Ramesses III and The Great Harim Conspiracy – Part I

Recent articles on the net have been discussing the throat-slitting of pharaoh Ramessess III (1185-1154 BC).  In this blog, we will look at the harim conspiracy that surrounded not only his death – but  also the deaths  and punishments of those who were involved in the conspiracy to eliminate him.

The gods horus and seth crowning Ramesses III.  Source - ancientegypt.org

The gods horus and seth crowning Ramesses III. Source – ancientegypt.org

Background:

Following over three decades of warfare against the so-called Sea People, who attacked Egypt from the north, together with the massive building enterprise at Medinet Habu, on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes,  Ramesses III was assassinated.  The records that recount both his assassination and the following trials are contained in the papyri Lee and Rollin, the papyrus Rifaud, and the Turin ‘Judicial Papyrus.’

See also -

http://www.pharaon-magazine.com/actualites/ramses-iii/la-conspiration-du-harem

http://books.google.bi/books?id=ivOPBE6PCxcC&pg=PA188&lpg=PA188&dq=papyrus+rifaud&source=bl&ots=Tj7b4LGoVF&sig=6t2wcwiU4tCU8Ir9aiFzxxgiLZc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YaNfU-PjJ5Ou7AbD0YGoCA&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=papyrus%20rifaud&f=false

Medinet Habu is located on the west bank of the Nile, across from Thebes.  Source - odysseyadventures.com

Medinet Habu is located on the west bank of the Nile, across from Thebes. Source – odysseyadventures.com

In 2008 an examination of the mummies of Ramesses III and of the so-called Screaming Mummy, found in proximity to Ramesses III, was conducted.  A slash wound in the neck of the mummy of Ramesses III was discovered and it was decided that further exams were needed – as explained here. 

Results of the most recent exam of the two mummies are found here: Revisiting the harem conspiracy and death of Ramesses III: anthropological, forensic, radiological, and genetic study

Ramesses III, Cairo Museum.  Source: osoris.com

Ramesses III, Cairo Museum. Source: osoris.com

These results suggest that the Pharaoh was indeed killed by his throat being cut while, based on DNA analysis, the so-called ‘Screaming Mummy’ could well be Pentawere, his son who was seeking the throne. in conjunction with a palace coup in which his mother , Tiy (Tye), played a leading role.

The so-called Screaming Mummy - possibly Prince  Pentewere, the son of Ramesses III who may have been implicated in the killing of his father.  Source - NatGeo

The so-called Screaming Mummy – possibly Prince Pentawere, the son of Ramesses III who may have been implicated in the killing of his father. Method of killing as a result of his actions would  have resulted in his physical attitude. Source – NatGeo

Found embedded in the slash wound of Ramesses III was an Eye of Horus scarab, that would have been placed there to help assure passage of the pharaoh into the next world.

Eye of Horus amulet embedded in the neck wound.  Source: livescience.com

Eye of Horus amulet embedded in the neck wound. Source: livescience.com

Eye of Horus, Ptolemaic era (305-30 BC).  Source - flikr

Eye of Horus, Ptolemaic era (305-30 BC). Source – flikr

The papyri containing records of this event have, for over a century, been the source of continued debate.  Their translation is not always straight forward and various interpretations of the trials have therefore been put forward.  Was this merely a tale, told by his son and chosen successor Ramesses IV, or was it an actual recounting of events?  Had Ramesses III been killed outright, and the trials thereafter organized by Ramesses IV, or had he lived long enough to orchestrate these events? As noted by Adrien de Buck in his 1937 translation of the event:

de Buck - 1

de Buck - 2Source: A. de Buck – The Judicial Papyrus of TurinJournal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 23(1), 1937.

The Papyri:

In the following translation I am using the compilation and glosses of Reshafim (reference below).  Glosses are in this color.  Note that in the Turin Papyrus, before the name of each  accused person, is written “The great criminal…”, and following his trial is written “they found him guilty, and they brought his punishment upon him” (or similar), thus adding an ominous tone to the document.

