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A new kingdom. Domestic and foreign policy of the Pharaohs.

The Egyptian military Power and its territorial seizures

The expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt

Map of Ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom period

Map of Egypt. A new kingdom.

From the very beginning of the New Kingdom, there is a discrepancy between the great nobles, on the one hand, and the ordinary slaveholders and the king who relied on them, on the other. The liberation struggle against the Hyksos began in the Thebes during the XVII dynasty, perhaps not even at the end of its reign. But be that as it may, the last representative of the XVII dynasty of Kames undertook the struggle anew. At the council, the dignitaries rejected his call for war against the Hyksos. The southern kingdom was enough for the nobles; the best land was cultivated for the nobles, and their cattle grazed freely in the pastures of the Hyksos-dominated Delta. The nobility was cold to the fight against the foreign invaders who had settled in the north of the country. And yet the Pharaoh turned against the enslavers. The war began in defiance of the nobility. Success after success crowned this undertaking, the army — in its composition there were also foreign units from the south-went “like a breath of fire”, the soldiers captured people and cattle. The story of the refusal of the nobles to start the fight and the exploits of ordinary soldiers was immortalized by the king for public information on a plate in the state temple in Thebes. The campaign itself was declared to have been undertaken “by order of Amon.”

The expulsion of the Hyksos was completed by the brother and successor of Kames, Yahmes I (Yahmose I), who, after a siege and several battles on water and land, took the stronghold of the Hyksos in northeastern Egypt-Avaris. The Pharaoh limited the pursuit of the Hyksos to the capture of the southern Palestinian fortress of Sharuhen after a three-year siege, which secured his eastern border. By marching into Ethiopia, Yahmes established the southern frontier of the state near the second cataracts. The soldiers were richly rewarded by the Pharaoh. Thus, to one ship’s warrior, both at the capture of Avaris and at the capture of Sharukhen, the king each time gave all the prisoners taken by this warrior as slaves.

Yahmes also had to deal with the revolt inside Egypt. There was a mutiny in the south, but Yahmes was victorious in the battle of the river. The mutiny was crushed. The attempt to raise a new rebellion also ended unsuccessfully. How dangerous the uprisings were can be seen from the generous rewards given to the soldiers. One of them received at the suppression of the first rebellion two and a half times more slaves than he took prisoners, and in addition more arable land; the same “was created” for the crew of rowers as a whole. In the suppression of the second rebellion, the same warrior received slaves and land, apparently without performing any special feats.

The beginning of the XVIII dynasty

Painting in the tomb. Yahmose I defeats the Hyksos.

Painting in the tomb. Yahmose I defeats the Hyksos.

With Jahmes I, it is customary to start a new, XVIII dynasty. By this time, the state was restored to approximately the borders that existed during the Middle Kingdom. It is not noticeable that the successor of Yahmes Amenhetep I (mid-XVI century BC) also went beyond these limits. The separation of Northern Ethiopia into a special viceroyalty was also nothing significantly new.

As a result of the war with the Hyksos, a hardened and newly armed army was created, relying on which the slave state could move to new conquests to capture slaves and other loot. The Egyptian army of the New Kingdom was a formidable force. Although the infantrymen were still divided into archers and shield-bearers-spearmen (this division was not consistently maintained, however), the weapons of the former and partly of the latter became much more effective. The archers of the XVIII dynasty already had a composite layered bow, more powerful than the previous simple one, and arrows with copper tips. As additional weapons, spearmen used axes and short swords. An innovation was the sword (straight and sickle-shaped), cutting, and not just stabbing, like old daggers. The armor was already known during the XVIII dynasty. The most important innovation in the Egyptian army since the Hyksos Wars was the horse and war chariot.

Egyptian conquests. Thutmose I, Thutmose II

A sandstone head from the temple of Amon-Ra in Karnak. Probably portrays Thutmose I. It is kept in the British Museum.

A sandstone head from the temple of Amon-Ra in Karnak. Probably portrays Thutmose I. It is kept in the British Museum.

The founder of the” world ” Egyptian power at that time was the son-in-law and successor of Amenhetep I, Thutmose I (Egypt. Dzhehutimes, the second half of the XVI century BC). In the south, he pushed the border beyond the third rapids. Hike through Palestine and Syria led the Egyptians to the Euphrates. Here, the Egyptian army proved its combat effectiveness by defeating the troops of such a large state as Mitanni, located in Northern Mesopotamia and claiming the north of Syria. But in order for Syria and Palestine to become firmly part of the Egyptian power, a successful raid was not enough.

