The Coregents: Sesostris I and Amenemhet II

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: History of Ancient Egypt

By Bob Brier, Ph.D., Long Island University

Sesostris I and his co-regent son, Amenemhet II, were both great kings who consolidated the Dynasty XII into the annals of Egyptian history. Their accomplishments surpassed what their predecessors had achieved in the past and more.

A sandhill on the first cataract of Aswan.
Sesostris I built forts to collect taxes from Nubian travelers. (Image: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock)

Sesostris I, the son of Amenemhet I, was also called Senusret. There are many ways of transliterating the name. The Sesostris name, however, has a Greek ending. Sesostris I was like his father. Perhaps the 10 years of coregency really helped hone his skills.

Incidentally, that must have been an interesting situation in Egypt: two kings at the same time. Also, the pharaoh was the god Horus on Earth, so people must have wondered whether there could be two Horuses on the Earth.

Learn more about Sneferu, the pyramid builder.

Sesostris’s Forts in Nubia

A limestone statue of Sesostris I.
Sesostris I, the son of Amenemhet I, was also called Senusret. (Image: W. M. Flinders Petrie (1853-1942)/Public domain)

Sesostris built forts in Nubia. Now, Nubia is the equivalent of present-day Sudan. They did not have firm borders. Egypt’s border ended in the south at a place that is today called Aswan. It is a natural border with big boulders or cataracts in the water, in the Nile. And that was where Egyptian soil ended and Nubia began. But, Nubia was not what the ancient Egyptians called it. They called it Kush. That is the biblical Kush, the Kush of the Bible.

He built forts in Nubia because he wanted to control the gold and the trade. He built forts fairly far south at a place that today is called Wadi Alleqi. He also built two more forts, one on either side of the Nile. These forts were impressive. They were big. The walls were 30 feet high. They were about 15 feet thick. They were made of mud-brick; but if you were trying to get into that fort, it would not be easy.

This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

The Construction Technique of the Forts

What Sesostris did was put wooden beams, cedars of Lebanon, into the brick walls inside, some going horizontal, some going at right angles. So, if anyone started to dig in, they would hit a beam pretty fast, and they would not know which way all the beams ran because they ran in different ways. So this was a really fortified place.

Not only were the walls impressive but so was the way the thing was laid out. If someone was coming from Nubia by the land route, the road went right through the middle of the fort. They could not go around it. They could not go in the water owing to the Nile cataracts. They would have to go marching through an Egyptian fort, which was well manned.

In fact, what happened at this fort was tax collection. If you were a Nubian, say, coming to do some trade and you’ve got leopard skins, you’ve got ivory, whatever it is, they are going to take their percentage right then and there before they allow you to continue. So this was both a nice military move and a terrific economic move. They really did well with these forts.

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The Pyramid of Sesostris I

Sesostris I also built a pyramid for himself. He also erected two obelisks at Heliopolis. Heliopolis is Greek for ‘Sun City.’ It was a place of Sun worship, and this in the Bible and is called ‘On’. It is the biblical ‘On’. One of the obelisks is still standing, and it can still be seen in Egypt.

An image of the obelisk of Sesostris I.
Sesostris I built two obelisks at Heliopolis. (Image: Héliopolis200501.JPG: user:Neithsabesderivative work: JMCC1/Public domain)

He also built a rather nice chapel at Karnak made out of alabaster. This was one of the really good works of art. It is beautiful, very refined. The hieroglyphs are just elegant.

And what this shows is that they were controlling the whole country because, first of all, the obelisk is granite. It comes from Aswan. So they were controlling Aswan. The alabaster comes from further north because alabaster quarries were not in Aswan. Those were further north. If you look at the monuments of these people, they were using all kinds of stones. That means they were really controlling all of Egypt.

Now, bear in mind, that during this era, Sesostris I wrote the document called Advice of Amenemhet I to His Son. He was using the press just like his father did. And he did one other thing that his father did. He took his kid as a coregent, again, establishing the order. He saw his father was killed, and probably the only reason he became pharaoh was because it was established that he was the coregent. So he took his son as a coregent, and the next pharaoh was Amenemhet II, named after Amenemhet I.

Learn more about the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Amenemhet II

Amenemhet II was another terrific pharaoh. He sent an expedition to Punt. Punt is thought to be modern Eritrea, which is next to Ethiopia. Some people think it is Somalia, but it is more likely to be Eritrea. It was a big deal to send an expedition there. They had to go on the Red Sea to get there, and the Egyptians were not great sailors, so they didn’t love this.

What they did, when they went down the Red Sea, was they hugged the coast. Every night they would anchor. They were not great navigators, but he did send an expedition to Punt.

Amenemhet II and Foreign Trade

He also controlled all of Egypt, and his big thing was foreign trade like the great Sneferu. Throughout the Middle East, objects with Amenemhet II’s name on it can be seen. In Lebanon, excavations have found jars with his name on it, and, in his temples, excavations in Egypt have found things labeled from all over the Levant.

That means they were trading with these people. It was an international time. These people were confident. They were not worried about their borders. They were going everywhere.

Amenemhet II’s Pyramid

Amenemhet II also built a pyramid. He also continued the practice of coregency like his ancestors before him. They were keeping it up because if they kept up the coregency, they would have an established successor.

Common Questions about Coregents: Sesostris I and Amenemhet II

Q: When did Amenemhet die?

Amenemhet I, the founder of the Dynasty XII, died in 1962 B.C.

Q: Where was Senusret buried?

Senusret or Sesostris was buried at the Pyramid of Senusret I, which is near the Pyramid of Amenemhet I, his father.

Q: What did Senusret I build?

Senusret I built numerous shrines, temples, and forts all across Egypt and Nubia.

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