Old Kingdom End & Nitokris the female pharaoh story
According to many archeologists, the VI dynasty closes with Pepi II, only partially true.
As mentioned several times with the VI dynasty, we witness the decline of the Old Kingdom with the slow but progressive loss of power and authority on the part of the Pharaoh due to the increased power of the nomarchs and the priests.
The decay of the central authority and the long reign of Pepi II would have meant that the heir to the throne died before the king or that he came to the throne in old age and lacked the energy necessary to maintain his power.
On the death of Pepi II, the throne of the Two Lands probably raised his son, from the Queen Neith, Merenra II, who was already well advanced over the years due to his father’s long reign.
The duration of the reign of this king, of which practically nothing is known, was certainly very short.
Without energy or a clear political vision, incapable of exercising the authority of which it was invested and which tolerated the decadence of the institutions and the disorders, it favored to the separation of the nomarchs of Upper Egypt.
According to Herodotus Merenra II was overthrown during a palace conspiracy organized by a group of nobles perhaps led by Merenra’s own half-sister, Nitokerty, (Nitocris).
Nitocris the first female pharaoh
She was the first woman officially a pharaoh and assumed power towards 2184 BC
According to archives of Ramesside age, she ruled two years, a month and a day, although some researchers assigned her a long reign, from six to twelve years.
Her name appears in the pharaohs list on the Royal Papyrus of Turin.
For sure other women before her ruled Egypt but no one remembered in any real list.
Just Queen Khentkaus, which a colossal, pharaonic monument has been found dedicated for her.
A text by Eusebius of Caesarea, taken from the writings of Manetone, tells: << A woman, Nitokris, reigned; she had more courage than the men of her time and was the most beautiful of all women, with pink cheeks.
It is said that she built the third pyramid >>. A tradition has it that she was buried there and her body rested in a blue basalt sarcophagus.
This “third pyramid” is identified with that of Mycerinus to which Nitokris paid great attention to the point of having it restored, in which pyramid was buried, however, remains a mystery.
According to the story, Nitokris was the wife of a king who was murdered by conspirators. The queen was asked to continue to govern her thus avoiding that the legitimate descendants stop.
Nitokris accepted but secretly prepared revenge. She had a large underground hall built and when it was finished she had it prepared and offered a sumptuous banquet to the conspirators to celebrate their victory.
In the middle of the banquet, she had a hole open who poured water into the chamber until it was filled and the traitors all drowned.
Nitokris committed suicide by locking himself up in a room where there were numerous braziers and died suffocated. A dramatic oriental tale, however, devoid of any historical foundation.
With the death of Nitokris, the VI dynasty officially ends, the golden age of the Old Kingdom, of the great pharaohs who built the imposing pyramids, also ends.
A long period of relative tranquility ends and a confusing period of the institutional crisis appears on the horizon. What is called the “First Intermediate Period“.
Sources and bibliography:
Cimmino Franco, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, Milan 2003
Alan Gardiner, “The Egyptian civilization”, Einaudi, Turin 1997
Christian Jacq, “Women of the Pharaohs”, Mondadori, Milan 1997
W. S. Smith, “The Ancient Kingdom in Egypt and the Beginning of the Early Intermediate Period”, the Saggiatore, 1972)