Predatory campaigns enriched the state, and with Thutmose begins the huge stone construction of temples in the period of the New Kingdom. The main place of worship of the god Amun in Thebes, the so-called Karnak temple, which previously did not stand out among many others, under Thutmose I began to be rebuilt into a magnificent structure. Amon, together with his city of Thebes, was declared by the priests and pharaohs to be the victorious ruler of the world.

The Egyptian conquests were continued by Thutmose I’s son Thutmose II. His campaigns were accompanied by the extermination of opponents. On his orders, the Egyptian army killed all the men of the rebellious tribes of the Ethiopians, leaving only one of the children of the Ethiopian ruler alive to throw him under the feet of the Pharaoh. Thutmose II also acted against the Asian nomads.

Illness or other reasons forced him to seek a co-ruler, but in one of the services in the capital’s temple of Amun, the king’s young son was proclaimed Pharaoh by one of the wives (not the main one) Thutmose III (about 1500 BC). After the death of Thutmose II, his widow and half-sister, the daughter of Thutmose I, Hatshepsut, seized power, leaving her stepson king only by name, and then openly declared herself Pharaoh, claiming that her father allegedly proclaimed her as such. The appearance of a woman at the head of a military power actively waging wars of conquest was, of course, an unusual event. Hatshepsut herself could not lead the army. Apparently, she did not want to put her possible rival, Thutmose III, at the head of the army. In Palestine and Syria, it seems, only a few localities were subject to the queen; a peaceful march to the Southern Red Sea (the country of Punt) and its formal submission, as well as the reception of overseas, possibly Cretan, ambassadors with gifts, could not replace for the slave-owning Egyptian state the conquest of the regions of Syria and Palestine.

Who supported the queen not for a year or two, but for two whole decades? Her temporary assistant was the architect Senenmut, the son of innocent parents, the creator of the miracle of Egyptian architecture — the ledged memorial temple of the queen in Thebes (near the current Der el-Bahri). In the hands of this nobleman, who was, in particular, one of the priests of Amun, the management of the personal economy of the Pharaoh and the economy of Amun was combined. The high priest of the latter was the supreme dignitary under Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut, like none of her predecessors and successors, emphasized her closeness to Amon. In addition to her memorial church, she dedicated to him the impressive structures in the state church, including the gigantic obelisks made of solid stone with a height of up to 30 m. She also restored other temples that had been ruined since the time of the Hyksos under all her predecessors. Obviously, it was the temple nobles, who were a considerable force in the country, who supported the queen, although it is possible that she was supported by other circles of the ruling class.

The female pharaoh died in the 21st year of the reign of Thutmose III. Having settled on the throne as a sovereign ruler, Thutmose III tried to erase all memory of Hatshepsut, ordering the destruction of her images and her name in inscriptions, as well as the names of her closest adherents.

Immediately after Hatshepsut’s death, in the 22nd year of his reign, Thutmose III moved his troops into Palestine and Syria. At Megiddo, in Northern Palestine, his path was blocked by the allied Syrian-Palestinian rulers. The soul of the union was the ruler of the Syrian city of Kadesh (Kinza). Despite the entreaties of his companions to take a detour, Thutmose, fearing to be considered a coward by his enemies, went straight to Megiddo through a gorge so narrow that the soldiers and horses had to follow it in single file. The enemy, who stood opposite the entrance of the gorge, did not dare to attack the Egyptians as they came out one by one into the plain. Perhaps the allies were afraid to leave their position near the city. The Pharaoh also did not intend to launch a surprise attack. At the request of the generals, he waited until the whole army had left the gorge, then from noon to evening he walked across the plain to the stream, where he camped for the night. The battle that broke out in the morning ended quickly. A random cluster of Syrian-Palestinian squads under the command of numerous leaders could not resist the onslaught of the Egyptian army and fled to the city. But here the Egyptians, to the chagrin of the Pharaoh, did not take advantage of the situation. The enemy abandoned the camp and chariots, and the Egyptian army, engaged in plunder, did not rush after the fugitives into the city. It then took a seven-month siege for the city of Megiddo to surrender.

The Pharaoh did not manage to deal with Kadesh until 20 years later.

The colossus of Thutmose II in the temple of Luxor. Luxor.

The colossus of Thutmose II in the temple of Luxor. Luxor.

