Positive Progress Through The Benevolent Use Of Knowledge

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Third Intermediate Period 1069- 715BC

This period involved 4 dynasties from the twenty-first to the twenty-fourth.

The era opens the final millennium of ancient Egypt’s history. Apart from a brief time of unified rule by the Theban priest-king Pinudjem I, it was marked by divisions within, with pharaohs in control only of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt ruled by hereditary chief priests at Thebe.

Thebes had no foreign policy and the pharaohs at Memphis were incapable of firm rule. The international standing of Egypt sank to a low level until the assumption of power by Shoshenq I and the commencement of the twenty-second, or Libyan Dynasty. The Libyans ruled for a century and a half, with their base in the north, until a branch set up a separate kingdom at Thebes, the twenty-third Dynasty, whose succession of five kings co-existed with the parents branch until uprising of Tefnakht at Sais, and the invasion of the Nubians, which brought the era to an end.

Twenty- First Dynasty 1069- 945BC

The result of the feeble rule of the last Ramessids was a lapse into the division of the two lands. The first king was Smendes (ruled 1069- 1043BC), a vizier of Lower Egypt, who set up his capital in the Delta city of Tanis. Upper Egypt was ruled from Thebes, where Herihor, who combined the offices of high priest of Amun and vizier of Upper Egypt, was placed as effective king.

Unity was briefly restored when his grandson Pinudjem I, who at first reigned as high priest, formally assumed the kingship and ruled at Tanis (1054-1042BC).

In his reign, the royal mummies that had been violated and robbed in the Valley of the Kings were rewrapped and reentered in a secret place behind the temple of Hatshepsut, where they were found in modern days. After his death the power fluctuated between Tanis and Thebe sometimes under one king, sometimes under a combination of a king in the north and a high priest in the south. The priests were the real rulers, using the powers of Amun-Ra to deal with all matters.
Twenty- second and third Dynasties (945- 715BC)

The first king was Shoshenq, a Libyan by descent. He was the leader of the Libyan community that had first come to Egypt partly as slave-prisoners from the armies defeated by Rameses III, partly as mercenaries hired by the Egyptians. His power centre was Herakleopolis, in Middle Egypt, between Thebes and the Delta, and he found it easy to extend his power northwards, eventually making his capital at Bubastis.

Under the Libyans, kingship was a military dictatorship, and the Egyptian peasantry went about their daily work just as they had done under the rule of Hyksos. Shoshenq became wealthy by a raid on the kingdom of Judah in which he sacked the temple at Jerusalem and departed with the riches of Solomon.

The descendants of Shoshenq reigned undisturbed until 825BC, when another branch set up the Twenty-Third Dynasty, based at Thebes. These riled in parallel, but the division was a sign of weakness in the structure, and local governors once again claimed hereditary and independent power.

Twenty-Fourth Dynasty (727-715BC)

This was a brief period of two kings ruling. Its founder was Tefnakht, the local prince or governor of the Delta city of Sais, who made himself master of the Delta, taking Bubastis and Tanis, and then moved on Upper Egypt, capturing Hermopolis and Memphis, and laying siege to Herakleoppolis, when the Nubian invasion brought his venture to sudden halt.

On the departure of the Nubians, he regained control of Lower Egypt and was succeeded by his son, Bocchoris, who ruled well. He was favorably remembered, but his rule ended with the return of the Nubians, who are reputed to have captured him and burned him alive.

Late Period 747-333BC

In this era, a great part was ruled by the Nubians. Then came the Saites which were a mere puppets for the Assyrians. However, between these dynasties Egypt had a degree of stability and prosperity, together with a firm central rule and a ‘good Nile’. Thus Egypt could make a rapid recovery from any attack because of her population and potential for agricultural wealth. The latter part of this era was marked by two periods of Persian conquests until Alexander destructed the
Twenty-Fifth Dynasty 747- 656BC

This is also known as the Nubian Dynasty. Under the Libyan kings, Nubia had ceased to be an Egyptian possession or dependency. When priest-kings of Thebes were attacked by the Libyans, many of the priesthood took refuge in Nubia. The temple at Napata became a sort of Thebes in exile. For two centuries of Libyan domination the tradition of the Amun-Ra cult was maintained. Egyptian language stayed the official language of the government and the Nubians took pride that they were still Egyptians.


The Nubian king, PIANKHY, launched an invasion of Egypt from the south, transporting his army down the Nile in a huge flotilla of boats. They encountered Tefnakht, the local prince or governor of SAIS, at Thebes and defeated him there, then fought their way on down-river, taking Hermopolis, Memphis and finally overrunning the Delta. The Egyptians made submission to Piankhy, and Tefnakht on his surrender was treated honorably by the Nubian king. Then, his conquest complete, Piankhy and his army abandoned Egypt and returned up the Nile to their distant capital, No attempt was made to leave an administration. The last king of the Libyan Dynasty, Osorkon, reoccupied Thebes and set up his own rule again.

Tefnakht resumed his control of Memphis and the Delta.

Piankhy’s son and successor, Shabaka (ruled 716-702BC), invaded Egypt, brought the Libyan Dynasty and the twenty-fourth dynasty to an end, and set up his capital at Thebes. During his reign temples were renovated throughout the country. He made a treaty with the Assyrians, avoiding war on that front.

His successor was Shabitku (ruled 702-690BC), during whose reign confrontation with the Assyria could not be avoided, and an alliance was made with the kingdom of Judah. His uncle, Taharqa, led an army into Palestine, where Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was besieging Jerusalem. At this time the Assyrians were struck by a mysterious plague, and war was again delayed.

In 690BC, Taharqa had Shabitku murdered and assumed the throne himself. He moved his capital to Tanis, in the eastern Delta, from which forward position he hoped to mount an empire-building campaign into Near east. Taharqa was an efficient administrator and planner. Military governors were installed at Thebes and Napata.

