Ancient Egypt: The Old Kingdom , Sixth Dynasty Part I

The Sixth Dynasty of ancient Egyptian history took place between 2345 and 2181 BC, where many different inscriptions from this time period have survived. A great deal of trading expeditions took place, as well as the construction of what would be called the last major monument of the Old Kingdom. In this article, you will learn about some of the pharaohs that ruled during the Sixth Dynasty.


The founding of the Sixth Dynasty is attributed to Teti, who is believed to have ruled Egypt for about 12 years , even though the exact timeline was destroyed on the Turin King List. During his reign, high officials were starting to construct funerary monuments that competed with the structures of the Pharaoh. For example, his vizier, Mereruka, is responsible for building the largest known tomb for an Egyptian nobleman, which consisted of 33 carved rooms. The mastaba tomb was located at Saqqara , the same location where Teti was buried.

With tombs being built by officials, some historians see this as a sign that wealth in Egypt was being transferred from the central court onto other players in government.

Teti married Iput, who is commonly thought to have been the daughter of the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Unas. He had several children, including Pepi I , who would go on to rule Egypt. He may have also fathered Userkare and a prince named Teti-ankh-kem. Some of his daughters were married to viziers.

Historian Manetho states that Teti was killed by his palace bodyguards in a harem plot, while others believe his assassination was the handiwork of the usurper Userkare.

Pepi I

Expeditions in search of materials, such as copper and turquoise, were abundant during the Sixth Dynasty. Pepi, the third pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty, encouraged missions to Wadi Maghara in the Sinai Peninsula, Hatnub, Wadi Hammamat, and as far as Ebla (in what is now known as modern-day Iraq).

Pepi was the son of Teti and Iput. He did not immediately succeed his father in the throne, but had to overcome the usurper and his brother, Userkare. After gaining support from influential people in Upper Egypt, he was able to avenge his father, as well as win back his rightful claim to the throne. During his reign, those that helped him would continue to assist the pharaoh.

During Pepi I’s reign, he aggressively pursued an expansion into Nubia and ventured into trade with far-off locations, such as Lebanon and the Somalian coast. The power of the nobles also increased during his time of ruling. However, Pepi’s reign also signified the start of the decline of the Old Kingdom. Regional representatives of the king (called nomarchs) were starting to enjoy more power and greater influence.

Two of Pepi’s most significant wives were also sisters (Ankhesenpepi I and II) and they would give birth to his two successors, including a son named Pepi II. The two sisters were daughters of a nomarch and Upper Egyptian vizier named Nebet. Historians state that the influence of the two women were great.