Pepi I’s reign was marked by aggressive expansion into Nubia, the spread of trade to far-flung areas such as Lebanon and the Somalian coast, but also the growing power of the nobility. One of the king’s officials named Weni fought in Asia on his behalf. Pepi’s mortuary complex, Mennefer Pepy, eventually became the name for the entire city of Memphis after the 18th Dynasty.
-6th Dynasty – Cairo Museum, Egypt, Africa
The decline of the Old Kingdom arguably began during Pepi I’s reign, with nomarchs (regional representatives of the king) becoming more powerful and exerting greater influence. Pepi I married two sisters – Ankhesenpepi I and II – who were the daughters of Khui, a noble from Abydos and Lady Nebet, made vizier of Upper Egypt. Pepi later made their brother, Djau, a vizier as well. The two sisters’ influence was extensive, with both sisters bearing sons who were later to become pharaohs.
Two copper statues of Pepi I and his son Merenre were found at Hierakonpolis; they are thought to depict the two royals symbolically “trampling underfoot the Nine bows,” a stylized representation of Egypt’s conquered foreign subjects. These rare statues were found in one of the underground stores of the temple of Nekhen “together with a statue of king Khasekhemwy (Second Dynasty) and a terracota lion cub made during the Thinite era.” The statues had been disassembled and placed inside one another and sealed with a thin layer of engraved copper bearing the titles and names of Pepi I “on the first day of the Jubilee” or Heb Sed feast. While the identity of the larger adult figure as Pepi I is revealed by the inscription, the identity of the smaller and younger statue remains unresolved. The most common hypothesis among Egyptologists is that the athletic young man in the smaller statue was Merenre.
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- “[he] who was publicly associated as his father’s successor on the occasion of the Jubilee. The placement of his copper effigy inside that of his father would therefore reflect the continuity of the royal succession and the passage of the royal sceptre from father to son before the death of the pharaoh could cause a dynastic split.”
More recently, however, it has been suggested that the smaller statue is in fact that “of a more youthful Pepy I, reinvigorated by the celebration of the Jubilee ceremonies.”
Pepi I was a prolific builder who ordered extensive construction projects in Upper Egypt at Dendera, Abydos, Elephantine and Hierakonpolis. One of his most important court officials was Weni the Elder who had a great canal built at the First Cataract for the king.