The Eighteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt (notated Dynasty XVIII, alternatively 18th Dynasty or Dynasty 18) is classified as the first Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt, the era in which ancient Egypt achieved the peak of its power. The Eighteenth Dynasty spanned the period from 1550/1549 to 1292 BC. This Dynasty is also known as the Thutmosid Dynasty for the four pharaohs named Thutmose.
Several of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs were from the Eighteenth Dynasty, including Tutankhamun, whose tomb was found by Howard Carter in 1922. The Eighteenth Dynasty is unique among Egyptian dynasties in that it had two women who ruled as sole pharaoh: Hatshepsut, regarded as one of the most innovative rulers of ancient Egypt, and Neferneferuaten, usually identified as Nefertiti. Other famous pharaohs of the Dynasty include Hatshepsut (c. 1479 BC–1458 BC), the longest-reigning woman pharaoh of an indigenous dynasty, and Akhenaten (c. 1353–1336 BC), the “heretic pharaoh”, with his Great Royal Wife, Nefertiti.
History of the Eighteenth Dynasty
Early Dynasty XVIII
Dynasty XVIII was founded by pharaoh Ahmose I, the brother or son of Kamose, the last ruler of the 17th Dynasty. Ahmose finished the campaign to expel the Hyksos rulers. His reign is seen as the end of the Second Intermediate Period and the start of the New Kingdom. Ahmose’s consort, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, was “arguably the most venerated woman in Egyptian history, and the grandmother of the 18th Dynasty.” She was worshipped after she died. Ahmose was succeeded by his son, Amenhotep I, whose reign was relatively uneventful.
Amenhotep I probably left no male heir, and the next pharaoh, Thutmose I, seems to have been related to the royal family through marriage. Thutmose II succeeded me and his queen, Hatshepsut, who was the daughter of Thutmose I. After her husband’s death and a period of regency for her minor stepson (who would later become pharaoh as Thutmose III), Hatshepsut became pharaoh in her own right and ruled for over twenty years. During his reign, the borders of Egypt’s empire reached their most fantastic expanse, extending north to Carchemish on the Euphrates and south up to Kurgus beyond the fourth cataract of the Nile.
Thutmose III, who became known as the most significant military pharaoh ever, also had a lengthy reign after becoming pharaoh. He had a second co-regency with his son Amenhotep II in his old age. Amenhotep II was succeeded by Thutmose IV, who in turn was followed by his son Amenhotep III, whose reign is seen as a high point in this Dynasty.
Amenhotep III’s reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity, artistic splendour, and global power, as attested by over 250 statues (more than any other pharaoh) and 200 large stone scarabs discovered from Syria to Nubia. Amenhotep III undertook large-scale building programmes, the extent of which can only be compared with those of the much longer reign of Ramesses II during Dynasty XIX. Amenhotep III’s consort was the Great Royal wife Tiye, for whom he built an artificial lake, as described on eleven scarabs.
Akhenaten, the Amarna Period, and Tutankhamun
Amenhotep III may have shared the throne for up to twelve years with his son Amenhotep IV. There is much debate about this proposed co-regency, with different experts considering whether there was a lengthy co-regency, a short one, or none.
In the fifth year of his reign, Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten (ꜣḫ-n-jtn, “Effective for the Aten”) and moved his capital to Amarna, which he named Akhetaten. During the reign of Akhenaten, the Aten (jtn, the sun disk) became the most prominent deity and eventually came to be considered the only god. Whether this amounted to true monotheism continues to be the subject of debate within the academic community. Some state that Akhenaten created a monotheism, while others point out that he merely suppressed a dominant solar cult by asserting another and never wholly abandoned several other traditional deities.
Later Egyptians considered this “Amarna Period” an unfortunate aberration. After his death, Akhenaten was succeeded by two short-lived pharaohs, Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten, of which little is known. In 1334 Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhaten ascended to the throne: shortly after, he restored the Egyptian polytheist cult and subsequently changed his name to Tutankhamun, in honour of the Egyptian god Amun. His infant daughters, 317a and 317b mummies represent the final genetically-related generation of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
Ay and Horemheb
The last two members of the Eighteenth Dynasty—Ay and Horemheb—became rulers from the ranks of officials in the royal court. However, Ay might also have been the maternal uncle of Akhenaten as a fellow descendant of Yuya and Tjuyu.
Ay may have married the widowed Great Royal Wife and young half-sister of Tutankhamun, Ankhesenamun, to obtain power; she did not live long afterwards. Ay then married Tey, who was originally Nefertiti’s wet nurse.
