A Biography by Megaera Lorenz
Drawing by Megaera Lorenz
Tiye, the beautiful Chief Queen of Amenhotep
III and mother of Akhenaten, was the matriarch of the Amarna family. Her
marriage to the pharaoh Amenhotep III is heralded early in Amenhotep III's
reign on what is now referred to as "the marriage scarab," part of series
of inscribed scarabs commissioned by Amenhotep III in order to commemorate
important events in his reign.
The romantically inclined historians
of the 1800s and turn of the century believed that Tiye was a commoner
who caught the attention of the young pharaoh. This belief arose in part
because the commemorative scarabs mentioned the names of her parents, but
gave no titles (Aldred, 1987). In actuality, she was of noble or perhaps
even royal stock.
Her father, Yuya, had been commander
of the chariotry under Tuthmose IV (Aldred, 1987). This particular occupation
was actually new to the 18th dynasty, since at the beginning of that dynasty
a standing army had been created in Egypt for the first time.
Tiye's mother, Thuya, was Superintendent
of the Harem of Min of Akhmim and of Amun of Thebes during the reign of
Thutmose IV, and was probably a descendant of Ahmose Nefertari, the first
queen of the 18th dynasty. In the 18th dynasty, the royal bloodline passed
through the female royalty, and it took marriage to a descendent of Ahmose
Nefertari to legitimize a pharaoh's kingship. Therefore, Tiye would have
been the Heiress Princess, next in line for the queenship (Aldred, 1987).
Tiye was probably not full Egyptian.
While her mother bore distinctly Egyptian features, her father did not.
He had an unusual build for an Egyptian, so some have speculated that he
may have been Asiatic. Cyril Aldred says that this is not unlikely, since
Asiatics "had the reputation of being skilled in the government of horses..."
(1987). Others believe that Tiye's features and dark skin as represented
in artwork from the time indicate sub-Saharan African origins. This matter
is hotly debated. It is a dispute not likely to be settled in the near
Life During the Reign of Amenhotep III:
Tiye was probably married to Amenhotep
III at a very early age, although just how old she was at the time is uncertain.
She was given a good deal of clout during her husbands reign, during which
the cult of the now deified Ahmose Nefertari (whom Tiye came to represent
in the cult) expanded (Aldred, 1987). The name Tiye is itself a pet-name
for Nefertari, according to Aldred.
By Amenhotep III, Tiye had at least
six children. She had two sons (Tuthmose V and Amenhotep
IV, the second of whom went on to become pharaoh), and four daughters
(Sitamun, Isis, Henut-taneb, and Beketaten).
Amenhotep III lavished a good deal
of attention on his wife. In his monument-building craze, he devoted a
number of shrines to Tiye, built a palace for her, and even went so far
as to build a gigantic artificial lake for her (Redford, 1984). We know
from her son's correspondance with Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, that
Tiye wielded a good deal of political influence, as is often the case for
women in matrilineal societies (in which the line of descent goes through
the women rather than the men). Tushratta advised the new Pharaoh Amenhotep
Teye, your mother, knows all the words
that I spoke with your father. No one else knows them. You
must ask Teye, your mother, about
them so she can tell you. . . . And may my brother listen to nothing
from anyone else. (Amarna Tablet 28,
Trans. by Alder, in Moran, 1992).
From this we can gather that Tiye was not only Amenhotep
III's trusted adviser and confidant, but that she also played an active
part in politics abroad.
Life During the Reign of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten:
Tiye continued to be a major political
influence during the reign of her second son, Amenhotep IV, again made
clear by the letters exchanged with king Tushratta of Mitanni. Tushratta
sent letters to Tiye herself to ask her help in influencing her son (AT
26, Trans. by Alder, in Moran, 1992). Tiye wrote back, telling him to "Promote
your interests with Napkhururiya [Amenhotep IV], watch him, and do not
cease from sending pleasant delegations" (Redford, 1984).
When Amenhotep IV changed his name
to Akhenaten and moved the capital city to Akhetaten, Tiye went with him,
although she may not have taken up residence there right away (Redford,
1984; Aldred, 1987). A few small shrines were found at Akhetaten with stelae
depicting Tiye and Amenhotep III, suggesting to some that the older royal
couple did come to live at Akhetaten. It is known that Tiye paid
a visit to Akhetaten around year 12 of Akhenaten's reign (Aldred, 1987),
perhaps in order to view the festivities at the great durbar that took
place in that year. Akhenaten commissioned a large, gilt shrine for his
mother at around that time. Tiye vanished from the scene around the time
of the death of Akhenaten's second daughter, Meketaten, perhaps having
fallen victim to the plague that was circulating in Egypt at that time
Aldred, Cyril (1988). Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York:
Thames and Hudson Inc.
Moran, William L. (1992). The Amarna Letters. Maryland:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Redford, Donald B. (1984). Akhenaten: The Heretic King.
New Jersey: Princeton University Press
Return to The
Heptune Journal of Lore and Levity.
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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