Sesostris III was the son and successor of Sesostris II. The name of his mother is not known. His principal queens were Khenemet-nefer-hedjet II and Nefret-henut. His only known son would eventually also become his successor, Amenemhat III.

The length of his reign has been the subject of some debate. According to Manetho, Sesostris III ruled for 48 years, but it is likely that this high number combines the length of his reign with that of his predecessor(s).

The Turin Kinglist credits Sesostris with 30 + x years. But even this date is considered too high by many Egyptologists, since the highest known year for this king is his 19th regnal year, recorded on the stela of Si-Satet and in an inscription in Nubia. Particularly in view of the high building record and the military activities of this king, it would, however, probably be wrong to assume that Sesostris did not outlive his 19th regnal year.

There is no evidence that would point to a co-regency with either his predecessor or his successor.

There was at least one military campaign against Palestine, probably in a further attempt to stop the infiltration of Asiatics into Egypt. The number of execration texts found in Syria-Palestine is fairly high, pointing to Sesostris' anti-Asiatic policy.

The foreign policy of Sesostris III appears to have been aimed particularly at, or rather against, Nubia. In at least 4 military campaigns, during the regnal years 8, 10, 16 and 19, the relatively peaceful relationship between Egypt and Nubia was brought to an end. These campaigns were very brutal in nature: the men were almost systematically slaughtered, their women and children were made captive, their fields were burnt and their water wells were poisoned.

The fortresses that were built during the earlier 12th Dynasty at the southern border were reinforced and gained a more apparent military nature. Guards were to prevent Nubians from traveling with their herds north of the borders, i.e. into the territory that the Egyptians considered as theirs. Some fortresses had a more economical nature and were involved more in trade, while others were used as depots for weaponry.

It is not clear what prompted this sudden change of policy towards Nubia. Inscriptions often refer to the vile enemy of Kush (Nubia), hinting that there may have been an organised opposition against the Egyptians, but it is possible that such phrasings were simply part of the standard propaganda referring to Nubia itself and not to one leader or other.

His internal policy was one of centralisation of power. Sesostris III is often credited with finally having succeeded in breaking the power of the local governors of the provinces and although there is no direct evidence to support this claim, it is clear that a more centralised government, led by the king and his administration, can only have limited the power of the provincial rulers.

The building record of Sesostris III in Egypt itself is relatively low. This is perhaps due to the fact that later generations rebuilt monuments and reused material from older monuments. In fact, the building record for most kings of the Middle Kingdom is rather low. It is also possible that Sesostris was too much involved in his foreign policy to have spent much on building. There may also have been an increased building activity in the Fayum, near the royal residence, and the Nile Delta, both marshy areas where monuments are not as easily preserved as in the rest of the country.

On artistic level too, Sesostris appears to have been a reformer. Ever since the Early Dynastic Period, the king was always and regardless of his actual age and physical capabilities represented as a vigorous, young man, with an ageless face.

Contrary to this tradition, many reliefs and statues of Sesostris III show him as an aging man, with rings underneath his eyes, eyes and brows slightly pointing down, heavy cheeks and lips and a downturned mouth. This gives him a somewhat brooding and tired appearance. It should, however, be noted that the rest of his body still is that of a muscular young man.

It has often been suggested that these statues and reliefs represent the king's actual features. Although to some extent this might indeed be the case, there are reliefs that represent the king in both the traditional and the new style. The fact that the king's body is always that of a young man, also contradicts such a literal interpretation.

It is thus also possible that Sesostris had himself portrayed as an older man, tired underneath the weight and responsibility of his reign.

Sesostris III built his funerary monument, a mudbrick pyramid encased in limestone of about 60 meters high, in Dashur, not far from the pyramid of his grandfather, Amenemhat II. The immediate family of the kings was buried in unerground galleries within the king's funerary complex. The burial chamber in the pyramid does not appear to have been used.

A second funerary complex was built for Sesostris III in Abydos in Middle Egypt. This complex consisted of an underground tomb and a mortuary temple, where a cult for the king was held for over two centuries after his death. As no remains were found in this tomb either, it is unlikely that the king was buried here. It would thus seem that the actual burial place of Sesostris III is yet to be found.

- History -

Despite the damage to this statue in the Louvre Museum, Sesostris III is clearly represented as a tired old man.

  12th Dynasty   History    
  Sesostris II   Titulary    
  Sesostris III   Tomb (?)    
  Amenemhat III        
             
             


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