The Reign of Ahmose, the First King of the XVIIIth Dynasty

From the Lecture Series: History of Ancient Egypt

By Bob Brier Ph.D., Long Island University

Ancient Egypt witnessed a glorious period during the reign of Ahmose. This brave king had high regard for women and gave them positions of power. To implement his political and economic agendas, he established two capitals and used a simple army strategy to increase the wealth of the nation under his rule. Read on to know more about this great king.

The photograph shows statues of pharaohs, isolated on black background.
Ahmose was the ancient Egyptian king who made women of his age the most powerful among all the ancient kingdoms. (Image: FlavoredPixels/Shutterstock)

The Hyksos were a Semitic people who had seized control of the lower parts of Egypt in the 1700s BCE. Following the Theban revolt, Ahmose was able to drive these people out of Egyptian lands and regain control of the country after over a century of Hyksos rule.

Then he became the king by marrying the right woman and ultimately established the XVIIIth Dynasty in ancient Egypt. This dynasty later came to include renowned kings and queens, such as the Pharaoh Tutankhamen, Tuthmosis III, and Queen Hatshepsut.

Immediately after seizing the throne, Ahmose increased the use of a standing army to bring back tribute and increase the wealth of Egypt. Further, he established Thebes as a second capital in the south, beside Memphis in the north. He also gave great importance to women of ancient Egypt, starting with his mother and grandmother. During his rule, women in Egypt had a much higher position than in other empires.

Learn more about the rise of the Old Kingdom.

The Importance of Women

A relief of Hatshepsut's pregnant mother, Queen Ahmose.
Women could gain real power at the time of Ahmose, and he gave this power to them by building monuments in their honor and giving them important titles. (Image: Maciek67/Shutterstock)

Ahmose, son of Seqenenre, cared deeply for female empowerment and honored important women in his family. He built monuments for his mother and grandmother, and during his reign, made Egypt a country where women were respected and could thrive.

This was in contrast to Greece where a woman could not even inherit any wealth by herself, even if she was a queen. Normally, she would inherit through her brother. In Egypt, however, a woman could really become powerful. Ahmose gained the throne by marrying Ahmose-Nefertari and named his wife the ‘heiress’ and ‘the god’s wife’.

The god, in his wife’s title, referred to Amun, the hidden one. Being the wife of a hidden god meant the power of controlling all the temples in Egypt because the god himself was not around. The other title, ‘heiress’, meant she was the woman who made the king who he was. In ancient Egypt, a man could become the king by marrying ‘the right woman’.

This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Marrying the Right Woman

Egypt had no rule of kingship and its order. In fact, Egypt never had many written rules, and the divine order was the dominant rule. In terms of kingship, the eldest son of a king did not necessarily become the next king. He, or another man, had to marry the right woman, who was the woman with the most royal blood in her veins.

Usually, the right woman was the daughter of the king and the queen, and the person who married her became the next king. He did not need to be the son of a king himself. This is the theory of ‘heiress’, and most Egyptologists agree that it existed.

Other empires did not have such rules. In England, for example, there were strict written rules on who becomes the next king, and who the kings after him would be. Even the substitutes were all written down, and everything was already set. That was never the case in Egypt. However, the new kings in Egypt always had to show their power and expand their territories. That was not a written rule, but a fixed expectation.

Learn more about the end of the Old Kingdom.

Nubia, Where Rebels Lived

After driving the people of Hyksos out of Egyptian lands, Ahmose headed south to Nubia. He was accompanied by a strong military man called Ahmose, son of Ebana. He even put his autobiography on a wall and wrote about how they kicked out the Hyksos.

Nubia was famous for its bowmen, and according to Ahmose’s records on the walls of his tomb, many of them were killed in that expedition. Ahmose, son of Ebana, brought back two men and three hands as spoils of war.

Egyptians were always concerned with the number of casualties in a war. To make counting the victims of war easier, they would cut off the right hand of the dead enemies and put them all in the middle of the battlefield. Next, the military scribes would go through the pile of hands and count them to record the number.

Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with numbers and always strived to improve their accounting efficiently. Counting a pile of hands was more efficient and easier than walking around the field and counting dead bodies. However, like all humans, Ahmose’s life on earth ended one day.

Learn more about the Middle Kingdom-Dynasty XI.

The Tomb of Ahmose, Son of Ebana

On the stone of his tomb, Ahmose has recorded the above stories in the following words:

“Now, when his Majesty had slain the nomads of Asia [Hyksos], he sailed south to destroy the Nubian bowmen.”

The photograph shows massive columns inside Karnak Temple, Egypt.
The XVIIIth Dynasty became the most glorious of ancient Egypt, with two capitals and significant achievements of its first king, Ahmose. (Image: Bist/Shutterstock)

“His Majesty made great slaughter among them. I brought spoil from there.” This is where he emphasizes that he has also done well and deserved to be there and also on the next expeditions. There is a reason he did not retire so quickly as a military man.

“I brought spoil from there, two living men and three hands.” Here, he shows that he has killed three men himself. He continues with:

“Then, I was rewarded with gold once again, and two female slaves were given to me.”

With excessive military exploits, the power given to the women, and the brave king Ahmose, the XVIIIth Dynasty made a very strong start. That was one reason the whole dynasty had so many accomplishments and was so fruitful.

Common Questions about Ahmose, the First King of the XVIIIth Dynasty

Q: Did Ahmose value women?

Ahmose valued women so greatly that he built monuments to honor his mother and grandmother. Further, he gave two important titles to his wife: ‘the god’s wife’ and ‘heiress’.

Q: How did Ahmose become the king of Egypt?

Ahmose gained the throne by marrying Ahmose-Nefertari. Before getting married, he had successfully defeated the Hyksos and kicked them out of Egypt.

Q: Who did Ahmose marry?

Ahmose married Ahmose-Nefertari, and she was honored by valuable titles of ‘the god’s wife’ and ‘heiress’.

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