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Egypt: History - Eighteenth Dynasty - Karnak, Sphinx, Aswan


Eighteenth Dynasty

Details of the fall of Avaris are given in an inscription engraved on the wall of a tomb at El-Kab belonging to a warrior named 'Ahmose, Son of Abana.' Early in life this person replaced his father Baba, who had served under Sekenenre'. His own long military career started under Amosis, when the king sailed north to attack the enemy. Promoted from one ship to another on account of his bravery, he fought on foot in the presence of his sovereign. On several occasions he received as a reward not only his male and female captives, but also the decoration known as the Gold of Valor. The siege of the Hyksos fortress appears to have been no easy matter. This was followed by another siege, lasting no less than three years, at Sharuhen, a place in the south-west of Palestine mentioned in the Book of Joshua. This appears to have been the limit of Amosis's campaign in the Palestinian direction, for he had still to cope with the usurper in Nubia and with a couple of rebels who still remained on Upper Egyptian territory. His doughty henchman from El-Kab accompanied him everywhere, and records a great slaughter in all the battles and further rewards to himself, including some fields in his own city. Similar feats of arms are recounted, though much more briefly, by a younger relative from the same place named 'Ahmose Pennekheb, whose life as an active soldier and courtier extended over as many as five reigns. There is evidence elsewhere that King Amosis treated all his soldiers with great liberality, as indeed was their due. The twenty-five years given to this king by Manetho are clearly not far wide of the mark. His son and successor Amenophis I (Amenhotpe as written in the hieroglyphs) continued his father's policy, but with a difference. Up to this time the aim had been merely to restore Egypt within its legitimate borders, but now sprang up the desire 'to extend the boundaries'; a phase commonly used henceforth, but previously hardly employed except once or twice in Dyn. XII. The preoccupation of Amenophis was mainly with Nubia, in the campaign against which the two warriors from El-Kab again took a distinguished part. The son of Abana claims to have convoyed the king upstream and later, after the capture of the enemy chieftain, brought his royal master back to Egypt in two days. If this was true, the king himself could not have ventured very far afield. But now it was definitely decided to colonize Nubia. In this reign we encounter for the first time the title ultimately to be crystallized in the form 'King's Son of Cush'. Already under Amosis the future viceroy Turi is found as 'commandant of Buhen' (Wady Halfa). Under Amenophis he is described as 'King's Son', an epithet to which was subsequently added 'overseer of southern lands'. Though his real name was 'Ahmose and Turi only a nickname, there is no reason to think that either he or any other holder of the title was really a son of the reigning Pharaoh. About this time there appears as El-Kab, which as we have seen provided very brave soldiers, a mysterious title 'first King's Son of Nekhbe' (i.e. El-Kab), and it is difficult not to believe that this designation had something to do with that of the long succession of Nubian viceroys, the more so since two centuries later Nekhen, which is Hieraconpolis just opposite El-Kab, is named as the northern starting point of their jurisdiction.


Looking back over what the contemporary sources have revealed concerning the humiliating Hyksos occupation we find Manetho's account as retailed by Josephus to contain truth and falsity in almost equal measure. R. Weill was the first to insist on the distortion due to a type of literary fiction which became an established convention of Egyptian historical writing. A period of desolation and anarchy is painted in exaggeratedly lurid colors, usually for the glorification of a monarch to whom the salvation of the country is ascribed. Manetho's narrative represents the last stage of a process of falsification which started within a generation after the triumph of Amosis. Not more than eighty years after the expulsion of the enemy, Queen Hashepsowe was characterizing their usurpation in much the same manner as is read in the story of Sekenenre' and Apophis, and parallels are found later under Tut'ankhamun, Merenptah, and Ramesses IV. It is not to be believed that a mighty host of Asiatic invaders descended upon the Delta like a whirlwind and, occupying Memphis, inflicted upon the natives every kind of cruelty. The rare remains of the Hyksos kings point rather to an earnest endeavor to conciliate the inhabitants and to ape the attributes and the trappings of the weak Pharaohs whom they dislodged. Would they otherwise have adopted the hieroglyphic writing and have furnished themselves with compounded with that of the sun-god Re'? The statement that they levied tribute from Upper as well as Lower Egypt must at least be doubted. As we have seen, the view that the Hyksos rulers occupied the entire country is an illusion definitely disposed of by Kamose's great inscription, which clearly implies that the invaders never advanced beyond Gebelen, and suggests that a little later they were compelled to establish their southern boundary at Khmun. Even before that discovery Save-Soderbergh had concluded from the words of the courtiers on the Carnarvon Tablet that a considerable part of the population had resigned themselves to the Asiatic occupation and had found it possible to treat with the invaders on mutually advantageous terms. The further information afforded by the complete stela strongly supports that view, and even suggests that the damage done by the strong man who arose in Thebes was greater than had ever been inflicted by the Hyksos immigrants. Until further discoveries prove the contrary, we must think of the Theban princes as having always maintained their power in their own territory, even if for a short time they had been compelled to accept the position of unwilling vassals.

