A Biography by Megaera Lorenz
Drawing by Megaera Lorenz
Ay was a prominent figure in the Amarna
period, taking the title of Master of the Horse under Akhenaten, and, eventually,
taking the throne under mysterious and rather shady circumstances. Ay's
involvement in the political intrigue surrounding the Amarna period and
its aftermath has been a subject of much speculation on the part of all
who are interested in this period in Egyptian history.
While the names of Ay's parents are never
explicitly stated, many scholars agree that Ay was probably a brother of
Tiye. Cyril Aldred and Donald Redford point out that it is likely that
the job of Master of the Horse, formerly held by Yuya, father of Tiye,
would have been passed on to Yuya's son (Aldred, 1987; Redford, 1984).
Also, the fact that "God's Father" is among Ay's titles--suggesting him
as the likely father of Akhenaten's chief wife and the royal heiress, Nefertiti--indicates
that he was probably of royal blood.
Life During the Reign of Akhenaten:
Ay appeared rather suddenly on the scene
after the relocation of the capital city from Thebes to Akhetaten. He held
the disticntive position of "the favored one of the Good God, fan-bearer
on the king's right hand, true king's scribe and god's father, trusted
throughout the entire land, commander of chariotry" (Redford, 1984). His
wife, Tey, had earlier been Nefertiti's wet-nurse.
Ay was, by all appearances, a model
citizen of Akhetaten. His tomb, one of the most elaborate of the private
tombs at Amarna, is filled with inscriptions proclaiming Ay's devotion
to Akhenaten and the new religion. Ay tells us of his devotion and his
resultant elevation to power under Akhenaten:
I am one who is true to the king, one
whom he fostered, who is straightforward to the Lord of the
Two Lands, and effective for his lord.
As his favorite, who sees his beauty when he appears in his
palace, I follow the Ka of his Person,
while I am in front of the officials and the king's companions, the
first of all the followers of his
Person. He has placed Maat in my innermost being. My abomination is
falsehood, for I know that Waenre,
my lord, rejoices in Maat, he who is knowledgeable like Aten and
truly perceptive. He doubled for me
my rewards in silver and gold while I was the first of the officials
in front of the subjects, for my nature
and my character were good, and he made my position there.
My lord instructed me just so that
I might practice his teaching. I live by adoring his Ka and I am
fulfilled by following him--(the one
who is) my breath, by whom I live, my northwind, my millions of
Niles flowing daily, Neferkheperure
Waenre: may you grant me a lengthy lifetime in your favor (Murnane, 1995).
Life During the Reign of Tutankhamun and Rise to the Throne:
After the death of Akhenaten, Ay continued
to serve under Akhenaten's son-in-law, Tutankhamun. He was no doubt quite
influential during the young king's reign, and adopted the title of "eldest
king's-son" (Redford, 1984). It seems likely that Ay had much to do with
the eventual return to the former religion and capital during Tutankhamun's
A good deal of evidence points to
Ay playing a role in the untimely death of Tutankhamun. King Suppiluliumas
of Hatti, a longtime enemy of Akhenaten and his family, received a frantic
letter from a queen. The queen, probably Tutankhamun's young widow and
daughter of Akhenaten, Ankhesenamun, made an unusual request:
My husband has died. A son I have not.
But to thee, they say, the sons are many. If thou wouldst
give me one son of thine, he would
become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and
make him my husband! I am afraid!
The Hittite king was suspicious, but
the queen insisted that she meant what she said, and he eventually agreed
to send one of his sons, the unfortunate Zannanza. According to letters
exchanged between the furious Suppiluliumas and Ay (the new pharaoh), Zannanza
was killed on the way into Egypt. Ay, no doubt the "servant" referred to
by Ankhesenamun, apparently married Ankhesenamun, thus ensuring his claim
to the throne (Brier, 1998). It seems that Ay had set himself up to become
pharaoh after the death of Tutankhamun, who died shortly after reaching
an age when he might have begun to take more of his pharaonic power into
his own hands.
The Reign of Ay:
Once Ay had secured the kingship, the
unfortunate Ankhesenamun quickly vanished, taking with her the last vestiges
of the Amarna era. Ay reigned for only a little over four years, and apparently
had no children to succeed him. He left the throne to one General Horemheb,
who had served under Tutankhamun. Ay devoted much of his reign to the persecution
of Akhenaten. Thus, Ay brought a close to the tumultuous and fascinating
Eighteenth Dynasty. (Redford, 1984)
Aldred, Cyril (1988). Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames
and Hudson Inc.
Brier, Bob (1998). The Murder of Tutankhamen. New York: G. P.
Murnane, William J. (1995). Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt.
Georgia: Society of Biblical Literature
Redford, Donald B. (1984). Akhenaten: The Heretic King. New
Jersey: Princeton University Press
Return to The
Amarna Royal Family.
Return to Akhenaten
Proceed to The
Mystery of Akhenaten: Genetics or Aesthetics?
Proceed to The
Art of the Amarna Period.
Proceed to Webpage-en-Aten.
Proceed to An
Analysis of Akhenaten's Familial Relationships.
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