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Ancient Egypt (Third Intermediate Period)

Ancient Egypt was formed essentially of a narrow valley that was bordered on either side by extensive desert. With the River Nile running through it like a ribbon, it depended on these waters for its very life and also for its transportation. The annual floods would ensure another year of food stocks, and occasional dry spells could spell famine and death. The river also connected the Mediterranean to the lands beyond Egypt, lands which were barely understood at first but which crystallised over time into Nubia and Ethiopia.

One of the oldest known civilisations in human history, the rulers of Egypt were known as pharaohs (meaning 'Great House'). They left their highly distinctive mark in countless records, including royal inscriptions, and in pyramids and tombs. Many early records from outside of Egypt are Greek in origin, so in many cases the Greek version of names are shown in parenthesis. According to Egyptians prior to invasion in the later part of the sixth century BC, their land was kmt, transliterated as Kemet, meaning the 'black land', a reference to the rich, dark soil near the Nile. The people were the 'remetch en kemet', literally meaning 'people of the black land'.

The third intermediate marked the end of the New Kingdom period after the collapse of the Egyptian empire. It ran from 1060 BC (or 1090 BC in older dating) to 732 BC, the start of the Late Period and the Twenty-Fourth dynasty which presaged a period of Nubian rule. Although the first dynasty of this period ruled from Tanis, the accession of Smendes was never fully accepted. He was a northern relative of the current high priest of Amun which post was based in Thebes. Recent pharaohs had continued to rule from Tanis, with the country effectively partitioned between them and the high priests. The political fragmentation of the country had begun and the third intermediate would continue it with a number of dynasties of Libyan origin ruling, giving this period its alternative name of the Libyan Period.

The pyramids and sphinx at Giza in Egypt

1060 - 945 BC

Twenty-First (Tanite) Dynasty (Egypt)
1090 - 945 BC

Based at the new Egyptian capital of Tanis (which was founded by the preceding dynasty) the Twenty-First Dynasty was a relatively weak group. Theoretically, they were rulers of all Egypt, but in practice their influence was limited to Lower Egypt.

(Additional information from External Link: Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).)

1069 - 1043 BC

Nesbanebdjed I / Smendes I

Known by both names.

1043 - 1039 BC

Amenemnisu

1039 - 991 BC

- 945 BC

Psusennes I

993 - 984 BC

Amenemope

984 - 979 BC

Osorkon the Elder / Osochor

c.975? BC

Hadad, prince of Edom, is forced to escape to Egypt.

978 - 959 BC

Siamun

959 - 945 BC

Psusennes II

c.943 - 720 BC

Twenty-Second (Bubastite) Dynasty (Egypt)
945 - 745 BC

A series of Meshwesh Libyans ruled Egypt from circa 943 BC until 720 BC. They had been settled in Egypt since the Twentieth Dynasty. Although the dynasty seems to have originated at Bubastis, the kings almost certainly ruled from Tanis, which was their capital and the city in which their tombs have been excavated. The tomb of the first, and probably most powerful of them, Shoshenq I, was discovered intact at Tanis in 1938-39.

(Additional information from External Link: Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).)

c.943 - 922 BC

c.945 - 920 BC

Shoshenq I / Shishak / Sheshonk

Libyan mercenary. Biblical Shisaq.

c.925 BC

FeatureShesonk mounts a full-scale invasion of Judah and Samaria, but concentrates his efforts mainly on the north. Jerusalem is relatively untouched following a short siege by the invaders. The Ark of the Covenant, contrary to some opinion, is not taken to Egypt.

922 - 887 BC

Osorkon I

Son.

887 - 885 BC

Shoshenq II

Possibly a brother.

885 - 872 BC

Takelot I

Son of Osorkon.

c.880 - 860 BC

Harsiese A

Harsiese is an independent king at Thebes who rules during the reigns of Takelot I and Osorkon II.

872 - 837 BC

Osorkon II

Son of Takelot.

853 BC

MapFeatureOsorkon is a member of an alliance of states which also includes Ammon, Arvad, Byblos, Damas, Edom, Hamath, Kedar, and Samaria. Together they fight against Shalmaneser III of Assyria at the Battle of Qarqar which consists of the largest known number of combatants in a single battle to date, and is the first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts. Despite claims to the contrary, the Assyrians are defeated, since they do not press on to their nearest target, Hamath, and do not resume their attacks on Hamath and Damas for about six years.

837 - 798 BC

Shoshenq III

Parentage unknown.

