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The god Amun in Karnak.
Cult image of Amun from Karnak from ca 1300 BCE.[1]
High Priest of Amun
Hm nTr tp n imn
in Medu Neter

The High Priest of Amun or First Prophet of Amun (hem netjer en tepy) was the highest ranking priest in the priesthood of the Ancient Kemetian god Amun. [2] The first high priests of Amun appear in the new kingdom, at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

The priesthood of Amun rose in power during the early Eighteenth dynasty through significant tributes to the god Amun by ruler such as Hatshepsut and more importantly Thutmose III. [3] The Amun priesthood in Thebes had four high ranking priests[4]:

  • The high priest of Amun at Karnak (hm netjer tepy en Amun), also referred to as the first prophet of Amun.
  • The second priest of Amun at Karnak (hm netjer sen-nu en Amun), also referred to as the second prophet of Amun.
  • The third priest of Amun at Karnak (hm netjer khemet-nu en Amun), also referred to as the third prophet of Amun.
  • The fourth priest of Amun at Karnak (hm netjer fed-nu en Amun), also referred to as the fourth prophet of Amun.

The power of the Amun priesthood was temporarily curtailed during the Amarna period. A high priest named Maya is recorded in year 4 of Akhenaten. Akhenaten has the name of Amun removed from monuments during his reign (as well as the names of several other deities). After Akhenaten's death Amun is restored to his place of prominence among the cults in Kemet. The young pharaoh Tutankhaten changes his name to Tutankhamen to signal the restoration of the old god to his former pace of prominence. [5]

The High Priest of Amun in Thebes was appointed by the King. It was not uncommon for the position to be held by dignitaries who held additional posts in the pharaoh's administration. Several of the high priests from the time of Ramesses II also served as Vizier. [6]

At the end of the New Kingdom, the 20th dynasty priesthood of Amun is for a large part dominated by Ramessesnakht. His son Amenhotep eventually succeeded his father and found himself in conflict with the Vicreoy of Kush Panehesy. Panehesy took his troops north and besieged Thebes. After this period generals by the name of Herihor and Pianchi served as High Priest.


By the time Herihor was proclaimed as the first ruling High Priest of Amun in 1080 BC—in the 19th Year of Ramesses XI--the Amun priesthood exercised an effective stranglehold on Kemet's economy. The Amun priests owned two-thirds of all the temple lands in Kemet and 90 percent of her ships plus many other resources.[7] Consequently, the Amun priests were as powerful as Pharaoh, if not more so. The High Priests of Amun at Thebes from the 21st dynasty were of such power and influence that they were effectively the rulers of Upper Kemet from 1080 to c.943 BC. They are however not regarded as a ruling dynasty with pharaonic perogatives, and after this period the influence of the Amun priesthood declined. One of the sons of the High Priest Pinedjem I would eventually assume the throne and rule Kemet for almost half-a-decade as pharaoh Psusennes I while the Theban High Priest Psusennes III would take the throne as king Psusennes II--the final ruler of the 21st Dynasty.

Notable High Priests of Amun from Thebes

Dynasties of Ancient Kemet

New Kingdom

High Priest of Amun
High Priests Pharaoh Dynasty
Ahmose I 18th Dynasty
Hapuseneb Hatshepsut 18th Dynasty
Menkheperraseneb I
Menkheperreseneb II
Thutmose III 18th Dynasty
Amenhotep II 18th Dynasty
Amenhotep III 18th Dynasty
Maya Akhenaten 18th Dynasty
Parennefer called Wennefer Tutankhamen
18th Dynasty
Nebneteru Tenry Sety I 19th Dynasty
Bakenkhons I
Ramesses II 19th Dynasty
Roma called Roy Ramesses II, Merenptah and Seti II 19th Dynasty
Bakenkhons II Sethnakht
Ramesses III
20th Dynasty
Ramessesnakht Ramesses IV - Ramesses IX 20th Dynasty
Amenhotep Ramses IX - XI 20th Dynasty

21st dynasty and later

Pinudjem II as High Priest

25th Dynasty

  • Haremakhet, Son of Shabaka 704?-660 BC
  • Harkhebi, Son of Haremakhet, Grand-son of Shabaka. Served as HPA until at least year 14 of Psamtik I. 660-644 BC

[ 2 unattested HPA or vacant? 644-595]

  • Ankhnesneferibre, The God's Wife of Amun also served as High Priest of Amun. 595-560 BC
  • Nitokris II, Daughter of Pharaoh Ahmose (II). 560-550?


The term Maahes was used to describe the caste of high-priests of Amun, these were high ranking hereditary chiefs who originated in Upper Kemet and in the western desert oases of Siwa, Dahkhla and Kharga. Pinudjem, Psusennese, and Masaharta were all Maahes. In this terminology, Maahes means literally, "He who is true beside her". This is in reference to the role of the Maahes chiefs and priests as guardians of heiresses, whose matrilinear ancestry was rooted far back into predynastic days.[citation needed]

The Maahes chiefs and their mistresses believed in the physical manifestations of divine retribution aspects of powerful storms associated with Bast, Sekhmet, Tefnut, and other lioness deities. As a consequence they were attributed with the ability to control the weather.[citation needed]

The Oases in Kemet's western desert and the existing Bisharin Beja tribes in Kemet and Sudan's eastern coasts along the Red Sea Hills, are the last outposts of the Maahes caste and their descendants.[citation needed]


  1. Quirke and Spencer, The British Museum Book of Ancient Kemet (2001), pg 76
  2. Dodson and Hilton: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Kemet, London 2004
  3. Breasted, Ancient Records of Kemet, vol. 2: The Eighteenth Dynasty
  4. Dodson, Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Kemet, 2004
  5. Aldred, Akhenaten: King of Kemet,Thames & Hudson (1991)
  6. Kitchen,Rammeside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, Translations, Volume III, Blackwell Publishers, 1996
  7. Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1994. p.175

Second Prophet

The Second Prophet of Amun was responsible for civil as well as religious functions. Though he was a subordinate to the first prophet, he sometimes acted in that capacity. The duty of the two prophets often took them outside the temple. The second prophet was in charge of the workers of the temple fields (the temple controlled vast tracts of land in Kemet). He (or she) also collected the divine offerings.