The New Kingdom: 1550-1070 BC

The Warrior-Kings





   After Amosis drove out the Hyksos and established the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Egyptian kings dedicated themselves to preventing the Hyksos disaster from ever happening again. The period of Hyksos domination was a chaotic and shameful time for the Egyptians, and they were determined never to see a foreign king lording it over Egypt ever again. These were warrior-kings, great generals who did not stand apart from their people in divine aloofness. They were active administrators who built up fortifications all along the Egyptian border and actively seized territories outside of Egypt, such as Palestine and Syria. These kings subjugated foreign lands and exacted high taxes, making Egypt wealthy and powerful again. They didn't tolerate foreigners, who were treated relatively badly. Among those foreigners or sojourners were the Hebrews (Egyptian "apiru"="foreigner"), whose national identity was formed in their epic migration from Egypt in the thirteenth century BC.

   These warrior kings built mighty statues to their greatness and adorned their tombs with lavish wealth. The greatest of these warrior-kings was Tuthmosis III, a brilliant and fierce general.



Mesopotamia
The Hittites

Akhenaten





   But the period of warrior-kings came to a crashing halt when a young, possibly ill-formed boy came to the throne. Amenhotep IV had a religious conversion and rejected the pantheon of Egyptian gods. Rather, he believed that one and only one god existed and deserved to be worshipped; that god was Aten. Usurping the place of Horus or Re, the traditional Egyptian sun-gods, Amenhotep made Aten the sun-god and created a city dedicated to the worship of that sun-god, Akhetaten, "the Horizon of Aten." Renaming himself Akhenaten, the young king with his wife, Nefertiti, moved into this new city of Aten to concentrate on his new religion. This religion is the first monotheistic ("one god") religion we know of in human history. But Akhenaten devoted himself to his new religion and neglected the storm brewing on the Egyptian horizon. For the Hittite empire was pushing against the Egyptian frontier, and the neglect of Aten's king threatened the very existence of Egypt itself.

Ramses III

Ramses III


The Ramesside Kings





   Even though the warrior-kings reappeared with the dawning of the Nineteenth Dynasty and the great Ramesside kings (Ramesses I and his descendants), the Egyptian empire slowly crumbled over the generations as foreign powers encroached on its once mighty empire. The greatest of the Ramesside kings was Ramses III; his tenure as king corresponds to some of the most epic monumental architecture of ancient Egypt. He was followed, however, by a series of weaker kings and Egypt finally collapsed into another period of political chaos: the Third Intermediate Period.


Next . . .
The Third Intermediate Period: 1070-712


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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-28-97