Life Before the
life now is centered on the Nile, with the vast Sahara Desert (world’s largest)
to the West (map, p. 69)
before about 3000 B.C., the Sahara Desert was not a desert
regularly fell there
of elephants, giraffes, and gazelles roamed freely through the tall grass
Evidence from 70,000 years
ago of humans in Nubia and Upper Egypt
Nomads lives in grass huts, fished in streams, and raised
herds of sheep and cattle at edges of lakes
Between 5,000 and 3,000 years
ago, nomads settle into the Nile River Valley as the Sahara becomes a desert
o From The Age, Australia (29 December 2000) –
“British archaeologists have found 30 sites with art
chiselled into rocks up to 6000 years ago in the desert east of the river
Nile in Egypt. The drawings show cattle, boats, ostriches, giraffes,
hippos and the men and women who lived in the area in 4000 B.C., long
before the first pharaohs, or the first pyramids, opening a new window on the
pre-history of ancient Egpyt. The challenge has
been to identify the origins of settlement on the Nile. Egyptologists now think
that the forefathers of the pyramid builders could be the same people who left
their signatures on stones in the desert 6000 years ago…The team found evidence
of Bedouin, Roman and Greek markings, and of travellers who went that way in
the era of the pharaohs. But the most dramatic were pictures that told a
story of an unknown pastoral people, driving their cattle from one watering
place to another, between the Nile valley and the Red Sea. Some of the
boats chiselled into the rocks are fairly simple. Some seem to have religious
significance. They show figures with large plumes in their hair, like the later
gods of Egypt. Some of the boats are being dragged - an image that recurs in
the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Some of the figures depicted are clearly
chiefs, wearing what might be ostrich feathers.”
Dynastic Egypt doesn’t drop
out of the sky
From Egypt Before the
Pharaohs, by Gamal Nkrumah --
“Predynastic culture was fast
acquiring those specificities that we today instantly recognise as
characteristic of dynastic Egypt: an obsession with tombs and the afterlife,
a preponderance of animal deities, a centralised government and
the appurtenances of statehood, the first etchings of hieroglyphics,
royal symbols and religious iconography."
"By 4,000 B.C. Neolithic
communities ceased being organised into hunting bands, discarded the nomadic
way of life and became settled agriculturists, artisans and traders. By this
time, as their graves so graphically suggest, they were clearly divided into
rulers and ruled, rich and poor. While hunting was no longer the only way of
life, the early inhabitants of the Nile Valley held tenaciously to their animal
totems -- the falcon, the vulture, the ibis, the frog, the snake, the
crocodile, the lioness, the hound and the hippopotamus. These were to emerge as
gods in dynastic times. With urbanisation and settled agriculture came social
organisation and a rigidly hierarchical society. The seeds of the hierarchical
Pharaonic civilisation, with god-king or Pharaoh at the apex and commoners
making up the base, were sown.”
History of the
(based in part from An introduction to the
history and culture of Pharaonic Egypt, which is
an excellent resource)
Egypt divided into Upper Egypt (south) and Lower Egypt
(north, near Mediterranean)
Herodotus: Egypt is the “gift of the Nile”
Egypt is protected on two sides by desert
Really only two entry points: south from Nubia and in
Northeast from Sinai Peninsula
Like with India and China and other empires, enemies
exploited these weaknesses
1st and 2nd Dynasties (3100--2686 B.C.)
3200 B.C., one king ruled Upper Egypt and one ruled Lower Egypt
tall white crown shapred like a bowling pin
wore a red crown
3100 B.C., Upper and Lower Egypt were united by Menes [mee-neez]
(who may be representative of a number of kings involved in the process of
unification), the founding king of the first dynasty who came from Upper
unification was achieved by military or peaceful means is uncertain.
to tradition, Menes founded Memphis on an island in the Nile, because it
was on the border between Upper and Lower Egypt
colors of royal headresses
has it, that he died at the age of sixty three, killed by wild dogs and
crocodiles near Fayum. According to Manetho he was killed by a
hippopotamus after a 62 year reign. His was buried at Memphis.
