Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Egypt: Early 18th Dynasty

Hyksos, immigrants from Southwest Asia, eventually took control of the Egyptian government from about 1650-1550 BC. They ruled from their capital city of Avaris located in the northeast corner of the Nile delta.

Ahmose, ruling southern Egypt from his capital in Thebes (now Luxor), led an army to victory over the rulers in Avaris in 1550. With that victory, he became the first ruler of the 18th dynasty of rulers in Egyptian history. Historians also think of his rule as the beginning of a new era in Egyptian history which they refer to as the New Kingdom.

Thutmose 1st (1503-1493) was the third ruler of this dynasty. He led his army to victory as far north as the city of Carchemish on the Euphrates River. He also defeated rulers far south of the first set of rapids on the Nile River at Syene (today’s Aswan).

Successful military campaigns, then and now, meant riches for the winners. They stripped conquered lands of their wealth (loot) and then received annual payments (tribute) from obedient regional leaders whose lives they spared. The successful conquests of Thutmose meant that he had lots of money to spend.

One major project on which Thutmose spent his money was the temple complex of Karnak in Thebes. One project was the construction of the fourth and fifth pylons there. A pylon is a large gateway with an entrance built between twin towers. A second project was the construction of a hypostyle hall, or room with large columns, between his pylons. There he also ordered the placement of an obelisk, 64 feet (19.5 m) tall, which still stands.

Thutmose is the first ruler of Egypt known to have been buried in what is now called the Valley of the Kings. This is a vast cemetery in which Egyptian rulers and leaders were buried for a period of 500 years. It is on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes.

Hatshepsut (1479-1458) was the daughter of Thutmose 1st and half-sister and husband of his mediocre son. When her husband died, she ruled as pharaoh until her death in 1458 at age 50. She was a successful pharaoh and remains the longest ruling female in Egyptian history.

As ruler of Egypt, Hatshepsut pursued policies that put new life into international trade. She used the profits from that trade to finance the creation of new buildings and sculptures throughout Egypt. Her major project was her own temple and tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Hers was first group of buildings to be constructed there.

Thutmose 3rd (1458-1425) kept his army busy. During his rule, he controlled more people and land, and did so more completely, than any other Egyptian ruler before or since.

Like Hatshepsut, his stepmother and aunt, Thutmose spent his money on building projects across Egypt. He kept builders and artists especially busy at Karnak. There he had them construct temples, halls, pylons, walls with reliefs celebrating his achievements, and obelisks.

Ironically, one of the obelisks of Thutmose ended up in Rome in AD 357, where it still stands, by order of the emperor Constantius. A second one still stands in Istanbul where another Roman emperor, Theodosius, ordered it placed in 390.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.