1. The Pharaoh Who Saved Egypt Could Not Save Himself From His Own Family
Ancient Egyptian pharaohs often had multiple wives and many sons, and Ramses III was no exception. His designated heir was his son Ramses IV, but one of his minor wives, Queen Tiye, wanted her own son Pentawer to become the next ruler instead. So she enlisted a group of palace officials in a conspiracy to assassinate the pharaoh. In 1155 BC, as the pharaoh relaxed amidst the royal harem in a palace near Luxor, the plotters struck, took him by surprise, and slashed his throat. Unfortunately for the plotters, only the first part of their plan, the assassination, had succeeded.
The follow up did not fare so well. Queen Tiye and her accomplices failed to install her son Pentawer on the throne, which had been their ultimate goal. The assassinated pharaoh’s designated heir Ramses IV rallied his supporters, secured the throne, rounded up the plotters, and executed 28 of them. Pentawer was either strangled to death, or was buried alive. Millennia later, his remains were discovered, and his face bore an agonized expression that led to its designation as “The Screaming Mummy”. Other plotters had their ears and noses cut off. Queen Tiye’s punishment is not recorded.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading
Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe: Volumes 1 – 7, From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great (1990)
Kitchen, Kenneth – Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, King of Egypt (1983)
Moseley, James – The Mystery of Herbs and Spices: Scandalous, Romantic, and Intimate Biographies of the World’s Most Notorious Ingredients (2006)
Murray, George Gilbert Aime – The Rise of the Greek Epic (1960)
Page, Sir Denys Lionel – The Santorini Volcano and the Destruction of Minoan Crete (1970)
Redford, Donald B. – The Wars in Syria and Palestine of Thutmose III (2003)
Tyldesley, Joyce – Ramesses: Egypt’s Greatest Pharaoh (2000)