1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sesostris

SESOSTRIS, the name of a legendary king of Egypt. According to Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus (who calls him Sesoosis) and Strabo, he conquered the whole world, even Scythia and Ethiopia, divided Egypt into administrative districts or nomes, was a great law-giver, and introduced a system of caste and the worship of Serapis. He has been considered a compound of Seti I. and Rameses II., belonging to the XIXth Dynasty. In Manetho, however, he occupied the place of the second Senwosri (formerly read Usertesen) of the XIIth Dynasty, and his name is now usually viewed as a corruption of Senwosri. So far as is known no Egyptian king penetrated a day’s journey beyond the Euphrates or into Asia Minor, or touched the continent of Europe. The kings of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties were the greatest conquerors that Egypt ever produced, and their records are clear on this point. Senwosri III. raided south Palestine and Ethiopia, and at Semna beyond the second cataract set up, a stela of conquest that in its expressions recalls the stelae of Sesostris in Herodotus: Sesostris may, therefore, be the highly magnified portrait of this Pharaoh. Khian, the powerful but obscure Hyksos king of Egypt, whose prenomen might be pronounced Sweserenrē, is perhaps at possible prototype, for objects inscribed with his name have been found from Bagdad to Cnossus. Sesostris is evidently a mythical figure calculated to satisfy the pride of the Egyptians in their ancient achievements, after they had come into contact with the great conquerors of Assyria and Persia. When we recollect that the Ethiopian Tearchus (Tirhaka) of the 7th century B.C., who was hopelessly worsted by the Assyrians and scarcely ventured outside the Nile valley, was credited by Megasthenes (4th century) and Strabo with having extended his conquests as far as India and the pillars of Hercules, it is not surprising if the dim figures of antiquity were magnified to a less degree. In the case of Tearchus, the miscellaneous levies which he employed himself and those which composed the Egyptian and Assyrian armies opposed to him, and the lands that Egypt and Ethiopia traded with, must all have been counted, partly through misunderstanding, partly through wilful perversion, to his empire.

Herodotus ii. 102-111; Diod. Sic. i. 53-59; Strabo xv. p. 687; see also article Egypt; and Kurt Sethe, “Sesostris,” 1900, in his Unters. z. Gesch. u. Altertumskunde Ägyptens, tome ii.  (F. Ll. G.)