- Herodotus on
3rd Dynasty (2686-2613 BCE)
what has been called the Old Kingdom, which lasted until 2180 B.C.
become known as Pharaohs
were gods, unlike Meso, where kings were reps of gods
had eternal spirit (ka)
age of pyramid-building
Pyramid at Giza
blocks: 2.5 to 15 tons each
dispelled that 100,000 slaves toiled for 20 years (Herodotus)
servants build it in exchange for grain payments, since there was no
First, they draw out the brains through the nostrils with an iron
hook…Then with a sharp stone they make an incision in the side, and take
out all the bowels…Then, having filled the belly with pure myth, cassia,
and other perfumes, they sew it up again; and when they have done this
they steep it in natron [a mineral salt], leaving it under for 70
days…At the end of 70 days, they wash the corpse, and wrap the whole
body in bandages of waxen cloth.
4th Dynasty (2613-2494 BCE)
Khufu (Cheops) (2585-2566 B.C.), Khafre (Chefren) and Menkaure
(Mycerinos) are best known for the pyramids they built at Giza
5th Dynasty (2494-2345 BCE)
(2487-2475 B.C.) established the Egyptian navy and sent a fleet
to Punt and traded with Palestine. His pyramid has colonnaded courts and
reliefs of his naval fleet, but his military career consisted mostly of
campaigns against the Libyans in the western desert.
(Wenis) ruled Egypt from 2356 till 2323 BC. Successful trading
expeditions were conducted to neighbouring nations. An inscription at
Elephantine shows a giraffe that was brought to Egypt with other exotic
animals. Another drawing found on a vase shows battle scenes. There was a major
famine during this time.
6th Dynasty (2346 B.C.-2180 B.C.)
battles with neighbors
being fairly cut off from the more warlike middle-eastern nations by the
Sinai desert, did not have a standing army. Whenever necessary,
forces would be called up by local noblemen and sometimes Bedouins and
Nubians would serve as well.
end of the Old Kingdom
First Intermediate Period (2180-c. 2100 B.C.)
rainfall, Nile lower
die and famine hastened
was a breakdown of centralized government, with many kings having
I established order from his capital at Thebes.
I (ca.2133-2123) took Thebes as the capital of Egypt and ruled from
2074 till 2064 BC. He was the son of Mentuhotep I, the "elder".
The king took over a divided Egypt and tried to reunite the north and the
II Nebhepetre (c.2040-2010) conquered the north and rebuilt a
centralized monarchy, inaugurating the Middle Kingdom.
Middle Kingdom (2080-1640 B.C.)
12th Dynasty (ca. 1991-1786 B.C.)
- The 12th
dynasty, which Amenemhet I founded (1991 B.C.), began when he overthrew
the Theban rulers of Egypt
- He worked
hard to restore royal prestige, seriously damaged by civil war and
his capital from Thebes to central Egypt (on the border of Upper and
Lower Egypt) and named it Itj-Tawy, “Seizer of Two Lands.”
is a national symbol, a bringing back to center (symbolism)
in 1962 B.C.
kings, living near Memphis, reduced provincial power and developed a loyal
central elite, using subtly propagandistic literature to encourage
recruitment and transform the royal image from insecure war leader to
confident, semidivine ruler.
- The external
situation remained dangerous. The northern Nubian and Sinai buffer zones
were reoccupied and, for the first time, heavily fortified. Foreign trade
and diplomatic contact expanded, but Egyptian activity was more restricted
than in the Old Kingdom.
change was considerable. People had become more conscious of their
individual rights, and royal policy had to both satisfy and temper this.
