Ancient Egypt: History and culture
Ancient Egyptian history: The New Kingdom - The reassertion of Egyptian power and the building of an empire
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18th Dynasty: Hatshepsut between Amen and Hathor
Hatshepsut between
Amen and Hathor

Dynasties XVIII to XX
The reassertion of Egyptian power and the building of an empire

New Kingdom

18th Dynasty

    Most pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty acceded while still very young and no reference is made to brothers of the king although in a number of cases certainly more princes were alive at the time of death of their father. These young rulers did not possess much power over the military, the officialdom and the priesthood of Amen. The queen's palace also played an important role. All these parties tried to manipulate the king, who often only served to legitimise the government controlled by one faction or another.

Expulsion and pursuit of the Hyksos     Ahmose I (r. c.1570-1546 BCE), was the founder of the 18th dynasty, one of the most outstanding kings in the history of ancient Egypt. His principal achievement was to weaken the Hyksos, who had dominated Lower Egypt for some 300 years, by taking Avaris, their citadel in the north. He pursued them into southern Canaan and laid siege to Sharuhen for three years. On his campaign in Upper Egypt against rebels great slaughter was recorded in all the battles.
    Ahmose continued Kamose's expansion into Nubia as far as Buhen (near the second cataract) in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the incursions of the Kushites, which Upper Egypt had suffered from during the 17th Dynasty. The overseer over these conquered lands became one of the most important people in Egypt and was later given the title of "Son of the King".

The Tempest Stela of Ahmose I
The Donation Stela of Ahmose I

    Amenhotep I (Amenophis) was the son of Ahmose I, and ruled from c. 1546 to 1526. He undertook military campaigns in Libya and in Nubia (up to the 3rd cataract) using boats on the Nile to transport his army, and extended the boundaries of his empire by establishing a vice-royalty in Nubia.

    Thutmose I, (r. c. 1525-1512), husband of the princess Ahmose, continued the expansive policy of his predecessors, appointed Turi vice-roy of Nubia and extended the empire southward deeper into Nubia. At the third cataract he erected a stela on an island proclaiming:

His sword touches both ends of the earth.
    Later, while pursuing the retreating Hyksos during his Asian campaigns, he reached the Euphrates and crossed over into Nahrin, the land of the Two Rivers, which belonged to the Mitanni.
    In his third year he re-excavated the canals bypassing the first cataract, put down a rebellion and returned with his fleet, with
that wretched Nubian Bowman head downward at the bow of his majesty's ship "Falcon."
    He added walls and obelisks to the temple of Amen at Thebes and the axial temple he created was often copied. He was the first king to be buried in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes.

The biography of Ahmose, son of Ebana

    Thutmose II (r. c.1512-c.1504 BCE) married his half sister Hatshepsut and succeeded his father, Thutmose I. During his reign Thutmose put down Kushite rebellions in Nubia and revolts by bedouins in Canaan and continued temple construction, albeit on a small scale only, at Karnak.

    Hatshepsut (Hatshepsowe), (died c.1482 BCE) was one of the few women to rule Egypt as a pharaoh. After the death (c.1504) of her husband, Thutmose II, she assumed power, first as regent for his son Thutmose III, and then (c.1503) as pharaoh. She encouraged commercial expansion, sent a trading expedition to Punt and sponsored a major building program overseen by Senenmut; the monuments of her reign include the temple at Deir el-Bahri. Toward the end of her reign she lost influence to Thutmose III who came to be depicted as her equal.

Queen Hatshepsut on the Hyksos

Map of the Egyptian empire
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
The battle of Megiddo
Thutmose's campaign against the Asiatics
Texts from Theban tombs
The Napata (Gebel Barkal) stele
The autobiography of Amenemhab
A fictional account of the taking of Joppa by Djehuti

    Amenhotep II, the 7th king of the 18th dynasty, son of Thutmose III, ruled Egypt from c.1450 to 1425 BCE. He continued the military exploits of his father, particularly in Syria, where he crushed an uprising and demanded oaths of loyalty from local rulers. His mummy was discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

The Asiatic campaigns of Amenhotep II

    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.

