Hatshepsut is dead. But in the distance already, the echo of arms resounds. The hour of Thutmose III has arrived. After 22 years of co-operation with his stepmother, the warrior character that that boy had been able to restrain, accepting to play a secondary role for such a long time, now he can express himself in all his power.
Certainly, his tacit submission to Hatshepsut was also the natural consequence of the fact that the queen enjoyed the support of the powerful Theban clergy of Amon. His role was of secondary importance but he was able to manage with great intelligence and skill. During the entire period of coregency, in the shadow of the female pharaoh, a shrewd and able man grew up.
Thutmose III devoted himself principally to military matters, laying the foundations for the operations he would later complete in the following years. The warrior sovereign was one of the greatest Egyptian pharaohs, he implemented and realized the imperialist tendencies to which his predecessors had already aimed. He was a great leader and strategist, his military campaigns ranging from Syria to Nubia to Palestine and up to the Euphrates River are countless.
The aforementioned writer and Egyptologist Christian Jacq call it “the Egyptian Napoleon“. Very handsome physically, as described in the inscriptions received, he possessed an extraordinary physical strength which he expressed by throwing with his bow and arrow that struck a metal target often a palm and pierced it from side to side (!).
As I have repeatedly recommended the Egyptian history, told by contemporaries, and not only that, it must be taken with springs as it is described in a very emphasized, often flattering and untruthful way, (but we pretend nothing happened).
The history of Thutmose III’s enterprises, however, we can only learn, with due discernment, from the inscriptions that have reached us, on the walls of the ambulatory of the sanctuary of Amon at Karnak where, although partially damaged, its numerous military campaigns are described. More information can be found on the stele discovered at Gebel Barkal, ancient Napata, and on the stele of Armantis, 10 km south of Luxor.
The expeditions that saw Thutmose III take part, first at a young age, certainly as a subordinate of some expert general, then personally as a condottiere, in the Middle East, were 14 (but in reality perhaps 18, which took place under Hatshepsut’s coregency).
Having ascended the throne, Thutmose III immediately turned his attention to the Syro-Palestinian area aimed at restoring the Egyptian sovereignty imposed by Thutmose I on the peoples of that territory who sought to free themselves from Egyptian domination. The fury of the warrior king first fell on Megiddo and then more on where one of the various destructions of Kadesh occurred.
Another expedition brought Thutmose III back to Palestine where he captured the city of Gaza, which had recently rebelled.
One of these campaigns leaves many doubts about its development, due to the already mentioned tendency of the Egyptians to magnify and exalt the reigning ruler beyond all limits. This was the eighth, the best documented in the “Annals” (unfortunately missing a substantial part), where the army of Thutmose III arrived at the Euphrates, passed it to clash with the Mitanni, the name by which the Hurrian was called they had conquered Anatolia and part of northern Syria by defeating the reign of Hammurabi.
Other campaigns were dedicated to pacifying the region and fighting the Bedouins of the Sinai peninsula that made caravan routes unsafe.
Thutmose III, however, was not only a warrior but also astute, the territories of the Syrian-Palestinian area were not directly incorporated under the control of the Egyptian crown but left to the government of a mass of small local tributary princes of Egypt.
These princes of the defeated countries were taken a hostage to Thebes at the palace of the Pharaoh, here they were instructed and trained.
Only when they proved to have learned and made their own Egyptian customs and traditions and demonstrated their loyalty to the pharaoh, were they returned to their countries of origin where they would reign as vassals of the ruler of the Two Lands.
The same strategy was adopted by the Romans 1500 years later. The mistake, perhaps the one that in time will prove to be the greatest, made by Thutmose III with the intention perhaps of obtaining ever-greater support, was to further increase the economic power of the Theban clergy of Amon in Karnak, to which he made enormous donations of war prey, the fruit of numerous military campaigns, assigning to the same three Asian regions.
This was the most serious political error because, as we will see later, it will be the main cause of the end of the New Kingdom. Thutmose III also undertook intense activity in the construction of buildings and monuments (and, as a custom, it also usurped some of the previous sovereigns).
In the temple of Karnak, he realized his perhaps most beautiful work, the “Hall of feasts” which are the ” Hall of ancestors” and the “Botanic Garden“.
This consists of relief on the walls of a room of the jubilee time of the pharaoh, dedicated to the god Amon, in the Karnak temple complex and depicts details of the fauna and flora present at that time in the Egyptian empire. Animals and plants that Thutmose III had brought from Syria are also depicted.
His “Great Royal Bride” was Sanath who died young without giving him, heirs. His place was taken by his second wife, Merira-Hatshepsut, (not to be confused with the pharaoh woman), who will be the mother of Amenhotep II as well as the princess Merytamon.
He had numerous other wives including several Syrian princesses. His reign lasted 53 years during which he celebrated the Sed festival three times and changed the complex of real names and attributes several times, especially the name of Horo which became more and more a manifestation of his power.
Many Egyptologists are prone to the fact that during the last years of the Thutmosis III reign the son Amenhotep II joined in a co-operation. The duration of the co-operation with the father can be deduced from the fact that, according to some inscriptions, Amenhotep II was crowned two years and four months before the death of his father.