Religion was affected; funerary beliefs and rituals once largely
restricted to kings now spread throughout all classes. Ordinary people
came to believe that they had souls.
the First Intermediate Period Egyptians had felt less dependent on the
state, stressing their economic self-sufficiency, and even under the
12th dynasty royal policies encouraged the growth of a middle class,
buried in well-furnished tombs and active at cult centers such as
Abydos. Osiris, formerly a royal funerary god, became accessible to all.
revived, arts, flourished, trade grew
I (Sesostris), (1971-1928 BC) secured the throne for himself after
Amenemhet's assassination, by executing the plotters and publicizing his
father's testament, The Instructions of Amenemhet, which became an
Egyptian literary classic. He conquered Lower Nubia (Wawat) and controlled
it by building a number of fortresses, among them Buhen. The economic
importance of the region lay in its mines
- gold in the Wadi Allaqi, amethyst in the Wadi el Hudi and gneiss at
- Mines for pharaohs, mined by
slaves in New Kingdom
Amenemhet III (Nimaatre) (1817-1772 BC) completed the building of the
great waterwheels of the Fayum, thus diverting the flood waters of the Nile
into Lake Moeris.
The irrigation system and
an overflow canal, was used to drain the marshes. An estimated 153,600 acres of
fertile land was reclaimed from the water.
Copper was mined in the Sinai
and local mines, often under dreadful conditions for the miners.
According to two missives
Amenemhet prevented a migration of starving Nubians into Upper Egypt by
providing food aid, sending bread and beer to the drought stricken region.
Egypt in Decline
With the decline of the 12th
Dynasty, Egypt lost much of its power and cohesion.
The military leaders and
soldiers stationed in Nubia became more and more independent. Some of them may
even have permanently settled in Nubia.
The fortresses built along
the Eastern border were either abandoned, or control over who passed the
borders was not as strict as it used to be.
Canaanite nomads entered the
country freely (Jews)
Most of these Canaanites
settled and became traders, farmers or craftsmen, but at least one of them,
Khendjer, became a king.
Jacob come in; Jacob plus his
12 sons are Patriarchs
Patriarachs settle in Egypt
under Jacob and his sons (proof)
By the end of the 13th
Dynasty, the Eastern Delta was populated mostly by Asiatics.
Hyksos (1674-1567 B.C.)
Weakened by internal problems, Lower Egypt was taken over
seemingly with little fighting by the invading or perhaps just immigrant
Hyksos, who set up two contemporaneous dynasties - the 15th dynasty (1674-1567)
of the great Hyksos kings dominated the Hyksos vassal chiefs of the 16th
The Hyksos were a Semitic (Canaanite or Amorite or
Hittite??) people and may have come from southern Canaan or Syria. Evidence
seems to point to their having had a nomadic life style.
bows, horses and chariots
Their rule over Lower Egypt lasted from the conquest of
Memphis by Salitis (Sheshi) in 1674, till their expulsion in 1567 B.C. and was
mainly a time of peace and prosperity.
Greek writers, beginning with Manetho, called them
"Hyksos," which was mistranslated as "shepherd kings."
Egyptians seem to have called these kings as “rulers of foreign lands” or “sand-dwellers”.
Joseph becomes a "very senior member of the royal
court" at a time of "tolerance and cooperation between the Egyptians
and the proto-Israelites"
"The pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom employed Asiatic
officials" who "must have been more numerous during the Hyksos
period" (Roland de Vaux, The Early History of Israel. Trans. David
Smith. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978, 298).
Egyptian religion was respected; Egyptian was the language of
government; and many Egyptians served in the administration.
Their most important contributions to Egyptian culture were
perhaps the introduction of Canaanite deities such as the Storm God whom they
identified with Seth, and Asian artifacts, which were instrumental in
abrogating the despotism and isolationism of the Old and Middle kingdoms.
Foreign culture became established at a few eastern Delta
sites, and the Egyptians acquired new military techniques, such as the use of
the horse-drawn chariot and the composite bow during this period. Their
conquests were strengthened by a type of rectangular fortification of beaten
earth used as a fortress; archaeologists have uncovered examples of these
mounds in Canaan at Jericho, Sihem, and Lahish.
End of the Hyksos
and Rise of Ahmose I
But the Hyksos dream of being integrated into Egyptian
society died within a century.
