‘God’s Wife of Amun’ and ‘Divine Adoratrice of Amun’ – Important Women in Ancient Egypt

God’s Wife of Amun, a title for a similar Office of the High Priestess, originated as a title held by a daughter of the High Priest of Amun during the reign of Hatshepsut and continued as an important Office while the capital of Egypt remained in (or returned to) Thebes, modern-day Luxor and Karnak.


This Office reached the very heights of its political & religious power during the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt when Shepenupet I (Shepenwepet I), Osorkon III’s daughter, was first appointed to this post at Thebes. The Nubian King Kashta, in turn, appointed his daughter, Amenirdis I, as her successor, though it is said by many that Shepenwepet I ‘adopted’ Amenirdis I in to this important role in ancient Egypt, this ‘adoption’ procedure continued throughout the XXV and XXVI Dynasties. The high status of this Office is illustrated by the tomb of Amenirdis I at Medinet Habu and her building work at Karnak Temple.


When the Napatan Kings from Kush started to extend their power into Upper Egypt, the reigning God’s Wife of Amun, Shepenupet I (Shepenwepet I), ‘adopted’ Amenirdis I, the daughter of Pharaoh Kashta as her heir. This sequence was followed throughout the XXV Dynasty until Egypt was conquered by Psamtek I, who had his daughter, Nitocris I, adopted by Amenirdis II. The Adoption Stelae of Nitocris’ shows the ceremony involved by this event, and the prestige of the role:

“I have given to him my daughter to be a god’s wife and have endowed her better than those who were before her. Surely he will be gratified with her worship and protect the land who gave her to him.”


In the Third Intermediate Period, during the XXV and XXVI Dynasties, and the start of the Late Period, the Office was at its height politically, religiously and economically. As the role of the High Priests of Amun changed from a mostly spiritual to a more ‘earthly’ role, the Divine Adoratrice became the primary focus of the cult of Amun in Thebes.

During the XXVI Dynasty, the Saite King Psamtik I (Psammetichus or Psamtek) forcibly reunited Egypt under his rule in 656 BCE and he compelled the God’s Wife of Amun serving at the time, Shepenupet II (Shepenwepet II), daughter of Piye, to ‘adopt’ his daughter as her chosen successor to this position.


God’s Wife of Amun was an incredibly powerful spiritual and religious role in ancient Egypt as was “The Divine Adoratrice” (or ‘Votaress’) – the Queen being responsible for daily rituals and ‘communications’ with God; acting as an intermediary for the High Priests and officials within the Precinct of Amun and also “interpreted the oracles”. Some references still exist as to Amenirdis I’s interpretation of her communications with Amun – some involving members of the ‘public’, quite unusual for a ‘living Goddess’. Amenirdis I seems to have favoured contact with the people of the land of Amun. She was held in high regard and limited records refer to Amenirdis as a “fair and just” ruler in Upper Egypt whilst her brother, Shabaka (‘Shabaka Neferkare’ or Shabaqo), ruled as Pharaoh in Memphis in the north (Lower Egypt). Shabaka was also the originator of the famous ‘Shabaka Stone’, a fruitful source of insight into the culture and religious doctrines of the ancient Egyptians.


In ancient Egyptian history, there were in total thirty Royal women who held the title “God’s Wife of Amun” though there is some doubt regarding Tashakheper – daughter of Osorkon II who may have ruled as God’s Wife of Amun during the reign of Takelot III. If Tashakheper had indeed ruled as God’s Wife of Amun, this would bring the entire Dynastic figure to thirty-one. [NB: this does not include non-Royals from Dynasty X to the XII Dynasty]


Probably the most ‘well known’ of all God’s Wives is Hatshepsut who also held the title Divine Adoratrice of Amun.


The Divine Adoratrice of Amun (or the ‘Divine Votaress’) was a second title (in addition to God’s Wife of Amun) created for the Chief Priestess of the ancient Egyptian omnipotent deity, Amun.
The Divine Adoratrice ruled over the extensive Temple duties and domains, controlling a significant part of the ancient Egyptian economy and religious/spiritual matters primarily from the Precinct of Amun at Karnak and Luxor Temples.

Amenirdis I had notable staff in Office – I will write more about these later but they include Peshuper – ‘Scribe of Amenirdis’ & Harwa – “Steward of the Divine Votaress”.


‘God’s Wife of Amun’ and ‘Divine Adoratrice of Amun’

Under the above two titles there were, in total, six women during the XXV and XXVI Dynasties. They are, in order of rule:


Shepenupet I – 754 – 714 BCE

Amenirdis I – 740 – 720 BCE  prenomen: Khaneferumut

Shepenupet II – 710 – 650 BCE

Amenirdis II – 670 – 640 BCE

Nitocris I – 656 – 586 BCE

Ankhnesneferibre – 595 – 525 BCE

[Dates are, in my opinion, not an exact reflection of the rule of God’s Wife of Amun & Divine Adoratrice: Amenirdis I was said to have reigned for approximately forty years]

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