Ancient Egypt: The New Kingdom (1580-332 BC)


Figure 1.--This armless wooden statuette is of Amenhotep/Amenophis III, the father of Akhenaten and Tutenkamen of New Kingdom Dynasty XVIII. It was made for his second or third jubilee. One source indicates that it depicts him as an adult. To me the image looks more like a boy, but if it is an adult image it suggests that boys and men were dressed simailarly.

The New Kingdom invoked an era of imperial glory. Thebian Ahmose I founded Dynasty XVIII about 1,580 BC. Thebian Ahmose I founded Dynasty XVIII about 1,580 BC. His reign is considered the beginning of the New Kingdom. It was the first of the Diospolite dynasties, aned after Diopolis (the city of god). Under Pharaohs Menhotep and Thutmose Egypt became an imperial power, controlling territry streaching from Nubia in the south east to Euphrates River. There were collosal archetectural achievements, most notably the temple at Deir el-Bahri near Thebes. Cities were constructed at Luxor and Karnack, two of the great Egyptian cities of antiquity. It was during this period that Amenhotep IV supressed the traditional religion and attempted to replace it with a kind of solar monotheism. This alienated the priesthood who were able to restore the old religion after the brief reign of Amenhotep's successor, the boy king Tutankhamen. (It was his unspoiled tomb that was discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1922.) Many of Egypt's imperial possessions were lost as a result of the disorders associated with the reign of Amenhotep IV and Tutankhamen. Egypt was ruled by capable pharaohs during Dynasty XIX, including Harmhab, Seti, and Ramses II, but they were unable to reclaim Egypt's imperial possesions. The Jewish exodus probably occurred about 1,290 BC during the reign of Ramses II. The paroahs of Dynasty XX were generally weak and incompetent and Egyptian soviety was increasingly dominated by the priesthood. A Libyan general Sheshonk overthrew Dynasty XXI and established Dynasty XII. He is probably the Biblical pharaoh known as Shihak (Kings I). Dynasty XXIII and XXIV were again a time of internal disorder with the nobility again contesting the authority of a series of weak, inefectual pharaohs. The Ethiopian pharaohs of Dynasy XXV became involved in a war with Assyria. After the Assyrians conquered Egypt inn 670 BC, Pharaoh Taharka took refuge in the extreme south of the country. The Assyrians installed Psamtik, a native prince, as regent in 663 BC. He rebelled in 660 BC against the Asyrians and also fought a war with Babylon, declaring Egyptian independence and founding Dynasty XXVI. There was a brief cultural resurgence during this period. It was a pharoah, Necho, of this dynasty that defeated Josiah's army in Palestine about 608 BC. Necho was subsequently defeated by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Ahmose II turned back invasions by both Babylonians and Persians. His son Psamtik, however, was conquered by King Cambyses II of Persia in 525 BC. This effectively brought to an end the New Kingdom and three millenia of Egytian civilization. Egypt was ruled as a province of Persia for almost two centuries, a period referred to as Dynasties XXVII through XXX, a period during which there were some successful native insurgencies.

Dynasty XVIII (1580-1350 BC)

The New Kingdom invoked an era of imperial glory. Thebian Ahmose I founded Dynasty XVIII about 1,580 BC. Thebian Ahmose I founded Dynasty XVIII about 1580 BC. His reign is considered the beginning of the New Kingdom. It was the first of the Diospolite dynasties, aned after Diopolis (the city of god). Under Pharaohs Menhotep and Thutmose Egypt became an imperial power, controlling territry streaching from Nubia in the south east to Euphrates River. There were collosal archetectural achievements, most notably the temple at Deir el-Bahri near Thebes. Cities were constructed at Luxor and Karnack, two of the great Egyptian cities of antiquity. It was during this period that Amenhotep/Amenophis IV changed his name to Akhenaten, supressed the traditional religon and attempted to replace it with a kind of solar monotheism. Some Egyptologistd believe he advoacted a kind of universal brotherhood of man under a single god. [Aldred, p. 67.] The resistance at Thebes to the new religion caused Akhenaten to move his court to Akhet-Aten. Akhenaten also advocated a realistic depiction in art. The depictions of him and his Queen Nefertriti which survive are some of the most realistic in Egyptian art. Even more interesting, the depictions of his family of six daughters provide a rare realisic glimse ino the life of an Egyptian royal family. [Aldred, pp. 67-68.] Akhenaten tendency toward pacifism greatly weakened Egypt's international position and control over the aclient states of Syria and Palestine. The old priesthood reexerted heir influence and were able to restore the old religion after the brief reign of Amenhotep's successor, the boy king Tutankhamen. (It was his unspoiled tomb that was discovered by Harold Carter in the Valley of the Kings during 1922, perhaps the most famous discovery in all of archeology.) Tutankhamen became pharaoh when he was a boy of about 9 years of age. He is believed to be Akhenaten's younger half brother. He married his older half sister Ankhes-en-Amun. Normally little is known about minor pharaohs like Tutankhamen, but the fact that his tomb wss never disturbed makes him one of the best known pharaohs. Many of Egypt's imperial possessions were lost as a result of the disorders associated with the reign of Amenhotep IV and Tutankhamen.