An aggressive Egyptian family from Thebes waged a fierce
set of wars against the Hyksos kings. Ahmose I, the great general, drove the
Hyksos out of Egypt by 1550 B.C. after a decisive victory at Tanis. The Theban
kings of the 18th
Dynasty kept on raiding the Hyksos cities of the Middle East for
many years to come.
about the Hyksos
tomb inscription : The expulsion of the Hyksos
- Ahmose I (1570-1546) Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” (Exodus
- From Thebes in Upper
- Founds 18th
- Ousts Hyksos
- great slaughter was recorded
in all the battles
- A non-Semitic,
- Joseph lived in the
capital of Avaris in the Delta region with the old Pharaoh
- enslaves Jews and
others – retaliation against Semites (seeds of revolution?)
- Thutmose I (1525-1512)
- Thutmose II (1512-1504)
(pharaoh, 1503-1482) the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II
(pharaoh, 1503-1482) the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II did not give
birth to a male child but did give birth to a daughter named Neferure.
had no natural male heir to the throne
is likely that Hatshepsut would seek to adopt a male child
claim to the throne, as Thutmose II did not have a male child by
II wants line to pass to Thutmose III, son by a concubine
II dies while Thutmose III is young, and Hatshepsut and boy are co-rulers
- As a
gift of the god of the Nile, Hatshepsut
the baby as her son and named him Moses (Exodus 2:10)
- Moses was to be her
- Moses grew up in the courts
of Egyptian royalty (cf. Ex. 2:10; Acts 7:22)
faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of
Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to share ill treatment with the
people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
accounting the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt:
for he looked unto the recompense of reward” (Heb. 11:24-26).
under Moses (see “In
Search of Moses,” Time magazine)
- Moses writes Pentateuch (evidence; rebutting the Documentary
III stages coup d’etat of sorts – wouldn’t tolerate Moses as heir
up eradicating almost all her monuments throughout Egypt
- Speculation that she adopted the
in ca. 1483 B.C. Moses fled Egypt and it is exactly in this period (give
or take a year) that chronologists pin the successful revolution against
Hatshepsut and when Tutmose III seized the throne.
had groomed Moses as her successor
Thutmose III received word that Moses had killed an Egyptian it was a
defining moment, a politically expedient opportunity to use this
information to rid himself of this hated rivals Hatshepsut and Moses
apparently anticipating this, fled from Egypt to Sinai (Ex. 2:15)
- Amenhotep II (1450-1425) – Pharaoh
of Exodus (c. 1443/1438 B.C.) and Plagues (firstborn killed)
- “Furthermore, we learn from the Dream
Stela of Thutmose IV, son of Amenhotep II, that he was not the
legitimate successor to the throne (J.B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient
Near-Eastern Texts, p. 449). This means that Thutmose IV was not the
firstborn son, who would have been the legitimate heir. The firstborn
son of Amenhotep II had evidently died prior to taking the throne of
Egypt. This would agree with Exodus 12:29 which says the pharaoh's
first-born son was killed during the Passover.” (source)
(Sidebars: Did the
Exodus Never Happen?; Dating
of the 13th century place Exodus about 1260 or 1250 BCE., but Merneptah
stele seems to indicate that Israel was established in Canaan by
Israel functioned as an
agriculturally-based/sedentary socioethnic entity in the late 13th century
B.C., one that is significant enough to be included in the military campaign
against political powers in Canaan. ... While the Merneptah stela does not give
any indication of the actual social structure of the people of Israel, it does
indicate that Israel was a significant socioethnic entity that needed to be
reckoned with (Hasel, M.G. 1994 "Israel in the Merneptah Stela". Bulletin
of the American Schools of Oriental Research 296: 54; 56, n. 12).
further credence to traditional date of 1450-1400 B.C. for the Exodus
No. 353 – for Moses? Never finished once he abdicated
Why no Egyptian documents attesting to Exodus?
surviving papyrus docs of any kind from Nile Delta
III ruled (1417-1379 BC) - Egypt at the height of its power. His
extensive diplomatic contacts with other Near Eastern states, especially Hittites
and Babylonia, are revealed in the Amarna
tablets. Of the great temple he built near Thebes, only two statues,
the so-called colossi of Memnon, remain.
