VI : Understanding The Royal Titulary
Ancient Egyptians used several words to denote their king.
In some cases, the exact meaning of a word referring to the
king or its relationship to other, similar words is not known.
most common word to refer to the king was , nsw, often abbreviated to .
Note the graphical, or perhaps honorific transposition of
the signs, whereby ,
sw, was moved to be the first sign of the group.
The word nsw is derived from nj-sw.t,
"the one who belongs to the sedge plant", with the
sedge plant as the heraldic symbol for Upper Egypt. This word
is therefore normally translated as "King of Upper Egypt",
although its context often favours the shorter translation
word often used together with nsw was , bi.tj,
"the one who belongs to the bee", where the nee
is normally taken as a reference to Lower Egypt. bi.tj
is thus translated as "King of Lower Egypt". Contrary
to nsw, however, bi.tj is only rarely
used in contexts where the shorter translation "King"
should be favoured.
combination of these two words results in nsw-bi.tj, "King
of Upper- and Lower-Egypt", or more literally "he
who belongs to Upper-Egypt (the sedge plant) and Lower-Egypt
(the bee)". This combination is part of the royal
titulary and will be discussed below. It can, in some contexts,
be translated simply as "King".
commonly refer to the kings of Ancient Egypt as "Pharaohs".
This was the word used by the Greeks and the Hebrews to denote
the rulers of the Nile-country. It is derived from the Egyptian pr aA, "the Great House",
a word originally meaning "palace" or "court".
From the end of the 12th Dynasty onwards the health wish "may
it live, prosper and be in health" was often added when
referring to "the Great House", but still it seems
to mean only the palace or the court.
The earliest certain instance where "the Great House"
actually refers to the king is in a letter to Amenhotep IV
(Akhenaten), which is addressed to "Pharaoh, may he live,
prosper and be in health, the Master".
From the 19th Dynasty onward pr aA is used occasionally
to refer to the King instead of the palace. We read "Pharaoh
did such and such".
The final development was when a proper name was added to
the title, as in "Pharaoh Hophra". The earliest
known Egyptian example of this use is under one of the Shoshenks
of the 22nd Dynasty.
words related to royalty, including the names of the Pharaohs,
could be followed by the auspicious wish-formula "may he (or she or it) live, prosper and be in health".
This could be carried to the extreme, where almost every word
referring to a king might be followed by this wish.
The Royal Titulary
oldest known part of the royal titulary is the Horus-name
, sometimes also called the banner-name or the Ka-name. It
represents the king as the earthly embodiment of the god Horus,
the divine prototype and patron of the Egyptian kings.
This name is ordinarily written within a rectangular frame,
at the bottom of which is seen a design of recessed panelling,
such as we find in the facades of early tombs and in the false
doors of many private tombs. The Ancient Egyptian name for
this facade was serekh. This name
is often used in modern texts as well when speaking of the
On the top of the serekh is perched the falcon of Horus, hence
the appellation "Horus-name". In more elaborate
New Kingdom examples Horus is wearing the double crown and
is accompanied by the sun and a uraeus.
In the Early-Dynastic Period, the perched falcon of Horus
was in fact part of the name of the king. Aha, for instance,
was actually called Horus-Aha, "Horus who fights".
name was not the birth name of the king, but it was given
to him when he ascended the throne. During the first three
dynasties it was the kings official name. His name of
birth would not appear in official documents. This has complicated
the identification of many early kings mentioned in the king
lists, where only the name of birth is mentioned.
Although it would continue to be used throughout the entire
Ancient Egyptian history, it lost its importance to the Prenomen
en nomen from the end of the Old Kingdom on.
Nebti-name shows the king in a special relation to two goddesses: the
vulture-goddess Nekhbet of the Upper Egyptian cities of Elkab
and Hierakonpolis and the cobra-goddess Uto of the Lower Egyptian
city Buto. Both goddesses are the deified personification
of Upper- and Lower-Egypt respectively, and as such, the Nebti-name
denotes the king as "the one of Nekhbet (Upper-Egypt)
and Uto (Lower-Egypt)", i.e. as the "one
belonging to Upper- and Lower-Egypt". It is often
translated as "Nebti" or "The Two Ladies".
