son. The scene with the Libyan chief is a copy from Sahure's temple.[26][27] A courtyard was surrounded by 18 pillars which were decorated with scenes of the king in the presence of gods.[27]


The complex was first investigated by John Shae Perring, but it was Gaston Maspero who first entered the pyramid in 1881. Gustave Jéquier was the first to investigate the complex in detail between 1926 and 1936.[26][28] Jéquier was the first excavator to start actually finding any remains from the tomb reliefs,[29] and he was the first to publish a thorough excavation report on the complex.[30]


A statue which is now in the Brooklyn Museum, depicts Queen Ankhenesmerire II with her son Pepi II on her lap. Pepi II wears the royal nemes headdress and a kilt. He is shown at a much smaller scale than his mother. This difference in size is atypical because the king is usually shown larger than others. The difference in size may refer to the time period when his mother served as a regent. Alternatively the statue may depict Ankhenesmerire II as the divine mother.[31]

Another statue of Pepi II is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (JE 50616). The king is shown as a naked child. The depiction of the king at such a young age may refer to the age he came to the throne.[32]


There are few official contemporary records or inscriptions of Pepi's immediate successors. According the Manetho and the Turin King List, he was succeeded by his son Merenre Nemtyemsaf II, who reigned for just over a year.[33] It is then believed that he was in turn succeeded by the obscure pharaoh Neitiqerty Siptah, though according to popular tradition (as recorded by Manetho two millennia later) he was succeeded by Queen Nitocris, who would be the first female ruler of Egypt.[34] There is considerable doubt that she ever existed, given the absence of contemporary physical evidence in such things as the various Kings Lists attesting to her rule.[citation needed]

This was the end of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, a prelude to the roughly 200-year span of Egyptian history known as the First Intermediate Period.[34]


Only a small number of pharaohs were immortalized in ancient fiction, Pepi II is among them. In the tale King Neferkare and General Sasenet, of which only fragments survive, Pepi is described as making nightly outings and meeting his general Sasenet in secret.[35]

The story is dated to the late New Kingdom though it was composed earlier[36] and purports to describe the nightly exploits of Pepi II Neferkare; some like R. S. Bianchi think that it is a work of archaizing literature and dates to the 25th dynasty referring to Shabaka Neferkare, a Kushite pharaoh.[37]