(Amenhotep IV) (1375-1358), was invested as king not in the Amen temple at
Karnak as custom dictated, but at Hermonthis, where his uncle Inen was
High Priest of Re and immediately began building a roofless temple to the
Aten, the disk of the rising sun. He soon forbade the worship of other
gods (MONOTHEISM), especially of the state god Amen of Thebes. In the 6th
year he changed his name from Amenhotep ("Amen is satisfied") to
Akhenaten ("beneficial to Aten") and left Thebes for a new
capital at Akhetaten (El Amarna).
there with his queen Nefertiti, six daughters, and possibly several sons,
he fostered new styles in art and literature.
confiscation of the wealth of the Amen temples wreaked havoc upon its
used these riches to strengthen the royal control over the army and his
officialdom. His concentration on internal affairs brought about the loss
of some of the Egyptian possessions in Canaan and Retenu (Syria) and of
the Egyptian naval dominance, when Aziru
defected to the Hittites with his fleet.
religious reforms didn't survive his reign and monotheism in its pure
form was forgotten in Egypt, even though it found a new expression in the
trinity of Re, Ptah and Amen. The Aten temples were demolished, and
Akhenaten came to be called "the Enemy."
(r. 1358-1352 BC), the son in law of Akhenaten, succeeded his brother
Smenkhkare when he was only nine years old.
the traditional polytheistic religion, abandoning the monotheistic cult
of Aten of Akhenaten, its religious centre at el Amarna and returning to
the capital Thebes.
reviving the cult of the state god Amen he strengthened the position of
Amen's priesthood. The pharaoh changed his name Tutankhaten (living
image of Aten) to Tutankhamen, (living image of Amen)
died at the age of 18, possibly murdered, but there is no real eveidence
to support this. As there were no legal heirs a plea by the King's Wife
for a suitable prince consort seems to have reached the Hittite king
all the other tombs in the Valley of the kings at Thebes were later
plundered, the tomb in which Tutankhamen was ultimately buried was
hidden by rock chips dumped from cutting the tomb of a later king.
Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter It was filled
with extraordinary treasure, including a solid gold coffin, a gold mask,
jewelry, and many artifacts. Ay acceded to the throne despite Horemheb's
claim to be the designated successor. Ay's accession to the throne was an
attempt on the part of the Egyptians to appease the Hittites, by whom
they had just been defeated.
I, founder of the 19th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, reigned for
little more than a year, between 1320 and 1318 BC. Apparently chosen
for succession by the last pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Horemheb, in
whose army he had been a commander, Ramses planned and started to build
the colonnaded hall in the temple at Karnak.
I succeeded his father, Ramses I and ruled from about 1318 till 1304
BC. He reoccupied the forts in Sinai which had been taken over by the
Shasu and conducted several campaigns in Syria and
Palestine fighting local kings, the Hittites and nomadic tribes like
II (r. 1304-1237 BC) is remembered for his military campaigns and his
extensive building program, the remains of which are still conspicuous.
like his father Seti I, pursued a vigorous foreign policy by attacking
the Hittites, the chief opponents of the Egyptian empire in the East. His
first campaigns against them (1300-1299 BC) ended in an Egyptian retreat
after a violent battle
at Kadesh in Syria (1288 B.C.), during which Ramses narrowly escaped
capture mainly thanks to the intervention of a troop contingent from
consequent loss of prestige sparked revolts
within the empire
founded a new royal capital at Per-Ramesse ("the house of
Ramses") in the eastern Nile delta. During his long reign, Ramses
had 150 children, and by his death in 1237, he had outlived 11 sons. He
was 99 years old.
accounts of the battle of Kadesh
Stela of the family of Ramses at Tanis
was succeeded by his 12th, surviving son, Merneptah . Under
Merneptah an army of the Sea Peoples attacked Egypt which consisted for
the most part of the Achaeans (Akhaivasa), and can be chronologically
related to the migratory wave that put an end to Troy VII a.
stele seems to indicate that Israel was established in Canaan by
functioned as an agriculturally-based/sedentary socioethnic entity in
the late 13th century B.C., one that is significant enough to be
included in the military campaign against political powers in Canaan.
