King Piye was an ancient Kushite king and founder of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt, who conquered and ruled Egypt from 744-714 BC. He seized control of Upper Egypt within the first decade of his reign and ruled from the city of Napata, located deep in Nubia, modern-day Sudan. King Piye is historically recognized as the first black pharaoh to rule Egypt.
Piye was the son of Kashta and Pebatjma. He is known to have had three or four wives.
The rulers of Egypt were heavily divided and engaged in intrapersonal quarrels. King Piye, who was the ruler of Nubia and Upper Egypt, took advantage of this opportunity to expand Nubian powers beyond Thebes into Lower Egypt. Tefnakht of Sais, becoming aware of this impending threat, formed a coalition between the local kings of the Delta Region and cajoled King Piye’s trusted ally, king Nimlot of Hermopolis, to join his cabal.
A now confident Tefnakht immediately sent his coalition army south and ambushed Herakleopolis. The ruler of the city who was King Peftjauawybast in a bid to seize his sovereignty and retain legitimate control called on Piye for help. Piye was in his 20th year as a king. He reacted urgently by assembling an army to invade Middle and Lower Egypt, before visiting the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes in time for the great Opet Festival. That voyage historically signified that King Piye was in control of Upper Egypt at the time.
His military feats are chronicled in the Victory stela at Gebel Barkal:
Hear what I have done in exceeding the ancestors. I am the king, the representation of god, the living image of Atum, who issued from the womb marked as ruler, who is feared by those greater than he, [whose father] knew and whose mother perceived even in the egg that he would be ruler, the good god, beloved of the gods, the Son of Re, who acts with his two arms, Piye, beloved of Amon ….
Victory Steele Of Piye
Piye then advanced northwards and achieved complete victory at Herakleopolis, including the conquest of Hermopolis and Memphis among others. He received the submissions of surrendering from the kings of the Nile Delta including Iuput II of Leontopolis, Osorkon IV of Tanis and his previous ally Nimlot at Hermopolis.
Following months of battle, Hermopolis fell to King Piye. A deposed and disgraced Tefnakht escaped to an island and officially conceded defeat in a letter to the Nubian king but refused to personally pay homage to Piye. A satisfied Piye, pleased with his victory, left for Thebes and returned to his homeland in Nubia never to return to Egypt.
Shebitku, Piye’s successor, rectified this displeasing situation by attacking Sais and defeating Tefnakht’s successor Bakenranef in his second regnal year.
Piye’s tomb was located next to the largest Pyramid in the cemetery at el-Kurru near Jebel Barkal in what is now Northern Sudan. The burial chamber is an open trench cut into the bedrock and covered with a corbelled masonry roof. His body was placed on a bed that rested in the centre of the chamber on a stone bench whose four corners had been carved out to accommodate the bed’s legs so that the bed platform rested directly on the bench. His four favourite horses were buried at the border of the cemetery, making him the first pharaoh to receive such a funeral. This site would be also occupied by the tombs of several later members of the dynasty.