1st Dynasty king Den is the first to have assumed this Nebti-name.
The use of this title by Den may perhaps indicate some governmental
reforms that may have occurred during this king's reign.
The "golden Horus name"
meaning of the third part of the royal titulary, the "golden
Horus name" , is more disputed. It represents the falcon god Horus
perched on a symbol that usually represents "gold".
Based on the Greek equivalent of this title on the Rosetta
Stone, which translates into English as "superior to
(his) foes", it has been proposed that the hieroglyphs
symbolised Horus as victorious over Seth, "the Ombite"
(another possible reading of the hieroglyph on which the falcon
is standing). This was, no doubt, the interpretation of Greek
times, when the opposition between Horus and Seth was much
more pronounced than in earlier times. For these earlier periods,
however, the evidence may point in another direction.
If the "golden Horus name" symbolised Horus
victory over his enemy Seth, one might expect that the names
following this group should be aggressive in nature, but most
of the time, those names are far from being bellicose.
In a context dealing with the titulary of Thutmosis III that
king says "he (Amun) modelled me as a falcon of
gold". Thutmosis IIIs co-regent Hatshepsut calls
herself "the female Horus of fine gold". The concept
of the golden falcon can be definitely traced back to the
11th Dynasty. An inscription of the 12th Dynasty describes
the golden Horus name as the "name of gold".
The notion of "gold" is strongly linked to the notion
of "eternity". The burial chamber in the royal tombs
of the New Kingdom was often called the "golden room",
not (only) because it was stacked up with gold, but because
it was there for eternity. The "golden Horus name"
may convey the same notion of eternity, expressing
the wish that the king may be an eternal Horus.
Prenomen is the name that follows the title "King
of Upper- and Lower-Egypt". The oldest known example
of this title is again dated to the reign of 1st Dynasty king
Den, when it was often combined with the Nebti-name, without
a distinct name added to it. It would take until the end of
the 3rd Dynasty before this title really came into use. It
would, eventually, replace the Horus-name as most important
official royal name.
The Prenomen itself almost always contained the name of the
god Re. Typical examples are "pleasing to the heart of
Re" (Amenemhat I) and "lord of the cosmic order
is Re" (Amenhotep III). One of the first cases of Re
as an element in a kings name is with Khephren of the
4th Dynasty (Khaf-Re).
The title "King of Upper- and Lower-Egypt" can sometimes
be followed by the phrase "the Lord of the Two Lands", which sometimes even
replaces it entirely. A queen can be called "the Mistress
of the Two Lands".
nomen is introduced by the epithet "son of Re". It was
added to the royal titulary in the beginning of the 4th Dynasty.
It was from that time on that the royal titulary became established
in the form discussed here.
The name following this title was, as a rule, the kings
name of birth. It is almost the equivalent of our family name,
for the 11th Dynasty affect the names Antef and Mentuhotep,
the 12th Dynasty the names Amenemhat and Sesostris, the 13th
Dynasty shows several kings of the name Sebekhotep and the
18th Dynasty consists almost entirely of ruler named Amenhotep
Sometimes, the phrase "the good god" is placed before the nomen
of the king, in addition to or in place of the "son of
Re". Another title sometimes placed between "son
of Re" and the actual nomen was
"lord of the apparitions", sometimes also translated
as "lord of the crowns". This title again confirms
the narrow link between the king and the sun: the kings
apparition on the throne is compared to the rising of the
sun on the Eastern horizon.
the later half of the Old Kingdom on, the principal name is
the Prenomen, and this is often found alone or accompanied
only by the nomen. The Horus-name would serve only rarely
for identification purposes.
Both Prenomen and nomen are almost invariably written within
"cartouches" or "royal rings".