The war in those days was convenient to conduct only in the summer, when the weather was favorable and the troops were fed, which was carried out at the expense of other people’s crops, did not cause trouble. Campaigns in Palestine and Syria followed one after another: for 20 years, between the 22nd and 42nd years of his reign, Thutmose III made no less than 15, stubbornly consolidating what he had conquered and occupying more and more cities and regions. But the Egyptian army is not very good at taking fortified cities. Often it would leave with nothing, leaving everything around it to be devastated. So it was with Kadesh, until finally, in one of the last campaigns, the Egyptians broke into it through the gap.

The northern border of the campaigns of Thutmose III was probably the city of Karkemish on the Euphrates, at the junction of Syria, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor.

The conquest of Syria could not but lead to a clash with the kingdom of Mitanni, located in Northern Mesopotamia. This kingdom, which was then at the height of its power, claimed Syria. In Mitanni, all the Syrian states saw a bulwark in their struggle against the pharaoh. In the 33rd year of his reign, Thutmose III forced the Mitanni army to go beyond the Euphrates, transported the ships built in the Phoenician city of Byblos by land and crossed the river. The Mitanni retreated further, and Thutmose sailed down the Euphrates, taking cities and ravaging towns. A new defeat befell the Mitanni empire in the 35th year of the reign of Thutmose III. However, Mitanni continued to interfere in Syrian affairs after that. After another 7 years, only in the three towns in the region of Kadet, which Thutmose III took in the 42nd year of his reign, there were more than 700 Mitanni with fifty horses.

Thutmose III also fought in the south. The power which he had so persistently built was already extending from the northern edge of Syria to the fourth cataracts of the Nile.

Thutmose III’s successors did not go beyond the boundaries reached by Thutmose III. Ethiopia, Syria, and Palestine paid annual tribute. Livia was also a tributary. Gifts came to the Pharaoh from the Southern Red Sea region. They were taken to the Pharaoh and embassies from the Mediterranean islands. The Egyptian governor of Syria and Palestine — “the chief of the countries of the north” – under Thutmose III was considered his confidant on the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. The kings of Babylon, the Hittites, and Assyria, forced to reckon with the enormously increased importance of Egypt in international affairs, sent Pharaoh respectful gifts, which he considered a tribute. He re-appointed the defeated Syrian and Palestinian rulers to their cities on the condition that the tribute was paid regularly. The children of these rulers were taken hostage in Thebes.

The period of the highest power of Egypt

Although representatives of the Pharaoh and military detachments were stationed in Syria and Palestine, the significance of the Egyptian “chief of the northern countries” was still limited there. Ethiopia is another matter. With the Ethiopians (which at this time included some Negro tribes) Tribute was also levied, but Ethiopia was more firmly part of the Egyptian state. Here the Egyptians settled, there were Egyptian fortified cities, and the “chief of the southern countries” — he is also the “son of the king” (the real princes in the New Kingdom did not rule Ethiopia) — was the real governor of the Pharaoh.

The new environment imposed new demands on the governance of Egypt itself. The power of the supreme dignitary was now divided between two persons:

  1. one exercised authority over Upper Egypt the
  2. other over Lower Egypt

The conqueror had to be able to get along with the army, condoning the merciless plunder of the vanquished and showering the winners with a golden shower of rewards. But the priesthood of the god Amun had to be attracted to the side of the Pharaoh — he got a large share of the loot. The main temple of this god in the capital (the so-called Karnak) was, one might say, re-created by Thutmose III — so numerous were the new structures there. In the solemn hymn of praise, in the greeting to the victor going to the temple, put into the mouth of Amon, God declared his victories to be his victories. Thutmose also paid much attention to the priesthood of other temples.

Activities of Amenkhetep II

When Thutmose III died after a reign of almost 54 years, his son, Amenhetep II, succeeded to the throne. He furiously scoured Syria and Palestine in search of loot and to quell “rebellions.” The massacres were terrible: 100 thousand soldiers and civilians, driven into slavery, 7 murdered rulers, whose bodies hung from the bow of the victorious royal ship— this was the result of one of his campaigns. For the edification of the Ethiopians, the corpse of one of the Syrian rulers was sent to the south and there hung on the wall of the city of Napata.

The colossi of Memnon.

The colossi of Memnon.

