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Egypt: History - Dynasty XXII (Twenty-second Dynasty)


Twenty-second Dynasty


Not long after 950 BC the Pharaonic sway passed into the hands of a family of alien race. Their earliest rulers styled themselves 'chiefs of the Meshwesh', often abbreviated into 'chiefs of the Ma', but sometimes paraphrased as 'chiefs of foreigners'. They were evidently closely related to those Libyans whom Merenptah and Ramesses III had repelled with such difficulty. But they are not to be regarded as fresh invaders. The most plausible theory is that they were the descendants of captured prisoners or voluntary settlers who, like the Sherden, had been granted land of their own on condition of their obligation to military service. Be this as it may, they had waxed so numerous and so important that they were able to take over the government with the minimum of friction. Like the Hyksos before them, they were anxious to pose as true-born Egyptians through retaining on their heads the feather which had always been characteristic of their appearance. But their foreign origin was also betrayed by such barbarous names as Shoshenk, Osorkon, and Takelot, to mention only those born by actual kings. These three names were known to Manetho as members of his TWENTY-SECOND DYNASTY, this containing six more kings unnamed and yielding according to Africanus a total of 120 years. Egyptologists, on the other hand, have found it necessary to distinguish no less than five Shoshenks, four Osorkons, and three Takelots. The entire period is one of great obscurity and we must here, as elsewhere, content ourselves with selecting for description the most outstanding personalities and episodes. By way of generalization it may be said that the character of these later dynasties remained closely similar to that of Dyn. XXI. The main capital was in the north, either at Tanis or at Bubastis. At Thebes, the high-priests still exercised undisputed religious authority. Relations between the two halves of the country continued to vacillate between friendship and enmity. It was an age of rebellion and confusion for which the historian has but scanty sources, in spite of the valuable material forthcoming from a stupendous discovery now to be described.


In 1850 Auguste Mariette, a young man none too well placed to secure his future as an Egyptologist, found the long-sought opportunity in a mission to Cairo to purchase Coptic manuscripts for the French Government. The inevitable delays and obstacles encountered on his arrival had the compensating advantage of making possible a flying visit to the pyramids and tombs of Saqqara. A limestone head emerging from the desert recalled to his mind not only some sphinxes that he had seen at Alexandria, but also a passage of Strabo speaking of the sand-covered sphinxes which led to the temple of the Apis. Convinced that he was on the track of the famous Memphite Serapeum, Mariette was quite content to forget about his Coptic commission and, hiring thirty native workmen, set about uncovering the avenue pointing in the direction of some high mounds. The avenue proved to be of great length and months passed before he found himself in a chapel erected by the Pharaoh Nekhtharehbe (Nectanebus II). This, however, was obviously not the goal aimed at, but the interest excited by Mariette's undertaking had caused a large new credit to be voted to him. It was November 1851, more than a year after his leaving France, before Mariette entered the vast subterranean structure where the Apis bulls were buried. Huge Sarcophagi had contained the mummies of no less than sixty-four bulls, the earliest dating from the reign of Amenophis III and the latest extending down to the very threshold of the Christian era. Thousands of stele and other objects attested the devotion of priests or other worshippers, and many of the inscriptions being dated the great discovery proved to be of inestimable chronological importance. The Apis bull was during its lifetime a sort of emanation of the Memphite god Ptah, but having connections also with Osiris and the falcon god Harakhti. On its death and replacement by another living animal it was buried with pomp as the Osiris-Apis, a name equating it with the Serapis whom the Ptolemies adopted as their principal divinity. Unhappily the very magnitude of the find proved a disadvantage. The haste with which so many objects had to be removed and shipped to France prevented the proper observations and copies being made, and neither the expert knowledge nor the money needed was available for the full publication of which Mariette dreamed but was never able to undertake. To G. Maspero and E. Chassinat belongs the credit of having done so much to remedy this situation, each in his own way. Plans are on foot to make accessible to scholars the vast accumulations still existing in the Louvre. However, it cannot be denied that a large part of the scientific value of Mariette's wonderful discovery is irretrievably lost.

