AMENOPHIS III ° (Nebmare Amunhotpe ; c. 1405–1367 b.c.e.), Egyptian pharaoh. When Amenophis iii assumed the throne just after the middle of the 18th dynasty (c. 1575–1308 b.c.e.), the Egyptian Empire was approaching its zenith. The wars of his predecessors had placed Canaan and the Lebanon under nominal Egyptian control and had brought Egypt deep into southern Syria. Wealth and tribute flowed into Thebes, the Egyptian capital, from every quarter of the ancient Near East, as a result of which Egypt enjoyed an almost unparalleled period of opulence and luxury. There are no records of wars waged by Amenophis iii, except for occasional border skirmishes in the south (in Nubia) at the outset of his reign. Instead, the Egyptian records concern themselves with his building accomplishments, his achievements as a sportsman and hunter, and his gifts to the temples. For his political accomplishments outside Egypt one must turn to the information provided in the *El-Amarna letters. These texts, which formed part of the archives of the Egyptian "foreign office," clearly establish that Egypt had become one of the great powers of the ancient world. They show that Amenophis pursued a dual foreign policy in Asia. He avoided warfare with the major leading powers – Ḫatti, Babylon, Mitanni, Assyria, and Cyprus – and entered into trade agreements and alliances, which he frequently cemented with diplomatic marriages. His policy toward his vassal-states in Asia was to leave them virtually autonomous, while playing them off against one another. The policy succeeded for Amenophis, but with the dangerous result that Egyptian prestige lessened and the local Asiatic princes began to turn toward the newly resurgent Hittite Empire. In the sphere of religion, Amenophis iii continued to honor Amun-Re and the other traditional deities of Egypt but, simultaneously, brought the disk of the sun, the Aton, into prominence as his personal god. The cult of the Aton, which first appeared in the reign of his predecessor, Thutmose iv, was to play a violent and chaotic role in the reign of his son and successor, *Akhenaton.
The theory that there was a co-regency of Amenophis iii with his son Akhenaton has been generally abandoned.
J.A. Wilson, The Culture of Ancient Egypt (1957), 193–5, 201–4, 210–5, 232–5; A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961), 205–11 (incl. bibl.); D.B. Redford, History and Chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty (1967), 88–169; C. Aldred, Akhenaton (1968), 41–63. add. bibliography: D. Redford, Akhenaten the Heretic King (1984), 34–54.
[Alan Richard Schulman]