Ay’s reign was short. His successor was Horemheb, a general during Tutankhamun’s reign whom the pharaoh may have intended as his successor in case he had no surviving children, which is what came to pass. Horemheb may have taken the throne away from Ay in a coup d’état. Although Ay’s son or stepson Nakhtmin was named as his father/stepfather’s Crown Prince, Nakhtmin seems to have died during the reign of Ay, leaving the opportunity for Horemheb to claim the throne next.
Horemheb also died without surviving children, having appointed his vizier, Pa-ra-mes-su, as his heir. This vizier ascended the throne in 1292 BC as Ramesses I and was the first pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty.
This example to the right depicts a man named Ay who achieved the exalted religious positions of Second Prophet of Amun and High Priest of Mut at Thebes. His career flourished during the reign of Tutankhamun when the statue was made. The cartouches of King Ay, Tutankhamun’s successor, appearing on the figure, were an attempt by an artisan to “update” the sculpture.
Relations with Nubia
The Eighteenth Dynasty empire conquered all of Lower Nubia under Thutmose I. By the reign of Thutmose III, the Egyptians directly controlled Nubia to the Nile river, the 4th cataract, With Egyptian influence/tributaries extending beyond this point. The Egyptians referred to the area as Kush, administered by the Viceroy of Kush. The 18th Dynasty obtained exceptional quality Nubian gold, animal skins, ivory, ebony, cattle, and horses. The Egyptians built temples throughout Nubia. One of the largest and most important temples was dedicated to Amun at Jebel Barkal in Napata. This Temple of Amun was enlarged by later Egyptian and Nubian Pharaohs, such as Taharqa.
Relations with the Near-East
After the end of the Hyksos period of foreign rule, the Eighteenth Dynasty engaged in an active phase of expansionism, conquering vast areas of the Near-East, with especially Pharaoh Thutmose III submitting the “Shasu” Bedouins of northern Canaan, and the land of Retjenu, as far as Syria and Mittani in numerous military campaigns circa 1450 BC.
Radiocarbon dating suggests that Dynasty XVIII may have started a few years earlier than the conventional date of 1550 BC. The radiocarbon date range for its beginning is 1570–1544 BC, the mean point of which is 1557 BC.
Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty
The pharaohs of Dynasty XVIII ruled for approximately 250 years (c. 1550–1298 BC). The dates and names in the table are taken from Dodson and Hilton. Many pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes (designated KV). More information can be found on the Theban Mapping Project website. Several diplomatic marriages are known in the New Kingdom. These daughters of foreign kings are often only mentioned in cuneiform texts and are not known from other sources. The marriages were likely to have been a way to confirm good relations between these states.
Ahmose I (Ancient Egyptian: jꜥḥ ms(j.w), reconstructed /ʔaʕaħ’ma:sjə/ (MK), Egyptological pronunciation Ahmose, sometimes written as Amosis or Aahmes, meaning “Iah (the Moon) is born”) was a pharaoh and founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, classified as the first Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt, the era in which ancient Egypt achieved the peak of its power. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last Pharaoh of the Seventeenth Dynasty, Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old, his father was killed, and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother and, upon coronation, became known as nb-pḥtj-rꜥ, “The Lord of Strength is Ra”.
The archaeological evidence for an Egyptian presence in Canaan outside of Gaza starts with Thutmose III. During his reign, Ahmose completed the conquest and expulsion of the Hyksos from the Nile Delta, restored Theban rule over the whole of Egypt and successfully reasserted Egyptian power in its formerly subject territories of Nubia and Canaan. He then reorganised the country’s administration, reopened quarries, mines and trade routes and began massive construction projects of a type that had not been undertaken since the time of the Middle Kingdom. This building program culminated in constructing the last pyramid built by native Egyptian rulers. Ahmose’s reign laid the foundations for the New Kingdom, under which Egyptian power peaked. His reign is usually dated to the mid-16th century BC.
