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Egypt: History - Dynasty XXIV (Twenty-fourth Dynasty)


Twenty-fourth Dynasty


The next entries in Manetho as reported by Africanus are brief enough and interesting enough to be quoted in extenso: TWENTY-FOURTH DYNASTY. Bochchoris of Sais, for 6 (44) years: in his time a lamb spoke...990 years. Here at last we are heartened by some resemblance to authentic history. Of course we must disregard the characteristically Manethonian allusion to the lamb which prophesied with a human voice and, as a demotic papyrus tells us, foretold the conquest and enslavement of Egypt by Assyria. It is strange, however, that Manetho makes no mention of the great Sudanese or Cushite warrior Pi'ankhy who about 730 BC suddenly altered the entire complexion of Egyptian affairs. He was the son of a chieftain or king named Kashta and apparently a brother of the Shabako whom Manetho presents under the name Sabacon. But to obtain a rough perspective of the new order of things we must look back some 700 years. Already under the Tuthmosides a flourishing Egyptian town or colony had grown up near the massive rock of the Gebel Barkal, this of no great height, but all the more striking through its isolation in the midst of the plain about a mile from the river. The provincial capital of Napata situated a short distance downstream from the Fourth Cataract at the foot of the 'Holy Mountain', as the Egyptians called it, was sufficiently remote to develop without much danger of interference. Under Tut'ankhamun it was the limit of the Nubian viceroy's jurisdiction. In Ramesside times remain on the spot and references in the texts are infrequent, and under Dyns. XXI and XXII they are completely absent. Still, we may be sure that Egyptian culture still persisted there in a dormant condition coupled with a passionate devotion to Amen-Re', the god of the mother-city Thebes. It was probably that devotion which actuated Pi'ankhy's sudden incursion into the troubled land of his Libyan adversaries. The great stele recovered from the ruins by Mariette is one of the most illuminating documents that Egyptian history has to show, and displays a vivacity of mind, feeling, and expression such as the homeland could no longer produce. The scene at the top already presages the situation reached at the end of the campaign. Amen-Re', accompanied by the goddess Mut, occupies the center of the field, with Pi'ankhy standing in front of the god's seated figure. To the right a woman representing the king's wives advances followed by a king Nemrat leading a horse and holding a sistrum. In the foreground, below the three kings, Osorkon, Iuwapet, and Peftu'abast kiss the ground in front of the conqueror and his deity, and behind the latter five more humbled magnates, two of them mere mayors of towns, but beside them two great princes of the Ma', do homage in similar groveling attitudes. The text of the stele shows that all the Delta and a large part of Middle Egypt had split up into separate principalities. If the rulers of four of these are described as kings, it is doubtless because they, as their names indicate, belonged to the family of Dyn. XXII. Though the connection is far from clear. Pi'ankhy's recital, dated in his twenty-first year, starts by telling how an adventurous Delta prince named Tefnakhte had seized the entire west as far south as Lisht, sailing upstream with a great army. At his approach the headmen of towns and villages had opened their gates and came cringing at his heels like dogs. Then he turned eastwards and after capturing the principal towns on the right bank laid siege to Heracleopolis, which he surrounded on all sides to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. Grave as this news was, it failed to worry Pi'ankhy, who, we are told, 'was in great heart, laughed, and his heart was glad'. The officers of his army in Egypt were unable to take the situation so lightly and asked 'Wilt thou keep silent so as to forget Upper Egypt, while Tefnakhte presses forward unhindered?' They further reported that at Hwer near Hermopolis Magna Nemrat had raised the walls of the neighboring Nefrusy, had cast off his allegiance to his sovereign, and that Tefnakhte had rewarded him with everything that he might chance to find. This was too much for Pi'ankhy, and he now wrote to his commanders in Egypt ordering them to beleaguer the entire Hare nome. At the same time he gave strict instructions as to the strategy they were to pursue: they were to let the enemy choose his own time for the battle, in their sure knowledge that it was Amun who had sent them. But also when they came to Thebes they were to purify themselves in the river, to array themselves in clean linen, to rest the bow and loosen the arrow. Nor were they to boast of their might, for


without him no brave has strength. He maketh strong the weak, so that many flee before the few, and one man overcometh a thousand.