The cartouche depicts a loop formed by a rope, the ends tied
together so as to offer to the spectator the appearance of
a straight line: . Strictly speaking
this loop should be round as it conveys the notions of "eternity"
and "encompassing the entire creation". It is elongated
and oval because of the length of the hieroglyphic names enclosed
in it. In transcription, it is a good practice to indicate
a cartouche by parenthesis: (ppy), Pepi.
Occasionally, one may find the name of a god or goddess in
a cartouche. This was especially the case for Osiris-Onnophris
and Isis in the temple inscriptions of the Greek-Roman Period.
were often followed by either a wish-formula such as "living
"bestowed with eternal life", or by a phrase
which relates the king to a particular deity, for instance
"beloved by Amun-Re". Note the honorific
transposition whereby the name of Amun-Re was moved to the
start of the phrase.
Some royal names
will now proceed with a list of prenomen and nomen of some
of the most popular kings. It is possible that you do not
know all the signs, but it should be possible to derive the
value of some unknown signs through the transcription that
is provided. It should be noted that for most, if not all
names provided here, there are several variants.
Khufu (Greek version: Cheops).
This name is an abbreviation for Xnmw-xw=f, "Khnum
is his protector".
Khafre (Greek version: Chefren).
This name means "Re appears".
Menkaure (Greek version: Mykerinos)
This name means "The Kas of Re remain". Note that
repeating a sign three times indicates a plural, which,
in transcription is rendered as .w.
nsw-bi.tj (nfr-ir-kA-ra) sA ra (kAkAi)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neferirkare), the son
of Re (Kakai).
Neferirkare means "It is good what the Ka of Re has
done". Kakai is probably the king's personal name.
Neferirkare is the oldest known king to have had a prenomen
and a nomen.
nsw-bi.tj (mry-ra) sA ra (ppj)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Merire), the son of Re
Merire means "Beloved of Re".
nsw-bi.tj (nfr-kA-ra) sA ra (ppj)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neferkare), the son of
Neferkare means "The Ka of Re is beautiful".
nsw-bi.tj (nb-xrw-ra) sA ra (mnTw-Htp)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Nebkherure), the son
of Re (Mentuhotep)
Nebkherure means "Re is the master of the voice".
Mentuhotep means "(the war-god) Mentu is at peace".
nsw-bi.tj (sHtp-ib-ra) sA ra (imn-m-HA.t)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Sehetepibre), the son
of Re (Amenemhat)
Sehetepibre means "The one who appeases the heart of
Re". Amenemhat means "Amun is the foremost".
nsw-bi.tj (xpr-kA-ra) sA ra (s-n-wsr.t)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Kheperkare), the son
of Re (Senuseret).
Kheperkare means "The Ka of Re has come into being".
Senuseret (Greek version: Sesostris) means "The man
of Useret". Useret is a reference to a goddess meaning
"the strong one". It is often assumed that Useret
refers to Hathor.
nsw-bi.tj (xa-kA.w-ra) sA ra (s-n-wsr.t)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Khakawre), the son of
Khakawre means "The Kas of Re have appeared".
nsw-bi.tj (n-mAa.t-ra) sA ra (imn-m-HA.t)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Nimaatre), the son of
Nimaatre means "The one who belongs to Maat is Re".
nsw-bi.tj (sqnn-ra) sA ra (tA-aA qn)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Seqenenre), the son of
Re (Taa the Valiant).
Seqenenre means "The one whom Re has made valiant".
nsw-bi.tj (nb-pH.t-ra) sA ra (iaH-ms)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neb-peht-Re), the son
of Re (Iahmes).
Neb-peht-Re means "Re is the master of Force".
Iahmes means "the moon has born (him)".
nsw-bi.tj (Dsr-kA-ra) sA ra (imn-Htp)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Djeserkare), the son
of Re (Amenhotep).
Djeserkare means "the Ka of Re is holy". Amenhotep
means "Amun is at peace".
nsw-bi.tj (aA-xpr-kA-ra) sA ra (DHwtj-ms)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Aakheperkare), the son
of Re (Thutmosis).