Strangely enough not a single inscription of Dyn. XXI was found in the Serapeum, but the material bearing upon Dyn. XXII and others later is all the richer. Prominent among this material is the stele of one Harpson who traces his descent through sixteen generations to a Libyan forebear of unknown date named Buyuwawa. Harpson was alive and flourishing towards the end of the long reign of Shoshenk IV and though he himself claims to have been no more than a prophet of Neith he counted among his ancestors four consecutive kings, each said to be the son of his predecessor, the earliest of whom was Shoshenk I, the founder of Dyn. XXII and by far the most important member of his clan. He is first heard of in a long inscription found at Abydos while he was still no more than 'great chief of the Meshwesh, prince of princes'. His father Nemrat, son of the lady Mehetemwaskhe--both mentioned by Harpson--had died and Shoshenk had appealed to the reigning king to permit the establishment at Abydos of a great funerary cult in his honor. Both the king and 'the great god' (doubtless Amun) had replied favorably. There can be but little doubt that the Pharaoh in question was the last Psusennes, it being known that Shoshenk's son and successor Osorkon I took to wife that monarch's daughter Ma'kare'. There is a strong probability that the transition from Dyn. XXI to Dyn. XXII passed off peacefully, though a stele from the oasis of Dakhla dated in Shoshenk's fifth year speaks of warfare and turmoil as having prevailed in that remote province. Several sons of the new ruler are known an d he seems to have assigned to them such positions as would be most likely to secure the permanence of his regime. The stele of Harpson appears to represent Kar'oma' as Shoshenk's wife and the mother of Osorkon I, but she is elsewhere described as an 'Adorer of the God', a title believed to exclude any matrimonial relationship. At all events Osorkon I was a son of his predecessor. A lengthy inscription discovered at Ihnasya el-Medina, the Heracleopolis so prominent in the First Intermediate Period, is of interest for several reasons. Together with other texts it acquaints us with a second Nemrat who was not only 'head of the entire army', and a 'great chief of foreigners', but also one of those princely persons who were pleased to claim descent from the Ramessides. His mother Penreshnas was herself daughter of a 'great chief of foreign lands'. This Nemrat came to his father Shoshenk and reported that the temple of the Heracleopolitan god Arsaphes had been bereft of the customary revenue of bulls needed for the many sacrifices to be made in all the months of the year. He himself was ready to contribute no less than sixty bulls, but the towns, villages, and officials of the nome would have to supply the rest. A long list was appended, and the king issued a decree ordering this to be acted upon, incidentally congratulating Nemrat on a beneficence equal to his own. What was the reason for this special favor accorded to Heracleopolis? No certain answer can be given, but it is significant that most of Harpson's ancestors, both male and female, had held priesthoods in that city, and that nearly 300 years later governors of the Thebaid were apt to be chosen form among its inhabitants. A third Nemrat who was a son of Osorkon II bore the title 'commander of the army of Ha-Ninsu' (Heracleopolis) and the same designation occurs with Bekenptah, a brother of the high-priest Osorkon under Shoshenk III. Can it be that the Meshwesh who now arose to royal power had previously been settled in that neighborhood, on the direct route through the oases from their original Libyan home? Manetho speaks of Dyn. XXII as Bubastite and of Dyn. XXIII as Tanite, and there is good evidence connecting their kings with those flourishing towns of the eastern Delta. Nevertheless the suggestions above made deserves serious consideration. A third son of Shoshenk I was Iuput, whom he appointed to be high-priest of Amen-Re' at Karnak, thus breaking with the tradition of heredity previously observed for that post. This was a particularly wise move, bringing that all-important office under the close control of the sovereign, and the same policy seems to have been pursued for several generations to come. That the position was fraught with danger is clear from the retention of the title 'great commander of the army'. The high-priests were not merely priests, they were also military men. The outstanding achievement of Iuput, or perhaps we should rather say of his father, was the erection of an entrance into the precincts of the main temple of Karnak continuing westwards the south wall of the vast Hypostyle Hall. The Bubastite Portal, as it is generally called, was squeezed in between the Second Pylon and a small temple of Ramesses III standing in the way of a huge first court which Shoshenk undoubtedly planned front he start, but which he did not live to accomplish. A rock-inscription at Silsila West records the opening of a new quarry to supply the sandstone for this projected court and pylon. The inscription is dated in Shoshenk's twenty-first year, his last according to Manetho, but it is difficult to believe that the first step, namely, the building of the portal, had not long since been taken. The decoration of its walls illustrates the event to which Shoshenk I , the Biblical Shishak, owes a unique celebrity.

