Named Sekhemib (“powerful in heart”) when he ascended to the throne, it appears that the pharaoh changed his name to Seth-Peribsen (“Set hope of all hearts”) during his reign. His Horus name was depicted in a serekh with a falcon on top, but in his Set name the serekh is topped by a Set animal (a dog or jackal like creature with large pointed ears).
It was suggested by some Egyptologists (e.g. Newberry, Cerny, Emery, and Grdseloff) that Sekhmet/Peribsen might have usurped the throne, or that under his rule a religious or political revolution took place. Proponents of this view suggest that the latent rivalry between the north (Lower Egypt, associated with Horus and the red crown) and the south (Upper Egypt, associated with Seth and the white crown) caused much unrest during his reign, and that the followers of Seth gained the upper hand.
Proponents of this theory noted that the name Peribsen does not appear in kings lists, his tomb was plundered, and a stele featuring his name with the inclusion of the Set animal was defaced. However, his mortuary cult was maintained until at least the Fourth Dynasty, so he cannot have been considered a heretic.
Others have noted that all of the finds relating to this king are from Upper Egypt, so he may not have ruled over the whole country. However, this may have been an amicable split. Rice, Tiradritti, and Helck have all noted that the wealth of official tombs would suggest a prosperous and peaceful country divided since the reign of Nynetjer. He may have continued to use both names to signify the balance between the two factions.
Some scholars (Emery, Bard, and Petrie) have suggested that Sekhemib Pereenmaat and Sekhemhib/Peribsen were two different kings. While others suggest that Sekhemib is the same person as Sendji.
Kasekhemwy seems to have honoured the king’s burial, suggesting that he respected his predecessor, and Peribsen’s mortuary cult survived into the fourth dynasty suggesting that there was no negative view attached to the king’s use of the Set animal. Inscriptions from the tomb of Khasekhemwy depict dead bodies and mention a “victory over the Northerners”, but do not provide any further details.
It is certainly fair to say that the god Horus dominated Egyptian history. Set was always seen as a necessary component of Egyptian religion, but as time passed he became less ferocious and Horus became more powerful. Unfortunately, there are no artifacts found which confirm what actually happened.
Seth-Peribsen ruled for around 17 years. His predecessor is sometimes listed as Nynetjer, though there is evidence of a number of other rulers between these two kings. Manetho lists three, otherwise unattested, rulers between Sekhemib and Khasekhemwy.
Nebti; Sekhemib Perenmaat
- Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
- Bard, Kathryn (2000) “The Energence of the Egyptian State”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
- Dodson, A and Hilton, D. (2004) The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt
- Kemp, Barry J (1991) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation
- Rice, Michael (1999) Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt
- Van De Mieroop, Marc (1999) A History of Ancient Egypt
Copyright J Hill 2016