Thutmose III had his tomb built in the Valley of the Kings which is identified with the initials KV34 (King Valley 34).
The Tomb of Thutmose III (KV34)
Thutmose III had his tomb built in the Valley of the Kings, an area near Waset, (ancient Thebes). In Egyptian “Ta-Sekhet-Ma’at” (the Great Field), now the royal necropolis for the rulers of the New Kingdom starting from the XVIII dynasty, it will remain for over 500 years, from 1552 to 1069 BC The great Egyptologist Howard Carter, speaking of the Valley, said: “The Valley of the Tombs of the Kings: the name is enough to evoke a romantic setting, and among all the wonders of Egypt, not one, I believe, is able to stimulate more fantasy”.
In a steep wall 30 meters above the ground, in the ancient bed of a waterfall, Thutmose III chose to build his eternal home. Discovered in 1898 by the Egyptian Inspector of the Hosni Valley, (although the discovery was later attributed to Victor Loret, director of the Service des Antiquités).
The tomb has the classic structure of the tombs of the XVIII dynasty. Access to the same was very difficult given the height from the ground, few brave were able to reach it, among these the usual grave robbers that reached it penetrating inside to carry out their robbery, unfortunately, they also did considerable damage to the funerary furnishings and, perhaps, also to the mummy.
In recent times a steep staircase has been built that allows visitors to reach the entrance to the tomb which is identified with the initials KV34 (King Valley 34). What Victor Loret found in it turned out to be of little relevance and very damaged.
Small statues of Thutmose III and wooden divinities, some pieces of boat models as well as crockery and baboon bones and a bull. The annexes to the burial chamber were completely empty. Access is via a staircase that leads into a sloping corridor, from here you can access an irregularly shaped room, unfinished, from which, through another staircase, you enter a corridor always sloping at the bottom of which it finds a 5 x 4 meter 6 meter deep well, beyond which, after passing a wall built after the burial, the irregularly shaped antechamber with two central pillars appears.
In a corner of the same part, another staircase leads to the actual rectangular-shaped funeral chamber. In the middle of the room, there are also two pillars, while on the longer walls four small annexes have been made to contain the funeral outfit.
Interesting to highlight a detail that makes it unique in its kind, the funerary chamber has rounded corners that make one think vaguely of a cartouche where the sarcophagus with the mummy replaces the name of the pharaoh who would be writing in it.
According to the scholar John Lewis Romer at the time of the burial, the tomb was not yet completed, which would have happened in nine different successive phases. While the walls of the corridors are not decorated, those in the rooms have been plastered and painted. The ceiling of the well, like the walls, is decorated with yellow stars on a blue background.
Le pareti dell’anticamera sono completamente ricoperte dai capitoli del Libro dell’Amduat con 765 figure di divinità su 741 riquadri. Anche le pareti della camera funeraria riportano i capitoli dell’Amduat a colori nero e rosso su sfondo giallino, la scrittura è lo ieratico.
I pilastri della camera funeraria sono decorati con le “Litanie di Ra”, un pilastro presenta su una faccia una scena che vede Thutmosi III che si allatta da un albero di sicomoro seguito da due mogli e dalle figlie. Tutte le immagini sono diverse dal solito modo di rappresentare degli egiziani ma sono stilizzate. Secondo Romer si tratterebbe di bozzetti predisposti per una futura rifinitura a completamento che però non avvenne mai.
I quattro piccoli annessi della camera funeraria non sono decorati. In uno di essi furono rinvenuti resti umani riferiti a sepolture abusive risalenti alla XXVI dinastia. Il sarcofago di Thutmosi III, in quarzite rosa, si presentava danneggiato, vuoto con il coperchio spezzato, le pareti decorate in altorilievo con testi del Libro dell’Amduat.
Come già accennato in un articolo precedente, la sua mummia, particolarmente danneggiata (la testa era staccata e le gambe spezzate), fu rinvenuta tempo prima, come molte altre, nella cachette di Deir el-Bahari (DB320 o TT320) dove venne riposta per preservarla dai saccheggiatori.
L’umana pietà dei sacerdoti che curarono la raccolta di oltre 50 mummie per riporle nella cachette, si rivelò ancor più umana, visto lo stato in cui trovarono la mummia di Thutmosi III, la ricomposero rifacendo le fasciature. Così era finito il re guerriero, grande in vita ma dissacrato da morto.
Io però preferisco alzare gli occhi al cielo e pensare che una di quei miliardi di stelle che brillano lassù, è quella di Thutmosi III.
By: Piero Cargnino
Sources and bibliography:
Regine Schulz, Matthias Seidel, “Egypt: the land of the pharaohs”, Gribaudo / Konemann, 2004
Christian Jacq, “The Valley of the Kings”, (translation by Elena Dal Pra), Mondadori, 1998
Alberto Siliotti, “The Valley of the Kings”, White Star, 2004
Alessandro Roccati, “The Theban area, Quaderni di Egittologia”, Aracne, 2005
Franco Cimmino, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, 2003
Web, Stories of Storia.com, “Thutmose III: the pharaoh, successor of Hatshepsut”, Giampiero Lovell, 2016)