Frightened by the terrible neighbor, the kings of the Hittites, Babylon, and even Mitanni sent gifts to Amenhetep. His son, Thutmose IV, still went to Syria and Palestine, but during his time there was already a rapprochement with Mitanni, which was confirmed by the marriage of Pharaoh to a Mitanni princess. The uprisings in Ethiopia were suppressed, one by Thutmose IV, the other by his successor Amenhetep III in the 5th year of her reign. The remaining 33 years of his reign Amenkhetep III did not go on campaigns. The foreign possessions were pacified. The former ally of the Syrians — the king of Mitanni was friends with the Pharaoh. A secret attempt by some of the Syrian and Palestinian rulers to win over the Babylonian king was thus rejected. The power of Egyptian weapons and the brilliance of Egyptian gold made the kings of Asia obsequious. The kings of Babylon and Mitanni sent their princesses to the Egyptian “brother” as a pledge of friendship. They themselves did not receive a single royal daughter from Egypt. When the Hittites began to intrigue in Syria, the rulers there did not dare to openly defy Egypt.

The New Egyptian power was at the height of its power. The court of Amenkhetep III was fabulously magnificent, everything previously created in the capital was overshadowed by the newly created temple of Amun (the so — called Luxor) and the royal memorial temple, from which the huge statues of the king-the so-called “colossi of Memnon” – survived. (In the same temple there were sphinxes, later acquired by Russia and now standing on the banks of the Neva River in Leningrad).

The reform of Amenhetep IV and the Hittite-Egyptian Wars

The reign of Amenhetep III’s son Amenhetep IV (circa 1400 BC) was marked by an attempt by a new service of the nobility, promoted by small slaveholders or persons who had the opportunity and aspired to become slaveholders, to completely push the hereditary nobility away from power and sources of wealth. At the head of this movement was Amenkhetep IV himself, who sought to strengthen his power by weakening the hereditary, including priestly, nobility. Innovations increased gradually and were accompanied by drastic measures. The glorification of Amenhetep IV for the elevation and enrichment of the rootless “poor” became a favorite motif in the inscriptions of the new dignitaries, and many of them explicitly stated that they were elevated to dignitaries out of insignificance. The capital of Thebes, the seat of the old nobility, was moved to the newly founded city midway between Thebes and Memphis, now known as the site of El Amarna. This settlement is famous, among other things, for the discovery there of a part of the cuneiform correspondence of Amenkheteps III and IV with foreign kings and dependent lords.

The younger daughters of Amenhotep IV. A fragment of the painting of the lower part of the wall of the palace in el-Amarna. Oxford, Ashmolean Museum.

The younger daughters of Amenhotep IV. A fragment of the painting of the lower part of the wall of the palace in el-Amarna.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum.

The local temples, which were the mainstay of the local nobility, and their deities fell out of favor at court. The power of the deity of the rejected capital, Amun, seemed so dangerous that his name and images were everywhere destroyed, which, according to the superstitious ideas of the time, should have destroyed his power and his very existence.

A new state cult was introduced. The subject of it was no longer this or that local deity, as the main one among others, but a special royal deity. It was an ancient Pharaonic deity-the Sun, but not in its former form of a local god, but as a “living” solar disk Aton. The new nobility, who fully supported the royal power, honored this royal deity, and with it the king himself: Amenkhetep IV was served by a special priesthood during his lifetime. Aton was dedicated to the district of the new capital, he had rich lands, cattle, ships, workshops; The temple warehouses were full of riches, and sacrifices were made with incredible extravagance. But now it was all controlled by the priests of the new god, who boasted of their belonging to the new people. Of course, all this was a blow to the old nobility, to the priesthood of the old gods. Their cults lost their former generous state support and were replaced by a single state cult, or even stopped altogether. However, the popular opinion about the new faith of Amenkhetep IV, as monotheism, does not correspond to reality.

The changes affected all aspects of public life. A marked break with antiquity, with many of its conventions, was felt throughout the spiritual life of Egypt at that time. Visual art is distinguished at this time by an emphasized desire for liveliness and truthfulness. In the critical years, immoderately emphasizing the natural features of the original, it reached an ugly exaggeration, but then wonderful works were created.

The internal situation in Egypt limited the possibility of maintaining the former aggressive foreign policy. The Pharaoh needed funds for his new nobility, he was stingy with gifts to neighboring states, which were necessary at that time to maintain friendly relations between the states. The Egyptian court wanted first of all tribute. If any of the lords (even the most suspicious ones) rounded up their possessions at the expense of their neighbors (even the most loyal ones), the pharaoh did not care much about this: as long as the tribute was in the same amount. Although punitive measures were sometimes taken in the southern and northern possessions, but in Syria the onslaught of the Hittites, with the inaction of the Pharaoh, increased the desire to fall away from Egypt.

