King Piye was a Kushite ruler and the first of the Nubian Pharaohs of the 25th dynasty of Egypt. Reigning in the 8th century BC, he united Egypt under Kushite rule after his conquest of Egypt. This era marked the beginning of a renaissance in Egyptian civilisation and lasted until the Assyrian invasion.

Image of King Piye sitting on his throne.

Piye, formerly referred to as Pankhy or Piankhi, passed away in 714 BC. He was a distinguished Kushite monarch who established the Twenty-fifth Dynasty in Egypt, governing from 744–714 BC. From the city of Napata in what is now Sudan, Piye exerted his reign.

Piye took on the throne titles of Usimare and Sneferre. He held a deep reverence for the god Amun, a sentiment shared by many Nubian monarchs. He breathed new life into the long-neglected Great Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal, originally erected during Thutmose III’s time in the New Kingdom. He enlisted a multitude of Egyptian artisans for this task. It was once believed that he also adopted the throne name ‘Menkheperre’ (“the Manifestation of Ra remains”). However, it’s now understood that this title was associated with a Theban king named Ini, a contemporary of Piye.

King Piye Conquering Egypt

While reigning over Nubia and Upper Egypt, Piye capitalized on the internal disputes among Egypt’s leaders to extend Nubia’s influence beyond Thebes to Lower Egypt. Observing this, Tefnakht of Sais rallied the local kings of the Delta Region, persuading Piye’s ally—king Nimlot of Hermopolis—to switch loyalties. In response, Tefnakht led his new alliance southward, laying siege to Herakleopolis. The city’s king, Peftjauawybast, alongside Nubian leaders, sought Piye’s intervention. By the 20th year of his reign, Piye had mobilized an army, advancing through Middle and Lower Egypt. His timely arrival in Thebes for the grand Opet Festival indicated his dominion over Upper Egypt. His military accomplishments are detailed in the Victory Stele at Gebel Barkal:

“Realize my achievements, surpassing those of predecessors. I am the king, divine embodiment, the living image of Atum. I emerged, destined to rule. Feared by those above me, it was foreseen, even before birth, I’d reign. The divine king, cherished by gods, the Son of Re, Piye, adored by Amun …”

Victory Stele of Piye
Stele of King Piye

Piye regarded his campaign as sacred. He directed his troops to purify themselves before combat and personally performed rituals for Amun.

He advanced north, triumphing in Herakleopolis and capturing cities including Hermopolis and Memphis. Nile Delta’s kings, such as Iuput II and Osorkon IV, yielded to him. After a lengthy siege, Hermopolis was overtaken. Tefnakht, however, took shelter in a Delta island, recognizing Piye’s victory through a letter but avoiding direct homage. Piye then headed south to Thebes, eventually returning to Nubia without revisiting Egypt.

Yet, Piye’s reach from Thebes only went as far as Herakleopolis. Delta’s kings, particularly Tefnakht, operated without his interference. Piye’s heir, Shebitku, later addressed this gap by assailing Sais, overthrowing Tefnakht’s successor Bakenranef.

Reign of King Piye

Piye’s reign has long been associated with the “Year 24 III Akhet day 10” from the “Smaller Dakhla Stela” found in the Sutekh temple at Mut el-Kharab, Dakhla Oasis. Yet, carvings from the Great Temple at Gebel Barkal show Piye participating in a Heb Sed Festival, typically held in a monarch’s 30th year. Scholars debate whether these depict actual events or were anticipatory representations, raising the possibility that Piye might not have reached his 30th year. Two papyri, from Year 21 and 22, name him “Piye Si-Ese Meryamun.”

Kenneth Kitchen posits a 31-year reign for Piye, drawing from the Year 8 donation stela of Shepsesre Tefnakht, seen as Piye’s rival. Contrarily, Olivier Perdu in 2002 theorized the stela pertains to a later Tefnakht II, due to stylistic parallels with a stela from Necho I’s second year. Additionally, Kitchen notes:

A bandage fragment from Western Thebes has an unclear date of Sneferre Piye. Visible remnants suggest ‘Regnal Year 20′, a patch possibly indicating ‘10′, and a faint sign potentially being a superfluous t. Essentially, we may have a date surpassing Piye’s Year 20, potentially reaching Year 30, aligning with the 31 years previously deduced from separate evidence.

Burial of King Piye

Piye’s final resting place is near Jebel Barkal in present-day Northern Sudan, adjacent to the grandest pyramid in the cemetery, marked Ku.1. Descending 19 steps eastward, one enters his burial chamber, carved directly into the bedrock. The chamber, protected by a masonry roof designed with corbelled arches, houses Piye’s body, which was laid on a bed. The bed’s legs fit into the carved corners of a stone bench, ensuring the bed’s platform was directly on the stone. Notably, Piye was the first pharaoh in over half a millennium to be interred with such grandeur. In a testament to his bond with them, Piye’s four cherished horses were also buried nearby. Later on, the dynasty’s subsequent members were laid to rest in this same location.

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  1. “Piye,” Wikipedia, last modified August 25, 2023, accessed September 24, 2023,
  2. “Piye, King of Cush” Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed September 24, 2023,
  3. King Piye, the great Nubian Pharaoh who conquered & ruled Egypt (744 – 714 BC), accessed September 24, 2023,