Saré Mentuhotep, the founder of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom

4,000 years ago, Mentuhotep II got Egypt out of a protracted commotion and restored the integrity of the country which civilized humankind.

Saré Mentuhotep (Mentuhotep II), wearing the crown of Lower Egypt (north). He had already conquered the whole country.

2152 BC. Saré Pepi (Pepi II) passed away. The Pharaoh left behind a plethora of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that conspiratorially fought over the throne. The royal family collapsed into chaos. Female Pharaoh Siptah Neith Iqereti later took over the power, but did not succeed in mitigating the consequences of the destructive conspiracy.

During the record-breaking period of Pepi II’s reign – 64 to 94 years – the chiefs of provinces became more and more independent and powerful, against the long standing and less dynamic power of the very old king. They were taking advantage of their dominating position everywhere with their entourage to get wealthier; thus exacerbating social inequalities. As for the Bedouins – ancestors of the Arabs – they attacked the north of the country.

The tradition, according to which only the Pharaoh can access heaven through his Ka (energy), when he dies, was not welcomed by the lower classes who were perceiving it as an inequality before Imana (God). The low water level of the Nile also led to insufficient harvest. That was the final straw.

Hunger, economic and religious inequalities, the war against the Bedouins, the fall of the royal family all contributed to a popular uprising. Egypt imploded. That was the Osirian revolution, the first in history. That is how the Ancient Kingdom became extinct.

The accounts of that riot are appealing as they report insecurity, violence and disintegration. Hunger spread. The rich were dispossessed and thrown out to the streets. Public buildings were ransacked. Everything was looted and robbers were prowling everywhere. A relative respite ended up coming back. Economic activities restarted but the central power did not exist anymore.

Egypt became a set of several independent provinces ruled by local kings called nomarchs who were tirelessly uniting then separating and going to war against each other. The normarch of Waset in the south, Saré Mentuhotep, was the one who put an end to what history calls the First Intermediate Period, and reunified Egypt.

Mentuhotep, wearing the Upper Egypt crown (south), at war to reunify the country

Son of Queen Yah and King Antef III, Mentuhotep became a sovereign when he was very young. His predecessors had already conquered territories beyond Waset (Thebes). In the north, an opposing power, which was also African, was formed and based in Nekhen city. Nekhen and Waset were in constant conflict and dragged the country into a civil war. The tensions of that period were reflected on the King who was named after Mentu/Montu, which is God’s manifestation in charge of war and protector of the Armies.

Mery Ib Râ Khety, King of Nekhen conquered the holy city of Abdjut (Abydos) and was approaching Waset. Saré Mentuhotep retaliated. The King took over Abdjut and sent his troops to Satju, ally of Nekhen. Khety took refuge in Nekhen. After 15 years of a never-ending battle, Nekhen finally fell and the whole north paid allegiance to the power of Waset. Mentuhotep became the sole master of the country. The Pharaoh brought the provinces’ administration to heel.

This is how the First Intermediate Period ended after 130 years. Egypt got out of disorder and resumed the course of its history. This was the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. The sovereign was named Sematawy which means (the one who unifies) both Lands.

The permanent state of war, during which the Middle Kingdom appeared, is at the origin of these famous miniature sculptures of Egyptian soldiers which certainly date back to Mentuhotep’s reign
Nubian soldiers of the Egyptian Army during the Pharaoh’s reign

Motivated by the Pharaohs’ everlasting ambition to integrate the ancestral land of Sudan to the Egyptian Empire, the King also fought against the Nubians and partly conquered the territory. He definitively quashed the Bedouins in Sinai and submitted Canaan in the Middle-East and took over part of Libya. Mentuhotep had mines and stone quarries opened. He constructed all along the Nile and reopened trade roads. The Egyptian Empire was born again, prosperous.

Waset (Thebes), the King’s city became the capital city and will last from that period as the single most holy, the most precious, the most venerated and the most important city in the whole African history.

By doing away with modest funeral constructions of the Intermediate Period, the sovereign marked the renaissance with the erection of a grand temple for his worship as a divine ancestor.

Reconstruction of Mentuhotep’s temple in Der El Bahari
Der El Bahari site
Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s temple in the front, which was built later is better preserved and draws attention whereas Mentuhotep’s temple is the second collapsed building.

After 52 years of reign including 12 as Pharaoh of the whole Egypt, Saré Mentuhotep Sematawy joined his ancestors when he was almost 60 years old. He left behind a unified, prosperous and peaceful country. The colossal legacy of this King, as black as God is, makes him one of the greatest Pharaohs in history


By : Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)


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