Hor-Aha – History, Facts & Major Accomplishments
Commonly referred to as the second pharaoh of the 1st Dynasty of ancient Egypt, Hor-Aha is said to have succeeded Narmer, the first pharaoh and founder of the First Dynasty. According to an ancient kings lists from a seal impression from Tomb T in Umm el Qaab (the necropolis of the Early Dynastic Period kings at Abydos, Egypt), Narmer was the first ruler of the first dynasty. Narmer was succeeded by his son Hor-Aha, who in turn was succeeded by Djer.
Below WHE explores the major facts about the life and achievements of King Hor-Aha of the Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt.
Facts about Hor-Aha
Name: Horus Aha
Parents: Narmer and Neithhotep
Spouses: Benerib, Khenthap
Children: Horus Djer
Successor: Horus Djer
Name and epithets
Hor-Aha is the Horus-name, a royal name of the pharaoh that symbolizes the divine might and worldly power of the king of Egypt. Hor-Aha translates to “Horus the Fighter” or “Fighting Hawk”.
In ancient Egyptian pantheon, Horus is the falcon-headed god of the sky. Ancient Egyptians associated their rulers with many gods, particularly Horus as it was believed that the pharaohs were the earthly manifestation of Horus.
According to Manetho, a third century BC Egyptian priest and historian, Athothis is the Greek name of Hor-Aha.
According to some archaeologists, Hor-Aha and Menes were the same. If that were true, then Hor-Aha was the one who unified all of Egypt – i.e. Upper and Lower Egypt. This would make him the first ruler of the first dynasty.
The above theory is given further credence by the Palermo Stone. The Palermo Stone, which contains the Royal Annals, serves as a very important primary source when it comes to the names of ancient Egyptian kings, duration of their reigns and other important details about ancient Egypt, including the religious ceremonies, trade and military expeditions of the time.
Much of what Manetho used in writing his works on ancient Egypt were sourced from the Palermo Stone.
It’s also possible that Hor-Aha was the son and heir of King Namer. This would mean that Hor-Aha was the second king of the First Dynasty, having ascended the throne following Namer’s death. This theory is supported by a number of seal impressions from the resting places of King Den (also known as Hor-Den or Udimu) and King Qa’a.
If the above theory were to hold true, then King Hor-Aha’s mother was Queen Neithhotep, the famous Old Kingdom queen and wife of Narmer who might have ruled all of Egypt during the minority years of Hor-Aha. This would also mean that Neithhotep wielded a tremendous amount of influence on Hor-Aha.
Archeologists and scholars theorize that King Narmer tied the knot with Neithhotep, a royal princess from the region of Naqada, as part of his efforts to unite Lower and Upper Egypt. Queen Neithhotep went by a number of epithets, including “Foremost of Women” and “Consort of the Two Ladies”.
In the 19th century, French archaeologist and mining engineer Jean-Jacques de Morgan made a startling discovery of Queen Neithhotep’s magnificent mastaba (a rectangular burial mound with a flat roof). It’s been suggested that Neithhotep died during the reign of Hor-Aha, hence his building of such an amazing tomb for his mother.
Hor-Aha is believed to have taken Benerib as his chief royal wife. Benerib, whose name translates to “sweet of heart” or “one who is pleasant at heart”. Typical of ancient Egyptian kings, Hor-Aha had numerous wives, including Khenthap with whom he fathered Djer, his successor.
Read More: 8 Great Ancient Egyptian Female Rulers
Hor-Aha and Egyptian goddess Neith
Regarded as one of the oldest deities in ancient Egypt, Neith was revered as a fierce war goddess. In some cases, she was worshiped as a creator deity. It was often the case for first dynasty pharaohs and royal members to associate themselves with Neith. King Hor-Aha was no different. This explains why the shrine of Neith contained many tablets that make mention of Hor-Aha’s reign. Queen Neithhotep, the mother of King Hor-Aha, was named in honor of Neith. Her name translates to “Neith is merciful”.
In addition to Horus and Neith, Hor-Aha was associated with the Egyptian falcon god Seker, Upper Egyptian patron goddess Nekhbet, and Lower Egyptian patron goddess Uto (also known as Wadjet).
Read More: List of ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses
King Hor-Aha’s reign
Owing to how far back Hor-Aha’s reign goes, there are not so many artifacts that survived. We can however infer from the items that survived that his reign brimmed with artisans and craftsmen of all kinds. Some of those artifacts that survived from Hor-Aha’s reign include ivory box, axe heads, and faience vessels.
Archeologists discovered the tomb of Pharaoh Hor-Aha in the necropolis of the kings in Abydos. This necropolis, which is called Umm el-Qa’ab (“Mother of Pots”), served as the burial place for Early Dynastic Era kings.
Hor-Aha’s tomb, which is right next to Narmer’s tomb, has three massive rectangular chambers. The walls of the tomb were made from mud bricks. It’s been found that servants and some members of the royal household were killed and then buried with the pharaoh. The essence of this human sacrifice was to ensure that the servants continued to serve Hor-Aha in his afterlife. It is commonly held in the archaeological community that Aha was the first known Egyptian king to begin the practice of retainer sacrifice.
Major achievements of Hor-Aha
After deciphering the inscriptions from an ivory tablet in Abydos, archeologists found out that King Hor-Aha marched his army against the Nubians, an ethnic group of people who hailed from what are now northern Sudan and southern Egypt. The tablet refers to the year in which this military expedition took place as the ‘Year of smiting of Ta-Sety’. The Nubian region was also known Ta-Sety.
In Manetho’s work Aegyptiaca, which translates to “History of Egypt”, Hor-Aha is credited with building a magnificent palace in the city of Memphis in Lower Egypt. Founded by King Menes, Memphis served as the capital of ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. It’s also been suggested that Memphis rose to immense importance during Aha’s reign.
King Hor-Aha also built many exquisitely designed tombs in Abydos and Saqqara.
Egyptian historian and priest Manetho claims that King Hor-Aha was a competent physician. The historian also states that Hor-Aha wrote a number of books on many subjects, including anatomy.
With trade and diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Levant falling during the reign of Hor-Aha, the pharaoh made up for this shortfall by tapping into Egypt’s local resources.
More on King Hor-Aha of ancient Egypt
In one account of the story, Hor-Aha was attacked by a wild dog only for him to be rescued by a crocodile. Since crocodiles were associated with the Egyptian god Sobek, it was believed that the king was saved by Sobek himself. As a sign of his appreciation to Sobek, Hor-Aha built the city of Per Sobek (“House of Sobek”).
- Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson
- Joyce Tyldesley (2006). Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson
- Romer, John (2013). A History of Ancient Egypt: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid. London: Penguin.
- Toby A.H. Wilkinson (1999). Early Dynastic Egypt.