A full half-century earlier Joab, in command of King David's forces, had devastated Edom and put its entire male population to the sword. Hadad, a child of the Edomite royal family, had escaped to Egypt and as he grew up found favor with the Pharaoh, who gave him to wife the sister of Tahpenes his queen. Later, Hadad returned to his own country against Pharaoh's will, and became a life-long enemy of Solomon (I Kings xi. 14 ff.). A somewhat similar incident arose when, after Solomon's death, Jeroboam, an upstart pretender to his throne, fled to Egypt under Shishak (I Kings XI. 40) only to return later as king of the ten tribes. Rehoboam, Solomon's son, had to content himself with kingship over Judah. Meanwhile, however, relations between Egypt and the Israelite royal house had drawn closer. To quote the actual words of the Hebrew analyst: 'And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter and brought her into the city of David'. All these statements read like authentic history, but no confirmation is obtainable from the Egyptian side, and chronological uncertainties, though confined within fairly narrow limits, are sufficient to render it doubtful which particular Pharaohs were in question. Also the name Tahpenes is unidentifiable in the hieroglyphs. But we have not long to wait for a genuine synchronism: 'And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. He took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all'. The probable date is about 930 BC The chronicler was evidently less troubled by the desecration of the holy city than by the loss of the gold shields made by Solomon, which had to be replaced by others of brass. No mention of either Gezer or Jerusalem is made in the surviving names accompanying the great scene of the Bubastite Portal. These names are presented in the traditional fashion with which we became acquainted in connection with the conquests of Tuthmosis III, namely, attached to the busts of prisoners whom the gigantic figure of Pharaoh leads forward for presentation to his father Amen-Re'. The enumeration is disappointing. Of the 150 and more places named only a few are well enough preserved to suggest definite routes and these skirt around the hill-country of Samaria without reaching the center of the Israelite kingdom. Nor is there any hint that they ever touched Judah at all. There are, however, some indications of a raid into Edomite territory. The long-accepted belief that a 'field of Abraham' was to be read in the list is now rejected. However, the discovery at Megiddo of a fragment mentioning Shoshenk leaves no doubt as to the reality of his campaign, though it remains wholly obscure whether it was an attempt to receive ancient glories, whether it was designed for the support of Jeroboam, or whether it was a mere plundering raid. That both Shoshenk and his successor Osorkon I renewed the secular friendship of Egypt with the princes of Byblos is confirmed by the presence of statues of them there, probably gifts sent by those Pharaohs themselves.

Little is known about the first Osorkon and his successor the first Takelot except that the former reigned at least thirty-six years and the latter possibly as much as twenty-three. The obscurities of Egyptian history now deepen to such an extent that only rarely can a glimpse of the sequence of events be caught. The reason is that the center of activity had shifted to the Delta, from the wet soil of which only few monuments have been recovered. Thebes, though still full if its own importance, had politically speaking become a backwater. Little beyond self-adulation and barren genealogies is to be gained from the verbose inscriptions on the many statues of Theban worthies emanating from the great find at Karnak alluded to above. For the regnal years of the Dyns. XXII and XXIII Pharaohs of the Nile levels recorded on the quay in front of the temple are of considerable value. In Middle Egypt, not far north of Oxyrhynchos, a fortress with a temple in which Shoshenk I and Osorkon I had a hand seems to have served as a sort of boundary or barrier between north and south. This already mentioned site of El-Hiba had as its divinity the ram-headed "Amun-of-the-Crag' also described with the picturesque epithet 'Amun great-of-roarings'. It is only in the reign of Osorkon II that a glimmer of light begins to emerge from the darkness. No attempt will here be made to discuss the succession of Theban high-priests all apparently struggling to assert their independence of their liege-lords at Tanis. At Tanis, Montet discovered the tomb of Osorkon II, despoiled of its riches by robbers, side by side with the sarcophagus of a high-priest of Amen-Re' Harnakhti who appears to have been his son. At Bubastis, Naville had fifty years earlier unearthed a great granite gateway decorated with invaluable reliefs depicting episodes of the important, but still highly problematic, royal Sed-festival. This had been celebrated in Osorkon II's twenty-second year, when he took the opportunity of decreeing exclusion from all other services of the harem-women of the temple of Amen-Re' as well as of other temples in his two cities. The brief, but important , inscription ends:

Lo, His Majesty sought for a great benefaction unto his father Amen'Re' when he proclaimed the first Sed-festival for his son who rests upon his throne, that he might proclaim for him many great ones in Thebes, the lady of the Nine Bows. Said by the King in front of his father Amun: 'I have exempted Thebes in her height and her breath, being pure and garnished for her lord, there being no interference with her by the inspectors of the king's house, and her people being exempted for all eternity in the great name of the goodly god.'

This can only be interpreted as an admission of the independence of Thebes, whether as the recognition of a fait accompli or because Osorkon found it political to make this concession.

