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Wahibra-Emakhet

Wahibra-Emakhet: Egyptian name of a Greek who lived in Egypt during the reign of the twenty-sixth ("Saite") dynasty. His sarcophagus is now in the Rijksmuseumn van Oudheden in Leiden, the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities.

Lid of the sarcophagus of Wahibra-Emakhet
Lid of the sarcophagus of Wahibra-Emakhet
In 671 BCE, the Assyrian king Esarhaddon expelled the Kushite dynasty that ruled Egypt and added the ancient country along the Nile to his empire. However, it turned out to be difficult to keep the conquered land. There were native rebellions and although Esarhaddon's successor Aššurbanipal (668-631) tried to restore order by sacking Thebes, he eventually gave up Egypt. One of the Assyrian vassals, a man named Psammetichus, hired Greek and Carian mercenaries, reunited Egypt, and founded a new dynasty, which is called after its capital, Sais. From now on, there were Greeks living in Egypt, where they were allowed to build a city of their own, Naucratis.

Among the immigrants were the father and mother of a man who is called Wahibra-Emakhet. His Egyptian name means "horizon of Wahibra" and expresses his parents' loyalty to their pharaoh, Psammetichus (664-610), whose real name was Wahibra Psamtik. Like Wahibra-Emakhet's name, his splendid sarcophagus is purely Egyptian, and so is the fact that he was buried and mummified, and not cremated, as the Greeks were used to do. The texts on the sarcophagus invoke protection by the Egyptian goddesses Nephthys and Isis. If he had not mentioned the names of his parents as well, Alexicles and Zenodota, we would never have guessed that Wahibra-Emakhet was of Greek descent.

The sarcophagus is of first-rate quality, and so are the shabtis (little statues that served as substitute laborers in the afterlife) that accompanied Wahibra-Emakhet on his last journey. He must have been a very wealthy man, perhaps a merchant or the commander of a regiment of mercenaries. If he was indeed an officer, he may have fought in the war that Psamettichus' son Necho II (610-595) waged against the Babylonians, who had overthrown the Assyrian empire in 612.

This page was created in 2006; last modified on 31 March 2014.