History Files

African Kingdoms

Ancient Egypt


Libu (Ancient Egypt)
805 - 732 BC

The Third Intermediate period in Egypt marked the fractured end of the New Kingdom after the collapse of the Egyptian empire and the political fragmentation of the country. A number of dynasties that were of Libyan origin subsequently formed along the Nile Delta region, governing what were, in effect, city states, and giving this period of Egyptian history its alternative name of the 'Libyan Period'.

A series of Meshwesh Libyans ruled areas of Lower Egypt as the country's Twenty-Second dynasty, from circa 943 BC until 720 BC, generally displacing a native dynasty that had been based at Tanis. These Meshwesh had been settled in Egypt since the later years of the Twentieth dynasty. Although the dynasty seems to have originated at Bubastis (in the eastern delta), the kings almost certainly ruled from Tanis to its north-east, which was their capital and the city in which their tombs have been excavated. But they were not the only Libyan rulers in the region. The Twenty-Third dynasty formed alongside the Meshwesh rulers, but this claimed Middle and Upper Egypt including the Western Desert Oases.

Not counted as forming a dynasty as such, the Libu were yet another group of western nomads (more Libyans). They had been harassing Egyptian borders since the end of the thirteenth century BC. From around 805 BC this particular group occupied the western Nile Delta from the city of Sais, some way to the west of Bubastis and virtually level with Tanis. The name Libya is ancient, and comes via Classical Greece and Rome. Berber tribesmen are thought to have supplied the Libu, and it is their name that came to be used (or was already being used) by Egyptians to denote the land to the west of Egypt itself. The name Libu has also been transcribed from Egyptian records as Ribu and Lebu - the latter confirming them in their categorisation as Sea Peoples, a general grouping of many different 'barbarian' groups that plagued Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean coast in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries BC.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton (Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2004), from The Cambridge History of Africa: Egypt and Libia, Desmond J Clark (Ed, Cambridge University Press, 1982), from Une stèle de donation du dynaste libyen Roudamon, Jocelyne Berlandini (BIFAO, 1978, in French, and available online as a PDF), and from External Link: Berber Encyclopaedia (in French).)

805 BC

At the start of the reign of Shoshenq III of the Twenty-Second dynasty in Egypt, a separate group of Libyans in Leontopolis had gained power over the Middle and Upper Egypt area. They are classified in Egyptian history as its Twenty-Third dynasty. By 805 BC a further group, the Libu, gain the western Delta around Sais and set up their own city state there, one of many in the Nile Delta region. Information about their rulers, the great chiefs of the Libu, is extremely sparse.

Libyan coastline
Libya is a mixture of rocky coastline, verdant fields in the near-coastal strip, and an increasing expanse of desert to the south - but even that desert has played host to civilisation

805 - 795 BC


'Great chief of the Libu'.

As well as commanding the Libu, the great chiefs of the Libu also dominate the apparently subjugated Meshwesh (via a junior great chief who bears the title 'Great Chief of the Ma', initially held, it seems, by Pimay, son of Pharaoh Shoshenq III of the Twenty-Second dynasty). Both the Libu and Meshwesh had featured in the late thirteenth century BC disruption as Sea Peoples. They had subsequently integrated themselves into the Nile Delta or had been enslaved and settled, but either way they had provided continual headaches for later pharaohs.

795 - 780 BC


Name(s) unknown.

780 - 763 BC


763 - 755 BC

Titaru / Tjerper / Tjerpahati

755 - 750 BC


750 - 745 BC

Rudamon / Rudamun

745 - 736 BC

Ankhor / Ankhhor / Ankh-Hor

Opposed by Tefnakht. Overthrown?

736 - 738 BC

It is Ankhor, 'Great Chief of the Libu', who finds himself with a rival claimant towards the end of his reign. Around 738 BC the unrelated Tefnakht of Sais also claims the title of 'Chief of the Libu'. He repeats the claim around 736 BC and subsequently nothing more is heard from Ankhor, suggesting that he has stepped down or (more likely) has been deposed. The governor of Sais, Osorkon, who bears the title 'Great Chief of the Ma' which is subordinate to that of 'Great Chief of the Libu', also disappears from the records, with Tefnakht later claiming his title. Tefnakht does seem to be at the centre of a grab for power.

736 - 732 BC

Tefnakht / Tefnakhte

Great chief. Self-declared Twenty-Fourth dynasty pharaoh.

732 BC

The Late Period begins in Egypt, although there is little to mark this milestone as far as contemporary Egyptians are concerned. However, following more than seventy years of governance at Sais, the Libu are probably now more Egyptian than Libyan. The last of their 'great chiefs', Tefnakht, even goes so far as to claim the titles due to an Egyptian pharaoh, beginning the Twenty-Fourth dynasty of pharaohs.

Tefnakht stele
The stele of Tefnakht, which is held at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, contains his declaration of the assumption of pharaonic titles and status

He has done this, however, without being the sole candidate, and is immediately opposed by Piye, king of Nubia who forms his own Twenty-Fifth dynasty following his invasion of Upper Egypt. Furthermore, neither of them takes into consideration equivalent 'city state' rulers at Herakleopolis, Hermopolis, Leontopolis, and Tanis. Generally though these minor rulers see themselves as opponents of the Nubian invasion.