The Ethiopians, their support of Egyptian orthodoxy and their reign over Egypt
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The beginnings of the Ethiopian Dynasty

 Chronology of Early Nubia {2]
 A Group3500-2800 BCE
 C Group2300-1500 BCE
 Kerma culture2500-1500 BCE
 Napatan period1000-300 BCE
 Kushite rule over Egypt712-664 BCE
 Meroitic period300 BCE-350 CE
    A people referred to as the C-group settled in Lower Kush in the latter half of the third millennium BCE. Simultaneously another culture developed in Upper Kush whose kings resided at Kerma, Dongola and there was also a centre on Sai Island [1]. The Egyptians conquered Kush under Thutmose III (r. ca.1504-1450) up to the 4th cataract. Even after it lost control over the country, Egypt never renounced its claim and Egyptian cultural influence remained very significant, above all the worship of Amen-Re.

    From the 9th century onwards the politically independent kingdom of Kush developed around Napata. Alara was its first known ruler and his devotion to Amen is mentioned in a number of inscriptions. The kings were buried in the necropolis of El Kurru, in rectangular graves poorly furnished with arms, gold and ceramics and covered by tumuli. From the middle of the 8th century, Pyramids were being built at El Kurru and Nuri. The Theban-style tombs were provided with elegant furniture, statues of the royal family, stelas, arms and sumptuous jewellery. In contrast to Egyptian burials, the Kushites, great horse lovers, buried the richly decorated mounts they had ridden on, with their masters.

Amenirdis; Egyptian Museum, Cairo     Kashta who succeeded him, owed the throne to the support he received from the priests of Amen-Re. The king assumed the title of First Prophet of Amen and acted only after consulting the statue of the god. He expelled Osorkon IV from Upper Egypt and assumed the title of king. The Wife of the God at Thebes at the time was Shepenwepe I, a daughter of Osorkon IV. Kashta made her hereditary regent over Thebes. As the Wife of the God had to remain a virgin that meant that she had to adopt a daughter to succeed her. Shepenwepe appointed Amenirdis I, Kashta's daughter, as her heir. The position of First Prophet at Thebes was abolished.

Amenirdis, God's wife
Egyptian Museum, Cairo

    The Kushite priesthood of Amen not only decided in policy matters. They also chose new kings by making the statue point out one of the princes as they came before the god. The old pharaonic administration, the exploitation of the goldmines and the revenues from the Nubian trade contributed heavily to the priests' hegemony. The theocracy aspired to in the north was mostly achieved in Kush and brought to Thebes by its kings.

    Piye (Piankhi) (reigned as pharaoh ca.716-711) set out for Lower Egypt in the 21st year of his reign. A stela at Napata describes the discord between the chiefs of the Meshwesh wearing the feather in Lower Egypt at the time: Pefnefdubast at Herakleopolis, Nemrod at Hermopolis, Iuput in the delta, Osorkon IV at Tanis and the prince of the West Tefnakht were vying for power, with the latter in the ascendency after his conquest of Heliopolis, Memphis, Dashur and Hermopolis and about to take his native Herakleopolis. Piye lifted the siege of Herakleopolis, conquered Memphis and Heliopolis and the four kings and the chiefs of the Meshwesh submitted to him, with the exception of Tefnakht who took refuge in the marshes. In the end Tefnakht pretended to

respect the royal orders and not to attack any other chief without Piye's leave
    After Piye's return to Kush Tefnakht used the royal cartouche, founding the shortlived 25th dynasty of Sais.
    Then when the Ethiopian had gone away out of Egypt, the blind man came back from the fen-country and began to rule again, having lived there during fifty years upon an island which he had made by heaping up ashes and earth: for whenever any of the Egyptians visited him bringing food, according as it had been appointed to them severally to do without the knowledge of the Ethiopian, he bade them bring also some ashes for their gift. This island none was able to find before Amyrtaios; that is, for more than seven hundred years the kings who arose before Amyrtaios were not able to find it. Now the name of this island is Elbo, and its size is ten furlongs each way.
Herodotus 2.140, Translated by Macaulay
Gutenberg Project
(Herodotus is reporting what he was told by his sources.
He had no personal knowledge of these occurrences.)


[1] My thanks go to Kennma2@aol.com for putting me right on the difference between the C-group and Kerma cultures.
[2] After R. Jameson, I. Shaw: A Dictionary of Archaeology, Blackwell Publishing, 1999

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Offsite links(Opening in a new window)
I do not assume any responsibility for the content or availability of these websites.
-The C-Group People
-Napatan Temples: A Case Study from Gebel Barkal
-The Victory Stele of Piankhy by Brian Yare
-The Rise of the Kushite Kingdom by Brian Yare

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Latest Update: December 2002