Horemheb was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's 18th Dynasty from 1319 BC to late 1292 BC. Horemheb's birth name and epithet was Horemheb Meryamun, meaning Horus is in Jubilation, Beloved of Amun. His name is sometimes spelled Horemhab or Haremhab. Technically, this name is transliterated as ḥr-m-ḥb mry-ỉmn, which is written in Egyptian hieroglyphs to the right. Horemheb is believed to have originated from Herakleopolis Magna or ancient Hnes (modern Ihnasya el-Medina) on the west bank of the Nile near the entrance to the Fayum since his coronation text formally credits the God Horus of Hnes for establishing him on the throne. His parentage is unknown but he is universally believed to be a commoner.
Horemheb's throne name, Djeserkheperure Setepenre, means "Holy are the Manifestations of Re, Chosen of Re". This name is transliterated as dsr-ḫprw-r‘ stp-n-r‘, which is also written in hieroglyphs to the right.
When Tutankhamun died while still a teenager, Horemheb had actually been designated as rpat ("Crown Prince") and idnw (King's "Deputy") which meant that Horemheb was the officially recognised heir to Tutankhamun's throne. However, the aged Vizier Ay managed to sideline Horemheb's claim to the throne and instead succeed Tutankhamun. Having pushed Horemheb aside, Ay proceeded to nominate a military officer named Nakhtmin who was possibly Ay's son or adopted son, to succeed him rather than Horemheb. After Ay's brief reign of four years and one month, however, Horemheb managed to seize power presumably from his position as Commander of the Army to assume what he must have perceived to be his just reward for having ably served Egypt under Tutankhamun and Ay. Horemheb quickly removed Naktmin's rival claim to the throne and arranged to have Ay's WV23 tomb desecrated by smashing the latter's sarcophagus into several pieces, systematically chiselling out Ay's name and figure out of the tomb walls and probably destroying Ay's mummy. However, he spared Tutankhamun's tomb from vandalism presumably because it was the Boy King who had promoted his sudden rise to power and chosen him to be this king's successor. Horemheb also usurped and enlarged Ay's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use and erased Ay's titulary on the back of a 17 foot colossal statue by carving his own titulary in its place. This statue is now located in the Oriental Institute of Chicago.
Upon his accession, Horemheb initiated a comprehensive series of internal reforms meant to curb the gross abuses of power and privileges that had begun under Akhenaten's reign, due to the overcentralization of state power and privileges in the hands of a few officials. He "appointed judges and regional tribunes...reintroduced local religious authorities" and divided legal power "between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt" between "the Viziers of Thebes and Memphis respectively."
These deeds are recorded in a stela which the king erected at the foot of his Tenth Pylon at Karnak. Occasionally called The Great Edict of Horemheb, it is a copy of the actual text of the king's decree to re-establish order to the Two Lands and curb abuses of state authority. The stela's creation and prominent location emphasizes the great importance which Horemheb placed upon domestic reform. Horemheb also reformed the Army and reorganized the Deir el-Medinah workforce in his 7th Year while Horemheb's official, Maya, renewed the tomb of Thutmose IV, which had been disturbed by tomb robbers in his 8th Year. While the king restored the priesthood of Amun, he did not permit the Amun priests from forming a stranglehold on power by deliberately reappointing priests who mostly came from the Egyptian army since he could rely on their personal loyalty. Horemheb was a prolific builder who erected numerous temples and buildings throughout Egypt during his life-time. He constructed the Second, Ninth and Tenth Pylons of the Great Hypostyle Hall, in the Temple at Karnak using recycled talatat blocks from Akhenaten's own monuments here, as building material for the first two Pylons.
Because of his unexpected rise to the throne, Horemheb had had two tombs constructed for himself: the first – when he was a mere nobleman – at Saqqara near Memphis, and the other – in the Valley of the Kings, in Thebes, in tomb KV57, as king. His chief Wife was Queen Mutnedjmet, who may have been Nefertiti's younger sister, but she failed to bear him a successor. He is not known to have any children by his first wife Amenia who died before Horemheb assumed power.