... While the Merneptah stela does not give any indication of the actual
social structure of the people of Israel, it does indicate that Israel
was a significant socioethnic entity that needed to be reckoned with
(Hasel, M.G. 1994 "Israel in the Merneptah Stela". Bulletin
of the American Schools of Oriental Research 296: 54; 56, n. 12).
time following his reign was chaotic, Seti
II who was probably a legitimate heir, reigned for some six years,
while coming from Nubia, a usurper, Amenmes controlled Upper Egypt
and was followed by Ramses
Siptah (later called Merneptah Siptah).
his father, Sethnakhte , who reigned for three years, Ramses III
saved Egypt from foreign invasion but failed to solve internal problems
(political conspiracies and weakened social structures) that led to the
collapse of the Egyptian state 80 years after his death.
1191 B.C., Ramses fought off a horde of invading Sea Peoples
who, after crossing the Aegean and Anatolia, were sweeping down the
eastern Mediterranean coast towards Egypt
these external successes, royal power declined and Egypt lost its Asiatic
colonies which were conquered by the Sea Peoples
the reigns of Ramses III or IV most centres of Egyptian
power in Canaan were destroyed and Ramses VI withdrew from Serabit
el Khadim, the copper mines of Timna and possibly Megiddo.
this time the temples became richer at the expense of the pharaohs; Ramses
III for instance attempted building only one major structure. Government
was corrupt and inefficient, and Ramses himself was nearly
assassinated before being succeeded by his son Ramses IV in
1166 BC. He was buried in the Valley of the Kings.
the end of the 20th dynasty the empire shrank and ambitious royal building
programs failed. Government was impeded by officials' independence, as
offices became hereditary and corruption and inefficiency increased. It's
influence in the Middle East declined.
New Kingdom ended in a civil war under Ramses XI.
The rule of the
foreigners: Libyans, Ethiopians, Assyrians and Persians
21st Dynasty (1085-945 B.C.)
After 1085 BC, Egypt split between a northern 21st dynasty
claiming national recognition reigning from Tanis and a line of Theban generals
and high priests of Amen who actually controlled the south from Thebes.
Relations between the two authorities were peaceful. The Tanites were driven
from power by Libyan warriors who established their own Twenty-Second Dynasty.
22nd Dynasty (945-730 B.C.)
22d dynasty (945-730 B.C.) was founded by Sheshonq I, probably
descended from long-settled Libyan mercenaries,
the Meshwesh. He supported Jeroboam against King Solomon's son, Rehoboam,
and campaigned later in Palestine
(ca. 930) laying tribute upon the king of Judah.
instituted a decentralized system, with kings based in the north and their
sons ruling key centers elsewhere.
and sporadic civil wars followed, and by the 8th century B.C. Egypt had
been divided into eleven autonomous states, whose inhabitants depended on
congested, walled towns for security.
increased anxiety found expression in their worship of local rather than
25th Dynasty (716-656 B.C.)
Egypt held out long against Ethiopian invaders until being overrun by the
armies of Piye
(Piankhi) all the way to Memphis.
this period there was an artistic and cultural revival, such as the
restoration of the supremacy of the god Amen. Piye moved north against the
coalition of four Egyptian Kings in year 21 of his Nubian reign.
succeeded his brother Piye in 710 BCE(BC), moved his capital from Napata
to Thebes and reunited Upper and Lower Egypt, by defeating King Bochchoris
(Wahkare Bakenrenef) of Sais and removing all the other kings. He
completely subdued the foreign invaders who had settled in the Delta. His
was the Golden Age of the Nubian domination of Egypt.
the Assyrian Empire in Palestine and Syria and was followed by Shebitku
and Taharka who recognized in 665 BC his cousin Tanutamun,
as his heir and co-regent.
