2015/10/24

The Second Intermediate Period

The horror of having their throne seized by foreigners caused the Egyptians to see the Hyksos in the worst possible light. But in many ways, Hyksos rule was the best thing that could have happened to Egypt. It rescued Egypt from political turmoil and cultural decline. The Hyksos brought fresh ideas and new technologies to a land that had become fixed in its outlook.  They introduced Egypt to superior bronze-age technology, already in wide use elsewhere. They introduced new military strategies, tactics, and equipment: the chariot and horse, the composite bow, scale armor (armor with solid, overlapping tabs of metal, rather like metal fish scales), and improved daggers and swords.

The Second Intermediate Period



Without these innovations, it is doubtful Egypt could have become an imperial superpower. The Hyksos also introduced fresh ideas to the arts and everyday life. The vertical weaving loom, stringed musical instruments (lute and lyre), the oboe, the tambourine, the olive and pomegranate trees all came to Egypt with the Hyksos. This 107-year period (1630 to 1539 B.C.E.) spans Dynasties 15 to 17. Egypt had always been strongly inward-looking. Egyptians had not seen the outside world as threatening, or even as very interesting or important. It was a handy shopping mall where they could get things they wanted. Seeing their kingship seized by foreigners finally opened their eyes. The Hyksos takeover profoundly changed the Egyptians’ view of the world.

They realized they needed to do more than just go shopping in the world’s mines and bazaars. They needed a strong, even aggressive, foreign policy to prevent the many up-and-coming nations around the Mediterranean from coming in and taking whatever they wanted  including the throne. For the first time, Egypt established a standing army and a professional military. Because of the Hyksos, Egypt was no longer isolated from the world. As the Hyksos consolidated control over the Delta, a family of Theban princes formed a ruling faction (the Seventeenth Dynasty) at Thebes. They preserved Middle Kingdom culture, and controlled Upper Egypt from Elephantine to Abydos, north of Thebes.

The Hyksos and the Nubians, who had formed an alliance, hemmed in the Thebans for almost 100 years. Finally, simmering tensions exploded into open conflict. The Thebans were determined to drive the hated foreigners off the throne and out of Egypt. King Seqenenre Tao and his son Kamose mounted fierce campaigns against the Hyksos. Seqenenre Tao was soon killed. His mummy shows terrible wounds, probably inflicted in battle. Kamose resumed the fight, retaking the Nubian border forts and leading a raid to the outskirts of Avaris. But he reigned only three years.  His son, Ahmose was also determined to drive the invaders out, but waited for the right moment.

About halfway through his 26 year reign, he led attacks against the Hyksos at their strongholds in Avaris and Memphis. After a hard-fought campaign, Ahmose prevailed. Not content with driving the Hyksos out of Egypt, he chased them all the way back to Palestine and laid siege to their home city, which was in northern Palestine (what the Bible describes as Caanan). The Theban ruling family became the Eighteenth Dynasty, and Ahmose I the first king of the New Kingdom. Egypt’s glorious imperial age was about to begin.

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