Amenhotep I (/ˌæmɛnˈhoʊtɛp/) (Ancient Egyptian: jmn-ḥtp(w) /jaˌmanuwˈħatpaw/”Amun is satisfied”; Amarna cuneiform a-ma-an-ha-at-pe or -at-pa), Amenôthes I, or Amenophis I, (/əˈmɛnoʊfɪs/,) from Ancient Greek Ἀμένωφις, additionally King Djeserkere (transliteration: Ḏsr-k3-R`), was the second Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. His reign is generally dated from 1526 to 1506 BC. He was a son of Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari, but had at least two elder brothers, Ahmose-ankh and Ahmose Sapair, and was not expected to inherit the throne. However, sometime in the eight years between Ahmose I’s 17th regnal year and his death, his heir apparent died, and Amenhotep became crown prince. He then acceded to the throne and ruled for about 21 years. Although his reign is poorly documented, it is possible to piece together a basic history from the available evidence. He inherited the kingdom formed by his father’s military conquests and maintained dominance over Nubia and the Nile Delta but probably did not attempt to keep Egyptian power in the Levant. He continued the rebuilding of temples in Upper Egypt. He revolutionised mortuary complex design by separating his tomb from his mortuary temple, setting the trend in royal funerary monuments which would persist throughout the New Kingdom. After his death, he was deified as a patron god of Deir el-Medina.
Thutmose I (sometimes read as Thutmosis or Tuthmosis I, Thothmes in older history works in Latinized Greek; Ancient Egyptian: ḏḥwtj-ms, Tʼaḥawtī-mīsaw, pronounced [tʼaˈħawtij ˈmisˌaw], meaning “Thoth is born”) was the third pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. He received the throne after the previous king’s death, Amenhotep I. During his reign, he campaigned deep into the Levant and Nubia, pushing the borders of Egypt farther than ever before in each region. He also built many temples in Egypt and a tomb for himself in the Valley of the Kings; he is the first king confirmed to have done this (though Amenhotep I may have preceded him).
King Thutmose I’s reign is generally dated to 1506–1493 BC, but a minority of scholars—think that astrological observations used to calculate the timeline of ancient Egyptian records, and thus the reign of Thutmose I, were taken from the city of Memphis rather than from Thebes—would date his rule to 1526–1513 BC. He was succeeded by his son Thutmose II, who was succeeded by Thutmose II’s sister, Hatshepsut.
Thutmose II (sometimes read as Thutmosis or Tuthmosis II, Thothmes in older history works in Latinized Greek; Ancient Egyptian: /ḏḥwty.ms/ Djehutymes, meaning “Thoth is born”) was the fourth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. His reign is generally dated from 1493 to 1479 BC. His body was found in the Deir el-Bahri Cache above the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and can be viewed today in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in Cairo.
Hatshepsut (/hætˈʃɛpsʊt/; also Hatchepsut; Egyptian: ḥꜣt-špswt “Foremost of Noble Ladies”; c. 1507–1458 BC) was the fifth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second historically confirmed female Pharaoh after Sobekneferu. Various other women may have also ruled as pharaohs or at least regents before Hatshepsut, as early as Neithhotep around 1,600 years prior.
Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC. As the principal wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut initially ruled as regent to Thutmose III, a son of Thutmose II, by another wife and the first male heir. While Thutmose III inherited the throne at about two years old, Hatshepsut continued to rule by asserting her lineage as the daughter and only child of Thutmose I and his primary wife, Ahmose.
Her husband, Thutmose II, was the son of Thutmose I and a secondary wife named Mutnofret, who carried the title ‘King’s daughter’ and was probably a child of Ahmose I. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter named Neferure. With Iset, a secondary wife, Thutmose II would father Thutmose III, who would succeed Hatshepsut as Pharaoh.
Thutmose III (variously also spelt Tuthmosis or Thothmes), sometimes called Thutmose the Great, was the sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Officially, Thutmose III ruled Egypt for almost 54 years, and his reign is usually dated from 28 April 1479 BC to 11 March 1425 BC, from the age of two until his death at age fifty-six. However, during the first 22 years of his reign, he was coregent with his stepmother and aunt, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh. While he was shown first on surviving monuments, both were assigned the usual royal names and insignia, and neither was given any apparent seniority over the other. Thutmose served as the head of Hatshepsut’s armies. During the final two years of his reign, he appointed his son and successor, Amenhotep II, as his junior coregent. His firstborn son and heir to the throne, Amenemhat, predeceased Thutmose III. He would become one of the most powerful pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty.
Becoming the sole ruling pharaoh of the kingdom after the deaths of Thutmose II and Hatshepsut, he created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen; no fewer than 17 campaigns were conducted, and he conquered lands from Syria to Upper Nubia.
When Thutmose III died, he was buried in the Valley of the Kings, like the rest of the kings from this period in Egypt.