The Hyksos episode was not without effecting certain changes in the material civilization of Egypt. The most important of these was the introduction of the horse and of the horse-drawn chariot which played so large a part in the later history of the country. It is not proved that these importations contributed in any marked degree to the success of the Asiatics, but they certainly were of great assistance to the Egyptians themselves in their subsequent campaigns. New types of daggers and swords, weapons of bronze, and the strong compound Asiatic bow must also be counted among the benefits derived from what could otherwise be regarded only as a national disaster. In a self-proclaimed philological, rather than archaeological, work such as this would be out of place to dwell upon the new style of fortification which the enemy brought into the country. As regards to the Tell el-Yahudiya ware often mentioned in this connection, the reader must seek an opinion from those more competent to give it. Lastly, it remains to redeem our promise to make some suggestion with regard to the minor Hyksos personages known only from scarabs and cylinder seals. It seems possible that these were early aggressors who entertained the hope of sovereignty before the dynasty of Khayan and the Apophis kings actually achieved that aim; but another possibility is that the objects in question were all of Palestinian origin and commemorated minor chieftains who assumed Pharaonic titles without any right whatsoever. There are, however, mere guesses. It must be repeated that Manetho's Dyn. XVI seems purely fictitious, and that his Dyn. XVII can be made serviceable only as a class-name for the Theban princes included in it.

The Theban saviors of Egypt were a closely knit family in which the women, whether on account of personal attractions or because they were the recognized transmitters of sovereignty, played an extraordinarily prominent part. The latter alternative is, however, ruled out in the case of Tetisheri, one of the earliest of these queens, since fragments of her mummy-cloth found in the great Der el-Bahri cache, inform us that she was the daughter of commoners. Two statuettes of hers are known, both of which must have come from her Theban tomb. Concerning that tomb and concerning her relationships, illuminating information is given by a stela discovered by Petrie at Abydos. Here King Amosis is described as sitting with his wife 'Ahmose-Nofreteroi and pondering what benefits he could confer on his ancestors:

His sister spoke and answered him: 'Why have these things been recalled? What has come into thy heart?' The King's own person said to her: 'I have recalled the mother of my mother and the mother of my father, king's great wife and king's mother, Tetisheri, deceased. A tomb-chamber and a sepulcher of hers are at this moment upon the soil of the Theban and Abydene nomes, but I have said this to thee because My Majesty has wished to make for her a pyramid and a chapel in the Sacred Land close to the monument of My Majesty'....His Majesty spoke thud, and these things were accomplished at once.

The important point here is that King Amosis asserts his own parents to have been the children of the same mother and father, a classical example of brother and sister marriage. Now those parents are known: the mother of Amosis was 'Ahhotpe, and she was the wife of Sekenenre' Ta'o II. In all probability, therefore, Terisheri was the consort of Ta'o I, whose tomb, like that of Ta'o II, had be inspected in the reign of Ramesses IX and found intact. What subsequently happened to Ta'o II has already been told. About Ta'o I nothing further is known, but it is conjectured that his Prenomen was Senakhtenre'.

'Ahhotpe, Ta'o II's queen, attained to even greater celebrity than her mother. A great stela found at Karnak, after heaping eulogies upon her son Amosis I, its dedicator, goes on to exhort all his subjects to do her reverence. In this curious passage she is praised as having rallied the soldiery of Egypt, and as having put a stop to rebellion. Does this refer to a difficult moment after the death of Kamose, who is conjectured with plausibility to have been the short-lived elder brother of Amosis? Kamose's tomb was the last of the row inspected by the Ramesside officials, but later the mummy was removed in its coffin to a spot just south of the entrance of the Wady leading to the Tombs of the Kings, where it was found by Mariette's workmen in 1857. The coffin was not gilded, but of the feathered rishi type employed for non-royal personages of the period. The badly mummified corpse crumbled to dust immediately after its discovery, but upon it, besides other jewels, was found a magnificent dagger now in Brussels.

