Egypt's Kushite King Piankhy (Piye) -- 747-716 BC
Stela of Piankhy (Piye)
Kushite (Napatan) 747 BC

Sudan National Museum, Khartoum No. 1851

The scene shows on the right a standing figure of King Piankhy (Piye) (747-716 BC), identified in the cartouche above him, wearing the characteristic Kushite cap-crown with double uraei, facing left and offering a pectoral and a necklace to a triad of deities (a form of the traditional Theban triad), an enthroned Amen-Ra followed by a standing Mut and Khons, all facing right.

Divine sanction of Piankhy's ascent to the throne is confirmed in the god's address 'to his son, whom he loves', inscribed in the columns of inscription above him: 'I said concerning you (even when you were still) in the womb of your mother, that you would be ruler of Egypt . . . I caused you to receive the Great Crown . . . It is I who decreed (the kingship) for you . . . No other may decree (who shall be) king'. The king's acknowledgement is recorded in the columns behind him, where he asserts his pre-eminence over all other rulers: Amun of Napata has caused me to be ruler of all foreign countries. To whomsoever I say "you are chief", he shall be chief. To whomsoever I say "You are not king", he shall not be king. Amun in Thebes has caused me to be ruler of Egypt. To whomsoever I say "Make your appearance (as king)", he shall make his appearance. To whomsoever I say "Do not make appearance", he shall not make his appearance . . . Gods make a king, men make a king, (But) it is Amun who has made me'.

The main text of the stela is located directly beneath the offering scene. Arranged in horizontal lines reading right to left and downwards, it records the king's full titulary and epithets, and once continued with a historical narrative, of which only fragments of the beginning now survive. One of these fragments crucially bears the remnants of what may be a year date, possibly to be read as '(regnal-year) 3', in which case the stela is Piankhy's earliest known monument.

Piankhy's titulary was clearly inspired by that of one of his great imperial 'predecessors'. King Thutmose III of the 18th Dynasty, as recorded on the letter's famous victory stela from Jebel Barkal. One especially significant difference, however, is the form of the
king's so-called Horus-name. In the case of Thutmose III, the name is 'Strong Bull, Appearing (ascending to the throne) in Thebes'; in the case of Piankhy, it is 'Strong Bull, Appearing in Napata', a calculated change announcing 'a momentous reversal of history . . . the place of Thebes, where the Egyptian conqueror of Kush had been crowned, was now taken by Napata, where the Kushite ruler of Egypt is crowned' .

He employed master Egyptian sculptors to depict his conquest of Lower Egypt just as pharaohs of an earlier age might have depicted a victory over Asiatics, Libyans, Hittites, Sea Peoples, or even Kushites. The cities falling to his armies are not in Palestine or Syria but in Egypt. The kings bowing at his feet are Egyptian, as are the treasures seized from them. Yet strangely, throughout Piankhy presents himself as the reincarnation of the great pharaohs and the devoted servant of Amun and all the Egyptian gods.


Sudan: Ancient Treasures, Derek A. Welsby and Julie R. Anderson, British Museum Press, p. 163 (2004)

Sudan Kingdom of the Nile, Dietrich Wildung (1997)

Drawing of horses carved on the wall of the Great Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal during the reign of King Piankhy.