This is the life story of Pharaoh Ay (sometimes written Aye) who came to the throne of ancient Egypt in 1333BC at the old age of 69 years. By the time he died at the age of 72 years he had lived through the reigns of six previous Pharaohs. He ended up as the last surviving male member of the Tuthmose family, the rulers of the 18th Dynasty.
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Pharaoh Ay Remembers
The Lost history of the Amarna Kings
This story of Pharaoh Ay, known as God’s Father, is a woven tapestry of fact, fiction and fantasy in which Pharaoh Ay in his old age uses the magical power of Thoth, the god of time to revisit some of the events of his life. Where facts are available, I have used them to lay the foundation for the tale. Unfortunately records of the events of the Amarna period of which Ay was the last ruler were deliberately suppressed by subsequent Pharaohs. Much of the evidence was destroyed in ancient times. Information concerning the reigns of Akhenaten, Smenkhkara, Tutankhamun and Ay himself comes to us in fragments, loosely held together by the glue of contextual rather than direct historical and/or archaeological proof. I have not introduced fictitious characters that occupy major roles in the story. The few fictional persons that are mentioned have been introduced to assist in the continuity of the story. In some cases the factual existence of a person is known, but their name has been lost and I have invented a name for him or her.
Throughout the story references are made to cities, places and names. I have used the ancient Egyptian place names. Where necessary I have explained their location and their modern names on their first appearance in the book: Waset (Luxor). Other geographic names are used such as the northern sea (Mediterranean). I have called the Nile the ‘River’ throughout.
The missing history of the Amarna period leaves the Egyptologist (professional and amateur) at a loss to know how and when Akhenaten died; what relationship existed between him and Smenkhkara or between Tutankhamun and the Amunhotep family. The births, lives and deaths of the leading characters are historically obscure and I have proposed certain outcomes that contain, in my mind at least, an acceptable level of logic.
Our journey was initially rapid, bumpy, uncomfortable and incredibly exhausting for the three young girls, but we appeared to remain ahead of any organised Canaanite attacks. Kiye who had never previously stood at the rail of a chariot was remarkably resilient. We had little time for conversation. It was both noisy and dusty behind two striding horses, but the common experience in adversity led to a friendship that was to last through Kiye’s lifetime. I learnt from the young woman that she had initially been reluctant to leave her home. I expressed the opinion that it was a thoroughly understandable emotion, but what surprised me was her subsequent change of mind. Her father, king Shuttarna lived in fear of his life and the palace at Wassukani was constantly under siege. It was not a situation I fully understood, but she explained it to me in her strange way.
‘For three problems my father fear has. Assur have the eastern river crossed and through our land march. Hittites from north way attack. Three princes of my royal family the throne wish to claim when dead my father is. Such trouble and danger to leave behind is good. To Kemet I happy now to go.’
On the tenth day of our journey home our good fortune ran out!
Senbi reported that the scouts we regularly sent ahead had discovered a huge military build up within less than one day’s journey.
This time we were not being challenged by a few Nubian farmers. The Canaanites were organised, trained and well armed. I could see no way of avoiding the conflict and I knew that it would be ferocious and brutal. The scouts estimated that we were faced by three thousand fighting men, whereas my own force totalled six hundred. The disparity in numbers did not concern me as much as the terrain. My strike-force included one hundred chariots and I knew the light frames and thin wheels would not survive the rocky surface. Without the penetrative power of the chariots, the superior numbers of the Canaanites would overwhelm us. I called Senbi to my side.
My second in command, Senbi was only twenty-one years of age, but he was born into a military family and had been in the army since the age of fourteen, rising rapidly through the ranks from a soldier to his present position of scribe-commander. He had spent the past two years stationed in Canaan and was familiar with the terrain and the enemy.
‘We need to lure the enemy onto ground that is more favourable for the chariots,’ I told him.
‘I do not think we have much time,’ responded Senbi. ‘The Canaanites are moving towards us and they are already stoking up the fires of their bravery with their drumming. It is a sign that they will attack in the early hours of tomorrow. There is a basin between the cliffs about two hours march to the west that would suit us. The ground is relatively smooth and there are high rocky ridges on either side from where our archers could fire down on the enemy.’
‘Surely they will hear us changing position and launch their attack immediately.’
