Nectanebo I

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Kheperkare Nakhtnebef, better known with his hellenized name Nectanebo I, was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, founder of the last native dynasty of Egypt, the thirtieth.


Accession and family[edit]

Nectanebo was an army general from Sebennytos, son of an important military officer named Teos (hellenization of the Egyptian name Djedhor). A stele found at Hermopolis[4] provides clues that he came to power by overthrowing – and possibly putting to death – the last pharaoh of the 29th Dynasty Nepherites II.[5] It has been suggested that Nectanebo was assisted in the coup by the valent Athenian general Chabrias. Nectanebo fulfilled the coronation ceremony in c. 379/8 BCE in both Sais and Memphis,[6] and shifted the capital from Mendes to Sebennytos.[7]

The relationships between Nectanebo and the pharaohs of the previous dynasty are not entirely clear. He had scarce consideration of both Nepherites II and his father Achoris, calling the former an inept and the latter an usurper,[8][9] while he seems to had a higher regard of Nepherites I; this king was sometimes even considered Nectanebo's father or grandfather, but is now believed that it was due to a misinterpretation of the Demotic Chronicle.[5] However, it has been suggested that both Achoris and Nectanebo may have been Nepherites I's relatives in some way.[9]

Nectanebo had two known sons: Teos, who was his appointed successor, and Tjahapimu.[5]

Activities in Egypt[edit]

Vestibule of the Temple of Isis at Philae

Nectanebo was a great builder and restorer, in an extent not seen in Egypt since centuries:[8] he ordered works practically in all the temples of the country.[10]

On the sacred island of Philae near Aswan, he began the temple of Isis – which would become one of the most important religious sites in ancient Egypt – by erecting its vestibule.[10][11] Nectanebo also begun the First Pylon in the Precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak, and it is believed that the earliest known mammisi, which was found at Dendera, was built by him.[11][12] The cult of sacred animals, which became prominent between the two Persian periods (the 27th and 31st dynasties respectively), was supported by Nectanebo as evidenced by archaeological findings at Hermopolis, Hermopolis Parva, Saft el-Hinna and Mendes. Further works ordered by the king were found in religious buildings at Memphis, Tanis and El-Kab.[12][13]

First Pylon, Karnak

Nectanebo was also munificent with the clergy. A decree dated to his Year 1 and discovered on a stele at Naucratis, required that 10 percent of taxes collected both from import and from local productions in this city were intended to the temple of Neith at Sais.[14] A twin of this stele was recently discovered in the now-submerged city of Heracleion.[15] The aforementioned stele from Hermopolis, placed before a pylon of Ramesses II, list the donations made by Nectanebo to the local deities, and other benefits were also granted to the priesthood of Horus at Edfu.[14] Nectanebo's prodigality showed his devotion to the gods and at the same time boosted the national economy by financing the largest holders of richness of the country. The revenue of this economic operation was spent mainly in the national defense.[8]

Foreign relations[edit]

In 374/3 BCE Nectanebo had to face a Persian attempt to retake Egypt, which was still considered by the Achaemenid king Artaxerxes II nothing more than a rebel satrapy. After a six-year preparation and making pressure upon Athens in order to recall back in Greece general Chabrias,[16] Artaxerxes dispatched a great army led by the Athenian general Iphicrates and the Persian Pharnabazus, and composed of over 200,000 troops among Persian soldiers and Greek mercenaries and around 500 ships (triremes and triaconters). Fortifications of the Pelusiac branch ordered by Nectanebo forced the enemy fleet to search another way to sail up the Nile; eventually, the fleet managed to find its way up the less-defended Mendesian branch.[16] At this point, only the mutual distrust arisen between Iphicrates and Pharnabazus prevented the enemy from reaching Memphis: the providential, annual Nile flood and the defenders' regalvanization made the rest, turning what previously appeared as a certain defeat for Nectanebo I and for Egypt in a complete victory.[17]

Since 368 BCE many western satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire started to rebel against the Great King; Nectanebo supported economically the rebelling satraps and re-established ties with both Sparta and Athens.[12]


Nectanebo died during his Year 19 and his tomb, sarcophagus and mummy were never found. Toward the end of his reign in Year 16 (364/3 BCE), probably to remedy the dynastic problems that plagued his predecessors, Nectanebo restored the long-lost practice of the coregency, associating his son Teos to the throne. However, shortly after Teos' accession, his brother Tjahapimu betrayed him and managed to put his own son Nakhthorheb (Nectanebo II) on the Egyptian throne.[5]


  1. ^ Alan B. Lloyd, Egypt, 404-332 B.C. in The Cambridge Ancient History, volume VI: The Fourth Century B.C., 1994, ISBN 0 521 23348 8, p. 358
  2. ^ Leo Depuydt, Saite and Persian Egypt, 664 BC - 332 BC, in Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss and David A. Warburton (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Chronology, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2006, ISBN 978 90 04 11385 5, p. 270
  3. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath, Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen (= Münchner ägyptologische Studien, vol 46), Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1999. ISBN 3-8053-2310-7, pp. 226–27.
  4. ^ Adolf Erman and Ulrich Wilcken, "Die Naukratisstele", Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 38 (1900), pp. 127–35
  5. ^ a b c d Lloyd, op. cit., pp. 340–41
  6. ^ Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford, Blackwell Books, 1992, p. 372
  7. ^ Toby Wilkinson, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, Bloomsbury, London, 2010, p. 458
  8. ^ a b c Wilkinson, op. cit., pp. 456–57
  9. ^ a b Grimal, op. cit., p. 373
  10. ^ a b Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994. p. 203
  11. ^ a b Lloyd, op. cit., p. 353
  12. ^ a b c Grimal, op. cit., p. 377
  13. ^ Lloyd, op. cit., p. 354
  14. ^ a b Lloyd, op. cit., p. 343
  15. ^ Jean Yoyotte, "An Extraordinary Pair of Twins: The Steles of the Pharaoh Nektanebo I," in F. Goddio and M. Clauss (eds.), Egypt's Sunken Treasures, Munich, 2006, pp. 316–23
  16. ^ a b Grimal, op. cit., pp. 375–76
  17. ^ Lloyd, op. cit., p. 348

Further reading[edit]

  • Herman de Meulenaere, La famille royale des Nectanébo, Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 90 (1963), pp. 90–93.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Nepherites II
Pharaoh of Egypt Succeeded by