The head of the princess, daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Tell el-Amarna, workshop of the sculptor Thutmose

The head of the princess, daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Tell el-Amarna, workshop of the sculptor Thutmose, XVIII dynasty, reign of Akhenaten (1350-1333 BC) Quartzite. Height 21 cm

Amenkhetep IV, or, as he renamed himself, Akhenaten (i.e., “Good for the Sun”), died in the 17th year of his reign. The sons-in-law of the Pharaoh, who succeeded him one after another, did not intend to carry out his policy so unconditionally. The first of them, Smen-hkara, restored the veneration of Amun. Under the second, still a boy, Tutankhaton, who was soon renamed Tutankhamun, the new cult of Aton ceased to be a state cult, abandoned temples were rebuilt, the Pharaoh gifted them with slaves, food and treasures, and, as one of his inscriptions says, made priests of the nobles of those cities that were centers of worship of the old gods; the inscription emphasizes that the king appointed priests from the children of the local nobility, the sons of famous people.

The new nobility, who had largely succeeded in strengthening their position, had reason to seek reconciliation with the old. Already in the previous reigns, in the words of the inscription of Tutankhamun, “if they sent (an army) to Syria-Palestine to expand the borders of Egypt, they did not have any success.” Now it was not a question of expanding or even preserving the former borders, but of saving the remnants of the Syrian-Palestinian possessions that had not yet passed to the Hittite kingdom of Asia Minor, which in the XV century BC began to undertake aggressive campaigns in Syria. All the slaveholding nobles, both old and new, were interested in this.

It is possible that already in the reign of Tutankhamun, the situation in the north improved somewhat. However, everything was complicated again with the death of the young pharaoh (his tomb with fabulously luxurious furnishings has come down to us almost intact as a visual evidence of the splendor of the royal court of the New Kingdom). His widow decided on a dangerous step: she offered her hand to the Hittite prince; but the Egyptian nobles killed him, and, avenging the murder of his son, the king of the Hittites went to Egypt. The Egyptian army was defeated, the matter threatened to end badly for the Egyptians, if not for the widespread disease transmitted from the Egyptian prisoners to the Hittites and prompted them to stop hostilities.

Tutankhamun’s successor was the former chief of the chariot army and temporary Aye, who considered himself a relative of the Pharaohs of the suppressed dynasty. But the first legitimate king after Amenhetep III was later recognized only by Haremheb, the chief military commander and temporary administrator, whom the priesthood proclaimed Pharaoh in the name of Amon himself during one of the temple festivals in Thebes (mid-XIV century BC).

Domestic politics of the 19th Dynasty

One would expect that the triumph of Thebes and the priesthood of the god Amun would be complete. And so it was, indeed, presented by the Theban poets. In fact, however, this was not quite the case. Of course, the southern capital remained the preeminent city, kings were still buried there, the temples dedicated to Amun were particularly impressive, and the election of a suitable person to the post of high priest of Amun was considered a matter of paramount importance for the Pharaoh. However, Thebes was no longer the only capital. Tutankhamun apparently did not return there, but settled in Memphis. Haremheb sailed north immediately after his election as Pharaoh. In Memphis, Seti I (the second pharaoh of the XIX dynasty) lived for a long time, and his son Ramesses II built a magnificent residence in the north-east of the Delta — Per-Ramses (“House of Ramesses”). It also belittled Thebes that after Amenhetep IV, Ra and Ptah, the main deities of the cities of Lower Egypt — Heliopolis and Memphis — were constantly called next to Amon. True, the migration of the kings to the north could also have a beneficial side for the Theban priesthood, since in Thebes itself it raised the importance of the power of the high priest.

Nefertari and the goddess Isis. Murals of the tomb of Nefertari. XIX dynasty. The first half of the XIII century BC. e. Valley of the Queens, Thebes.

Nefertari and the goddess Isis. Murals of the tomb of Nefertari. XIX dynasty. The first half of the XIII century BC. e. Valley of the Queens, Thebes.