Encouraged by these lofty sentiments the Nubian contingent set out for Thebes, where they did all that had been commanded them. A vast host sailing south to do battle with them was defeated with great slaughter, ships and men being captured, and many prisoners dispatched to Napata where His Majesty was. Heracleopolis, however, remained to be recovered, and the stele at this point gives a long list of Tefnakhte's confederates stating the names of the towns of which they were the rulers. As one might expect, King Osorkon was located at Bubastis, while Tefnakhte himself is now described as 'prophet of Neith, lady of Sais, and setem-priest of Ptah', i.e. as the principal priest at both Sais and Memphis. Again a great slaughter ensued, after which the remnant were pursued and slain in the neighborhood of Pi-pek. But King Nemrat had sailed south to the hare nome, believing that its capital Hermopolis Magna was at grips with the forces of His Majesty, whereupon the whole of the province was invested on all four sides. Nevertheless the news of minor victories which reached Pi'ankhy gave but scanty satisfaction:

Thereupon His Majesty raged like a panther. 'Have they allowed survivors to remain from the armies of Lower Egypt, letting the escaper among them escape to tell the story of his campaign, and not causing them to die so as to destroy the last of them? As I live and as Re' loves me and as my father Amun favors me I will fare downstream myself and will overturn what he has done and will cause him to desist from fighting for all eternity.'

Pi'ankhy goes on to say that he would take part in the New Year's celebrations at Karnak and also those of the feast of Phaophi when Amun went in solemn procession to Luxor, and on the very day of the god's return home he promises,

'I will cause Lower Egypt to taste the taste of my fingers.'

Meanwhile the advance troops had overwhelmed Oxyrhynchos 'like a flood of water', had forced their way into El-Hiba with the help of a scaling ladder, and had also taken the town of Heboinu. These successes brought no contentment to Pi'ankhy's impatient heart. He, however, had to fulfill his vow of attendance at the Theban festivals before he could take ship to Hermopolis. Arrived there, he mounted his chariot and pitched his tent to the southwest of the town, but before taking part in the siege again addressed a thorough scolding to his soldiers for their indolence. Then

a ramp was made to cover the wall and a machine to raise on high archers shooting and slingers slinging stones so as to kill people among them every day.

Soon Hermopolis began to stink, and the inhabitants flung themselves upon their bellies supplicating the king for mercy, and messengers went in and out bringing gifts of gold and chests full of clothing, while the crown on Pi'ankhy's head and the uraeus on his brow inspired unceasing awe. Immediately Nemrat's wife came to supplicate 'the king's wives, the king's harem women, the king's daughters, and the king's sisters' begging them to intercede with 'Horus, lord of the palace, whose power is great and his triumph mighty'. Pi'ankhy seems next to reproach Nemrat for his hostile action to which that humbled the enemy can make no better reply than to bring a horse for the king and a sistrum for the queen as depicted in the scene at the top of the stele. The pious monarch's first act was to sacrifice to Thoth and the other deities of the place, after which he inspected Nemrat's palace and store-houses and had his womenfolk presented to him, but in the latter he took no pleasure. He was, however, aroused to a pitch of fury on finding the horses of Nemrat's stable in a starving condition, and he upbraided him bitterly. The narrative continues in the same vein with an account of Peftu'abast's surrender of Heracleopolis accompanying this with a particularly eloquent speech. El-Lahun at the entrance to the Fayyum was the next place to fall, after Pi'ankhy had urged its inhabitants not to choose death in preference to life. Tefnakhte's own son was among those allowed to escape without punishment. Meidum and Lisht followed suit, but Memphis presented a much tougher undertaking, no heed being paid to Pi'ankhy's protestation that all he wished to do was to make offerings to its god Ptah, and to his assurance that no one would be killed except such rebels as had blasphemed against God. Night gave Tefnakhte the opportunity of intervening with 8,000 picked warriors, but he departed on horseback in a hurry to rally the Delta princes, whom he thought to win over by promises of the rich supplies to be found in the city. When Pi'ankhy reached Memphis in the morning, he found it strongly protected by water reaching up to the walls and by its newly built battlements. Great diversity of counsel existed as to the best way of facing this situation, but Pi'ankhy swore an oath that Amun's help would give him the victory, and this did in fact happen. Mindful as ever of his religious duties, the king purified the entire place with natron and incense and performed all the rites demanded of a monarch. The inhabitants of the surrounding villages fled without its being known where they went, and Iuwapet and other princes came with presents 'to see the beauty of His Majesty'.

