, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Ancient Assyria and Egyptian 25th Dynasty ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

April 23, 2012

Ancient Assyria and Egyptian 25th Dynasty

The Threat from Assyria
The history of the period is very much tied in with the rise and expansion of that other great Near Eastern power, Assyria. Whilst Shabaka had kept the Assyrian king Sargon II at bay, thanks largely to that ruler's problems in other areas such as Urartu (Armenia), Shebitku took a different stance and sided with a Palestinian/Phoenician revolt against the Assyrian overlords. The Assyrian king was now Sennacherib, who brooked no such interference, and the Levantine kings were soon brought to heel. Many events of these campaigns, including the siege and capture of Lachish, are graphically represented in the reliefs from Sennacherib's south-west palace at Nineveh (now in the British Museum). In order to save Jerusalem, the Judaean king Hezekiah surrendered to Sennacherib (Byron's 'wolf') whose opinion of Hezekiah's ally Egypt was to liken it to 'a broken reed'.

Granite sphinx of Taharqa from Kawa in Sudan

A brief respite followed for Egypt. Taharqa succeeded his brother Shebitku as pharaoh in 690 BC, and Sennacherib was assassinated in Nineveh in 681 BC, bringing his son, Esarhaddon, to the throne. Taharqa's name is the one most associated with the Kushite dynasty, largely because of his widespread building activities, the best known of which is the splendid re-erected column in the First Court of the temple of Amun at Karnak, just one of a series that formed a great portico kiosk. Not only did Taharqa build throughout Egypt, he was also extremely active in Nubia. At Kawa he virtually resurrected the abandoned site founded under Amenhotep III and dedicated to Amun. A vast complex was inaugurated there that took on important ritual connotations and was second only to the Gebel Barkal complex.

Taharqa's reign was one of confrontations with the Assyrians, the pendulum swinging first one way, then the other. At Ashkelon on the Egyptian/Palestinian border, Esarhaddon was repulsed in 673 by the combined forccs of the rebellious city and Egypt. In 671, however, the result went the other way. Esarhaddon then struck deep into Egypt, captured Memphis, the heir apparent and most of the royal family except Taharqa, who escaped south to Thebes. Another uprising in 669 saw Esarhaddon returning to Egypt, but he died on the road and was succeeded by his son, Ashurbanipal, who withdrew shortly thereafter. That was the signal for a renewed uprising, but Assyria exacted swift vengeance on the insurgents in the north of Egypt, executing all the local nobility save one, the future Necho I of the 26th Dynasty. Taharqa lost Memphis again, and then fled south and on past Thebes to his remote capital at Napata. Mentuemhet, Mayor of Thebes, was left to surrender to the Assyrian forces.

Assyria Map
Taharqa had not shared power with his predecessor Shabaka, but in 665 BC he recognized his cousin, Tanutamun, as his heir and co-regent, and died the next year. Tanutamun's vision was one of the resurgence of Nubian and Egyptian grandeur. The gods were with him, he must have thought, as he swept north, taking Aswan and Thebes and then Memphis itself. The story is inscribed on a stele from Gebel Barkal, narrating how, like Tuthmosis IV before him (p. 114), Tanutamun had a dream of greatness, was crowned at Napata and then realized the dream. The run of good fortune, however, was short-lived. Ashurbanipal reacted swiftly, Memphis fell yet again, and Tanutamun fled south. This time, however, the inconceivable happened: Thebes, jewel of Amun and the ancient world, was sacked and its huge temple treasury laid waste. Its fall was an object lesson to the whole of the ancient Near East, to be quoted for centuries by such as the Old Testament prophet Nahum when he mocked Nineveh's fall in 612 BC. The Assyrians nominally held Egypt but Tanutamun was secure in Napata: Ashurbanipal would not venture beyond the boundary at Aswan. Tanutamun's death in 656 BC extinguished the century-old Nubian domination of its old foe Egypt.

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