See also


  1. ^ Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. p.64. Thames & Hudson. 2006. ISBN 0-500-28628-0
  2. ^ [1] VIth Dynasty
  3. ^ Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. p.64. Thames & Hudson. 2006. ISBN 0-500-28628-0
  4. ^ Hans Goedicke, The Death of Pepi II-Neferkare" in Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 15, (1988), pp.111-121
  5. ^ Michel Baud, "The Relative Chronology of Dynasties 6 and 8" in Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Leiden, 2006) pp.152-57
  6. ^ A. Labrousse and J. Leclant, "Une épouse du roi Mérenrê Ier: la reine Ankhesenpépy I", in M. Barta (ed.), Abusir and Saqqara in the Year 2000, Prague, 2000. pp.485-490
  7. ^ Labrousse and J. Leclant, pp.485-490
  8. ^ A. Labrousse and J. Leclant, "Les reines Ânkhesenpépy II et III (fin de l'Ancien Empire): campagnes 1999 et 2000 de la MAFS," Compte-rendu de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres/, (CRAIBL) 2001, pp.367-384
  9. ^ The text of the letter
  10. ^ Omar Zuhdi, Count Harkhuf and The Dancing Dwarf, KMT 16 Vol:1, Spring 2005, pp.74-80
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. pp 70-78, ISBN 0-500-05128-3
  12. ^ a b c d Tyldesley, Joyce, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2006. pp 61-63, ISBN 0-500-05145-3
  13. ^ a b c Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-19-280458-8, pp 116-117
  14. ^ Wente, Edward, Letters from Ancient Egypt, Scholars Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55540-473-1, pp 20-21
  15. ^ Pascal Vernus, Jean Yoyotte, The Book of the Pharaohs, Cornell University Press 2003. ISBN 0801440505. p.74
  16. ^ a b Anthony Spalinger, Dated Texts of the Old Kingdom, SAK 21, 1994, p.308
  17. ^ Goedicke, 1988, pp.111-121
  18. ^ Ann Gibbons, How the Akkadian Empire Was Hung Out to Dry , Science 20 August 1993: 985. Online citation
  19. ^ Jean-Daniel Stanley, Michael D. Krom, Robert A. Cliff, Jamie C. Woodward, Short contribution: Nile flow failure at the end of the Old Kingdom, Egypt: Strontium isotopic and petrologic evidence, Geoarchaeology, Volume 18, Issue 3, pages 395–402, March 2003 Online citation
  20. ^ The new encyclopædia Britannica , Volume 6, Online excerpt
  21. ^ a b R. J. Williams, The Sages of Ancient Egypt in the Light of Recent Scholarship, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 101, No. 1, Oriental Wisdom (Jan. -Mar., 1981), pp. 1-19 JSTOR
  22. ^ Barbara Bell, The Dark Ages in Ancient History. I. The First Dark Age in Egypt, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Jan., 1971), pp. 1-26 JSTOR
  23. ^ Thomas L. Thompson, The historicity of the patriarchal narratives: the quest for the historical Abraham, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002, Google Books
  24. ^ Winfried Barta, Das Gespräch des Ipuwer mit dem Schöpfergott, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Bd. 1 (1974), pp. 19-33
  25. ^ Gregory Mumford, Tell Ras Budran (Site 345): Defining Egypt's Eastern Frontier and Mining Operations in South Sinai during the Late Old Kingdom (Early EB IV/MB I), Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 342 (May, 2006), pp. 13-67, The American Schools of Oriental Research. Article Stable URL: [2]
  26. ^ a b c d e Verner, Miroslav. The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture, and Science of Egypt's Great Monuments. Grove Press. 2001 (1997). pp 362 - 372, ISBN 0-8021-3935-3
  27. ^ a b c d e f Lehner, Mark. The Complete Pyramids. Thames & Hudson. 2008 (reprint). pp 161-163, ISBN 978-0-500-28547-3
  28. ^ Shaw, Ian. and Nicholson, Paul. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. p. 220. The British Museum Press, 1995.
  29. ^ Shaw and Nicholson, p.220
  30. ^ Jéqier, Gustav. Le monument funéraire de Pepi II. 3 volumes, Cairo, 1936-41.
  31. ^ Gay Robins, The Art of Ancient Egypt, Harvard University Press, 1997, pp 66-67, ISBN 0-674-00367-4
  32. ^ N. Grimal, A history of ancient Egypt, Wiley-Blackwell, 1994, pg 98
  33. ^ Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. p 288, ISBN 0-500-05128-3
  34. ^ a b Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. 2000. pp 116-117, ISBN 0-19-280458-8
  35. ^ Adult life in ancient Egypt on Digital Egypt
  36. ^ Lynn Meskell, Archaeologies of social life: age, sex, class et cetera in ancient Egypt, Wiley-Blackwell, 1999, p.95
  37. ^ Bianchi, op. cit. p.164


  • Dodson, Aidan. Hilton, Dyan. 2004. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson
  • Dodson, Aidan. "An Eternal Harem: Tombs of the Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Part One: In the Beginning". KMT. Summer 2004.
  • Shaw, Ian. Nicholson, Paul. 1995. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers.
  • Spalinger, Anthony. Dated Texts of the Old Kingdom, SAK 21, (1994), pp. 307–308
  • Oakes, Lorna and Lucia Gahlun. 2005. Ancient Egypt. Anness Publishing Limited.
  • Perelli, Rosanna, "Statuette of Pepi II" in Francesca Tiradriti (editor), The Treasures of the Egyptian Museum, American University in Cairo Press, 1999, p. 89.

External links

Preceded by
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I
Pharaoh of Egypt
Sixth dynasty
Succeeded by
Merenre Nemtyemsaf II

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