A Brief Introduction
After the death of Merenre I, the Sixth Dynasty in the Old Kingdom came under the reign of Pepi II Nefer-Ka-Re for almost one hundred years. Pepi II is believed to have been the youngest ruler to ever ascend the throne in ancient Egypt. In 2284 B.C., when he ascended the throne after his predecessor Merenre I’s death, he was said to be only six years old. Because of his early ascension to the throne, Pepi II was able to reign for 94 years (or maybe 64 or 65-scholars differ on this number). His throne name was Nefer-Ka-Re meaning “beautiful is the Ka of Re…”
Pepi II's Parentage Issue
There’s considerable confusion regarding the parentage of Pepi II. Traditionally it was thought that he was the son of Pepi I and Ankhesenpepi II. The discovery of royal seals and stone blocks at a recent time in South Saqqara prove wrong this possibly wrong, however. Many of those artifacts demonstrate that after Pepi I died, Ankhesenpepi II became the king’s chief wife by marrying Merenre. “King's Wife of the Pyramid of Pepy I, King's Wife of the Pyramid of Merenre, King's Mother of the Pyramid of Pepi II…" as it was inscribed on stones founded within the funerary temple of Ankhesenpepi II. Many Egyptologists, thus, believe that Pepi II was likely to actually be the son of Merenre.
The Reign Of Pepi II
Ankhesenpepi II was believed to be the regent during her son’s early reign. An alabaster statuette in the Brooklyn Museum depicts Pepi II sitting on his mother's lap in full kingly regalia. Djau, brother of the queen as well as a vizier under the Merenre I help them during this period.
Pep-II seems to have carried on a similar foreign policy to his predecessors. Copper and turquoise were mined in Sinai (at Wadi Maghareh) while alabaster was quarried from Hatnub. Harkhuf, a governor of Aswan, led a number of expeditions under Pepi II and Merenre I. He was sent to Nubia for establishing caravan trading. His tomb preserves a lengthy inscription of his last expedition to a place called Iam where he captured a pygmy and on the request of the young ruler brought him to court for entertainment purposes.
Pep-II is also mentioned in inscriptions found in the Phoenician city of Byblos in ancient Palestine.
The Decline of Old Kingdom
Pep’s II reign is considered today as the start of the decline of the Old Kingdom. However, as many Egyptologists point out, the decline actually began before Pep-II took the throne. The main reason for the decline was the vizierate, which had become hereditary rather than merit-based. In other words, the position began to pass from the family that had served the ruling Pharaoh’s predecessor and a member of the same family would serve as the succeeding vizier. This made the nomarchs more powerful than the ruling ruler and they started to exercise their power over other Nomes by invading them.
When Egypt needed a vigorous leadership to control this chaos, it got a senile ruler i.e. Pepi II and his unexpectedly long reign. His long, weak reign crumbled the very base of the government and brought an end to the 200-year-long First Intermediate Period.