- In 674,
the first Assyrian attack under Asarhaddon on Egypt foundered at a border
fortification, probably Migdol, on the eastern rim of the Delta.
his second campaign (671), Asarhaddon skirted the fortress, and conquered
Memphis in just a few days, expelled King Taharka and occupied
third campaign was prematurely ended by Asarhaddon's death in 669, and
Taharka used the momentary Assyrian weakness to try and reconquer Lower
Egypt. He occupied his former capital Memphis, but was defeated by an
army hastily sent by Ashurbanipal and retreated to Thebes.
664 B.C., Ashurbanibal's troops plundered Thebes and the great Amen
temple at Karnak, thus ending the 25th Dynasty
26th Dynasty (664-525 B.C.)
regained its independence in 656 BC under Psammetic I (656-609 BCE)
of Libyan origin, founder of the 26th dynasty.
II (609-594 BCE) began and later abandoned the re-excavation of the canal
connecting the Nile to the Red Sea, rebuilt the fleet,
defeated by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadrezzar II (605 B.C.), at Karkamesh on the
Euphrates, lost Syria and was pursued by the Babylonians to the
traditional Egyptian border in Sinai
- A few
months after Ahmose II’s death, however, his son Psammetic III
was deposed when the Persians under King Cambyses II conquered Egypt.
27th Dynasty: The Persians (525-404 B.C.)
Darius I re-excavated the canal
connecting the Nile, and thus the Mediterranean, with the Red Sea, promoting
The Persians ruled Egypt as a satrapy from
525 to 404 BC, and again from 341 to 333 BC (31st Dynasty).
Much of their reign over
Egypt was uneventful, but there were occasionally revolts, such as the
rebellion of 486 following a rise in the level of taxation, which was put down
29th and 30th Dynasty (399-341 B.C.)
The weakness of the Persian empire prevented it from taking
advantage of the unstable political situation in Egypt.
31st Dynasty: The second Persian conquest, 343-332 BCE
Persian attack was repulsed in 350, but in 343 Artaxerxes III led
his army against Pelusium and defeated the Egyptian forces. After the
conquest of Egypt Nekhtharehbe fled to Nubia. Artaxerxes plundered the
country and destroyed fortifications and city walls. The Nubian Khabbash
gained control over Egypt after the murder of Artaxerxes (338), but Darius
III retook the country in 335.
these political changes of circumstances, the country was often prosperous
in the Late Dynastic period. Great temples continued to be built, though
they survived poorly. Artisans produced many bronze and stone statues,
without introducing new ideas but rather harking back to Egypt's splendid
past, copying earlier styles and even specific scenes from temple and tomb
reliefs. There was also a quasi-realistic style, especially in statuary;
but in this and reliefs softer, rounded contours later became popular.
Period: The Hellenists
the Great occupied Syria and, after a long and successful siege of the
Phoenician town Tyre, entered Egypt in 332 B.C.
was accepted as pharaoh.
visited the famous Libyan oracle of Amen at the Siwa Oasis. The oracle
declared him to be Amen's son (two Greek oracles had confirmed him as son
of Zeus, the Greek counterpart of Amen) .
may have been crowned at Memphis.
reorganized Egypt, founded Alexandria in the western Delta (331), and
left the country in the hands of Balacrus and Peucestas, who were well
disposed and respectful towards the Egyptian religious institutions.
Cleomenes was appointed satrap and headed the civil administration.
331 Alexander crossed the Eastern Desert, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers
into Persia. He died in 323 and, as son of Amen, was portrayed by the
Egyptians with the god's horns.
The Ptolemaic Dynasty
I , (ruled 323-284 B.C.), created the political and military
foundations of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt (305-30 B.C.)
the death of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, one of the leading Macedonian
generals, became satrap of Egypt
of Alexander's generals, Perdiccas, challenged his rule in 321, but was
defeated and fed to the crocodiles.
305 he declared himself king and thus confirmed his independence from the
Macedonian royal house.