If the victory were left entirely to the priesthood and the old nobility, it would be expected that the victors would take measures to limit the Pharaoh’s power in their favor. But that didn’t happen. Ramesses II had far surpassed Amenhetep III in establishing the veneration of his own images, and the servile flattery of the court now made the king the master even of all nature. At the same time, although the possessions in Syria and Palestine were reduced and ruined, and endless wars were bound to exhaust Egypt itself, never were so many temples built as in the second half of the New Kingdom. Probably, Haremheb erected, and subsequent kings decorated an amazing hall in front of the main temple of Amun in Thebes with an area of 5 thousand square meters with 134 columns, of which the average 12 are 21 m high, and with an architrave-even 24 m. At the top of any of the 12 columns could fit up to 100 people. No less majestic was the temple carved in the rock in Ethiopia, now known as Abu Simbel. Four statues of Ramesses II, carved out of the rock at the entrance to the temple, were 20 m high each. A similar stone statue partially survived in the memorial temple of the same king in Thebes (in the so — called Ramessei), much smaller ones-on the site of the disappeared temple of Ptah in Memphis. Ramesses II built many temples in Egypt and Ethiopia. Piles of rubble of huge structures are still visible on the site of the new capital of Ramesses II in the north-eastern part of the Delta. The structures erected by Seti I and his son in the city of Abydos completely eclipsed everything created there before. Similarly, before the tombs of Seti I or Ramesses III (IV) in the Theban rocks, the tombs of their predecessors from the XVIII dynasty were lost.

Of course, the construction of the second half of the New Kingdom testified to the importance of the temple nobility, but it also undoubtedly spoke of the inexhaustible funds and labor at the disposal of the Pharaonic power, which could attract the masses of the population of all Egypt to the construction. The economic development of Ethiopia, which has now become a semi-Egyptian country, and Lower Egypt, which has become the leading part of the country, largely, if not completely, paid for the reduction of the former Syrian-Palestinian income.

The last representatives of the XVIII dynasty and the kings of the XIX dynasty remained, according to the inscriptions, kings who “create” dignitaries and nominate “poor people”. To present himself as a commoner, exalted by the grace of the king, was so accepted that such a past was sometimes attributed to himself even by a nobleman, obviously of difficult origin. In this regard, it should be noted that among the most influential people in the state during the XIX— XX dynasties were personal royal servants — “king’s servants” (who were given responsible assignments); some of them were rootless foreigners (Syrians). Evidence of the policy of the Pharaohs, aimed at finding a foothold of their power among the medium and small slaveholders, is the decree issued by Haremheb. Under the threat of heavy penalties, he forbade officials and the military to take away slaves, boats, etc. from the population. At the same time, the king imposed a tax on judges in favor of the treasury in the form of suppression of bribery, from which, of course, people of low rank suffered first of all. Haremheb attached great importance to his decree and published it in the form of inscriptions on stone in various cities of the country. This decree was not only in the interests of “every ordinary soldier and every man that is in the land (of Egypt) to the end of it”, but was also to the benefit of the royal power itself, which sought support from the middle classes and small slaveholders. Of course, he did not correct the officials — the sources of that time are full of news about their depravity; he did not teach the judges anything-their venality was publicly mentioned in fairy tales and even in school prescriptions.

After Amenhetep IV, an agreement was reached between the old nobility and the priesthood of Amun, on the one hand, and the new nobility associated with small slave owners, on the other. In all likelihood, it was expressed in the territorial division: the South remained behind Thebes, behind the old capital, behind its powerful temples, and the North, due to its position near the Palestinian border, was the natural place of concentration of the Pharaonic troops. By settling in the north, the Pharaoh was not only moving away from the direct influence of the too strong southern nobility. He could provide here, to some extent, favorable conditions for the prosperity of the new nobility on which he relied, especially in the new capital, where the old nobility did not exist, as it did not exist in the capital of El-Amarna, created in his time by Amenhetep IV. The concentration of the armed forces, the supreme administration and the court in Lower Egypt could not but affect its importance. If even in the middle of the XVIII dynasty Lower Egypt was for the capital’s nobles a country on the fly, so much so that supplies from there were almost equated with foreign tribute, now the North has become the leading part of the state, and we have enough indications of the economic revival that reigned there.

Military policy during the 19th Dynasty

A large statue of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) from his Aten temple in Karnak.

A large statue of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) from his Aten temple in Karnak.

At the center of the military policy of the successors of Amenhetep IV was the question of Palestine and Syria. Since the beginning of the XIX dynasty, founded by Ramesses I, the successor of Haremheb, a long struggle with the Hittites broke out, which, however, did not lead to the full restoration of the power of Thutmose III. At first, the victories of Seti I, the son of Ramesses I, culminated in the return of the important state of Amurru in Syria from the Hittites to Egyptian rule. But the events of the subsequent reign of Ramesses II, the son of Seti, proved the futility of further struggle. A decisive battle with the Hittites took place under the walls of the Syrian city of Kadesh (see Battle of Kadesh) in the 5th year of the reign of Ramesses II (according to the chronology adopted by some Soviet researchers-in 1312 BC).

