- Third Intermediate Period of Egypt
The Third Intermediate Period refers to the time in
Ancient Egyptfrom the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XIin 1070 BCto the foundation of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty by Psamtik Iin 664 BC, following the expulsion of the Nubian rulers of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty.
This period is characterized by the country's fracturing kingship. Even in Ramesses' day, the Twentieth dynasty was losing its grip on power in the city of Thebes, whose priests were becoming increasingly powerful. After his death, his successor
Smendes Iruled from the city of Tanis, and the High Priests of Amun at Thebesruling the south of the country. In fact, this division was less significant than it seems, since both priests and pharaohs came from the same family.
The country was firmly reunited by the Twenty-Second Dynasty founded by
Shoshenq Iin 945 BC(or 943 BC), who descended from Meshweshimmigrants, originally from Ancient Libya. This brought stability to the country for well over a century, but after the reign of Osorkon II, particularly, the country had effectively splintered into two states with Shoshenq IIIof the Twenty-Second Dynasty controlling Lower Egypt by 818 BCwhile Takelot IIand his son Osorkon B(the future Osorkon III) ruled Middle and Upper Egypt. In Thebes, a civil war engulfed the city between the forces of Pedubast, who had proclaimed himself Pharaoh versus the existing line of Takelot II/Osorkon B. These two factions squabbled consistently and the conflict was only resolved in Year 39 of Shoshenq III when Osorkon B comprehensively defeated his enemies. He proceeded to find the Upper Egyptian Libyan Dynasty of Osorkon III– Takelot III– Rudamun, but this kingdom quickly fragmented after Rudamun's death with the rise of local city states under kings such Peftjaubast of Herakleopolis, Nimlot of Hermopolis, and Ini at Thebes.
Nubiankingdom to the south took full advantage of this division and political instability. Prior to Piye's Year 20 campaign into Egypt, the previous Nubian ruler – Kashta– had already extended his kingdom's influence over into Thebes when he compelled Shepenupet, the serving Divine Adoratice of Amun and Takelot III's sister, to adopt his own daughter Amenirdis, to be her successor. Then, 20 years later, around 732 BChis successor, Piye, marched North and defeated the combined might of several native Egyptian rulers butt Peftjaubast, Osorkon IV of Tanis, Iuput IIof Leontopolis and Tefnakhtof Sais. Piye established the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty and appointed the defeated rulers as his provincial governors. He was succeeded first by his brother, Shabaka, and then by his two sons Shebitkuand Taharqarespectively.
The international prestige of Egypt had declined considerably by this time. The country's international allies had fallen firmly into the sphere of influence of
Assyriaand from about 700 BCthe question became when, not if, there would be war between the two states. Despite Egypt's size and wealth, Assyria had a greater supply of timber, while Egypt had a chronic shortage, allowing Assyria to produce more charcoal needed for iron-smelting and thus giving Assyria a greater supply of iron weaponry. This disparity became critical during the Assyrian invasion of Egypt in 670 BC.cite book |last=Shillington |first=Kevin |title=History of Africa |year=2005 |publisher=Macmillan Education |location=Oxford |isbn=0-333-59957-8 |pages=p. 40]
Taharqa's reign and that of his successor, (his cousin) Tanutamun, were filled with constant conflict with the Assyrians. Despite numerous victories against the Assyrians, Thebes was eventually occupied and Memphis was sacked. The dynasty ended with its rulers stuck in the relative backwater of the city of Napata.
Instead Egypt was ruled (from
664 BC, a full eight years prior to Tanutamun's death) by the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, client kings established by the Assyrians. Psamtik Iwas the first to be recognised by them as the King of the whole of Egypt, and he brought increased stability to the country in a 54 year reign from the city of Sais. Four successive Saite kings continued guiding Egypt into another period of unparalleled peace and prosperity from 610-526 BC. Unfortunately for his dynasty, a new power was growing in the Near East – Persia. Pharaoh Psamtik IIIhad succeeded his father Ahmose IIfor only 6 months before he had to face the Persian Empire at Pelusium. The Persians had already taken Babylonand Egypt was no match. Psamtik was defeated and briefly escaped to Memphis, before he was ultimately imprisoned and, later, executed at Susa, the capital of the Persian king Cambyses, who now assumed the formal title of Pharaoh.
The historiography of this period is disputed for a variety of reasons. Firstly there is a dispute about the utility of a very artificial term that covers an extremely long and complicated period of Egyptian history. The Third Intermediate period includes long periods of stability as well as chronic instability and civil conflict: its very name rather clouds this fact. Secondly there are significant problems of chronology stemming from several areas: first, there are the difficulties in dating common to all of
Egyptian chronologybut these are compounded due to synchronsyms with Biblical Archaeology that also contain heavily disputed dates. Finally, some Egyptologists and biblical scholars, such as Kenneth Kitchen, or David Rohlhave novel or controversial theories about the family relationships of the dynasties comprising the period.
* Dodson, Aidan Mark. 2001. “Third Intermediate Period.” In "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt", edited by Donald Bruce Redford. Vol. 3 of 3 vols. Oxford, New York, and Cairo: Oxford University Press and The American University in Cairo Press. 388–394.
* Kitchen, Kenneth Anderson.  . "The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC)". 3rd ed. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Limited.
* Myśliwiec, Karol. 2000. "The Twighlight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E." Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
* Taylor, John H. 2000. “The Third Intermediate Period (1069–664 BC).” In "The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt", edited by Ian Shaw. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 330–368.
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