The Middle Kingdom: 2040-1640 BC

The Middle Kingdom





   For one hundred years after the decline of the Old Kingdom (2134-2040 BC), the once proud land of Egypt splintered into dozens of independent states. It seemed as if the Two Lands and the king of the Two Lands would never appear again; but two kings, Intef and Mentuhotep, in the region of Luxor re-established order and reinstituted the institution of the Egyptian king. The dynasty they began, the Eleventh Dynasty, marks the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. Under these kings, trade with foreign countries began again, irrigation projects were repaired, and the writing of texts started up from scratch. The power of the king, however, never really returned. Local cities and villages had become accustomed to their independence and local governors operated indendently. This was a major threat to the monarchy; in fact, one king, Amenemhet I, seems to have been murdered by a conspiracy among local governors. Only well into the Middle Kingdom period did a king, Sesostris III, finally break the local governors and return the monarchy to its previous power.

The Foreigners





   As the kings of Egypt slowly regained the authority of the monarchy, Egypt again grew in wealth and population. A large part of that population were non-Egyptians who migrated to the Nile Valley in order to enjoy the prosperity. There was no such thing as naturalization in Ancient Egypt or the Middle East; no matter where you lived, you always belonged to your original tribe or nation. If you migrated to Egypt, you did not become an Egyptian, but became a "sojourner" or "foreigner." The life of a foreigner in Egypt and elsewhere occupied a range of possibilities: sometimes foreigners had fewer privileges and rights, but more often they were allowed to form their own communities with their own leaders and laws. They were required only to pay taxes and tariffs.

   The non-naturalization of foreigners greatly influenced the course of Egyptian history in the Middle Kingdom. As their numbers increased, they settled in increasingly large communities and their leaders became kings in their own rights. The power of these foreigners grew as rapidly as their numbers until the power of the Egyptian monarch fell into oblivion. Egypt entered another period of disorder called The Second Intermediate Period.


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The Second Intermediate Period: 1640-1550 BC


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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-27-97