After Shoshenk I the next four kings had contributed but little to the decoration of the Bubastite Portal at Karnak, and the high-priest Osorkon, the son of Takelot II, was not the man to leave unoccupied blank walls offering so clear an invitation. His actions and policy are recorded in no less than seventy-seven immensely tall columns of hieroglyphs disposed in two separate inscriptions. Though handicapped by gaps in the text no less than by gaps in our philological knowledge, R. Caminos, working upon the copies provided by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, has extracted as much of the historical gist as is humanly possible. Osorkon's story begins in the eleventh year of his father's reign. He was then living at El-Hiba, according to his own account free from any ambition. As governor of Upper Egypt he was soon, however, called upon to quell a rebellion which had broken out at Thebes. On the way there he halted at Khmun (Hermopolis Magna), paid homage to its god Thoth, and caused some damaged sanctuaries to be restored. On arrival at the southern capital, he was welcomed with joy by the whole city, and particularly by the priesthood. There he soon restored order, burning with fire the guilty ones who were brought to him. The children of former magnates were reinstalled in their fathers' offices and five decrees were issued benefiting the various temples of Karnak in different ways. To the modern reader some of the good deeds of which Osorkon speaks must seem extraordinarily trivial. For example, the gift of oil for a great lamp to burn in the sanctuary of Amen-Re', and the provision of one goose daily to each of two other temples, that of Mont and that of Amenope, making 730 geese in the course of the year. All this was done 'on behalf of the life, the prosperity, and the health' of his father Takelot. In the recital of year 12, Osorkon excels himself in his euphemistic exuberance, dragging in all the principal deities of the Pantheon in order to illustrate his wisdom and virtue. Perhaps there was a temporary lull in the antagonism between north and south. It is said that Osorkon visited Thebes three times in a year, bringing ships laden with festal offerings. But in year 15 there arose new convulsions in which he 'did not weary of fighting in their midst even as Horus following his father; years elapsed in which one preyed upon another unimpeded'. At last, however, he had to admit that he knew no way of healing the state of the land except by conciliation. To this view his followers gladly assented and a great expedition to Thebes was fitted out, numberless ships bringing offerings of all kinds to Amen-Re'. Osorkon's speech to the god seems to have included reproaches that he had unduly favored the rebels, but this was not taken amiss, and agreement was easily reached. There follows a brief reference to further trouble when Osorkon found himself without a friend, but this was overcome by fresh oblations to the deity. The wall of Bubastite Portal on which the foregoing narrative stands afforded no room for the remainder of Osorkon's career, and he preferred to devote the considerable space which was left to a long enumeration of the gifts made by him down to King Shoshenk III's twenty-ninth year. Nor was this the end of him, for another inscription describes him as high-priest again visiting Thebes together with his brother Bekenptah, after they had overthrown their enemies who stood in their way. By then he must have been well on in his seventies.

The importance of Osorkon's very lengthy autobiographical text lies less in the personality of its central figure than in the picture which it presents of an Egypt torn by dissension and seeking to maintain the sovereignty of the rulers in the north. This state of affairs may have continued right down to the end of the dynasty. It is desirable to point out how one-sided is the account given by our Osorkon. He usually presents himself as the high-priest of Amen-Re', but what reality can be attached to such a title when born by a prince who often resided at El-Hiba and whose visits to Thebes were only occasional? Meanwhile the daily ritual at Karnak would have had to be carried on, and it seems unlikely that there was not always a high-priest in residence, even if he had to retire when faced by superior claims or superior force. This has indeed been conjectured for a certain Harsiese who appears, like our Osorkon, to have held the position under Shoshenk III. But there had already been another high-priest Harsiese, successor in that capacity of his father Shoshenk, a son of Osorkon I. Here we encounter one of the principal difficulties confronting study of the period, the recurrence over and over again of the same names in both parts of the country. This applies even to the royal Prenomen, no less than eight kings using that which long before had been employed by Ramesses IV, namely, Usima're'-setpenamun. The problems are most baffling, nor can they be tackled with much profit until the scattered and fragmentary inscriptions have been collected anew, accurately copied, and properly edited. Even then it is extremely doubtful whether a coherent account will emerge. Meanwhile we must be contented with isolated facts, such for example as Montet's finding at Tanis the remains of Takelot II lying in a usurped sarcophagus of the Middle Kingdom and accompanied by his canopic jars and ushabti-figures. Towards the end of the dynasty the Serapeum material begins to be of real assistance, the inscriptions mentioning the dates of birth and death of several Apis bulls, together with the length of their lives. On that account, for instance, it has been calculated that Shoshenk III reigned no less than fifty-two years and was succeeded by a king named ('The Cat'). Throughout the entire dynasty the reigns are unexpectedly long, a fact which appears to contradict our earlier generalization that in Egypt length of reign usually spells a prevailing prosperity. Manetho gives Dyn. XXII only 120 years, but the accepted chronology finds itself compelled to legislate for fully two centuries, namely from 950 to 730 BC.

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Last Updated: June 20th, 2011

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