April 23, 2012

Nubian Conquest and Ancient Egyptian 25th Dynasty

The Nubian conquest
With the breakdown of Egyptian sovereignty in Egypt the Nubian kings began to look north. They viewed their incursions into Egypt not so much as an invasion but as a restoration of the old status quo and supremacy of Amun. Hence, when Piankhi (Piyi) moved north against the coalition of four Egyptian kings in Year 21 of his Nubian reign, about 727 BC, he could take the view that these kings had acted like naughty children who needed to be brought into line. After their defeat he treated them with leniency, confirming them as governors, although one, Tefnakht, had fled further north into the Delta where he attempted to regroup and at the same time sent an eloquent address to Piankhi, full of the old rhetoric, seeking a truce.

Sphinx of Shepenwepet II, representative of the Kushite royalty. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile

A remarkably full account of these events is recorded on a large pink granite block found in 1862 in the temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal (now in Cairo). This so-called 'Victory Stele' is obviously the 'home' copy of an inscription that must have been repeated in other major northern sites such as Memphis, still the secular capital, and Thebes itself. Complete details of the campaign are given, from Piankhi's decision to march north and take charge himself (under the guidance of Amun), down to the discussions about how best to invest the fortified city of Memphis. On the way, passing through Amun's Thebes, Piankhi celebrated the Festival of Opet - during which the figure of Amun was carried from Karnak to the Luxor temple - presumably in front of the temple reliefs carved 600 years earlier under Tutankhamun.

Piankhi had legitimized his position in the Nubian succession by marrying the daughter of a king named Alara, the seventh king of Napata. At Thebes, Piankhi took a firm hold on the priesthood of Amun by having the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, Shepenwepet I, 'adopt' as her successor his sister Amenirdis I. The maintenance of the cult of Amun at both Karnak and Gebel Barkal was an important part of the building programme of the successive Kushite kings, to the extent that the latter became a huge southern replica of the former.

Although, curiously, it appears that Piankhi preferred to rule from Napata in the south, since he returned there, he invested himself with the resonant old coronation names of the New Kingdom pharaohs Tuthmosis III and Ramses II. When he died c. 716 BC Piankhi was buried at el-Kurru, just to the north of Gebel Barkal, in the pyramid field that was to include the burials of several of the kings of the 25th Dynasty, as well as other relatives such as two of Piankhi's sisters. The pyramid tombs adopted by the Kushites were very different from their northern antecedents - they were much smaller and their angle of inclination was severely sharper than the true pyramid of 52° 51'.

The Kushite kings wholeheartedly embraced almost all the old Egyptian burial customs - embalming, the provision of splendid carved stone ushabtis and other funerary accoutrements. They betrayed their Nubian origins, however, in the practice of laying the royal body on a bed in the tomb and, nearby, burying chariot horses standing in teams of four (for a quadriga) to accompany their master.

Piankhi was succeeded by his brother Shabaka (here the Nubian succession was at variance with Egyptian custom), who continued the revival of old Egyptian traditions, delving into whatever temple records could be found, or inventing them if necessary. An important relic of this is the 'Shabaka Stone', a slab of basalt 4Vi ft (1.37 m) long, now in the British Museum. Its surface is much abraded and deeply scored from having been used at a later date as a millstone. The text on it states that it is a copy taken from an ancient 'worm-eaten' papyrus discovered at Memphis and recounting the Memphite theology of the creator gods.

The overall control exerted by Shabaka (that is, south of the 24th Dynasty territory in the northern Delta) is indicated by the vast array of building work undertaken in his reign, mainly at Thebes on both east and west banks of the Nile and largely in relation to the Amun cult, but also at other major religious cult centres such as Memphis (Ptah), Abydos (Osiris), Dendera (Hathor), Esna (Khnum) and Edfu (Horus).

After a 14-year reign Shabaka died and, like his brother Piankhi, was buried in a steep-sided pyramid at el-Kurru. He was succeeded, each in turn, by his nephews Shebitku and Taharqa (Piankhi's sons). The Nubian hold on Thebes was maintained through the female line when Shebitku married his aunt Amenirdis I (Piankhi and Shabaka's sister), the Divine Adoratrice of Amun. The office was to pass to their daughter, Shepenwepet II.

Related web Search :
  • Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh
  • Ancient Egyptian Kings
  • Ancient Egyptian Dynasties
  • Nubia
  • Ancient Nubia
  • Nubia Map
  • Nubia Africa
  • Nubia Kush

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