836 BC

At the start of Shoshenq's reign, a group of Libyans in Leontopolis gains power over the Middle and Upper Egypt area. They are classified in Egyptian history as its Twenty-Third dynasty and are led by what would seem to be the grandson of Osorkon II, a high priest of Amum.

822 BC

The Twenty-Third dynasty rebel, Pedubast, has survived a previous revolt to lead another, this time in Year 15 of the reign of Takelot II of the twenty-third dynasty. Takelot's forces in Thebes are defeated and the city belongs to Pedubast. Contended by him, Takelot, and also Shoshenq III and IV of the Twenty-Second dynasty, the city encapsulated Egypt's divisions until it is finally seized by Osorkon III, son of Takelot II, shortly before he declares himself pharaoh.

805 BC

Around this time a further group of Libyans, the Libu, gains the western Nile Delta around Sais. For a time Shoshenq's son, Pimay (not to be confused with Pharaoh Pami of 785 BC) holds the subsidiary but still highly important title of 'Great Chief of the Ma' within the Libu organisation around Sais.

798 - 785 BC

Shoshenq IV 'Quartus'

Parentage unknown.

Shoshenq IV is not to be confused with Shoshenq VI of the Twenty-Third dynasty - the original Shoshenq IV in publications before 1993.

Djedkhonsefankh mummy
This cartonnage case contains the mummy of the vizier, Djedkhonsefankh, who held office at a point close to the 780s BC - black was closely associated by the Egyptians with death and resurrection

785 - 778 BC

Pami

Parentage unknown.

785 BC

Thanks to Egypt's political fragmentation its traditional dominance over Nubia has faded, allowing the Nubians to regain control over their own affairs. The Nubian kingdom of Kush is now founded (or refounded) on Egypt's southern borders. With a capital that is centred on Napata, King Alara creates a militarily-strong state that is very soon able to challenge the fractured political state of Egypt for control of the entire country.

778 - 740 BC

Shoshenq V

Son.

740 - 720 BC

Osorkon IV

Ruled in Tanis. Subdued by Twenty-Fifth dynasty.

732 & 727 BC

Osorkon IV ruled concurrently from the eastern Delta with Tefnakhte of Sais and Iuput II of Leontopolis.

Piye of the Twenty-Fifth dynasty deals with a crisis in his Egyptian domains when Tefnakhte of Twenty-Fourth dynasty Sais allies himself to Nimlot of Hermopolis to besiege Peftjauawybast of Herakleopolis, a Nubian ally. The Nubian king achieves total victory at Herakleopolis before going on to capture Hermopolis and Memphis, and receive the submission of Iuput II of Twenty-Third dynasty Leontopolis, Osorkon IV of twenty-second dynasty Tanis, and Nimlot at Hermopolis. The twenty-fifth dynasty now rules Egypt unopposed.

Twenty-Third (Tanite) Dynasty (Egypt)
837 - 720 BC

The so-called Twenty-Third dynasty was a localised offshoot of the Twenty-Second dynasty. Again it was of Libyan origin, and was perhaps based in Upper Egypt, although there is much debate concerning this issue. With the twenty-second dynasty pharaohs fading in power, all of the twenty-third dynasty pharaohs reigned in Middle and Upper Egypt, including the Western Desert Oases, while another group of Libyans, the Libu, occupied the western Delta. Scholars now tend to believe that the powerbase for this dynasty of rulers was not so consistent or cohesive as to constitute a definitive dynasty at all. Instead, separate unrelated - or at least opposing - factions appear to have been vying for control.

The dynasty's only known capital was at Leontopolis (it never ruled from Tanis, and even the use of Leontopolis can only be confirmed at the end of the dynasty). However, whatever power it may have secured during the height of its rule - if it really achieved any particular height - by its latter stages it was little more than a petty city state in an Egypt that had fractured even further. Iuput II seemingly ruled Leontopolis and little else, even being opposed by (yet another) rival in Thebes during his reign. He was one of a number of petty kings who teamed up, eventually, with Pharaoh Tefnakht of the Twenty-Fourth dynasty to oppose Piye of the Nubian Twenty-Fifth dynasty in 727 BC. All were defeated and reduced to vassal status, effectively ending the twenty-third dynasty's opposition to other rulers.

(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), from Genealogical considerations regarding the kings of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty in Egypt, Gerard P F Broekman (Göttinger Miszellen No 251, Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, 2017), and from External Links: Berber Encyclopaedia (in French), and Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).)

837 - 813 BC

Takelot II

Previously thought to be a Dynasty 22 pharaoh. Died.