Deceived by the false news of the retreat of the Hittite detachments to the north of Syria, the Pharaoh, with only the vanguard parts of his forces, met here face to face with the entire bulk of the enemy troops. A large part of the Egyptians were crushed and scattered by the unexpected attack of the Hittite chariots. Pharaoh himself, with a handful of warriors, was surrounded by two and a half thousand chariots, to which another thousand were then added. Ramesses ‘ desperate self-defense would eventually be broken. However, at the decisive moment, a select detachment of soldiers came to the rescue from the seashore, marching, by order of Ramesses, to the west, separate from the main forces; in addition, a hastily summoned part of the straggling army also came up. The field of battle was left to Pharaoh, but the city, of course, was not taken.

The Hittite king Muvattallah (Muvatalli II), who was standing near the city, still had 17 thousand fresh fighters, mostly infantry, whom he never moved into battle. The countrymen of King Muvattallu — the Hittites themselves — were only the core of his army, otherwise it consisted of the inhabitants of the conquered and allied regions of Asia Minor and Syria.

The Egyptians said that the king of the Hittites allegedly left no silver or gold in his country, stripped it clean and gave everything to his allies.

During the 16-year struggle that followed, according to available sources, the Hittites avoided fighting in the open field, preferring to take refuge in Syrian fortresses. But the Hittites were strongly supported by the Syrian-Palestinian subjects of the Pharaoh, who almost completely rebelled against him shortly after the battle of Kadesh.

Like a devastating tornado, Ramses swept through his rebellious possessions, crushing fortresses, destroying forests, and driving away the inhabitants. The Egyptian troops broke through to the very approaches to Asia Minor, and unlike the time of Thutmose III, the army of Ramesses was already able to cope with the fortresses. However, the result of these victories was modest. In the 21st year of his reign, Ramesses made peace with the new Hittite king Hattusili III, followed by a treaty of alliance, and finally the Pharaoh married the daughter of his new ally. The main part of Syria, including the state of Amurra, remained for the Hittites, and only on the Mediterranean coast the Egyptian possessions were somewhat extended to the north.

It is believed that the reason for the compliance of both sides lay in the threat to the possessions of both kingdoms from Assyria, whose troops at this time, after the defeat of Mitanni, appeared on the Euphrates.

Ramesses II, who reigned for 67 years, was succeeded by one of his many sons, Merenptah (the second half of the XIII century BC). His indifference to Amon, to Thebes, and his attachment to the Ptah of Memphis, to Lower Egypt, were evident both in his title and in his whole demeanor. In an inscription in the temple of Amun in Thebes, Merenptah even attributed the deliverance of Egypt from the first terrible onslaught of the Libyans and the Mediterranean tribes — the “peoples of the sea” – not to him, but to the Lower Egyptian god. The six-hour battle, which cost the newcomers up to 8,500 dead and over 10,000 prisoners, ended in a victory for the Egyptians. The enemy fled. The external danger was over, but an even greater threat was brewing inside.

Decline of the New Kingdom

“The Irsu Uprising»

The end of the XIX dynasty is the most stormy time of the New Kingdom, but it is difficult to fully understand the nature of the events that took place due to the paucity of information. To some extent, the cause of the turmoil was the sharpened contradictions between the leading social forces of the North and the South at that time.

The weakening of the state power of the slaveholders was an important condition for strengthening the struggle of the exploited working masses. The only coherent, though obscure, account of the historical events of the late nineteenth dynasty is given in the name of Ramesses III (IV), the third king of the twentieth dynasty.

He tells us about the outbreak of the rebellion, which was led by the Syrian Irsu. We also learn that at this time “one united with another”, “one killed another-the noble and the poor”, the property of the rich was damaged, the gods were “treated like people” at that time, there was no honor for temples and priests. The nobles suppressed this movement, Pharaoh Setnecht “killed the intruders” and ” straightened the land to the edge of it, which was rebellious.”

Who this Syrian was who seized power in Egypt during these years, and what part the slaves took in this uprising, we, unfortunately, do not know. As always in the history of the ancient East, the sources compiled by the representatives of the ruling class, very poorly cover the movements of the working people. Apparently, however, there were serious protests from the lower classes of Egyptian society, which shook the entire edifice of the New Kingdom state to its foundations.

Egypt in the XII-XI centuries BC.

Setnecht, who suppressed the uprising in the country, was the founder of the XX dynasty (around 1200 BC). At that time, the struggle within the slave-owning class was quiet. This could not but be promoted by the necessity of defending oneself against an internal and external enemy, a necessity felt by all the slave-owning strata of society.

