Ancient Egyptian history: The New Kingdom - The reassertion of Egyptian power and the building of an empire
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Amen and Hathor
Dynasties XVIII to XX
Egypt during the New Kingdom:
The empire under Thutmose III
Thutmose III (c.1504-1450 BCE) was very young when his father, Thutmose II, died and was until 1482 the co-regent of his aunt, Hatshepsut. Some time after he became sole monarch,he tried, for unknown reasons, to erase the memory of Hatshepsut by destroying many of the monuments which bore her name or effigy. From 1482 onwards, he devoted himself to the expansion of the Egyptian empire, leading many campaigns into Canaan, Phoenicia and Syria.
At Megiddo (c.1480) he destroyed a Syrian-Canaanite coalition employing mercenary armies and chariots. On the east bank of the river Euphrates in Nahrin, he defeated the forces of the kingdom of Mitanni, which had been extending its power in the Middle East.
Thutmose expanded his navy and used it to transport his armies swiftly to the Phoenician coast, while in Setet (Nubia) and Kush he extended his rule beyond the fourth cataract.
He set up an efficient administration, both civil and military, and extorted large amounts of tribute from the defeated kings and chiefs. Much of this tribute Thutmose used to build temples at Karnak (the Festival Hall of the temple of Amen), Heliopolis and Abydos.
The autobiography of Ahmose Pen-nekhbet, who lived during the reigns of Ahmose I to Thutmose III
Thutmose IV campaigned in Nubia and Retenu. He concluded a treaty with the Babylonians and entered into an alliance with the Mitanni by marrying Artatama's daughter.Amenhotep III ruled (c.1417-1379 BCE) Egypt at the height of its power. His extensive diplomatic contacts with other Near Eastern states, especially Mitanni and Babylonia, are revealed in the Amarna tablets. Of the great temple he built near Thebes, only two statues, the so-called colossi of Memnon, remain. Amenhotep's wife Tiye, a woman of non-royal birth, was prominently associated with him during his long and peaceful reign.
Excerpt. Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) (c. 1379-1361), was invested as king not in the Amen temple at Karnak as custom dictated, but at Hermonthis, where his uncle Inen was High Priest of Re and immediately began building a roofless temple to the Aten, the disk of the rising sun. He soon forbade the worship of other gods, especially of the state god Amen of Thebes. In the 6th year he changed his name from Amenhotep ("Amen is satisfied") to Akhenaten ("beneficial to Aten") and left Thebes for a new capital at Akhetaten (El Amarna).
Living there with his queen Nefertiti, six daughters, and possibly several sons, he fostered new styles in art and literature. The confiscation of the wealth of the Amen temples wreaked havoc upon its priesthood. Akhenaten used these riches to strengthen the royal control over the army and his officialdom. His concentration on internal affairs brought about the loss of some of the Egyptian possessions in Canaan and Retenu (Syria) and of the Egyptian naval dominance, when Aziru defected to the Hittites with his fleet.
His religious reforms did not survive his reign and monotheism  in its pure form was forgotten in Egypt, even though it found a new expression in the trinity of Re, Ptah and Amen. The Aten temples were demolished, and Akhenaten came to be called "the Enemy" or the "criminal of Akhetaten." Smenkhkare. (Some think that Meritaten may have been Smenkhkare)
An attempt by Kiya to usurp the throne was suppressed and the remains of Akhenaten and Tiye were transferred to another site in the Valley of the Kings; Akhenaten was buried in Kiya's coffin. In Tutankhamen's reign, both mummies were moved to the tomb of Amenhotep III.
Tutankhamen (c. 1361-1352 BCE), the son in law of Akhenaten, succeeded his brother Smenkhkare when he was only nine years old. His vizier Ay restored the traditional polytheistic religion, abandoning the monotheistic cult of Aten of Akhenaten, its religious centre at el Amarna and returning to the capital Thebes. By reviving the cult of the state god Amen he strengthened the position of Amen's priesthood. The pharaoh changed his name Tutankhaten, (living image of Aten), to Tutankhamen, (living image of Amen).
Horemheb (c.1321-1293) who followed Ay, pursued a more hawkish policy vis-à-vis the Hittites, rebuilding his army devastated by the pestilence, which had affected much of the Near East killing the Hittite king Suppiluliuma who was followed by Mursili.
19th DynastyRamses I, founder of the 19th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, reigned for little more than a year, between 1293 and 1291 BC. Apparently chosen for succession by the last pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Horemheb, in whose army he had been a commander, Ramses planned and started to build the colonnaded hall in the temple at Karnak. Seti I succeeded his father, Ramses I and ruled from about 1291 till 1278 BCE. He reoccupied the forts in Sinai which had been taken over by the Shasu and conducted several campaigns in Syria and Canaan fighting local kings, the Hittites and nomadic tribes like the Hebrews.