837/836 BC

At the start of the reign of Shoshenq III of the Twenty-Second dynasty, Takelot leads a separate group of Libyans to gain power over the Middle and Upper Egypt area. They are classified in Egyptian history as its twenty-third dynasty, but their entire existence is alongside and in opposition to the twenty-second dynasty pharaohs.

Hedjkheperre Setepenre Takelot II Si-Ese has been equated with Takelot F, son of Nimlot C, high priest of Amun at Thebes. This also makes him the grandson of twenty-second dynasty pharaoh, Osorkon II. His date of accession is moveable, also being quoted as 845 BC and 834 BC, with his grab for power seeming to come at the end of his own period as high priest of Amun.

Temple relief depicting Pharaoh Takelot II of Egypt
A sketched of a relief from the Great Temple forecourt at Karnak which depicts Pharaoh Takelot II on the left, alongside the god Amun-Ra (right)

826 - 801 BC

Pedubast

A rebel who seized Thebes from Takelot II. Died.

826 BC

In Year 11 of the reign of Takelot II, Pedubast leads a revolt which seems to capture Thebes. Takelot dispatches his son, the future Osorkon III, to quell the revolt. He does so, and proclaims himself the new high priest of Amun following his victory. With his father as pharaoh this would appear to be a step towards consolidating their dynastic control of much of Egypt.

822 BC

Pedubast has survived to lead another rebellion, this time in Year 15 of the reign of Takelot II. Now Osorkon is defeated and Thebes belongs to Pedubast. Contended by Pedubast, Takelot, and also Shoshenq III and IV of the Twenty-Second dynasty, the city encapsulates Egypt's divisions until it is finally seized by Osorkon shortly before he declares himself pharaoh.

812 - 811 BC

Iuput / Auput I

Son and co-regent. Predeceased his father.

805 BC

Around this time a further group of Libyans known as the Libu gain the western Nile Delta around Sais. For a time the son of Twenty-Second dynasty pharaoh, Shoshenq III, one Pimay (not to be confused with Pharaoh Pami of 785 BC), holds the subsidiary but still highly important title of 'Great Chief of the Ma' within the Libu organisation around Sais.

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

801 - 795 BC

Shoshenq VI

Successor to Pedubast. Rival to Osorkon. Defeated.

795 - 767 BC

Osorkon III

Son of Takelot II. Recovered Thebes and took throne.

785 BC

Thanks to Egypt's political fragmentation its traditional dominance over Nubia has faded, allowing the Nubians to regain control over their own affairs. The Nubian kingdom of Kush is now founded (or refounded) on Egypt's southern borders. With a capital that is centred on Napata, King Alara creates a militarily-strong state that is very soon able to challenge the fractured political state of Egypt for control of the entire country.

767 - 765 BC

Takelot III

Son and also co-regent (773-767 BC). Probably aged.

765 - 762 BC

Rudamun

Brother. Maintained the kingdom.

762 BC

The aging sons of Osorkon III (who himself seems to have gained the throne late in life) appear to leave no immediate successors. The succession of a brother at all in Egypt is unusual, and points to a lack of surviving offspring. With Rudamun's death the previously unified kingdom fragments into a collection of city states and associated territories.

762 - 728/7 BC

Iuput / Auput II

Ruled in Leontopolis. Subdued by Twenty-Fifth dynasty.

fl c.740 BC

Menkheperre Ini

Ruled in Thebes.

732 BC

At the same point at which the Libu cheiftan, Tefnakht, attempts to dominate Egypt from his Twenty-Fourth dynasty capital at Sais, close to the Mediterranean, Piye and his Nubians invade Upper Egypt from the south. They swiftly begin to take over all of Egypt to form their own Twenty-Fifth dynasty, even in the face of varying levels of resistance from several petty rulers of what amount to minor city states in the Nile Delta region (Iuput II of Leontopolis amongst them). Tefnakht would appear to assume a subservient role for much of his reign, and it is likely that the same is true of Iuput.

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

727 BC

Piye of the Twenty-Fifth dynasty deals with a crisis in his Egyptian domains when Tefnakhte of Twenty-Fourth dynasty Sais allies himself to Nimlot of Hermopolis to besiege Peftjauawybast of Herakleopolis, a Nubian ally. The Nubian king achieves total victory at Herakleopolis before going on to capture Hermopolis and Memphis, and receive the submission of Iuput II of Leontopolis, Osorkon IV of Twenty-Second dynasty Tanis, and Nimlot at Hermopolis. The twenty-fifth dynasty now rules Egypt unopposed at the start of the Late Period.