Under Setnecht’s son, Ramesses III (according to the usual account, some researchers call him Ramesses IV, considering Ramesses III-Saptah, the king of the late XIX dynasty), Egypt was invaded three times by foreign tribes who migrated. In the 5th year of the reign of Ramesses III (IV), these were the Libyan tribes.

The Libyan hordes were defeated by Ramesses in a bloody battle that cost them over 12,500 men killed. In the 8th year, Pharaoh defeated the “peoples of the sea” moving from the north along the Phoenician-Palestinian coast on land and at sea. Some of the defeated enemies, in particular the Philistines, who were not mentioned by Merenptah, then settled on the Palestinian coast, probably with the permission of Pharaoh. In the 11th year, the Libyan tribe of the Maksii again attacked Egypt; the Libyans were again defeated and fled, losing about 2,200 killed and over 2,000 prisoners (one third of the latter were women and children). Ramesses also waged offensive wars in Syria and may have penetrated far into the northeast with his army, but he was unable to consolidate his gains.

Next to the Egyptian infantry and the chariot army, foreign units are now constantly mentioned. There were Sherdans and Libyans in the army before, but they had never been so advanced. According to the peace of the temples, Ramesses III (IV) relieved them of the pre-existing obligation to make soldiers of every tenth of their people. Given the vastness of the temple possessions, it is clear that the damage caused by this to the armed forces was difficult to compensate except for the increased recruitment of foreigners, including recent enemies-Libyans and Philistines. It is suggested that the reason for the multiplication of foreign parts was the fear of the nobility before their own people.

The Pharaoh also testified to his devotion to the temples with rich gifts. He gave gifts not only to large temples, but also to minor ones. All this was done at a time when the artisans in the royal cemetery itself were starving and refused to continue working, and the supreme dignitary himself responded to their reproaches with a reference to the emptiness of the state granary. It is assumed that it was the extravagance of the pharaohs and the enrichment of the temples that led to the disorder of the Egyptian economy.

Wall painting. Ramesses III and Hathor in the tomb of Amenherhpshef, son of Ramesses III.

Wall painting. Ramesses III and Hathor in the tomb of Amenherhpshef, son of Ramesses III.

Ramesses III (IV) fell victim to a court conspiracy in the 32nd year of his reign. The intensified struggle within the ruling circles made itself felt again. Judging by the preserved records of the judicial investigation, the case involved high-ranking and non-high-ranking persons who had succeeded to the throne of one of the princes. The tsarist power, which had been strengthened in the struggle against the Syrians and foreign invasions, quickly began to weaken, unable to cope with the mutually hostile forces of the South and North, which were leading the country to a split.

The next eight kings, who still bore the same famous name of Ramesses-from IV to XI (or from V to XII) – were powerless in the face of the growing disintegration of their power.

In the 12th century BC, under Ramesses III (IV), there were still Egyptian fortresses and temples in Palestine, and entire cities belonged to Amon. The remnants of Egyptian rule remained there, apparently, even under Ramesses VI (VII), but in the middle of the XI century, under Ramesses XI (XII), there was no longer even a shadow of Egyptian power in Palestine and Syria. Ethiopia alone was still subject to the Egyptian governor.

The fall of the power of the last Ramesses was no less clearly felt inside the country. If even Ramesses III (IV) was forced to protect the city temples in the middle part of Egypt with strong walls in case of Libyan invasions, then at the end of the XX dynasty, even in Thebes itself, work on the royal cemetery was repeatedly interrupted due to the turbulent situation. The royal tombs themselves on the west bank of the Nile near Thebes, not to mention private ones, were looted by the populace.

The weakened royal power in the north was opposed by the increasingly isolated priestly kingdom in the south. The South was in the hands of the high priests of Thebes, as the heads of the largest temple economy of Amun. Under Ramesses IX (X), there was some kind of “war” against the high priest Amenhetep, but in general, the high priests were firmly seated in their city, unlike the Pharaohs in the north. From Ramesses IV (V) to Ramesses IX (X), there were six kings on the throne, and only three high priests in Thebes. These three were the father and his two sons, so that the domain of Amon was for many years governed by a single priestly house. Under Ramesses XI (XII), the high priest of Amun, Herhor, combined his priestly office with the title of high dignitary, the head of the state granary, the command of the army, and the administration of Ethiopia. He was already half king.

The opposing social forces, concentrated in the north and in the south, unable to overcome each other, led the country to break up into two parts. Under these conditions, the unified state power became nominal.

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