In 671BC the Assyrian king Esarhaddon finally launched a direct attack on Egypt. Whilst Taharqa awaited him in the Delta, the Assyrian marched directly on Memphis, capturing the city and cutting the Egyptians’ lines of communication. Taharqa’s family was captured by the Assyrians and the Pharaoh himself fled back to Nubia.

Esarhaddon, by now had captured a great deal of the Middle East, and did not remain in Egypt. Thus, Taharqa returned and retook Memphis. His possession was only for a few years before Esarhaddon’s successor, Assurbanipal, came with a vast force and captured Memphis and Thebes. Taharqa died in 664BC and was followed by Tantamani (ruled 664-656BC).

He invaded Egypt from Napata in order to drive out the Assyrians, but Assurbanipal forced him back into Nubia. The Nubian Dynasty was at an end.

Twenty-Sixth Dynasty 672-525BC

The first king was Necho I (ruled 672- 664BC), a descendant of the king Tefnakht. As a Delta lord, he had collaborated with Sennacherib and Assurbanipal and had been rewarded with gold and honors. His capital was SAIS, and this dynasty is referred to as the SAITE Dynasty. His son Psammetichus I, shook off the dominion of the Assyrians and re-established an independent Egypt. He made careful moves in order to establish his own control in Upper Egypt, whose spiritual leader, the chief priestess of Amun was a daughter of the great Piankhy. The Egyptians started to revive their old ways and religion.

NECHO II (ruled 610-595BC), the son of Psammetichus, pursued an ambitious foreign policy. He made allies with the Assyrians against the Babylonians and destroyed the army of Judah and marched into Syria.

Necho’s successor PsammetichusII (ruled 595-589BC), directed his attention southwards, sending an expedition as far as the second cataract. His successor, Apries (ruled 589-570), made war on the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, perhaps more in the pursuit of trading disputes. Apries was overthrown by his own general, Amasis (ruled 570- 526BC), who held of a Babylonian attack and kept the state in prosperity.

Later, he made alliances with the Babylonians as there was a great rise of danger from Persia. Under Psammetichus III, who had just reigned (526-525BC), the Persians guided across Sinai by the Bedouins and assisted by the treachery of Greek mercenaries, utterly defeated the Egyptians at Pelusium. Psammetichus killed himself at that point.
Twenty Seventh Dynasty 525-404BC

This Dynasty was under the Persian Occupation. As Egypt was the richest part of their new empire, the Persian monarchs took a considerable interest in its affairs and government. They assumed the titles and style of the Pharaohs and did not attempt to alter the institutions and customs of the country.

Cambyses (ruled 525-522BC) was regarded as a founder. He invaded Nubia in a catastrophic campaign in which his entire army had perished. However he built some temples although as was said him being a savage.

His successor, Darius I (ruled 522-486BC) was opposed by the Egyptians and had to come in person to put down the uprising. He introduced a number of reforms, and coins were made. He built a temple in the oasis of el-Kharga.

The continuous struggle between the Greeks and the Persians encouraged the Egyptians to rebel and form more efforts at resistance. However, there were times when the Persians took control until a Saite lord, succeeded in expelling the Persians.

Twenty- Eighth Dynasty 404-399BC

This Dynasty consisted of the very short reign of king Amyrtaeus, A lord of Sais in the Delta. He succeeded in driving out the residual Persian garrison in 404BC.

Twenty-Ninth and Thirtieth Dynasties 399- 343BC

The last two dynasties in Late Period, where there was a succession of shadowy kings that could not grasp the affairs of the state. Egypt power and fame started to decline with many generals and captains making their own fortunes and power.

It was in the Thirtieth Dynasty that king NECTANEBO I, made a valiant effort to restore the form of the Saite kingdom and drove away Greek mercenaries. He started in reviving the country with many buildings and arts with restorations of the temple at Karnak and that of Isis at Philae. He stopped another attack of the Persians.

His son, Tachos (ruled 362- 360BC), renewed alliance with the Greeks and invaded Syria. To finance his expedition , he levied heavy taxes and suffered consequent unpopularity. He was abandoned in mid-campaign by his grandson Nectanebo II who returned back to Egypt leaving Tachos to surrender to the Persians.

However, his reign was short although many buildings were built in that time. The Persians returned again more fiercely and he tried to defend his country but could not and later fled south and kept up an appearance of rule in exile.

Macedonian Dynasty 332-304BC

The dynasty that followed the Thirtieth Dynasty, with which the numbering system ceased, and the second Persian occupation. The Persian governor of Egypt resigned his power to Alexander the Great, with the consent of the people.

The Macedonians, Alexander himself (ruled 333-323BC),Philip Arrhidaeus (323-316BC), Alexander IV (316-304BC), all preserved the forms of Egyptian life and society. In the peace that followed Alexander’s conquest , the priesthood kept or renewed its privileges, and temple reconstruction and temple-building went on at a rapid pace.

Ptolemaic Period 304-30BC

This period is mostly studied in Greek and Roman history. The Ptolemies assumed the dignities and titles of the pharaohs, accepted their status as semi-divine and took up such Egyptian traditions. They restored many temples and built others. But throughout the country the Greeks formed a kind of upper class, controlling official posts to the exclusion of Egyptians, who resented and despised the Greeks.

During this period the indigenous peasant population, performing their daily tasks were increasingly exploited and impoverished as Greek merchants and magnates took control of the products.

The Ptolemies could not regenerate Egypt’s greatness, as had been done so many times in the past.

In 30 BC, the shadow of the kingdom came to an end with the suicide of Cleopatra, last of the Ptolemies to reign in Egypt.

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