‘We have to time it to perfection,’ said my second in command. ‘I have seen the Canaanites in this mood before. It is now mid-afternoon. They will be making sacrifices to Baal until the sun goes down. This involves slaughtering animals, usually goats and offering them on stone altars on which they have built fires. They stoke the fires and beat the drums and they dance themselves into a warlike state of frenzy. This can go on until the early hours of the morning when they begin to arm themselves and prepare from battle. They will charge as the first rays of the sun come over the horizon and they are prepared to fight for as long as the sun is in the sky. When they are in this mood they will fight to the last man.’
‘Who is this god Baal?’ I asked.
‘Baal is their master, that’s the best way I can describe him. They worship him in all forms and in all associations with war and with the fertility of the land; the most frequent form is that of a golden calf. In desperate times they will provide a human sacrifice to attract their god’s compassion.’
‘By your reckoning, when is the ideal time to move the men?’
‘The Canaanites will probably have some spies out to watch us, but eventually they will be drawn to the drums and dancing. I would recommend that we leave the camp fires burning, well stacked with wood and move out quietly after the middle watch of the night.’
I evaluated Senbi’s suggestion. What were the risks? If we stayed here and faced the onslaught of three thousand crazed soldiers, unable to use our chariots, even our renowned archers would not be able to save us. If we moved in the night and our move was observed by the Canaanites they would probably not do anything until the early light. Once we were set up in the basin described by Senbi the tactical advantage lay with us. Perhaps the overwhelming numbers might still overpower us, but our chances were infinitely better. The last alternative was to turn and run for it, but run where? We had to get through this part of the country at some stage to return home. We would not be getting any reinforcements and the Canaanites would build up their numbers even more if we deferred the day of battle.
I could send the females away under a small guard while we remained to engage the foe, but they would be totally vulnerable and prey to the smallest gang of brigands for the next six or seven days before they made the sanctuary of the beloved land. Their chances of survival would be next to nothing. I decided they would have to remain with us.
‘Right,’ I decided, ‘give the orders and make it clear that the move will be carried out in silence!’
I carefully explained the strategy to Kiye who informed her two companions. She would be protected by an elite squad who would stay with her and fight to the death to protect her, if necessary. Kiye asked in a very matter of fact way to speak to the commander of the elite squad. I called for Nitikra to join us and explained his duties to him.
‘If it is bad battle for soldiers of Kemet and Canaanites reach even us, I will not be prisoner! The Canaanites barbarians are! I to be slave would be taken to be badly used. I have other reason. The Canaanites take me to bargain with my father. I want this soldier to end my life if such happens!’
I studied the young woman’s face. She was quite calm and I could see the determination in her eyes. What she had asked was serious and sensible. I spoke to Nitikra,
‘Those are your orders, soldier. See they are carried out!’
The drumming increased in tempo and volume as the night set in. The occasional scream indicated that the priests of Baal were cutting themselves with knives to increase the compassion of Baal for their cause. My spies returned to report that the Canaanite lookouts had returned to their camp to join in the mayhem. The moon was just a thin sliver of silver low in the sky as we began to move the men and the horses to the new battle ground.
The sound of the horses’ hooves as the charioteers led their charges over the rocky ground sounded like claps of thunder to me, but the din issuing from the Canaanite camp would have drowned all but the loudest noise. It took us about three hours to cover the distance because we initially moved slowly and quietly, only quickening our pace when we were out of earshot of the enemy.
After getting to our chosen ground I set about positioning the archers. There were one hundred archers and I placed fifty on each of the rocky ridges on either side of what proved to be a small gorge with a reasonably narrow entrance.
Two hundred of the foot-soldiers, equipped with throwing spears, lances and swords were positioned in the middle of the basin. I divided the chariots into two teams of fifty chariots. Each chariot had two horses, a charioteer and a bowman who also had access to several lances that were tied vertically to the side of the chariot, ready to be deployed when the fighting was too close for archery to be effective. Both the driver and the soldier were equipped with swords. Each team of chariots was prepared for battle, one team behind the foot soldiers on the right hand side and the other on the left.
There were a final one hundred fighting men to be deployed and I positioned fifty of them behind each of the teams of chariots. They would run behind the chariots as fast as they could to engage in hand to hand fighting after the chariots had ploughed into the enemy. I took my position at the head of the fifty chariots on the right hand side. As always I was alone in my chariot with the two magnificent black horses ready to charge. Senbi with an archer by his side was at the head of the chariots on the left hand side. We were as ready as it was possible to be as the thin fingers of pink and grey in the east began to disturb the blackness of the night. In silence we waited for the hordes of Canaanites. They were not long in arriving.