There cannot be many people who have not heard of Tutanhamun, the boy pharaoh whose tomb contained a dazzling array of treasures. However, more attention should probably be paid to his grandfather, Amenhotep III, who was pharaoh during a golden age for ancient Egypt, the 18th dynasty, when it was the most powerful nation on Earth.
Amenhotep reigned for about 60 years, ending in 1352 BC. He increased the wealth of Egypt by controlling the gold mines of Nubia, making himself the world’s richest man, with the result that neighbouring powers were keen to pay tribute to him. He was a consummate politician and diplomat, which ensured the peace of the whole region.
Wealth and security enabled Amenhotep to become Egypt’s most prolific builder of all time, although his reign was long after the Pyramids had been built. He became known as “Monument Man”, with projects such as the temple at Karnak that had walls studded with gold and gems and a statue of himself that was over 20 metres tall.
Amenhotep’s funerary temple, at Kom el-Hatan, was the largest royal temple ever built in Egypt. It was fronted by two statues known as the Colossi of Memnon, and originally contained hundreds more, examples of which have only been discovered relatively recently by archaeologists. This temple must count as the largest sculptural programme in history.
The reign of Amenhotep III was one of peace and prosperity. He well deserved the self-conferred title of “living sun god”, and all subsequent pharaohs sought to model themselves on his legacy.