Ancient Egyptian history: The Late Period - Rule of the foreigners
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AM Duat papyrus
AM-Duat Papyrus
(23rd dynasty)


Asarhaddon's conquest of Egypt
Asarhaddon's conquest of Egypt

Asarhaddon captures Taharka
Asarhaddon captures Taharka

(600 BCE)


Dynasties XXI to XXXI
The rule of the foreigners: Libyans, Ethiopians, Assyrians and Persians

Third Intermediate Period

21st Dynasty ,   c.1070-945 BCE

Akhet Internet: Psusennes

Funeral mask of Psusennes
(21st dynasty)
Source: Akhet website

    Some time after 1080 BCE - the Tanite Nesbanebded (c.1070 - 1043) still had some control over Upper Egypt - 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.
    There was a tradition of representing the high priest as the king's representative: Herihor did not claim royal dignity. During this period they called Renaissance (whm msw.t) Herihor and his successors Pinedjem, Masaharta, and Menkheperre, with the exception of Piankh, all used the title of High Priest of Amen as their principal title. The titles gradually diminished in number, reflecting not so much a reduction in power but an emphasis on their role as the highest authority in the Thebaid and Upper Egypt. The title of High Priest of Amen gave the bearers control over the domains of Amen and at the same time emphasized the fact that they derived their power from Amen.
    In the peculiar combinations of royal titles and that of High Priest, it becomes clear that the rulers of Tanis and Thebes only represented an ideal kingship.

22nd Dynasty ,   c.945-730 BCE

    The 22d dynasty (945-730 BCE) 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. He instituted a decentralized system, with kings based in the north and their sons ruling key centers elsewhere. Rivalries and sporadic civil wars followed, and by the 8th century BCE Egypt had been divided into eleven autonomous states, whose inhabitants depended on congested, walled towns for security. Their increased anxiety found expression in their worship of local rather than national gods.

23rd Dynasty ,   c.818-715 BCE

    The 23rd dynasty was of Libyan origin possibly residing at Tanis, with, according to the various sources based on Manetho, either three kings reigning for 44 years or four kings in power for 89 years. Their sphere of influence was local. There are archaeological remains which can be assigned to the first king, Pedubast I and his successor Osorkon III. Their authority was recognized by the rulers of Thebes.

24th Dynasty ,   c.727-715 BCE

    Another somewhat obscure dynasty, which according to Manetho consisted of Bakenenref who ruled at Sais for 44 or more probably six years. Tefnakhte, his predecessor, is sometimes included as well.

25th Dynasty ,   747-656 BCE

    Upper Egypt held out long against Ethiopian invaders until being overrun by the armies of Piye (Piankhi), son of Kashta, all the way to Memphis. During 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.

The Stela of Piye

    Shabaka succeeded his brother Piye in about 716 BCE, 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.
    He fought against the Assyrian Empire in Palestine and Syria and was followed by Shebitku and then by Taharka who recognized in 665 BCE 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. On his second campaign (671), Asarhaddon skirted the fortress, and conquered Memphis in just a few days, expelled King Taharka and occupied Lower Egypt. The 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.
    Reinforced by Levantine nobles, an unsuccessful attempt was made to conquer Upper Egypt. On their return a conspiracy against the Assyrian occupiers was uncovered; two of the involved noblemen, Necho and Sharruludari were captured and exiled to Nineveh. Necho received a pardon and was reinstalled at Sais, probably because the Assyrians depended on his support. His son, the later Psammetic I, was given an official position at the same time, stressing the importance the Assyrians attributed to Necho's family.
    After Taharka's death in 664, Tanutamun, Taharka's nephew, became ruler of Kush. With his accession he attempted to reconquer Lower Egypt and attacked Memphis, but he did not receive the hoped-for support of the noblemen of the Delta. Ashurbanibal's troops counterattacked, expelled the Kushites from Thebes and plundered the city and the great Amen temple at Karnak, thus ending the 25th Dynasty.

