Psherenamun II


Psherenamun II1, god's father, beloved of the god, sm-priest, prophet of Ptah, prophet of Horus, lord of Letopolis, prophet of Caesar, Chief of Artificers (High Priest of Memphis)2, son of Psherenamun I3 by Taneferher4, born probably after year 4 of Cleopatra VII = 49/85, installed in year 3 of Augustus = 28/76, died after year 7 of Augustus = 24/37 with no known descendants8.

[1] PP IX 5375a. Gr: Psenamounis. Ý

[2] Stele BM 184 -- see PP IX 5375a. J. Quaegebeur, Anc. Soc. 3 (1972) 77, 91 supposes that the title of "prophet of Caesar" was actually held by his mother Taneferher. He translates line 11 of stele BM 184 to read: "he made the god's father, sm-priest, prophet of Ptah Psenamounis and the sistrum player Tneferos named above priestess of Caesar and High Priest". E. A. E. Reymond, From the Records of a Priestly Family from Memphis 230, translates the same passage: "he made the god's father, prophet of Ptah Psenamunis son of the sistrum player Tnufe-ho aforesaid prophet of Caesar (to create him) Chief of Artificers". H. Brugsch, as quoted in C. Maystre, Les grands prêtres de Ptah de Memphis 209, translates the passage as: "he was [appointed] as god's father, sm-priest, prophet of Ptah Pchêre-en-Amon (and) the sistrum player Ta-nfr-ho named above as priestess of Caesar and (the?) High Priest".

Evidently there is some obscurity in the language of the passage. Nevertheless it seems highly implausible on the face of it that the chief hierophant of the dynastic cult should be a woman. The only precedent is Cleopatra III, and she was the ruling queen. For this reason, whatever the details of the demotic script and syntax, it seems to me that Reymond's interpretation is much more likely to be correct. Ý

[3] Stele BM 184. Ý

[4] Stele BM 184. Ý

[5] J. Quaegebeur, Anc. Soc. 3 (1972) 77, 92 estimates he was born c. 40, shortly after the installation of his mother Taneferher as great wife of Ptah in 44/3. J. Quaegebeur in D. J. Crawford et al, Studies on Ptolemaic Memphis 47, 71 (36) refines this estimate to c. 42. The connection between the two events apparently seen by Quaegebeur is not immediately obvious to me, especially since the great wife of Ptah was in all probability not his mother but his sister. However, the installation does give us a terminus post quem, since in order for his sister to have been capable of taking part in the ceremonies she must have been the oldest child of their parents. Ý

[6] Stele BM 184. Ý

[7] Date of stele BM 184, which records that he presided at the funeral of his mother Taneferher. This is the last act recorded both for him and for any HPM or HPL. Ý

[8] C. Maystre, Les grands prêtres de Ptah de Memphis 214, believes that the office of HPM was still in existence as late as 398 AD, when a procession for Apis took place in Memphis. However, his reasoning connecting the procession with the existence of the pontificate is not given, and it is not self-evident that there should be a connection.

P. J. Parsons, CdE 49 (1974) 135, 142ff gives a more interesting and substantial argument for the continued existence of the office. Several Roman-era papyri attest to the existence of the office of "Orapis" and "Archiprophetes" in Memphis -- pRylands 4.676 (dated AD 86); SB 6.9346 (dated c. AD 156-70); WChr. 85 (dated AD 170), SB 8.9658 (dated AD 193) and pOslo 3.87 (dated late second century). The function of the office is not entirely clear. pRylands 4.676 refers to the Orapis Apollonides making appointments to priesthoods. SB 8.9658 confirms that the provincial government requires each priest to obtain a sealed document from the office of the Orapis for the status of the priest to be recognised.

Parsons cites the opinion of Reymond that the title orapiV is a hellenisation of the Egyptian rpat (Hereditary Prince), elsewhere hellenised as orpaiV or orpeei. It was born by senior Egyptian noblemen, and in particular by the High Priest of Ptah; indeed the Orapis Apollonides is addressed in the highly honorific form o kratistoV ("excellency"). Thus, Parsons proposed that the archprophet of Memphis is the Roman continuation of the Memphite High Priest. Parsons plausibly identifies Apollonides with Apollonides Horapius mentioned by Theophilus as the author of Egyptian religious works in Ad Autolycum II.6. Against this, J. Quaegebeur in D. J. Crawford et al, Studies on Ptolemaic Memphis 47, 54 n. 1 notes that the Greek transcription orpaiV shows that the vocalisation orapiV cannot be equated with rpat. He calls the title orapiV "enigmatic". That is as may be, but it does not weaken the evidence of the high status held by Apollonides. Whether or not the Orapis actually was the HPM, his office gives the appearance of being derived from that of the Ptolemaic HPM.

The office of archprophet clearly exercised an authority over a large number of temples. The Ptolemaic HPMs were chief of all the prophets of Egypt. However, the scope of an archprophet was, or at least became, geographically more restricted. A. Bülow-Jacobsen, Actes du XVe congrès international de papyrologie IV 124, assembled a broader range of documentation on the office, and showed that there were archprophets based in Alexandria, Oxyrhynchus, Panopolis, Philae and probably Aphroditopolis and Hermopolis. Bülow-Jacobsen argued that Oxyrhynchus may have been split off from Memphite jurisdiction between 193 and 216 AD, and indeed the evidence for an Oxyrhynchite archprophet is the earliest evidence of a non-Memphite archprophet. He noted that the natural translation of archprophet in Egyptian would be Hm-nTr ipy, first prophet, and was so translated at Philae, but he also noted one case where the title was translated as simply "prophet". He suggested that archprophet could represent other titles such as imy-r Hnw-nTr, inspector of prophets, who often operated alongside the nomarch, just as the archprophet operated alongside the strategos. However, without evidence of continuity in Ptolemaic times he felt unable to press the case for this.

Bülow-Jacobsen's caveats being duly noted, it nevertheless seems to me most likely, especially in light of the Philae translations he cites, that the title of archprophet was in origin almost certainly derived from the Egyptian "first prophet". Since the Memphite attestions of the office are definitely the earliest, and since there is also evidence that the scope of the office was progressively diminished over time, I think that Parson's proposal is very reasonable, and that the orapis and archprophet of Memphis was the continuation of the high priesthood of Memphis.

The continuation of the office, in whatever form, is nevertheless a different matter from the continuation of the family in that office. Against this proposal one can offer the un-Egyptian name Apollonides. Evidently there had been a change of line in the century between Psherenamun II and Apollonides. Ý

Update Notes:

4 April 2002: Created page
10 April 2002: Added notes on the Roman Orapis.
17 June 2002: Expanded notes of the Orapis and archprophet in light of Bülow-Jacobsen's review of the archprophets.

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