HATSHEPSUT, THUTMOSE, AKHENATEN, AND TUT; THE PRICE OF POWER IN THE 18TH DYNASTY!
It had to do with a splendid security. Life leavening waters following long, linear banks. A green-fringed river flowing north, flooding north, through the cruelest of deserts.
Water! Food! Food for many! And many man made monuments celebrating gods and rulers for so easily feeding the million people populating those banks.
True, Nubians from the highlands to the South were a threat, but they could only attack across the desert or along that narrow river swath blocked by a series of rocky cataracts, and so easily defended. That is what made Egypt unique. Impenetrable walls of sand securing lives that lived within that thin, snake-like scene. People moving like a millipede up and down the banks of that narrow, broad waterway.
The “Asiatics”⎯Canaanites and Syrians⎯were a threat to Egypt from the Northeast. But a lot of desert and a string of forts across the narrow neck of Suez, kept them away. Unless they were needed as labor. Or were hungry for the green fields of food in that flooded Eden beyond.
The Canaanites came often enough for those purposes, leaving us with a record of their travels on boulders and in the Bible. And while they were in Egypt, they made hieroglyphics⎯and its cursive form, hieratic⎯into the more manageable alphabet used in this essay.
Those early scribes, however, ignored vowels, assuming the reader knew which one to speak by context. Abjad, we call those early alphabets. The Greeks added vowels when
they adopted the Phoenician descendant of the first proto-Canaanite alphabetic script. They were poets and playwrights, and needed more.
The tranquility of a thousand years of Egyptian rule along the Nile was broken when some of those Asiatic peoples returned. Returned with new weapons developed in Middle Eastern wars. Horses and chariots, the composite bow, better bronze, chest armor, sickle swords, and socketed, penetrating battleaxes. In 1650 B.C., they overran Lower Egypt⎯that is the downstream part, closer to the Mediterranean Sea⎯and set up their own kingdom. They were called the Hyksos and ruled for more than 100 years. Historians call this Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period.
And to make matters worse, the Nubians surged back north along the river into Upper Egypt⎯this is the southern upstream reach beyond the cataracts blocking the water routes into what is now Sudan and Ethiopia. Here was established the Nubian Kingdom of Kush. A long-lasting empire centered on the cities of Napata and Meroe.
The Egyptian Pharaohs had been zippered tight, holding only about one-third of their former river kingdom from Thebes. They had been squeezed in between the Hyksos to the north and Nubians to the south. Then along came the warrior Pharaohs Kamose and his brother, Ahmose. Together by 1550 B.C., they succeeded in driving out the Hyksos and founding the 18th Egyptian Dynasty.
That dynasty, having adopted the new weapons of the Hyksos, abandoned their insular defensive strategy of the Egyptian past. They surged out of Egypt in so much military might that much of the archaeological history of the Middle East is marked by their presence or passing.
No longer waiting to defend, they went on the attack. Into Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and beyond. South along the Nile into Nubia. And west into Libya. The success of the warrior
Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty would result in the greatest extent and power of the Egyptian Empire.
Two hundred years. Fifteen Pharaohs, eight of which led expansive military campaigns. And one⎯maybe two⎯were women. Their empire would last for five hundred years. They dealt with the Hurrian and Mitanni peoples of the Upper Euphrates river, and the Hittites of Anatolia, now Turkey. Syria and Canaan became their battleground.
Let’s talk about some of those notable Pharaohs of that famous 18th Dynasty.
Queen Hatshepsut. The Fifth Pharaoh. One of the greatest women of power in history. Chief wife of Pharaoh Thutmose II⎯and daughter of Thutmose I⎯she reigned for twenty years as coregent, along with his 2-year-old son and successor Thutmose III. She often wore male Pharaoh regalia, even appearing with the false Pharaoh beards.
Thutmose III would later desecrate her monuments, probably for religious reasons, or maybe as a cultural bias against ascendant women⎯although there is reason to believe that he was otherwise favorably disposed to her. He allowed her reign even when he came of age.
Hatshepsut is remembered by us for her expedition to the land of Punt⎯somewhere near the Horn of Africa⎯and bringing back valuable cargos of Frankincense, live Myrrh trees, stibium for painting eyes, exotic animals, and woods. But there is also evidence of beginning trade with the Mycenaean Greeks. Her mortuary temple complex still stands at Deir el-Bahari near the Valley of the Kings. Stands for diplomacy.
And she commissioned the second largest Egyptian obelisk ever quarried. The one that is still standing in the temple complex at Karnak in Thebes. Its pointed top⎯the pyramidion⎯was covered with gold and reflected the glory of her god, Amun. Later, Amun would be married into the sun god, Ra, of Heliopolis. Together, they became the god, Amun-Ra. As we will see, this preceded the “heresy” of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who worshipped only one god. Aten, the formless god of the sun.
But next we will visit the Napoleon of Egypt, Pharaoh Thutmose III, and the famous Battle of Megiddo in 1457 B.C.!