Little more than a year later another gang of fellahin, searching near the same place, came upon 'Ahhotpe's own coffin and mummy, bedecked with splendid ornaments which are among the greatest treasures of the Cairo museum. Apart from a few things bearing the name of Kamose, these had been the gift of her son Amosis, whose cartouche they mostly show. She must have been an old woman of eighty or more when she was conferring rewards upon her steward Kares in the tenth year of Amenophis I. Long before this she had been obliged to surrender her position of special favor to Amosis's wife 'Ahmose-Nofreteroi. To judge from the number of inscriptions, contemporary and later, in which that young queen's name appears, she obtained a celebrity almost without parallel in the history of Egypt. Her titles of King's Daughter and King's Sister suggest that she may been the daughter of Kamose, and consequently her husband's niece. In an unspecified year of his reign Amosis conferred upon her, or sold to her, the office of Second Prophet of Amun at Karnak, to be hers and her descendants' to all eternity. On stele from the limestone quarries near Tura she is depicted behind her husband as he opens a new gallery in his twenty-second year; the cattle dragging the sledge with the great block are said to have been captured in his Asiatic campaign. The site of his tomb is unknown, but his coffin and mummy came to light in the Der el-Bahri find. After his death 'Ahmose-Nofreteroi was ever more closely associated with her son Amenophis I, whose tomb was discovered high up on the hills south of the Wady leading to the Tomb of the Kings. Possibly he shared the tomb with her, as he did a funerary temple down in the valley immediately to the south. The coffins of both, together with their mummies, though hers is somewhat doubtful, were among the discoveries of the great cache.

The names 'Ahmose and 'Ahhotpe so common at this period, not only for royalties but also for private persons, raise a problem that cannot be solved with certainty. These names mean 'The Moon is born', and 'The Moon is content' respectively, and presuppose a moon-cult in the locality from where the rulers of Dyn. XVII sprang. At Karnak the third member of the Theban triad was a moon-god named Chons, but the name Tuthmosis (Eg. Dhutmose) borne by several Pharaohs of the next generations shows that the lunar connections of their ancestors were with Thoth rather than with Chons. There is no reason to think that the kings and queens whose names we are discussing had any connection with Khmun-Hermopolis, Thoth's main cult-center, and for the present it can only be conjectured that their original home lay a little to the south of Medinet Habu on the west bank where there still exists a tiny temple of late Ptolemaic date dedicated to Thoth as the moon and known as the Kasr el-'Aguz. In the not far distant village of Der el-Medina, which some centuries later housed the workmen employed upon the royal tombs, the entire dynastic family beginning with the two Ta'os were worshipped as the 'Lords of the West'. Many other princely names besides those already mentioned are found on the tomb-walls of these humble folk, with Menthotpe I of Dyn. XI as an exceptional case outside the 'Ahmose clan. Special prominence was here given to Queen 'Ahmose-Nofreteroi, depicted for some unaccountable reason with a black countenance, but also sometimes with a blue one; if she was a daughter of Kamose she will have had no black blood in her veins. An even more important role in the necropolis came to be played by Amenophis I, to whom several separated chapels were dedicated differentiating him as 'Amenophis of the town, 'Amenophis the darling of Amun', and 'Amenophis of the Forecourt'. To one or other of these much loved deities prayers were addressed in time of trouble, or appeal was made to their oracles when need for litigation arose.

In an inscription in his Theban tomb an astronomer named Amenemhe states that he lived twenty-one years under Amenophis I, and that may be accepted as only a few years short of the length of reign, since it agrees approximately with the figure given by the excerptors of Manetho for an Amenophthis of whom they make the third king of Dyn. XVIII instead of the second. About his tomb and his mummy we have already spoken.