Amenhotep II (sometimes called Amenophis II and meaning ‘Amun is Satisfied’) was the seventh Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Amenhotep inherited a vast kingdom from his father, Thutmose III, and held it using a few military campaigns in Syria; however, he fought much less than his father, and his reign saw the effective cessation of hostilities between Egypt and Mitanni, the mighty kingdoms vying for power in Syria. His dominion is usually dated from 1427 to 1401 BC. His consort was Tiaa, who was barred from any prestige until Amenhotep’s son, Thutmose IV, came into power.
Thutmose IV (sometimes read as Thutmosis or Tuthmosis IV, Thothmes in older history works in Latinized Greek; Ancient Egyptian: ḏḥwti.msi(.w) “Thoth is born”) was the 8th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, who ruled in approximately the 14th century BC. His prenomen or royal name, Menkheperure, means “Established in forms is Re.” He was the son of Amenhotep II and Tiaa.
Amenhotep III (Ancient Egyptian: jmn-ḥtp(.w), Amānəḥūtpū pronounced [ʔaˈmaːnəʔ ˈħutpu], “Amun is Satisfied”; Hellenized as Amenophis III), also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent or Amenhotep the Great, was the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. According to different authors, he ruled Egypt from June 1386 to 1349 BC, or from June 1388 BC to December 1351 BC/1350 BC, after his father Thutmose IV died. Amenhotep was Thutmose’s son by a minor wife, Mutemwiya.
His reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity and splendour when Egypt reached the peak of its artistic and international power. When he died in the 38th or 39th year of his reign, he was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, who later changed his name to Akhenaten.
Akhenaten (pronounced /ˌækəˈnɑːtən/), also spelt Echnaton, Akhenaton, (Ancient Egyptian: ꜣḫ-n-jtn ʾŪḫə-nə-yātəy, pronounced [ˈʔuːχəʔ nə ˈjaːtəj], meaning “Effective for the Aten”), was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh reigning c. 1353–1336 or 1351–1334 BC, the tenth ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Before the fifth year of his reign, he was known as Amenhotep IV (Ancient Egyptian: jmn-ḥtp, meaning “Amun is satisfied”, Hellenized as Amenophis IV).
The views of Egyptologists differ as to whether the religious policy was monotheistic or monolatry, syncretistic, or henotheistic. As a pharaoh, Akhenaten is noted for abandoning Egypt’s traditional polytheism and introducing Atenism, or worship centred around Aten. This culture shift away from conventional religion was reversed after his death. Akhenaten’s monuments were dismantled and hidden, his statues were destroyed, and his name was excluded from lists of rulers compiled by later pharaohs. Traditional religious practice was gradually restored, notably under his close successor Tutankhamun, who changed his name from Tutankhaten early in his reign. When some dozen years later, rulers without clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors. They referred to Akhenaten as “the enemy” or “that criminal” in archival records.
Akhenaten was lost to history until the late-19th-century discovery of Amarna, or Akhetaten, the new capital city he built to worship Aten. Furthermore, in 1907, a mummy that could be Akhenaten’s was unearthed from the tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kings by Edward R. Ayrton. Genetic testing has determined that the man buried in KV55 was Tutankhamun’s father, but its identification as Akhenaten has since been questioned.
Akhenaten’s rediscovery and Flinders Petrie’s early excavations at Amarna sparked great public interest in the pharaoh and his queen Nefertiti. Public and scholarly fascination with Akhenaten comes from his connection with Tutankhamun, the unique style and high quality of the pictorial arts he patronised, and the religion he attempted to establish, foreshadowing monotheism. He has been described as “enigmatic”, “mysterious”, “revolutionary”, “the greatest idealist of the world”, and “the first individual in history”, but also as a “heretic”, “fanatic”, “possibly insane”, and “mad”.
Smenkhkare (alternatively romanised Smenkhare, Smenkare, or Smenkhkara; meaning “‘Vigorous is the Soul of Re”) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of unknown background who lived and ruled during the Amarna Period of the 18th Dynasty. Smenkhkare was husband to Meritaten, the daughter of his likely coregent, Akhenaten. Very little is known of Smenkhkare because later kings sought to erase the Amarna Period from history. Because of this, perhaps no one from the Amarna Interlude has been the subject of so much speculation as Smenkhkare.
