Ptolemaic High Priests of Memphis: Sources

The genealogy of the family of the Ptolemaic High Priests of Ptah in Memphis (HPMs) under the Ptolemies has been extensively studied in the last three decades. Most of the original material was discovered in the early 19th century as a series of hieroglyphic and demotic funerary stelae. These are now held in the British Museum or in Vienna but were apparently discovered together at an unknown location, probably a family vault somewhere near Memphis. While some of these stelae -- notably BM 886 and BM 147, containing the funerary eulogies of Psherenptah III and his wife Taimhotep -- have long been known as masterpieces of Egyptian literature, many of them were unpublished and unstudied for nearly 150 years after their discovery. The sarcophagus of the HPM Horemakhet has also been recovered, as well as the Books of the Dead of some of the minor family members. Additionally, some statuary survives, including perhaps some of the finest portrait heads ever produced in Egyptian art.

The sources used for this genealogy are listed below. A visual summary of how each source contributes to the reconstruction given at this site can be seen by selecting the source identifier.

BM 389

Funerary stele of Heresankh

Louvre N 2456

Funerary statue of the priestess of Philotera Heresankh

Vienna 157

Funerary stele of the prophet of Ptah Neferibre naming his son Neferibre and four grandsons Neferibre, Anemhor, Psamtekmen and Petehaarendjatef

Chicago 31697

One of two unpublished statues of Psamtekmen, son of Neferibre and Herib. The other is Bordeaux inv. 1055.

BM 379

Funerary stele of the HPM Nesisti-Pedubast

BM 380

Funerary stele of Horemhotep, High Priest of Letopolis, grandson of the HPM Nesisti-(Pedubast)

BM 375

Funerary stele of Khonsiu, son of the HPM Nesisti-(Pedubast)

Vienna 153

Funerary stele of the HPM Anemhor II

pLouvre 3084

Book of the Dead of Neferibre son of Nesisti and Nefersobek

Alexandria 27806

Statue giving the ancestry of Pedubast I HPM for three generations

Vienna 154

Funerary stele of the HPM Djedhor

Moscow 5351

Statue of Horemhotep, brother of an HPM

BM 391/Vienna 155

Funerary stelae of the HPM Horemakhet, hieroglyphic and demotic versions

Stele Saqqara

Funerary stele of Nefertiti, daughter of the HPM Horemakhet

Alexandria 17533/4

Two statues of Psherenptah I givng his ancestry for two generations

IM 77

Unpublished Serapeum stele giving the descent of a collateral branch line descended from the HPM Horemakhet

Cherchel 94

Statue of the HPM Pedubast II giving his parentage

Vienna 82

Funerary stele of the HPM Pedubast III giving his ancestry for 8 generations and probably connecting his mother Berenice to the Ptolemaic royal house

BM 886

Funerary stele of the HPM Psherenptah III -- hieroglyphic version

Ashm. 1971/18

Funerary stele of the HPM Psherenptah III -- demotic version

UCL 14357

Funerary stele of Kheredankh, daughter of the HPM Psherenptah III

BM 147 

Funerary stele of Taimhotep wife of the HPM Psherenptah III -- hieroglyphic version

BM 377 

Funerary stele of Taimhotep wife of the HPM Psherenptah III -- demotic version

BM 392

Funerary stele of Berenice, daughter of the HPM Psherenptah III, also tracing the ancestry of her husband to two earlier HPMs

BM 188

Funerary stele of the HPM Imhotep-Pedubast

BM 184

Funerary stele of Taneferher mother of the HPM Psherenamun II

Much of this corpus of material was studied by Jan Quaegebeur in a series of three articles published in the early 1970s. Quaegebeur synthesised his results in a genealogy published in 1980. Almost all of the material was independently collected and translated in 1981 by Eve Reymond, in an edition which is unfortunately notorious for its dubious reliability, but which for many important items is the only published source.

Quaegebeur and Reymond differed significantly on several aspects of the genealogy. In a review of Reymond's book published in 1983, Didier Devauchelle offered an important critical commentary on many of these differences. The genealogy presented here generally follows Devauchelle's measured and conservative interpretations, and has greatly benefitted from his work in pointing out key issues. With some exceptions -- notably, the interpretation of the data from the various statues -- Devauchelle's genealogy is close to Reymond's, but his readings of names and titles is definitely more reliable.

The main reasons I have generally selected Devauchelle's reconstruction over Quaegebeur's are the following:

I have accepted Reymond's claim to have found a marriage alliance between the High Priests of Ptah and the Ptolemaic dynasty, even though it is rejected by both Quaegebeur and Devauchelle for the same reason. This reason -- the illegibility of the key term of relationship -- appears to me to be inadequate in view of Reymond's exposition of the rest of the data. I have also rejected Devauchelle's conclusion that the daughters of Psherenptah III were all by a different mother from his son Imhotep-Pedubast. In addition, I have proposed a new linkage between stele Vienna 157 and the main genealogy which differs from that proposed by Quaegebeur (Reymond did not include it in her dossier). If correct, this new linkage shows that earlier heads of the family were not Chiefs of Artificers, which strongly suggests that the title was an archaism revived under Ptolemy II.

Since the publication of Devauchelle's article, there has been some additional commentary on the family by Dorothy Thompson, and Charles Maystre devoted a chapter of his study of the Memphite high priesthood to this period. In 2009 Gorre published a prosopographical study of high clergy of the Ptolemaic period which devoted a section to the HPMs (nºs 59-67). This substantially followed Devauchelle's reconstruction, as here. The major difference is that he rejected Devauchelle's assignment of Alexandria 27806 to the otherwise undocumented Pedubast I, assigning it instead to Pedubast II.

To my knowledge, only one new source item has appeared since 1983. This is stele IM 77 from the Serapeum, now held in the Louvre and so far known only through a preliminary notice published in 1994. A partial and preliminary translation provided by Didier Devauchelle is supplied here.

Details of particular differences of interpretation may be found at the relevant points of the genealogy.

Update Notes:

16 March 2002: Created page
14 August 2010: Note Gorre's study

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