Amenhotep III (Amenhotep Heqawaset)

Statue of Amenhotep III copyright A Parrot

Amenhotep III completed many ambitious building projects during his reign. In Karnak, he almost completely remodelled the temple of Amun dismantling the peristyle court in front of the Fourth Pylon and using the masonry as the filler for the new Third Pylon on the east-west axis creating a new entrance to the temple complex. He also constructed two rows of columns with open papyrus capitals in the centre of this new forecourt. He began building the Tenth Pylon at the south end of Karnak. This gateway led to a new entrance for the temple of the goddess Mut. There is also some evidence that he started building a new temple for this Goddess. In the north of Karnak, he built a shrine dedicated to Ma´at, and in the east he built a temple dedicated to the sun god.

Nearby, he extended the temple of Luxor building a new shrine to Amun Kamutef ("Amun, bull of his mother") including a beautiful colonnaded court designed by the architect Amenhotep son of Hapu. At Sumenu, to the south of Thebes near Armant, he built a temple dedicated to Sobek. It is thought that this temple may have acted as home and breeding ground for sacred temple crocodiles.

He also expanded temples and shrines at Hebenu (the capital of the 16th nome of Upper Egypt) and (in the 15th nome of Upper Egypt) Hermopolis (dedicated to Thoth), at Memphis (where he built a temple to Ptah named "Nebmaatra United with Ptah"), at Elephantine, Elkab, Bubastis, Athribis, Letopolis, Heliopolis.

Amenhotep III with Sobek copyright markh

On the West Bank, across the water from Thebes he constructed his mortuary temple which was to become the largest of all of the royal temples. Unfortunately, it was built too close to the floodplains and by the Nineteenth Dynasty it was largely ruined and much of the masonry was recycled in other projects. All that remains are the famous "Colossi of Memnon" (as they were named by the Greeks). The West Bank was also the site of his Malkata palace. Although little remains of this palace, there is evidence that it was covered with beautiful paintings depicting scenes from nature. He also built a large harbour beside his palace. Further south along the West Bank, at Kom el-Samak, Amenhotep III built a painted mud brick Heb Sed (jubilee) pavilion

He built extensively (and extended existing buildings) in Nubia in Amada (dedicated to Amun) at Quban, Wadi es-Sebua, Sedinga, Soleb, Tabo Island, Aniba, Buhen, Mirgissa, Kawa and Gebel Barkal.


It seems that Amenhotep III became a god in his own lifetime, and was worshiped at his mortuary temple on the West Bank. However, unlike Ramesses II, no stele or statues so far recovered were specifically dedicated to Amenhotep III as a god during his lifetime.

Statue of Sekhmet place in the Temple of Mut by Amenhotep III copyright Captmondo

He emphasised the solar aspects of a number of deities, such as Nekhbet, Amun, Thoth and Horus khenty-khem. Amenhotep III was certainly keen to promote solar religion and identified himself with the Aten. He often used the epithet Aten-tjehen ("the Dazzling Sun Disk" or "the sun disc gleams"). This title appears numerous times in the temple of Amun he built in Luxor and he often used a seal on which he claimed "Nebmaatra is the gleaming Aten" (Nebmaatra was his throne name). He also used the name Aten-tjehen for one of his palaces, a royal barge, and as the designation for one of the companies of soldiers in his army.

He also venerated (or feared) Sekhmet almost above all other deities. He placed and estimated six hundred statues of Sekhmet in the Temple of Mut, one seated and one standing version of the goddess for each day of the year. As the goddess most closely associated with the Eye of Ra and the fierce power of the sun it would seem that he had a particular interest in pacifying or appeasing her. It is also suggested by some that his devotion to Sekhmet was linked to his illness in later life. Priests of Sekhmet were often trained in medicine, and in particular surgery and she was thought to be able to cause or cure plague and pestilence.

Some scholars have suggested that when Akhenaten promoted the Aten, he may have been directly or indirectly promoting the worship of his father. It is certainly fair to say that Amenhotep III was associated with the Aten on his death, and he may have been considered to be the living incarnation of the Aten during the co-regency with Akhenaten that is proposed by some historians. Unfortunately, there is no firm evidence to support or contend the existence of a co-regency, and none to confirm whether Akhenaten was indeed raising his father above all the other gods of Egypt. It is interesting to note that while Akhenaten had the name of Amun removed from many of the statues of his father, he was always careful not to damage the images themselves, merely their connection with that god.


portrait of Amenhotep III from the workshop of Tuthmose at Amarna copyright Keith Schengili-Roberts

The reign of Amenhotep III saw the creation of a huge number of sculptures and other art works and there is no doubt that his craftsmen were extremely highly skilled. In particular, many of the statues of the king are masterpieces in their own right. In fact many of his statues are so beautiful that they were usurped by later kings. With over 250 of his statues having been discovered and identified, Amenhotep III remains the subject of more statues than any other pharaoh. There are also many beautiful examples of statuary featuring the women of the royal household.

Many noble families became very prosperous during his reign and so there was also a large increase in the number of statues created for private individuals and an increase in the number and quality of private tombs.

scarab recounting the lion hunt of Amenhotep III copyright Harrogate Museums and Arts Service

The reign of Amenhotep III is also notable as we have discovered a huge number of commemorative scarabs dated to that time. Over two hundred large that have been recovered from as far away as Nubia and Syria. These scarabs commemorate events during the reign of the king and record his many accomplishments (some more fanciful than others). Over one hundred record that Amenhotep III killed 102 (or possibly 110) lions with his own arrows during the first ten years of his reign. Another five record the arrival of princess Gilukhepa of the Mitanni along with her maidservants, who became one of his wives and eleven record the creation of an artificial lake for his beloved Queen Tiy during the eleventh year of his reign.

Amenhotep III: page one

copyright J Hill 2010
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