He is remembered for his work on the temples at Karnak and for his magnificent tomb at Thebes. He was succeeded by Ramses II.
The mummy of Ramses II
Ramses II smiting enemies
Ramses II (c. 1278-1237 BCE) is remembered for his military campaigns and his extensive building program , the remains of which are still conspicuous. Ramses, like his father Seti I, pursued a vigorous foreign policy by attacking the Hittites, the chief opponents of the Egyptian empire in the East. His first campaigns against them in the fifth year of his reign ended in an Egyptian retreat after a violent battle at Kadesh in Syria, during which Ramses himself narrowly escaped capture mainly thanks to the intervention of a troop contingent arriving from Amurru. The consequent loss of prestige sparked revolts within the empire, and Ramses could not resume direct hostilities against the Hittites until the tenth year of his reign; the conflicts were finally concluded by a peace treaty in his 21st year.
He also fought in Trans-Jordan and Nubia and secured the western coast road of Egypt against Libyan invaders by building fortresses along the Mediterranean coast as far as 300 km west of the Delta.
Ramses was responsible for building many large temples, most notably that at Abu Simbel in Nubia. He also founded a new royal capital at Per-Ramesse ("the house of Ramses") in the eastern Nile delta. During his long reign, Ramses had more than 100 children, and by his death he had outlived his 11 eldest sons.
Egyptian accounts of the battle of Kadesh
Queen Twosret, widow of Seti II, tried to expunge the memory of her predecessor. According to the Harris Papyrus Yarsu, perhaps identical with the Syrian chancellor of Siptah, usurped the throne during this period.
Ramses III vanquishing his enemies
After R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien, Abth.III, Bl.209
20th DynastySucceeding his father Sethnakhte who reigned for three years, Ramses III (c.1182-1151 BCE) saved Egypt from foreign invasion but failed to solve internal problems (political conspiracies and weakened social structures) that led to the disintegration of the Egyptian state 80 years after his death. Ramses fought off Libyan invasions in his fifth and eleventh year. He also claimed to have held back a horde of invading Sea Peoples who were sweeping down the eastern Mediterranean coast towards Egypt.
Despite these external successes, royal power declined and Egypt lost its Asiatic colonies which were conquered by the Sea Peoples, even if in the Medinet Habu texts describing the battle of Ramses III the Egyptians claim that they settled them as vassals in Southern Canaan.
During the reigns of Ramses III or IV most centres of Egyptian power in Canaan were destroyed and Ramses VI withdrew from Serabit el Khadim, the copper mines of Timna and possibly Megiddo. During this time the temples became richer at the expense of the pharaohs; Ramses III for instance attempted building only one major structure. Government was corrupt and inefficient, and Ramses himself was the target of an assassination plot before being succeeded by his son Ramses IV in 1151 BCE. He was buried in the Valley of the Kings.
Until the end of the 20th dynasty the empire shrank and ambitious royal building programs failed. Government was impeded by the independence of officialdom, as offices became hereditary, and corruption and inefficiency increased. Its influence in the Middle East declined. The New Kingdom ended in turmoil under Ramses XI.
 All the other tombs in the Valley of the kings at Thebes were later plundered, but the tomb, in which Tutankhamen had been buried, was hidden by rock chips dumped there when the tomb of a later king was excavated, and was not ransacked. It was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, filled with extraordinary treasure, including a solid gold coffin, a gold mask, jewellery, and many artefacts.
 There is a wide divergence of opinion whether Akhenaten's creed was monotheistic. Other religious models have been proposed, such as monolatry.
 At the same time he destroyed many older temples, using them as quarries.
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|Hatshepsut: Wicked stepmother or Joan of Arc? by Peter F. Dorman|
|The Death of a Pharaoh|
|The mysteries of Akhenaten (Pictures don't display)|
|The Mystery of Akhenaten: Genetics or Aesthetics? by Megaera Lorenz (1996)|
|Tutanchamun (in German)|
|King Tut (with pictures of the tomb taken by Carter's expedition)|
|When the House of Akhnaton Died Out|
|The End of the Amarna Period by Dr Marc Gabolde|
|The tomb of Senneferi|
|Beth Shean Valley Archaeological Project|
|Haremhab Appointed to Administer Egypt|
|When Civilization Collapsed: Death of the Bronze Age by William H. Stiebing, Jr.|
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Alternate spellings: Akhenaton, Tutankhamun, Tutankhamon, Nofretete, Tutanchamon, Achenaton,Thutmosis, Tuthmose, Ramesis, Ramesse, Ramesses