At the death of Amenophis I (c. 1528 BC) the New Kingdom, or the Empire as it is sometimes called, was well set on its course, and there followed more than a century and a half of unbroken prosperity. Thebes was paramount among the cities of Egypt, and Amen-Re', the principal deity at Karnak, at last vindicated his right to the title 'King of the Gods' which he had borne for so long. Some distortion in our perspective is due to the paucity of monuments from Memphis, Heliopolis, and the Delta, since military bases must clearly have been maintained in the north; nonetheless, we can hardly be mistaken in stressing the Theban supremacy. The sculptures and inscriptions in the great temple of Karnak are a mine of information. On the west bank the main necropolis had moved southward, with a line of mortuary temples in honor of the Pharaohs and their patron deity at the edge of the cultivation, and the rock-tombs of the nobles describing a honeycomb pattern above in the hill of Sheikh 'Abd el-Kurna. Usually one wall in the outer chamber of these tombs is reserved to depict the activities of the owner, and sometimes another wall displays a stela giving a verbal account of his merits and exploits. Naturally other sites are not completely barren of material for the historian: the remains of provincial temples, graffiti on the rocks at the Cataracts, records of mining activities at Sinai and elsewhere, though writings on papyrus are of extreme rarity. But when all these scattered remains are bulked together, Thebes still retains its position as the main source of our knowledge.

Tuthmosis I, the new king, was the son of a woman of non-royal blood named Senisonb. Probably his sole title to kingship was as husband of the princess 'Ahmose, a lady evidently of very exalted parentage. Two sons are depicted in the tomb of Paheri, mayor of El-Kab, where that noble's father is shown as their 'male nurse' or 'tutor'. Amenmose, perhaps the elder, is described, on a broken stela of year 4, as hunting in the desert near the Great Sphinx and , if it be true that at that time he was already 'great army-commander of his father', the king's marriage must have taken place long before he ascended the throne. The other son Wadjmose is a mysterious and interesting character, since after his death the unusual honor was paid him of a tiny chapel erected just south of the Ramesseum. A man named Amenhotpe who had the rank of 'First King's Son of 'Akheperkare' (this the Prenomen of Tuthmosis I) was not a real son, because both his parents are named; it is of interest to mention him here, since this instance illustrates the principal difficulty in dealing with Egyptian genealogical problems: one never knows whether terms like 'son', 'daughter', 'brother', 'sister', and so forth are to be understood literally or not.

The first official act of Tuthmosis I was to send a prescript announcing his accession to Turi, who was still viceroy in Nubia; in this he set forth at length the titulary by which he wished to be known, and which was to be used in connection with all offerings he might make to the gods, as well as in oaths to be sworn in his name. One of the two copies which we have is said to have come form Wady Halfa, but Tuthmosis's ambition did not stop at that fortress-town. A great inscription of his second year is engraved on a rock opposite the island of Tombos above the Third Cataract, but is richer in grandiloquent phrases than in solid information. A more sober account to the campaign is given by our friend 'Ahmose of El-Kab, who related how he navigated the king's fleet over the rough Nile water when His Majesty, raging like a panther, transfixed the enemy chief's breast with his first arrow and carried him off to Thebes hung head downwards at the prow of the royal ship. A greater feat of arms was the expedition which penetrated across the Euphrates into Nahrin, the territory of the king of Mitanni, where a commemorative stela was set up. A great slaughter was made and many prisoners taken. The two veterans form El-Kab again took part, each of them receiving a handsome reward in return for the horse and chariot which he had captured. On the journey back the king celebrated his success with an elephant hunt in the swampy region of Niy, near the later Apamea in Syria. Only once again for many centuries, namely under Tuthmosis III, did an Egyptian army ever thrust so far to the north-east, and we shall hardly be mistaken in regarding Tuthmosis I as no less of a military genius than his grandson.

It is not known how long the reign lasted, perhaps as little as ten years, the latest certain date recorded being the fourth year. A great stela recounting his works in the temple of Osiris at Abydos has lost its date, if it ever had one. If the mummy found at Er el-Bahri is really his, he may have been about fifty years old. In his funerary arrangements he followed Amenophis I's innovation of making a spatial separation between mortuary temple and actual tomb, and this was copied by all his successors. The temple has not been actually found, unless it was incorporated in that of his daughter, concerning which we shall have much to tell later. The tomb is the oldest of those in he remote valley of the Biban el-Moluk ('Tombs of the King'), and consists of an entrance stairway leading steeply downwards, an ante-chamber and a sepulchral hall from which a small store-room branched off; a very modest affair compared with the great sepulchers which were to follow. The yellow quartzite sarcophagus found within and now in the Cairo Museum was apparently placed there later by his grandson Tuthmosis III. An important official named Ineni, who had supervised the splendid buildings at Karnak, including the two obelisks of which one still stands erect, was entrusted with the quarrying of the tomb, his own words being

'I saw to the digging out of the hill-sepulcher of His Majesty privily, none seeing and hearing.'