Much more space would be required in order even to paraphrase the remaining events of a campaign described with such breath and with such wealth of colorful incident, but we must refrain from anything more than a passing reference to Pi'ankhy's doings in Heliopolis, the holiest of all Egypt's cities, and to the assurance given him by Peteese of Athribis that neither he nor the other princes would conceal any of the things which he might covet, particularly the horses. In the end Tefnakhte himself made a complete submission saying:

I will not disobey the King's command, I will not reject what His Majesty says, I will not do evil to any prince without thy knowing it, and I will do what the King says.

A last trait must not be omitted since it confirms a statement made by Herodotus and other classical writers, but none too well authenticated in the native sources. When two princes from the north and two from the south came as representatives of the entire land to do homage to Pi'ankhy, only Nemrat was admitted to the palace, since the others had eaten fish and were impure. A trifling detail such as this is a salutary reminder that we are here dealing with a moral and intellectual atmosphere vastly different from our own. Much that Diodorus has to say about the strictly regulated life of a Pharaoh may well be true, even if we have no means of verification. It would be interesting to know the actual author of the vivid story recounted in Pi'ankhy's great stele. He was evidently well versed in Middle Egyptian diction, from which various borrowings can be quoted. But behind the verbal expression we cannot fail to discern the fiery temperament of the Nubian ruler, a temperament which had also as ingredients a fanatical piety and a real generosity. His racial antecedents are obscure, the view that he came of Libyan stock resting on very slender evidence. The vigor and individuality shared with him by his successors makes it equally unlikely, however, that they were simple descendants of emigrant Theban priests, as some have supposed. Their names are outlandish and non-Egyptian, and fresh blood must have come in from somewhere to give them such energy. It is strange that after the defeat of Tefnakhte Pi'ankhy appears to have retired to his home at Napata, leaving hardly a trace of himself in Egypt. He was buried at Kurru in the first true pyramid of a series of tombs going back for six generations.

Tefnakhte seems to have been left to his own devices, and a unique stele in the Athens Museum presents him as king making a donation of land to the goddess Neith of Sais in his eighth year . Manetho does not mention him, but Diodorus and Plutarch name Tnephachthos as the father of Bochchoris and as an advocate of the simple life. We have already noted what Manetho has to tell about Bochchoris, who for other Greek writers was proverbial as a judge and a lawgiver. Under the name Bekenrinef he appears on a stele from the Serapeum which records the burial of an Apis-bull in his sixth year, that year will have been his last if Manetho is to be trusted.

Meanwhile a new enemy had loomed up in the east. For two centuries past the small kingdom of Syria and Palestine had been able to subsist with but little outside interference. But now they found themselves faced with a regenerated, ambitious, and tyrannical Assyria. Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 BC) in a series of campaigns in the west ravaged Damascus and deported to Assyria a large part of its population. He did the same to Israel, deposing its king Pekah and replacing him by Hoshea (732 BC). For these events and those of the next half-century our sole authorities are the Old Testament and the cuneiform inscriptions. The texts from Egypt never mentioning Assyria, although in the end even Thebes itself was to fall a temporary victim to the far stronger Asiatic power. Yet it was clear to Egypt that the petty rulers in Palestine looked for help against the northern invaders. Under Shalmaneser V, Tiglathpileser's short-lived son, Hoshea broke into open rebellion, with the tragic result that Samaria was captured and destroyed, although it held out for three years and only fell in 721 BC, when Shalmaneser's successor Sargon II 'carried Israel away unto Assyria' and 'shut' Hoshea 'up and bound him in prison'. According to the Biblical account Hoshea 'had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and offered no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year'. Scholars are agreed to identify this So with the Sib'e, turtan of Egypt, whom the annals of Sargon state to have set out from Rapihu, tore it down and burned it'. For phonetic and probably also chronological reasons So and Sib'e cannot be the Ethiopian king Shabako, so that these names are supposed to have been those of a general. This seems the more probable since the Assyrian text goes on to say 'I received the tribute from Pir'u of Musru', which can hardly mean anything but 'from the Pharaoh of Egypt'.

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Last Updated: June 20th, 2011

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