Records of the Harem Conspiracy against Ramses III contained in The Judicial Turin Papyrus, Rollin Papyrus and Lee Papyrus http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/index.html

 The Judicial Turin Papyrus
 
… Ruler of Heliopolis …….. t[he] wh[ole] land ………
the whole land …….. their cattle …….. to bring them
……. 6 all ….. before them …… for them; the … are … …..
people saying …….. they are the abhorred of the land.
 
I commission:
 
The overseer of the White House, Mentemtowe;
The overseer of the White House, Pefroi,
The standard-bearer, Kara,
The butler, Pebes,
The butler, Kedendenna;
The butler, Maharbaal;
The butler, Payernu;
The butler, Thutrekhnefer;
The king’s-herald, Penrenut;
The scribe, Mai;
The scribe of the archives, Peremhab;
The standard-bearer of the infantry, Hori; saying:
 
I commission: De Buck used the Past Tense: I commissioned.  There has been continued debate as to whether Ramesses III lived (long enough) to organize the trials, or whether he was killed during the coup and it was his son, Ramesses IV, who organized them.
 
White House: the treasury
 
Maharbaal: According to his Semitic name, an Asiatic. cf. The people of ancient Egypt. Asiatics were often freed slaves or the descendants of slaves.
 
As for the words which the people have spoken, I know
them not. Go ye and examine them. When they go out,
and they examine them, they shall cause to die by their
own hand, those who should die, without [my] knowing
it. They shall execute the punishment [upon] the others,
likewise without my knowing it. When [ye] [go] [see to
it] that ye give heed, and have a care lest ye execute
punishment upon …… unjustly …….. Now, I say to you in
very truth, as for all that has been done, and those who
have done it, let all that they have done fall upon their
(own) heads; while I am protected and defended
forever, while I am [among] the just kings, who are
before Amon-Re, king of gods, and before Osiris, ruler
of eternity.”
 
When they go out…: According to Breasted it should read: When ye go out etc.
 
de Buck on the other hand accepts the text as it stands and translates it as a narration: And they went and examined them, and they caused to die by their own hands those whom they caused (so) to die, though I do not know [wh]o, [and they] also punished [the] others, though I do not know who.
 
Now, I say to you in very truth: According to de Buck the king exhorted his officials time and again not to convict wrongfully: Thus I spoke to them again and again.
 
Persons brought in because of the great crimes which
they had committed, and placed in the court of
examination before the great nobles of the court of
examination, that they might be examined by:
 
The overseer of the White House, Mentemtowe;
The overseer of the White House, Pefroi;
The standard-bearer, Kara;
The butler, Pebes;
The scribe of the archives, Mai,
The standard-bearer, Hori.
 
They examined them; they found them guilty; they
brought their punishment upon them; their crimes
seized them.
 
White House: The Treasury
 
The great criminal, Pebekkamen, formerly chief of the
chamber.
He was brought in because of his collusion with Tiy and
the women of the harem. He made common cause with
them, and began bringing out their words to their
mothers and their brothers who were there, saying:
“Stir up the people! Incite enemies to hostility against
their lord.” He was placed before the great nobles of
the court of examination; they examined his crimes;
they found that he had committed them. His crimes seized
him; the nobles who examined him brought his
judgment upon him.
 
Tyi – a secondary wife of Ramesses III and mother of Pentewere, a secondary prince who those organizing the coup wanted to see elevated to the throne in place of Ramesses IV, who had been chosen by his father.
 
The great criminal,  Mesedsure, formerly butler.
He was brought in because of his collusion [with]
Pebekkamen, formerly chief of the chamber, and with
the women to stir up enemies to hostilities against their
lord. He was placed before the great nobles of the court
of examination; they examined his crimes; they found
im guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
Mesedsure: a pseudonym meaning “Re hates him”
 
The great criminal, Peynok, formerly overseer of the
king’s [...] of the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of his making common
cause with Pebekkamen and Mesedsure, to commit
hostility against their lord. He was placed before the
great nobles of the court of examination; they examined
his crimes; they found him guilty;
 
Mesedsure: a pseudonym meaning “Re hates him”
 
in the suite: while following. Part of the harem accompanied the king when he was travelling through Egypt.
 
