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Names and titles of the pharaoh in ancient Egypt.

The king/pharaoh in ancient Egypt had five different titles as;

1- Horus name.

2- Nebty name.

3- Golden Horus name.

4- Neswbety name.

5- Sa Re name.

The Horus name, less suitably called banner-name or Ka-name, represents the king as earthly embodiment of the old falcon-god Horus, who early became the dynastic god of Egypt, and as such was identified with the sun-god Re, himself also at some very early period the dynastic god. This name is frequently written within a rectangular frame, at the bottom of which is seen a design of recessed paneling such as we find in the facades of early brick tombs and in the false doors of Old Kingdom mastabas; on the top of the rectangular frame perched the falcon of Horus, in more elaborate Dynasty XVIII examples crowned and accompanied by sun and uraeus. It is not quite certain whether the building symbolized by the rectangle and façade (together termed the Serkh) was the King’s palace or his tomb. The former alternative is the more probable, since in the oldest times the Horus name was the commonest designation of the king, and it is unlikely that a purely sepulchral name should have been chosen for the purpose. Still, its associations with the Ka or the (spirit) came to be very close. On the whole, we may conclude that the Horus name denotes the aspect of Horus worn by the king whilst dwelling in the palace.

The Nebty name, so called because of the probable reading of the group (vulture and cobra) is Nebty “the two ladies” displays the king as standing in a special relation to the two principal goddesses of the period immediately preceding Dynasty I, when Egypt was still divided into two kingdoms; these were the vulture goddess Nekhebt of the Upper Egyptian city of El Kab and the cobra goddess Wajet of the Lower Egyptian city of Dp, these cities were in the close vicinity of the early capitals of Nekhen or Hieraconpolis and Pe respectively, and it is to this reason that the two goddess owed their prominence. Probably Menes, the founder of Dynasty I, was the first to assume the Nebty title, symbolizing thereby the fact that he had united the two kingdoms.

The Golden Horus name is more disputed. On the Rosetta Stone, that the monogram (Horus above the gold) symbolized Horus as Victorious over Nebt “the Ombite” i.e the god Seth who was worshipped at Ombos near the modern Qena. This was, no doubt the interpretation of Greek times, but the evidence of the earlier periods points in another direction. The concept of the golden falcon can be definitely raced back to Dynasty XI, and an inscription of Dynasty XII describes the golden Horus name as the “name of gold” (rn-n-nbw).

The Neswbity or Prenomen is the name which follows the title (n-sw-bit) “he who belongs to the sedge and the bee” the plant (swt) symbolizing Upper Egypt is supposed to be identical with the flowering (scripus-reed) or sedge, Egyptian (shemea), a common emblem of Upper Egypt; the exact connection of the bee with Lower Egypt is still obscure. In effect the title means “King of Upper and Lower Egypt”, and the Rosetta Stone translates it. The prenomen itself is almost compounded with name of the god Re; typical examples are “Shtp-ib-re” (propitiating the heart of Re) (Amenmhat I), “NbMaat-Re” (Lord of the truth is Re) (Amenhotep III); one of the first cases of Re as an element in a king’s name is with “Re-kha-f” (Khafre) of Dynasty IV, and the instance without Re all date before Dynasty IX. The prenomen and nomen are invariably written within cartouches (the French word means an ornamented tablet of stone, wood or metal destined to receive an inscription) or “royal ring”. The cartouche depicts a loop formed by a double thickness of rope, the ends tied together so as the offer to the spectator the appearance of a straight line; strictly speaking the loop should be round, as it is one or two very early example, but becomes elongated and oval because of the length of the most hieroglyphic names enclosed in it: the Egyptians called the cartouche (shenw) from a verb-stem (sheni) “encircle”, and it seems not unlikely that the idea was to represent the king as ruler of all “that which is encircled by the sun”, a frequently expressed notion. Another name of the cartouche not found before Dynasty XIX is (mensh).

The Sa-Re name or nomen, is introduced by the epithet (sa-Re) “son of the sun-god Re”. The name in the cartouche was, as a ruler, that borne by the king before accession to the throne; it is almost the equivalent of our family name. The first Egyptian kings to distinguish a nomen and a prenomen were those of Dynasty V.

The five names of the titulary have a rigidly fixed order. The principal name is the prenomen, and this is often found alone or accompanied only by the nomen. Only very rarely does the Horus name serves for identification purposes.

To introduce the king’s name the phrase (hem-n) is often found; this we translate “the Majesty of”, but the origin of the expression is obscure. As speaker the king refers to himself (hem-i) “My Majesty”, he is dressed as (hem-k) “Thy Majesty”.

The ordinary word for king is (nsw); for less common is (ity), which we conventionally translate “sovereign”, another fairly common appellation is (nb) “the Lord”.

As regards the term “pharaoh”, the facts are as follow. The Egyptian original (pr-aa) “courtier of the Great House” and clearly there referred to the palace itself or the court, and not to the person of the king. From the end of Dynasty XII onwards the term is written (pr-aa-ankh-weja-snb) “Great House, may it live, prosperous, be in health”, but still it seems to mean only the palace. The earliest certain instance where (pr-aa) refers actually to the king is in a letter to Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), which addressed to (pr-aa-ankh-weja-snb-nb) the pharaoh. From Dynasty XIX onward it is used occasionally just as (hem-f) “His Majesty” might be used.

In conclusion a few words must be said concerning the way in which the royal names may be best represented in English. The Horus name, Nebty name, and Golden Horus name ought perhaps to be translated; so far as that is possible, at least, for the epithets employed as names are often very obscure in their meaning. The prenomen and nomen, on the contrary, must be left in their Egyptian forms, for to replace “King Tuthmosis” by “King Thoth-is-born” would be obviously absurd.

The question now arises as to how such names should vocalized, for only in the rarest cases do we know how an old Egyptian name was really pronounced. The practice followed by number of historians and writers, is to utilize the names given by the historian of Egypt Manetho (first half of the 3rd century BC), so far as the forms handed down by the excerptors of Manetho are fairly recognizable as transcriptions of the hieroglyphic writing. When, however, the Manethonain form is either absent or barely recognizable as an equivalent of the hieroglyphic, a guessed transcription will be found preferable, for example Horemheb for (Hr-m-hb), where Manetho gives Harmais.

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