Dynasty XIX (1350-1200 BC)

Egypt was ruled by capable pharaohs during Dynasty XIX, including Harmhab, Seti, and Ramesses II, but they were unable to reclaim Egypt's imperial possesions. Ramesses I was a high-ranking soldier from the eastern Delta was seized power and founded Dynasty. Ramesses II is the most natable of the XIX Dynasty pharaohs. He reasserted hegemony over the Levant to the east, despite the Hebrew Biblical account. He also restablished control over Nubia to the south. The Jewish exodus, the plagues and parting of the Red Sea probably occurred about 1,290 BC during the reign of Ramesses II. As a result, Ramses is one of the few Egyptian pharoahs known by name to the general public. It was Ramesses II's eldest son that was struck dead in the Biblical account. The death of a royal prince, even an elder son was not uncommon in ancient Egypt. Mortality rates were very high and life expectancy rather low--even for royal princes. The XIX Dynasty is also well known for its monumental archetecture. Seti I built the temple of Osiris at Abydos. Ramesses II built the great hypostyle hall in the temple of and the Amun-Re at Karnak, and the rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel in Lower Nubia. Ramesses III built Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple in western Thebes. After the reign of Ramesses III, Egypt begins another gradual decline.

Dynasty XX (1200-1090 BC)

After the reign of Ramesses III, a long, steady decline of royal power began. The pharoahs of Dynasty XX were generally weak and incompetent and Egyptian society was increasingly dominated by the priesthood. The XX Dysanty is often cinsidered part of the Third Intermediate Period.

Dynasty XXI (1090-945 BC)

Dynasty XXI is also commonly seen as part of the Third Intermediate Period. Hedjkheperre Setepenre Smendes founded the XXI dynasty of Egypt and rose to the throne after burying Ramesses XI in Lower Egypt, the territory which he at the time controlled. His Egyptian nomen (birth name) was Nesbanebdjed meaning 'He of the Ram, Lord of Mendes'. His Greek name was Smendes which was used by Roman writers, including Josephus and Sextus Africanus. Smendes' origins arelargely unknown. He may have been an important governor in Lower Egypt during the Renaissance era of Ramesses XI with a power base at Tanis in the Nile Delta. Smendes as well as the other pharaohs of the XXIst Dynasty ruled from Tanis. They mostly controlled Lower Egypt which they controlled. Their authority in Upper Egypt was tenous at best. The dynasty is known as 'Tanite' because the capital was based at Tanis, located in the north-eastern area of the Delta. The Tanitic branch of the Nile which has long since silted up. While the XXIst Dynasty pharoes ruled from Tanis, the High Priests of Amun at Thebes were in effective rule of Middle and Upper Egypt. The Egyptian Priest Manetho of Sebennytos writes later in his Epitome on Egyptian royal history that 'the XXIst Dynasty of Egypt lasted for 130 years'.

Dynasty XXII (945-718 BC)

The long history of Egypt wa in part due to the desert. In the ancient world, a long distance invasion was difficult to organize and supply. Thus the deserts surrounding the Nile Valley was essentially a security buffer. The Pharaohs for millenia showed little interest on the Western Desert. Their focus was on the Nile valley. There were nomadic people who would become known as the Bedouin living in the desert. A at times they raided intgo Egypt. They were, however, a relatively minor security problem until a Libyan general Sheshonk ammsed apowerful army. He overthrew Dynasty XXI and established Dynasty XXII. He is probably the Biblical pharaoh known as Shihak (Kings I).

Dynasties XXIII (745-718 BC) and XXIV (718-712 BC)

Dynasty XXIII and XXIV were again a time of internal disorder with the nobility again contesting the authority of a series of weak, inefectual pharaohs as can be deduced by the short duration of the two dynasties.

Dynasty XXV (712-663 BC)

For much of Egyptian history a rivl kindom existed to the south in what is now Sudn. The Jebel Barkal / Gebel Barkal is a small mountain located in between Eypt and this kingdom, about 400 km north of Khartoum at a large bend of the Nile River. The kingdom is referred to as Nubia or Kush. The Egyptians traded with the Kushites and at times wared with them and movd the birders of the empire south. Depictions of the Jushotes in Egyptian art is often dispraing, showing the Egyptians conquering the Kusites and hu,iliating them. The Egyptians knew it as the land of gold because this is where the Egyptians got much of their gold. ith the decline of Egypt during the XXIII and XXIVth dynasties, the Kusites invaded and conquered Egypt. The XXVth dynasty is thus an Afrivan dynasty as can be clearly seen in the depictions of these pharaohs. The Kusites or Nubians were an African people as can clearly be seem in Egyptin art. Because of contemporry racil attitudes, ear;ly archeologists refused to accept that the mighty Egyptians could be conquered by Africans. The Kushite pharaohs of Dynasy XXV had to contend with an expanding Assyria who they called Bedouins. After the Assyrians conquered most of Egypt (670 BC), Pharaoh Taharka took refuge in the extreme south of the country.

Dynasty XXVI (663-525 BC)

The Assyrians installed Psamtik, a native prince, as regent in 663 BC. He rebelled in 660 BC against the Asyrians and also fought a war with Babylon, declaring Egyoptian independence and founding Dynasty XXVI. There was a brief cultural resurgence during this period. It was a pharoah, Necho, of this dynasty that defeated Josiah's army in Palestine about 608 BC. Necho was subsequently defeated by Babalonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Ahmose II turned back invasions by both Babalonians and Persians. His son Psamtik, however, was conquered by King Cambyses II of Persia in 525 BC. This effectively brought to an end the New Kingdom and three millenia of Egytian civilization.

Dynasties XXVII-XXX (525-332 BC)

Egypt was ruled as a province of Persia for almost two centuries, a period referred to as Dynasties XXVII through XXX. Persia at the time was the great super power dominating the Near East from Greece to India. During this time there were some successful native insurgencies. At the same time the great historic collision between Greece and Persia occurred which would lay the foundation of Western civilization. The Persian era and the XXXth Dynasty ended with the arrival of Alexander (332 BC).

Sources

Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: Pharaoh of Egypt--A New Study (McGraw-Hill: New York, 1968), 272p.







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Created: May 5, 2003
Last updated: 11:43 PM 10/1/2014