The great criminal, Pendua, formerly scribe of the
king’s [...] of the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of his making common
cause with Pebekkamen and Mesedsure, the other
criminal, formerly overseer of the king’s [...] and the
women of the harem, to make a conspiracy with them,
to commit hostility against their lord. He was placed
before the nobles of the court of examination; they
examined his crimes; they found him guilty; they
brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Petewnteamon, formerly inspector
of the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of his hearing the words
which the people discussed with the women of the
harem, without reporting them. He was placed before
the great nobles of the court of examination; they
examined his crimes; they found him guilty; they
brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Kerpes, formerly inspector of the
harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of the words which he had
heard and had concealed. He was placed before the
nobles of the court of examination. They found him
guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Khamopet, formerly inspector of the
harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of the words which he had
heard and had concealed. He was placed before the
nobles of the court of examination. They found him
guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Khammale, formerly inspector of
the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of the words which he had
heard and had concealed. He was placed before the
nobles of the court of examination; they found him
guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Setimperthoth, formerly inspector of
the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of the words which he had
heard and had concealed. He was placed before the
nobles of the court of examination; they found him
guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Setimperamon, formerly inspector
of the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of the words which he had
heard and had concealed. He was placed before the
nobles of the court of examination; they found him
guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Weren, who was butler.
He was brought in because of his hearing the words
from the chief of the chamber, and when he had
[withdrawn from] him, he concealed them and did not
report them. He was placed before the nobles of the
court of examination; they found him guilty; they
brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Eshehebsed, formerly assistant of
Pebekkamen.
He was brought in because of his hearing the words
from Pebekkamen; and when he had left him, he did not
report them. He was placed before the nobles of the
court of examination; they found him guilty; they
brought his punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Peluka, formerly butler and scribe
of the White House.
He was brought in because of his collusion with
Pebekkamen, having heard the words from him, without
reporting them. He was placed before the nobles of the
court of examination; they found him guilty; they
brought his punishment upon him.
 
Peluka: the Lycian. The Luka were one of the Sea Peoples, who invaded Egypt from the western Delta.
 
The great criminal, the Libyan, Yenini, formerly butler.
He was brought in because of his collusion with
Pebekkamen, having heard the words from him, without
reporting them. He was placed before the nobles of the
court of examination; they found him guilty; they
brought his punishment upon him.
 
Wives of the people of the harem-gate, who united with
the men, when the things were discussed; who were
placed before the nobles of the court of examination;
they found them guilty; they brought their punishment
upon them: six women.
 
The great criminal, Pere, son of Ruma, formerly
overseer of the White House.
He was brought in because of his collusion with the
great criminal, Penhuibin, making common cause with
him to stir up enemies to hostility against their lord. He
was placed before the nobles of the court of
examination; they found him guilty; they brought his
punishment upon him.
 
The great criminal, Binemwese  formerly captain of
archers in Nubia.
He was brought in because of the letter, which his
sister, who was in the harem, [in the suite], had written
to him, saying: “Incite the people to hostility! And come
thou to begin hostility against thy lord.” He was placed
before Kedendenna, Maharbaal, Pirsun, and
Thutrekhnefer; they examined him; they found him
guilty; they brought his punishment upon him.
 
Binemwese: a pseudonym, meaning “Wicked in Thebes”
 
Persons brought in because of their crimes and because
of their collusion with Pebekkamen, Peyes, and
Pentewere.
They were placed before the nobles of the court of
examination in order to examine them; they found them
guilty; they left them in their own hands in the court of
examination; they took their own lives; and no
punishment was executed upon them.
 
they left them in their own hands: The judges left the criminals to execute their own punishment
 
The great criminal, Peyes, formerly commander of the
army.
The great criminal, Messui, formerly scribe of the house
of sacred writings.
The great criminal, Perekamenef, formerly chief.
The great criminal, Iroi, formerly overseer of the [...] of
Sekhmet.
The great criminal, Nebzefai, formerly butler.
The great criminal, Shedmeszer, formerly scribe of the
house of sacred writings.
Total, 6.
 
Collusion, or the knowledge of a crime about to be committed without reporting it to the authorities was considered a lesser crime, and the accused were allowed to take their own lives.
 
