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The destruction of Thebes by the Assyrians
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Ashurbanipal
Ashurbanipal
 

The fall of Thebes to the Assyrians and its decline thereafter

    In 667 BCE, attacked by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's army, Taharqa abandoned Lower Egypt and fled to Thebes. After his death three years later his nephew (or cousin) Tantamani (alt. Tanutamun) seized Thebes, invaded Lower Egypt and laid siege to Memphis, but abandoned his attempts to conquer the country in 663 BCE and retreated southwards. The Assyrians pursued him and took Thebes [5], whose name was added to a long list of cities plundered and destroyed by the Assyrians:
This city, the whole of it, I conquered it with the help of Ashur and Ishtar. Silver, gold, precious stones, all the wealth of the palace, rich cloth, precious linen, great horses, supervising men and women, two obelisks of splendid electrum, weighing 2500 talents, the doors of temples I tore from their bases and carried them off to Assyria. With this weighty booty I left Thebes. Against Egypt and Kush I have lifted my spear and shown my power. With full hands I have returned to Nineveh, in good health.
    The fall of this mighty city came as a shock to the Hebrews, who had been living in the Egyptian sphere of influence for centuries.
8   Art thou better than No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea?
9   Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers.
10   Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.
Nahum 3
    Thebes never regained its former political significance, but it remained an important religious centre. Mentuemhet and the Wife of the God Amen Seshepenupet II, a sister of Taharka, and her heir, Amenirdis II, daughter of Taharka, recognized the rule of Psamtik I (663-609), who ascended to Thebes in 654 and brought about the adoption of his own daughter, Nitokris, as heir to Amenirdis. Nitokris later changed her name to Seshepenupet (III). In 594 she adopted a daughter of Psamtik II (594-588), Ankhenes-neferibra, who held the position of Wife of the God and later that of the First of the Prophets until the invasion of the Persians.
    The good relationship of the Thebaid with the central power in the North ended when the native Egyptian pharaohs were finally replaced by Greek kings. Thebes became a centre for dissent. Towards the end of the third century BCE Horwennefer, possibly of Nubian origin [1], led a revolt against the Ptolemies in Upper Egypt [3]. He appears to have died around 199 BCE. His successor Ankhmakis, also known as Chaonnophris or Ankhwennefer [2], held large parts of Upper Egypt until 186 BCE. This revolt was supported by the Theban priesthood. After the suppression of the revolt in 186, Ptolemy, in need of the support of the the priesthood, forgave them. Half a century later the Thebans rose again, elevating Harsiese to the throne in 132 BCE. Harsiese, having helped himself to the funds of the royal bank at Thebes, fled the following year. In 91 BCE another revolt broke out. In the following years the Thebaid was subdued and the city turned into rubble: [4]
Alexander fled in fear of the citizens, Ptolemy returned and for the second time assumed control of Egypt. He made war against the Thebans, who had revolted, reduced them three years after the revolt, and treated them so cruelly that they were left not even a memorial of their former prosperity, which had grown so that they surpassed in wealth the richest of the Greeks.
Pausanius Description of Greece I. 9. 3
Translation by W. H. S. Jones, Loeb Library, New York 1918

    Building did not come to an abrupt stop, but the city continued to decline. In the first century CE Strabo described Thebes as having been abandoned. [4]

 


Bibliography:
John Boederman ed. The Cambridge Ancient History, Part Two, Cambridge University Press
Günther Hölbl, History of the Ptolemaic Empire by , Routledge 2000, pp.155ff.
Robert Steven Bianchi, Daily Life Of The Nubians, Greenwood Press 2004, p.224
Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt: From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian, Princeton University Press 1997, p.15
Robert K. Ritner, Ptolemy IX (Soter II) at Thebes, paper presented at the Seventh Chicago-Johns Hopkins Theban Workshop, 2006
Willy Clarysse (of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), The Great Revolt of the Egyptians, Lecture held at the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, University of California at Berkeley, on March 16, 2004, accessed 17th November 2007
 
[1] Bianchi, op.cit., p.224
[2] Hölbl, op.cit., p.155
[3] A graffito on an Abydos temple wall giving him the Greek name Hyrgonaphor and dating to about 201 BCE, is an attestation to the extent of his influence (Hölbl, op.cit., p.155)
Year 5 of pharaoh Hyrgonaphor loved by Isis and Osiris, loved by Amon–Re, king of the gods, the great god.
graffito in Greek letters in the mortuary temple of Seti I at Abydos;
P.W. Pestman, J. Quaegebeur, R. L. Vos, Recueil de textes de'motiques et bilingues, Leiden: 1977, p.11.

[4] Ritner, op.cit.
[5] Boederman, op.cit., pp.700ff.

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