Ptolemy extended his own might by strengthening Egypt's political and
economic power. Much of the traditional Egyptian sphere of influence,
Cyrene in Africa, Phoenicia and Palestine in Asia and Cyprus were more or
less firmly in his control. Trade with the Mediterranean, East Africa,
Arabia and India was developed to his great advantage.
was worshipped as pharaohs had traditionally been, and he was careful to
foster the worship of the ancient gods and of Graecised Egyptian gods
like Serapis. He made Alexandria his capital and founded his great
library and museum there. He abdicated in favour of his son Ptolemy in
II Philadelphus, (reigned 284-246 B.C.) sought diplomatic relations
centuries of political intreigue
VII, daughter of Ptolemy XII (r.51-30) ruled jointly with her younger
brother Ptolemy XIII for three years, when they had a falling out
which developed into a civil war.
Roman general Pompey, pursued by Julius Caesar, came to Egypt in 48 B.C.
and was murdered by Ptolemy's courtiers.
sided with Cleopatra, whose lover he became, and defeated Ptolemy.
left Egypt for Rome, where Cleopatra followed him with their son
Caesar's murder in 44 she returned to Egypt, had her husband Ptolemy
XIV murdered and tried to keep neutral in the Roman civil war.
the end she had to take sides.
41 B.C. she met Mark Antony at Tarsus and became his mistress. He
followed her to Egypt and married her, divorcing Octavian's sister in
34 Caesarion became co-ruler in an attempt to gain popularity, while
Octavian's propaganda described them as rowdy and decadent pleasure
the sea battle of Actium the Egyptian navy was decisively defeated and
Antony and Cleopatra fled to Alexandria. Almost a year later, Octavian
conquered Alexandria, Mark Antony committed suicide and Cleopatra, when
she failed to come to an agreement with the Romans, did likewise (30
B.C.). Her son, Caesarion (Ptolemy XV), was murdered, and Egypt
became an exploited, though mostly prosperous Roman province.
Humor in ancient Egypt
Many people will picture ancient Egypt visually as slaves building the Great
Pyramids. It is was comes to one's an the common man's mind's eye, though
today we believe that the Pyramids were probably not built primarily with slave
labor. Still, the concept does not lend itself easily to smiling, happy faces.
In fact there seems to have been little outlet for humor within the confines of
official funerary and religious art and literature. Yet we know that ancient
Egyptians had a since of humor, even as they toiled to build the ancient
monumental buildings. In fact, they even had a god of humor in the form of Bes, who was a fat,
bearded dwarf; ugly to the point of being comical.
It is difficult for us to analyze humor even in different modern cultures,
much less those of ancient civilizations. Humor and satire are most often
associated with the subversion and undermining of normal social decorum, but if
the normal social decorum is not fully understood, then the humor or satire
will be lost to us.
Most humor comes to us from
"unofficial" sources, such as rough sketches and Ostraca, though
occasionally we even find official humor, though it most often regards matters
outside the Egyptian royal audience. Notable is the scene at the temple
of Hatshepsut at Deir
el-Bahri that portrays the overweight figure of the queen of Punt, followed
by a small donkey. The caption reads, "the donkey that had to carry
the queen", and apparently the ordinary Egyptians thought this was funny
as well, for they repeated the drawing in rough sketch clearly copied from the
In a number of texts, scribes corned
just about every other trade (with the exception of their own). Some of
this was clearly meant to be humorous, though considering the ego that scribes
clearly enjoyed, some of the text were probably out and out scorn. Even
in private tombs, there was sometimes mockery of some of the laborers.
Probably the most obvious and one of the largest bodies of humor are
sketches and paintings depicting animals such as mice and cats engaged in
typical human activities. They are shown beating captives, driving
chariots, and in one papyrus, a lion and antelope are shown playing a board
game while a cat is shown herding geese. It has been suggested that these might
have been illustrations for animal fables, but if this were true, no text has
survived as proof.
We are likely to never know the full
extent of ancient Egyptian humor. Today we know have considerable
knowledge of the royal and religious aspects of ancient Egypt. But while
our understanding of common Egyptians is increasing, there is yet much to be
learned. I was probably the common Egyptians who formulated most humor,
and who probably needed it the most in order to deal with their lives. Today,
Egypt remain a society with a great sense of humor.