Two marriages of Amenhotep III
The Semna stela of the viceroy Merimose

Akhenaten, excerpt; Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
Excerpt. Courtesy Jon Bodsworth


Tutankhamen; Source: 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 [2] 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."

The Amarna letters

    The subsequent events are unclear, but it is possible that on the death of Akhenaten, Meritaten, who had become his wife as well as co-regent, married 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 of Akhenaten and a sister-wife of his, 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).
    During his reign, the general Horemheb sought to 'pacify' Canaan and fought against the Hittites in northern Syria allied to the Assyrians.

Tutankhamen's restoration

    Tutankhamen died at the age of 18, apparently from a combination of debilitating conditions, among them malaria. As there were apparently no legal heirs, a plea by the King's Wife for a suitable prince consort seems to have reached the Hittite king Suppiliuma.

The "Zannanza" affair

    Tutankhamen was succeeded by Ay (c. 1352-1348), who married his widow, Ankhesenamen, and furnished the former king's tomb [1]. Ay acceded to the throne despite Horemheb's claim to be the designated successor. His accession to the throne may have been an attempt on the part of the Egyptians to appease the Hittites, by whom they had just been defeated.

    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 Dynasty

    Ramses 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.

Stela at Buhen

    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.

Excerpts from the Journal of a frontier official

The mummy of Ramses II
The mummy of Ramses II

Ramses II victorious
Ramses II smiting enemies

    Ramses II (c. 1278-1237 BCE) is remembered for his military campaigns and his extensive building program [3], 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
Commemorative Stela of the family of Ramses at Tanis
Correspondence between Ramses and Hattusili III
Beit Shean Stelae inscription
The Asiatic campaigning of Ramses II

    Ramses was succeeded by his 12th, surviving son, Merneptah (c.1212-1202 BCE). Under Merneptah an army of the Sea Peoples attacked Egypt which consisted for the most part of the Akhaivasa (perhaps Achaeans), and has been chronologically related to the migratory wave that put an end to Troy VII a.

Hymn to Merneptah (the so-called Israel Stela)
The report of a frontier official
The Pursuit of Runaway Slaves

    The time following his reign was chaotic, Seti II who was probably a legitimate heir, reigned for some six years, while coming from Nubia, a usurper, Amenmes controlled Upper Egypt and was followed by Ramses Siptah (later called Merneptah Siptah).
    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
Ramses III vanquishing his enemies

After R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien, Abth.III, Bl.209

20th Dynasty

    Succeeding 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.

[1] 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.
[2] There is a wide divergence of opinion whether Akhenaten's creed was monotheistic. Other religious models have been proposed, such as monolatry.
[3] At the same time he destroyed many older temples, using them as quarries.

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- History Contents Page
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- Main Index and Search Page
Offsite links(Opening in a new window)
I do not assume any responsibility for the content or availability of these websites.
- 18th Dynasty
-Maat-Ka-Ra Hatshepsut
-Hatshepsut: Wicked stepmother or Joan of Arc? by Peter F. Dorman (PDF)
- The Mystery of Akhenaten: Genetics or Aesthetics? by Megaera Lorenz (1996)
-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
-Twentieth Dynasty
-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
Update: November 2004

Alternative spellings:
Ahmose: Amasis, Amose
Amenhotep: Amenhetep, Amenophis, Amunhotep, Ammonhotep, Amunhotpe, Amenhotpe
Thutmose, Thuthmose, Tuthmose, Thutmosis, Tuthmosis, Thutmes, Tutmes
Ebana: Abana
Hatshepsut: Hatshepsowe
Akhenaten: Akhenaton, Echnaton, Echnaten, Ikhnaton, Ikhnaten
Meritaten: Meritaton
Tutankhamen: Tutankhamun, Tutankhamon
Ay: Ai, Aye, Aya
Horemheb: Horemhab, Haremhab, Haremheb, Hormheb
Ramses: Ramesse, Ramesses, Rameses
Seti: Sety
Merneptah: Merenptah
Sethnakhte: Setnakht, Setnakhte
Twosret: Tauseret, Tausret, Tausert
Sethnakhte: Sethnakht, Setnakht, Setnakhte