Janssen, in his original BIFAO paper, noted the curious fact that no known New Kingdom Pharaohs who reigned for a quarter of a century including Ramesses II and Ramesses III had their accession date in this time frame and suggests the Year change was an error committed on behalf of the scribe. He then attributed the ostraca to Ramesses III, whose accession date was I Shemu day 26 and expressed his view that the scribe may have inadvertently implemented the Year change two weeks early instead. Janssen also observed that the palaeography of the ostraca suggests a date in the 20th Dynasty partly because it followed the later New Kingdom form of writing and due to its provenance in the Grand Putit region, which features numerous Dynasty 20 ostracas. However, this form of writing is also attested in monuments of Ramesses II and it would, therefore, not be unexpected to find it in a document from the very late 18th Dynasty since the transition from the Early New Kingdom to the Late New Kingdom Form of writing had already occurred prior to the end of Horemheb's reign, as Frank Yurco once noted. Indeed, Janssen's palaeographical reference for his paper–Prof. Georges Posener–himself suggested a date in the 19th Dynasty due to the form of the wsf (absent) and akhet (inundation) text. As Janssen himself writes, a few 19th Dynasty ostracas have been found in the Grand Putit area prior to the 20th Dynasty's intensive exploitation of this region. This does not exclude some late 18th Dynasty work here either. Secondly, both Janssen and Krauss stress in their papers that the relative scarcity of the hieratic text in Ostraca IFAO 1254 precludes a clear dating of the document to Ramesses III's reign and that palaeography, in general, does not give a precise date for a document's creation. Hence, a dating of the ostraca to Horemheb's reign on the basis of the Year change is eminently plausible. On other matters, a damaged wall fragment painting from the Petrie Collection mentions Horemheb's 15th or 25th Year.
Another important text, The Inscription of Mes, records that a court case decision was rendered in favour by a rival branch of Mes' family in Year 59 of Horemheb. Since the Mes inscription was composed during the reign of Ramesses II when the Amarna-era Pharaohs were struck from the official king-lists, the Year 59 Horemheb date certainly includes the nearly 17 year long reign of Akhenaten, the 2 year independent reign of Neferneferuaten, the 9 year reign of Tutankhamun and the 4 year reign of Ay. Once all these rulers reigns are deducted from the Year 59 date, Horemheb would still have easily enjoyed a reign of 26-27 Years. At a well known 1987 Conference from Gothenburg Sweden, Kenneth Kitchen astutely noted that any attempt to explain away the Year 59 Horemheb date as a "scribal error" fails to consider the long and volumnious listed series of court trials and legal setbacks which Mes' family endured in order to win back control over certain valuable lands which had been stolen from his family's line. Indeed, Mes likely ordered the protracted legal dispute, which is presented as a series of court depositions and testimonies of various plaintiffs and witnesses, to be inscribed on his tomb walls in order to create a permanent ('carved in stone') record of his family's ultimately victorious struggle to win back these lands. Mes, hence, could hardly be expected to forget the beginning of his family's legal tribulations in Year 59 of Horemheb. Kitchen also observes in his paper that Horemheb's extensive building projects at Karnak supported the theory of a long reign for this Pharaoh and stressed that "a good number of the undated 'late 18th Dynasty' private monuments that are in both Egypt and the world's Museums must, in fact, belong to his reign." Horemheb, hence, probably died after a minimum reign of 27 or, at most, 28 Years.
Under Horemheb, Egypt's power and confidence was once again restored after the internal chaos of the Amarna period; this situation set the stage for the rise of the 19th Dynasty under such ambitious Pharaohs like Seti I and Ramesses II. Horemheb is believed to have unsuccessfully attempted to father an heir to the throne since the mummy of his second wife was found with a foetus in it. Geoffrey Martin in his excavation work at Saqqara states that the burial of Horemheb's second wife Mutnedjmet was located at the bottom of a shaft to the rooms of Horemheb's Saqqara tomb. He notes that "a fragment of an alabaster vase inscribed with a funerary text for the chantress of Amun and King's Wife Mutnodjmet, as well as pieces of a statuette of her [was found here]...The funerary vase in particular, since it bears her name and titles would hardly have been used for the burial of some other person.
Since Horemheb remained childless, he appointed his Vizier, Paramesse as his chosen successor before his death both to reward Paramesse's loyalty and because the latter had both a son and grandson to secure Egypt's royal succession. Paramesse employed the name Ramesses I upon assuming power and founded the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. While the decorations of Horemheb's KV57 tomb walls was still unfinished upon his death, this situation is not unprecedented: Amenhotep II's tomb was also not fully completed when he was buried but this ruler enjoyed a reign of 26 Years.