We gather that the intention was so far as possible to place the king's mummy and rich equipment out of the reach of robbers, an abortive aspiration as it turned out. Ineni was rewarded with a gift of many serfs and daily rations of bread from the royal granary. Thereupon, he tells us,

the king went to his rest form life an ascended to heaven after he had completed his years in happiness.

The favors accorded to Ineni were continued and even increased by Tuthmosis II, the son of Tuthmosis I by a lesser queen named Mutnofre. The reign may have been brief, since Ineni declared himself to have been already old and yet was able to describe conditions under Tuthmosis II's successor; but there is no valid reason for doubting the date of year 18 found upon a broken stela copied by Daressy and now mislaid. The principal monument is a triumphal stela dated in year 1 and set up on the road between Aswan and Philae. This tells with unusual wealth of detail how news was brought of an insurrection in Nubia:

One came to inform His Majesty that vile Cush had revolted and that those who were subjects of the Lord of the Two Lands had planned rebellion to plunder the people of Egypt and to steal cattle from those fortresses which King 'Akerperkare' had built in his victories in order to repel the revolted lands and the Nubian tribesman of Khenthennufe; and now a chieftain in the north of vile Cush was falling into a season of disobedience together with two tribesman of Ta-Sti, children of the chieftain of vile Cush who had fled before the Lord of the Two Lands on the day of the Goodly God's slaughtering, this land being divided into five pieces, each man being possessor of his portion.

On hearing this His Majesty raged like a panther, just as his father had done, and swore that he would not leave alive a single man among them. Thereupon his army overthrew those foreigners, sparing only one of the Nubian chieftain's children who was brought back to Thebes as a captive amid general rejoicing. About Tuthmosis II's other doings little else is heard than that the younger 'Ahmose of El-Kab accompanied him to Palestine and took many prisoners: also that he showed favor to a certain Nebamun who was later to become a steward of Queen Nebtu as well as captain of the king's navy.

The aged Ineni announces the death of Tuthmosis II and the accession of his successor in the following words:

Having ascended into heaven, he became united with the gods, and his son, being arisen in his place as king of the Two Lands, ruled upon the throne of his begetter, while his sister, the god's wife Hashepsoew governed the land and the Two Lands were under her control; people worked for her, and Egypt bowed the head.

Despite the terse way in which the fact is recorded, there is no reason to think that Tuthmosis II died other than a normal death. An almost underdecorated tomb at Biban el-Moluk containing an uninscribed sarcophagus so closely resembles that of Tuthmosis I that it is confidently ascribed to the son, and from its neglect one might conjecture that no on cared00 very much what was his fate; his funerary temple, discovered by the French in 1926, is a paltry affair. A stela probably from Heliopolis depicts him accompanied by Queen 'Ahmose, the widow of Tuthmosis I, and by her daughter the 'king's great wife' Hashepsowe, so that the latter had certainly been married to Tuthmosis II, and since her father was Tuthmosis I her claim to the throne was a very strong one. Nevertheless, there was another formidable claimant in the person of a son of Toothsome II by a concubine See (Isis) who had to content herself with the title 'King's Mother'. That there existed a powerful party which successfully asserted the rights of the youthful Toothsome III is proved not only by Inn's biography, but also by a later inscription at Quark telling in very flowery language the story of his elevation to the throne. It relates that he was a mere stripling serving in the temple of Amun of Karnak and not yet promoted to the rank of 'prophet' ('god's servant'). One day, when the reigning king was sacrificing to Amun, the god made the circuit of the colonnade seeking the young prince everywhere. As soon as he was found , Amun halted before him and having raised him from his recumbent posture placed him in front of the king and made him stand in the place usually occupied by the sovereign. The pronouns used in this passage present some difficulty, but it seems clear that the intention was to present Tuthmosis III as appointed king by divine oracle during the lifetime of his father. Since the inscription was probably written forty-two years later, its absolute truthfulness may be legitimately questioned. What , however, is certain is that he came to the throne under the tutelage of his father's wife Hashepsowe, who kept him well in the background for a number of years.

Continuation of 18th Dynasty

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Last Updated: June 20th, 2011

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