Ankhkheperure-Merit-Neferkheperure/Waenre/Aten Neferneferuaten (Ancient Egyptian: nfr-nfrw-jtn) was a name used to refer to a female pharaoh who reigned toward the end of the Amarna Period during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Her gender is confirmed by feminine traces occasionally found in the name and by the epithet Akhet-en-hyes (“Effective for her husband”), incorporated into one version of her nomen (birth name) cartouche. She is distinguished from King Smenkhkare, who used the same throne name, Ankhkheperure, by the presence of epithets in both cartouches. She is suggested to have been either Meritaten or, more likely, Nefertiti. If this person is Nefertiti ruling as sole pharaoh, it has been theorised by Egyptologist and archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass that her reign was marked by the fall of Amarna and relocation of the capital back to the traditional city of Thebes.
Tutankhamun (/ˌtuːtənkɑːˈmuːn/, Ancient Egyptian: twt-ꜥnḫ-jmn), Egyptological pronunciation Tutankhamen (/ˌtuːtənˈkɑːmɛn/) (c. 1341 – c. 1323 BC), commonly referred to as King Tut, was an Egyptian pharaoh who was the last of his royal family to rule during the end of the 18th Dynasty (ruled c. 1332 – 1323 BC in the conventional chronology) during the New Kingdom of Egyptian history. His father is believed to be the pharaoh Akhenaten, identified as the mummy found in the tomb KV55. His mother is his father’s sister, identified through DNA testing as an unknown mummy referred to as “The Younger Lady” who was found in KV35.
Tutankhamun took the throne at eight or nine years of age under the unprecedented viziership of his eventual successor, Ay, to whom he may have been related. He married his paternal half-sister Ankhesenamun. During their marriage, they lost two daughters, one at 5–6 months of pregnancy and the other shortly after birth at full-term. His names—Tutankhaten and Tutankhamun—are thought to mean “Living image of Aten” and “Living image of Amun”, with Aten replaced by Amun after Akhenaten’s death. Many Egyptologists, including Battiscombe Gunn, believe the translation may be incorrect and closer to “The-life-of-Aten-is-pleasing” or, as Professor Gerhard Fecht believes, reads, “One-perfect-of-life-is-Aten”.
Tutankhamun restored the Ancient Egyptian religion after its dissolution by his father, enriched and endowed the priestly orders of two important cults and began restoring old monuments damaged during the previous Amarna period. He reburied his father’s remains in the Valley of the Kings and relocated the capital from Akhetaten back to Thebes. Tutankhamun was physically disabled with a deformity of his left foot along with bone necrosis that required the use of a cane, several of which were found in his tomb. He had other health issues, including scoliosis and had contracted several strains of malaria.
The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb, in excavations funded by Lord Carnarvon, received worldwide press coverage. With over 5,000 artefacts, it sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun’s mask, now in the Egyptian Museum, remains a famous symbol. The deaths of a few involved in the discovery of Tutankhamun’s mummy have been attributed to the curse of the pharaohs. Some of his treasure has travelled worldwide with an unprecedented response; the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities allowed tours beginning in 1961. Since discovering his intact tomb, he has been referred to colloquially as “King Tut”.
Ay was the penultimate Pharaoh of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. He held the throne of Egypt for a brief four-year period in the late 14th century BC. Before his rule, he was a close advisor to two or three other pharaohs of the Dynasty. It is theorised that he was the power behind the throne during Tutankhamun’s reign. His prenomen Kheperkheperure means “Everlasting are the Manifestations of Ra,” while his nomen Ay it-netjer reads as “Ay, Father of the God.” Records and monuments attributed to Ay are rare, both because his reign was short and because his successor, Horemheb, instigated a campaign of damnatio memoriae against him and the other pharaohs associated with the unpopular Amarna Period.
Horemheb, also spelt Horemhab or Haremhab (Ancient Egyptian: ḥr-m-ḥb, meaning “Horus is in Jubilation”), was the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt (1550–1295 BC). He ruled for at least 14 years between 1319 BC and 1292 BC. He had no relation to the preceding royal family other than by marriage to Mutnedjmet, who is thought (though disputed) to have been the daughter of his predecessor Ay; he is believed to have been of common birth.
Before he became pharaoh, Horemheb was the commander in chief of the Army under the reigns of Tutankhamun and Ay. Due to this, he is considered the ruler who restabilised his country after the troublesome and divisive Amarna Period. After he acceded to the throne, he reformed the Egyptian state, and it was under his control that official action against the preceding Amarna rulers began.
Horemheb demolished monuments of Akhenaten, reusing the rubble in his building projects, and usurped monuments of Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb presumably had no surviving sons, as he appointed his vizier Paramesse as his successor, who would assume the throne as Ramesses I.