Late Period

26th Dynasty ,   664-525 BCE

    Egypt regained its independence in 656 BCE under Psammetic I (656-609 BCE) of Libyan origin, founder of the 26th dynasty. Under him the country experienced another golden age. Towards the end of his reign he aided the crumbling Assyrian empire in a vain attempt to contain the rising Babylonians.
    Necho II (609-594 BCE) began and later abandoned the re-excavation of the canal connecting the Nile to the Red Sea, rebuilt the fleet, conquered Syria , continued his predecessor's policy of supporting Assyria with an unsuccessful siege of Haran during his first campaign in 609, but was defeated by the king of Babylon, Nebukadrezzar II , (605 BCE, at Karkamesh on the Euphrates), lost Syria and was pursued by the Babylonians to the traditional Egyptian border in Sinai.
    Wahibre (Apries) supported unsuccessful Syrian revolts against the Babylonians. In North Africa, Adicran, a Libyan chieftain in Cyrene, turned to Egypt for protection against the Greek colonists. An Egyptian expeditionary army was crushed and in the ensuing revolt Wahibre was toppled in 569.
    The last great African Pharaoh, Ahmose II (Amasis, 569-526), was of Libyan ancestry. He came to power with the help of mercenary soldiers, overthrowing King Apries who had been blamed for a military catastrophe in Libya. Under him Egypt enjoyed its last brilliant period. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Ahmose II's reign was prosperous and mainly peaceful: he left many architectural monuments, developed relations with Greece, and married the Greek Ladice of Cyrene.
    The Babylonians tried twice to invade Egypt and were repulsed. After a first failed attempt in 601, Nebukadrezzar attacked the Delta in 568 and Ahmose hired Ionian mercenaries who thanks to Marduk were put to flight; but the defense of Egypt was successful.
    In an attempt to counterbalance the rising Persian empire Ahmose conquered Cyprus in 560 which Egypt held until its conquest by the Persians in 525.
    Many of the best soldiers of Egypt's army deserted to the Ethiopian king at Meroe, and Ahmose was forced to use Libyan and Greek mercenaries against foreign invaders. In spite of being a Philhellene, he restricted the activities of the Greeks to the great city of Naukratis in the Delta southwest of Sais, thus achieving a political equilibrium between Greeks and Egyptians.
    A few months after his death, however, his son Psammetic III was deposed when the Persians under King Cambyses II conquered Egypt.

27th Dynasty: The Persians ,   525-404 BCE

    Libya and the Greeks of Cyrene surrendered to Cambyses, but his attempts to enlarge his African possessions were largely unsuccessful. The conquest of the Greek colony at the Siwa oasis failed, when his army died on the march through the desert and his Nubian campaign led only to the establishment of a Persian garrison at Elephantine.
    His successor, Darius I, re-excavated the canal connecting the Nile, and thus the Mediterranean, with the Red Sea, promoting trade.

The inscription of Udjahorresne

    The Persians ruled Egypt as a satrapy from 525 to 404 BCE, and again from 341 to 333 BCE (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 by Xerxes.

28th Dynasty, 404-399 BCE

    Amyrtaeus of Sais led a revolt against the Persians in 404. Amyrtaeus ruled in the midst of unrest and conspiracy for five years. In 400 he united the country by conquering Upper Egypt.

29th Dynasty, 399-380 BCE

    According to Manetho this Mendesian line consisted of four kings, among them Nefaarud and Hakor who are also known from contemporary records. The weakness of the Persian empire prevented it from taking advantage of the unstable political situation in Egypt. Hakor (Achoris, 393-380) employed native Greek mercenaries and rebuilt the Egyptian navy. He formed alliances with other kings threatened by the Persians and repelled a Persian invasion.

30th Dynasty, 380-343 BCE

    This line from Sebennytos consisted, according to Manetho, of three kings and ruled for either twenty or thirty-eight years. The founder of the dynasty, the general Nakhtnebef (Nectanebo I, 380-362) ousted the legal heir Nepherites II and withstood a Persian attack on the Delta, suffering heavy casualties. His son Djedhor (Tachos or Teos, 365-360), allied to Chabros and the Spartan Agesilaus, invaded Palestine. But in order to pay his mercenaries he had raised taxes. His cousin Nakhthorheb (Nectanebo II) took advantage of the Egyptian resentment of the taxes and the confiscation of temple property and replaced Djedhor with the support of the priesthood.

The Naukratis decree

31st Dynasty: The second Persian conquest, 343-332 BCE

    Another 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 Nakhthorheb 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.

    Despite the frequent changes of political 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.

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      This is a mirror of a page by André Dollinger on the   website