Persons who were brought in, because of their crimes,
to the court of examination, before Kedendemia,
Maharbaal, Pirsun, Thutrekhnefer, and Mertusamon.
They examined them concerning their crimes; they
found them guilty; they left them in their place; they
took their own lives.
 
Pentawere, who bore that other name.
He was brought in because of his collusion [with] Tiy,
his mother, when she discussed the words with the
women of the harem, being hostile against his lord. He
was placed before the butlers, in order to examine him;
they found him guilty; they left him in his place; he took
his own life.
 
Pentawere, a secondary son of Ramesses III, who was being supported in the coup to become pharaoh in place of Ramesses IV.  His mother, Tiy, being implicated in leading the coup on the part of her son from within the harim.
 
he took his own life: based on the results of the most recent physical exams, Pentewere may well be the so-called ‘screaming mummy’, who (rather than suicide) may have been killed by hanging.  As well, his mummy was wrapped in a goatskin and not traditionally mummified, which could have been part of his punishment.
 
The mummy that might have been Ramesses III's son, Pentewere.  Arrows indicate stretch marks which may indicate hanging.  Source: BMJ livescience.com

The mummy that might have been Ramesses III’s son, Pentawere. Arrows indicate stretch marks that may have resulted from hanging. Source: BMJ livescience.com

The great criminal, Henutenamon, formerly butler.
He was brought in because of the crimes of the women
of the harem; having been among them, and having
heard (them), without reporting them. He was placed
before the butlers, in order to examine him; they found
him guilty, they left him in his place; he took his own
life.
 
The great criminal, Pere, formerly scribe of the king’s
[...] of the harem, [in the suite].
He was brought in because of the crimes of the women
of the harem; having been among them, and having
heard (them), without reporting them. He was placed
before the butlers, in order to examine him; they found
him guilty; they left him in his place; he took his own
life.
 
Persons upon whom punishment was executed by
cutting off their noses and their ears, because of their
forsaking the good testimony delivered to them. The
women had gone; had arrived at their place of abode,
and had there caroused with them and with Peyes.
Their crime seized them.
 
This great criminal, Pebes, formerly butler.
This punishment was executed upon him; he was left
(alone); he took his own life.
The great criminal, Mai, formerly scribe of the
archives.
The great criminal, Teynakhte, formerly officer of
infantry.
The great criminal, Oneney, formerly captain of police.
 
This seems to have been an attempt by Peyes (former commander of the army and leading protagonist in the coup) and women in the harem to pervert the course of justice. Mai and Pebes had been appointed members of the court trying the conspirators. The officers, Teynakhte and Oneney, may have been in charge of the prisoners and let them out to visit the judges.
 
cutting off their noses and their ears: a shameful mark, at times in conjunction with deportation
 
the good testimony: the king’s instructions 
 
at their place of abode: at the place of abode of the accused caroused: lit. made a beer-hall.
 
Person who had been connected with them; they had
contended with him, with evil and violent words; he was
dismissed; punishment was not executed upon him:
The great criminal, Hori, who was standard-bearer of
the infantry.
 
Hori too may have been one of the judges. In this record he is called Xrw, meaning fallen or miserable,  rendered as great criminal by Breasted, despite being found innocent. This may be indicative of a principle of presumed guilt.
 

The construction of this document, by which the secondary queen Tye, her son Pentwere, and their associates are discovered and condemned, suggests to me that the trials were organized and conducted under the reign of Ramesses IV, the chosen successor of his deceased father. Hence, the document serves to exonerate Ramesses IV and casting him as somewhat of a victim – but a victim who finally persevered.  Just how, we may never know.

Accounts of the event that treat magical aspects of the assassination attempt, found in the Papyri Rollin and Lee, will be discussed in the next blog on this subject.

Red granite sarcophagus of Ramses III. Goddess...

Red granite sarcophagus of Ramses III. Goddess Nephthys seated on the Egyptian language hieroglyph for gold. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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About diana buja

A recent group photo at a training course for veterinarians and vet technicians here in Burundi. I discuss in French with some Kirundi and have also a Kirundi translator to help with technical aspects ... Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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One Response to Ramesses III and The Great Harim Conspiracy – Part I

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