Perhaps no city in the world has bequeathed to us more numerous nor mightier monuments than Thebes. The ancient city stood on both sides of the Nile, and few spots in Egypt are so ideally suited to such a purpose. The range of hills to the east and west curve away from the river’s bank leaving broad plains on either side. Here marvellous monuments were raised in honour of Amon-Ra.
It was only after the collapse of the Old Kingdom, when the country had passed through the period of disorder known as the First Intermediate Period, that a noble family from Armant, a village south of Luxor, began to assert themselves. They had already shown their powers of leadership by distributing grain between various provinces in times of low flood, and towards the end of the ioth Dynasty (2133 BC), they annexed Luxor and moved northwards. Their aim was to reunite the Two Lands and take over leadership.
At this time another powerful family from the Fayoum area ruled from Memphis to Assiut, and aware of the aspirations of the Theban family, they moved their forces to meet them. The result was a long and bitter struggle. However, the Thebans emerged victorious, reunited the Two Lands, and launched Egypt on its second great period: the Middle Kingdom.
It was only after the Hyksos occupation and expulsion that Luxor and its local god achieved prestige, and then on a scale never imagined. For, after the Thebans (Kamose followed by his brother Ahmose, father of the New Kingdom) won the war of liberation, they not only drove the hated occupiers out of Egypt but swore to avenge their country for its suffering. They followed the enemy into Asia, and the age of conquest began.
The New Kingdom (1567-1080 BC) was the empire period. Thutmose I extended Egypt’s southern border towards Kush (page128) and Thutmose III established Egyptian supremacy in Asia Minor and all the neighbouring countries. As trade flourished, Luxor became paramount among the cities of Egypt. Caravans from the conquered territories, laden with gold and silver, precious metals, ivory, timber, spices, rare flora and fauna, made their way to Upper Egypt.
The priests of Amon-Ra, into whose hands a vast portion of the wealth was pouring acquired increasing influence, and the pharaohs ordered the construction of marvellous monuments in honour of their god. They declared that Amon-Ra was not only ‘God of Karnak’ and ‘God of Thebes’, but was, in fact, the ‘King of Gods’, and that their priesthood was second to none.