Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt

The Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty XII) is often combined with the Eleventh, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties under the group title Middle Kingdom.

1991 BC  1802 BC
CapitalThebes, Itjtawy
Common languagesEgyptian language
ancient Egyptian religion
GovernmentAbsolute monarchy
Historical eraBronze Age
1991 BC 
 1802 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Eleventh Dynasty of Egypt
Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt


Known rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty are as follows:[1]

Dynasty XII pharaohs of Egypt
NameHorus (throne) nameDatePyramidQueen(s)
Amenemhat ISehetepibre1991 – 1962 BCPyramid of Amenemhet IQueen Neferitatjenen
Senusret I (Sesostris I)Kheperkare1971 – 1926 BCPyramid of Senusret IQueen Neferu III
Amenemhat IINubkhaure1929 – 1895 BCWhite PyramidQueen Kaneferu
Queen Keminub?
Senusret II (Sesostris II)Khakheperre1897 – 1878 BCPyramid at El-LahunQueen Khenemetneferhedjet I
Queen Nofret II
Queen Itaweret?
Queen Khnemet
Senusret III (Sesostris III)Khakaure1878 – 1839 BCPyramid at DahshurQueen Meretseger
Queen Neferthenut
Queen Khnemetneferhedjet II
Queen Sithathoriunet
Amenemhat IIINimaatre1860 – 1814 BCBlack Pyramid; Pyramid at HawaraQueen Aat
Queen Hetepi
Queen Khenemetneferhedjet III
Amenemhat IVMaakherure1815 – 1806 BCSouthern Mazghuna pyramid (conjectural)
Queen SobekneferuSobekkare1806 – 1802 BCNorthern Mazghuna pyramid (conjectural)

The chronology of the 12th dynasty is the most stable of any period before the New Kingdom. The Ramses Papyrus canon (1290 BC) in Turin gives 213 years (1991–1778 BC). Manetho stated that it was based in Thebes, but from contemporary records it is clear that the first king moved its capital to a new city named "Amenemhat-itj-tawy" ("Amenemhat the Seizer of the Two Lands"), more simply called Itjtawy. The location of Itjtawy has not been found, but is thought to be near the Fayyum, probably near the royal graveyards at el-Lisht. Egyptologists consider this dynasty to be the apex of the Middle Kingdom.

The order of its rulers is well known from several sources two lists recorded at temples in Abydos and one at Saqqara, as well as Manetho's work. A recorded date during the reign of Senusret III can be correlated to the Sothic cycle,[2] consequently many events during this dynasty can be frequently assigned to a specific year.

Amenemhat I and Senusret I

This dynasty was founded by Amenemhat I, who may have been vizier to the last pharaoh of Dynasty XI, Mentuhotep IV. His armies campaigned south as far as the Second Cataract of the Nile and into southern Canaan. He also reestablished diplomatic relations with the Canaanite state of Byblos and Hellenic rulers in the Aegean Sea. His son Senusret I followed his father's triumphs with an expedition south to the Third Cataract, but the next rulers were content to live in peace until the reign of Senusret III.

Senusret III

Finding Nubia had grown restive under the previous rulers, Senusret sent punitive expeditions into that land; he also sent an expedition into the Levant. These military campaigns gave birth to a legend of a mighty warrior named Sesostris, a story retold by Manetho, Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus. Manetho claimed the mythical Sesostris not only subdued the lands as had Senusret I, but also conquered parts of Canaan and had crossed over into Europe to annex Thrace. However, there are no records of the time, either in Egyptian or other contemporary writings that support these claims.

Amenemhat III

Senusret's successor Amenemhat III reaffirmed his predecessor's foreign policy. However, after Amenemhat, the energies of this dynasty were largely spent, and the growing troubles of government were left to the dynasty's last ruler, Queen Sobekneferu, to resolve. Amenemhat was remembered for the mortuary temple at Hawara that he built, known to Herodotus, Diodorus, and Strabo as the "Labyrinth". Additionally, under his reign, the marshy Fayyum was first exploited.

Ancient Egyptian literature

It was during the twelfth dynasty that Ancient Egyptian literature was refined. Perhaps the best known work from this period is The Story of Sinuhe, of which several hundred papyrus copies have been recovered. Also written during this dynasty were a number of Didactic works, such as the Instructions of Amenemhat and The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant.

Pharaohs of Dynasties XII through XVIII are also credited with preserving for us some of the most remarkable Egyptian papyri:

See also


  1. Aidan Dodson, Dyan Hilton: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, London 2004
  2. Parker, Richard A., "The Sothic Dating of the Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties," in Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes, 1977

Preceded by
Eleventh Dynasty
Dynasty of Egypt
1991 − 1802 BCE
Succeeded by
Thirteenth Dynasty
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