Aakheperkare means "The shape of Re is great".
Thutmosis means "Thot has born (him)".
nsw-bi.tj (mn-xpr-ra) sA ra (DHwtj-ms HqA-wAs.t)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Menkheperre), the son
of Re (Thutmosis, ruler of Waset).
Menkheperre means "The shape of Re remains". Waset
was the Ancient Egyptian name for Thebes.
nsw-bi.tj (mAa.t-kA-ra) sA ra (Xnm.t-imn HA.t-Sps.wt)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Maatkare), the son of
Re (Joined with Amun, Hatshepsut).
Maatkare means "Maat is the Ka of Re". Hatshepsut
means "Foremost of the noble ladies".
nsw-bi.tj (nb-mAa.t-ra) sA ra (imn-Htp)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Nebmaatre), the son of
Nebmaatre means "Re is the master of Maat".
IV / Akhenaten
nsw bi.tj (nfr-xpr.w-ra wa-n-ra) sA ra (imn-Htp nTr-HqA-wAs.t)
sA ra (Ax-n-itn)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neferkheperure Waenre),
the son of Re (Amenhotep, de god who rules in Waset). This
nomen was later replaced by the following: the son of Re
Neferkheperure means "the shapes of Re are beautiful".
Waenre means "The One of Re". Akhenaten means
"Ray of the Sun".
nsw-bi.tj (nb-xpr.w-ra) sA ra (twt-anx-imn)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Nebkheperure),
the son of Re (Tutankhamun).
Nebkheperure means "Re is the master of shapes".
Note that three strokes can also be used to indicate a plural.
Tutankhamun means "the living statue of Amun".
nsw-bi.tj (mn-mAa.t-ra) sA ra (mrj-n-ptH stXj)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Menmaatre), the son of
Re (beloved of Ptah, Seti).
Menmaatre means "The Maat of Re remains". Seti
means "The one of Seth).
nsw-bi.tj (wsr-mAa.t-ra stp-n-ra) sA ra (mrj-imn ra-ms-sw)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Usermaatre Setepenre),
the son of Re (beloved of Amun, Ramesses).
Usermaatre means "The Maat of Re is Strong". Setepenre
means "The chosen one of Re". Ramesses means "Re
has born him". Note how in the second cartouches the
signs representing Amun and Re are placed together, making
this variant of Ramesses' name a wordplay on the name of
nsw-bi.tj (wsr-mAa.t-ra mrj-imn) sA ra (ra-ms-sw HqA-iwnw)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Usermaatre, beloved of
Amun), the son of Re (Ramesses, the ruler of Iunu).
Iunu was the Ancient Egyptian name of Heliopolis.
nsw-bi.tj (wsr-mAa.t-ra stp-n-imn) sA ra (mrj-imn ra-ms-s
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Usermaatre Setepenamun),
the son of Re (beloved of Amun, Ramesses, ruler (in) Maat).
Setepenamun means "the chosen one of Amun".
nsw-bi.tj (nfr-kA-ra stp-n-ra) sA ra (ra-ms-s xa-wAs.t
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neferkare Setepenre),
the son of Re (Ramesses, who appears (in) Waset, beloved
nsw-bi.tj (wAH-ib-ra) sA ra (psmTk)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Wahibre), the son of
Wahibre means "the heart of Re endures".
nsw-bi.tj (whm-ib-ra) sA ra (nkAw)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Wehemibre), the son of
Wehemibre means "the heart of Re is repeated".
nsw-bi.tj (Xnm-ib-ra) sA ra (iaH-ms sA-nt)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Khenemibre), the son
of Re (Iahmes, son of Neith).
Khenemibre means "Joined (with) the heart of Re".
nsw-bi.tj (xpr-kA-ra) sA ra (nxt-nb=f)
The King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Kheperkare), the son
of Re (Nekhetnebef).
Nekhetnebef (Greek version: Nectanebo) means "His master