Also Known As: Soris
Born in: Ancient Egypt
Famous as: King of Egypt
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Hetepheres I
mother: Meresankh I
siblings: Hetepheres I
children: Ankhhaf, Iynefer I, Kanefer, Khufu, Meritites I, Nefermaat, Nefertkau I, Prince Rahotep, Princess Hetepheres, Ranefer
Who is Sneferu?
Sneferu was the founder and the first king of the Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Also known under his Hellenized name Soris, he played a major role in the design and construction of the pyramids in Ancient Egypt. Sneferu’s reign marked the climax of the Old Kingdom when its royal power reached a zenith under the Fourth Dynasty. He is credited to have introduced major technical innovations in the construction of pyramids and the three major pyramids he built were far larger than those constructed by his predecessors and also differed in their style. The details regarding Sneferu’s parentage are obscure. It is generally believed that he was one of the sons of his predecessor, Huni, and one of his lesser wives or concubines, Meresankh I. He later on married Hetepheres I, who would have been at least his half sister, probably by a more senior queen, and this strengthened his claim to the throne. After ascending to the throne Sneferu probably undertook extensive expeditions southward into Nubia, and westward into the Sinai. But he became best known for the designing and construction of pyramids, and is credited with at least one of a series of "regional" or provincial pyramids, at Seila
Childhood & Early Life
Sneferu was born sometime in the 25th century BC. He is believed to be the son of his predecessor, Huni, an ancient Egyptian king and the last pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. His mother was Meresankh I who is assumed to be one of the lesser wives or concubines of Huni.
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Accession & Reign
Several details regarding the life of Sneferu are unclear. As a young man he married one of Huni’s daughters from a senior wife and this strengthened his claim to the throne.
It is not known for sure when Sneferu ascended to the throne. Different sources give different estimates of his reign. According to ‘The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt’, he probably ruled for 24 years from 2613 BC to 2589 BC while Rolf Krauss suggests a reign of 30 years. Still another source, Stadelmann proposes that he had a 48-year reign.
Even though records from his reign are quite limited, certain facts are known for sure. From the extensive cemeteries surrounding his own and his son’s pyramids, it has been ascertained that the members of the royal family were appointed to the highest administrative offices during his reign. Only the princes very close to the succession were appointed to the extremely important office of the vizier in order to keep the administrative power of the country within the royal family.
During the early years of his reign he probably led an extensive raid southward into Nubia and later on he is believed to have launched an expedition to Libya. It is also known that the king held extensive estates throughout Egypt.
Sneferu was, however, most famous for introducing innovations in the way pyramids were built in ancient Egypt. The earliest pyramid attributed to him is the pyramid at Maydum. It was originally constructed as a step pyramid and was later modified to form a true pyramid. However, some scholars have doubts regarding Sneferu’s claim to the Maydum pyramid as several historians credit the pyramid’s origin to King Huni.
He is also credited with the construction of the Bent Pyramid, which is also known as the Rhomboidal or Blunted Pyramid. This pyramid is considered to be very innovative in style as the angle of the inclination changes from 55° to about 43° in the upper levels of the pyramid. It has two entrances, one from the north and another from the west.
A few years after the construction of the Bent Pyramid, Sneferu built the Red Pyramid which is also called the North Pyramid. Named for the rusty reddish hue of red limestone stones, it is the largest of the three major pyramids located at the Dahshur necropolis. Locally the Red Pyramid is also called ‘el-heram el-watwaat’, meaning the Bat Pyramid. The German Egyptologist Rainer Stadelmann estimates that it took approximately 17 years to construct the pyramid.
Sneferu undertook such massive building projects which would have required the employment of vast labor and materials. It is believed that during the expeditions he led to Libya and Nubia he had captured a large number of slaves and looted raw materials. He also captured cattle during his foreign invasions.
He looted booty of around 7,000 captives and 200,000 head of cattle from Nubia and 11,000 captives and 13,100 head of cattle from his campaign in Libya. His expeditions are believed to have been devastating to the population and economy of the raided countries.
Sneferu is counted amongst Egypt’s most renowned pyramid builders and is credited with developing the pyramid into its true form. He built three major pyramids, and the Red Pyramid was the last among these. Built of red limestone stones, the pyramid is the third largest Egyptian pyramid and the largest of the three major pyramids located at the Dahshur necropolis.
Personal Life & Legacy
His main wife was Hetepheres I, the daughter of Huni and one of his major wives. She was probably his half-sister. He also had other wives and fathered a number of children including Khufu, Ankhhaf, Kanefer, Nefermaat I, Netjeraperef, Rahotep, Ranefer, and Iynefer I.
Upon his death he was succeeded by his son, Khufu.