This dynasty stemmed from the growing of the priesthood of Heliopolis. A legend in the Westcar Papyrus relates that the first three kings of the Fifth Dynasty were offspring of the god Re and a lady named Radjeded, wife of a priest at Heliopolis. These three brothers were Weserkaf, Sahure and Neferirkare. Sahure is known chiefly for the splendid bas-reliefs which decorated his funerary temple at Abusir, north of Sakkara (Saqqara). It is well known that, though the royal pyramids of the Fifth Dynasty were far smaller than the great tombs of the Fourth Dynasty and of inferior construction, the funerary temples adjoining the pyramids were elaborate structures extensively decorated with painted bas-reliefs.
Near the pyramid complex most of the kings of this dynasty built great temples of the Sun-god, each dominated by a towering solar obelisk.
In addition to the erection and endowments of many temples listed in the Palermo Stone, the Pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty were active in safeguarding the frontiers of Egypt and in expanding the existing trade relations with neighbouring countries. Punitive expeditions against the Libyans of the western desert, the Bedouins of Sinai and the Semitic peoples of southern Palestine were recorded on the walls of their funerary temples. Great seagoing ships visited the coast of Palestine during the reigns of Sahure and Issessi. Egyptian ships also reached the shores of the land of Punt on the Somali coast to procure highly valued cargoes of myrrh, ebony and animals, among other goods. The traffic with Syria in cedar wood continued to thrive, and the ancient port of Byblos on the coast below the wooded slopes of Lebanon saw more and more of the Egyptian timber fleet.