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What's in a Name?

Today, we're diving right into the core of Thutmose Tuesday itself: the name "Thutmose". For the ancient Egyptians, names held tremendous power. If your name lived on in the memories of your family (or, if you were a pharaoh, in the hearts and minds of your subjects), then your spirit would endure forever in the afterlife. This was primarily why Egyptian kings built such extravagant tombs and mortuary temples, so they would be remembered and worshipped for generations to come.

The name "Thutmose" means "One Born of Thoth" (the ancient Egyptian god of knowledge), and can be spelled in a variety of different ways: Thothmes, Thutmosis, Tuthmosis, etc. According to hieroglyphic evidence, Egyptologists believe that in ancient times "Thutmose" would have actually been pronounced "Djheutymes," as opposed to the anglicized spelling and pronunciation used today. Interestingly however, each of the Thutmoside kings we've been discussing actually had five names, not just one. This was typical of Egyptian pharaohs, who assumed an array of new titles and epithets when they ascended to the throne which they often added to throughout their reign. There was the Horus Name, Nebty ("Two Ladies") Name, Golden Horus Name, Prenomen, and Nomen. Today, we're focusing on these last two.

The "Nomen" refers to the birth name of a pharaoh: in this case, it would be "Thutmose" (I-IV). The "Prenomen", the throne name, is a little different: it always precedes the nomen, and is adopted by the pharaoh after his coronation. The Prenomen is also known as the "Nesu Bit" name, which refers to the kingly title "He of the Sedge and the Bee," which was placed before a pharaoh's name to signify that he was the ruler of a united Upper and Lower Egypt. What's fascinating about the Thutmoside Dynasty is that all four kings named Thutmose have very similar throne names:

  • Aakheperkare Thutmose I - "Great is the Soul of Re" *(Re is the primary sun god in Egyptian mythology).

  • Aakheperenre Thutmose II - "Great is the Form of Re"

  • Menkheperre Thutmose III - "Eternal are the Manifestations of Re"

  • Menkheperure Thutmose IV - "Established by the Shape of Re"

There's quite a distinct a pattern here, especially when it comes to children imitating fathers. Thutmose I's son, Thutmose II, clearly chose "Aakheperenre" as his Prenomen because of its similarity in both appearance and meaning to his father's throne name "Aakheperkare." Interestingly, when Thutmose II's wife Hatshepsut became pharaoh, she selected "Maatkare" as her throne name, obviously also evoking the title of her father ("Great is the Soul of Re" vs. "Truth is the Soul of Re"). During each of their reigns, Thutmose II and Hatshepsut obviously wanted to pay homage to the memory of their father and predecessor, and a meaningful way to do this (and, by extension, to easily associate the greatness and strength of Thutmoside patriarch with the success of their own rules) would be to adopt a throne name similar to his. Thutmose IV also appears to have selected a Prenomen evocative of that of his grandfather, again presumably to tie the mighty military and economic legacy of Thutmose III's reign to that of his own.

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