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 The 11th Dynasty and the beginning
of the Middle Kingdom at Thebes

 

 

After KHETI IVth had reigned for 15 years, king MENTOUHOTEP 1st ruled for about 20 years, and moved the capital to Thebes. This king’s name contains the name Hotep (peace) as well as the name of the god MONTOU of Ermant, a warlike god whose forehead was adorned with two uraeus around a solar disc.

After the ancient goddess Tjennet, (whose headdress was a cow’s uterus) , the goddess RATTAOUY, (a feminine element who fertilized both countries), was chosen to be the partner of the god Montou.

In order to end this unstable political period, Egyptians looked among their ancestors for a force to reestablish authority. The new pharaoh found the image of the god MONTOU (an ancient divinity associated with the victorious sun and accompanied by 2 dangerous snakes with mortal wounds). He used these to impose his law and reunite the two kingdoms under one authority. Thus ERMANT became the Heliopolis of the south.

These ideas of the defied pharaoh KHETI IVth continued with Mentouhotep the 1st, who built a grandiose funeral temple at Deir el Bahari, with a pyramid and porticos.

The cult of Montou only lasted for about a hundred years, and soon the clergy preferred the choice of Thebes over Ermant as the new religious capital, which would be consecrated to the great hidden god AMON, who reigned above all the gods of Egypt.

The name Atoum of Heliopolis became AMON of THEBES, but the role and attributes of the two gods remained almost identical

 

The XIIth DYNASTY in the MIDDLE KINGDOM

 

Among the seven kings of the XIIth dynasty we shall mention only three whose religious life is interesting to us:

Amenemhat 1st, (In Greek Amenemes,) who reigned from 1991 to 1962 BC.

He had been a former vizier of Mentouhotep 1V and owed his accession to the Egyptian throne to popular support. An intelligent and farseeing man, he built many fortresses to prevent the Asiatic invasion from penetrating as far as the Nile Delta. He pushed back the borders of Nubia as far as the Sudan, and provisionally transferred the Capital of the Kingdom from Thebes to Licht (between Memphis and Fayoum).

The most remarkable thing about him may be his name which means "AMON is at the summit". This king thus supported the cult of AMON-RE (to the detriment of Montou.) The clergy at Thebes grew in number and influence to celebrate the cult and glory of AMON-RE.

The Papyrus SALLIER 1 and 2, edited by Qugaboui, the scribe of the double royal treasure resumes the ideas of Amenemhat 1st, who addressed his son SESOSTRIS lst posthumously. Amenemhat had a violent death during a conspiracy at the palace:

" I have always given to the beggar,
helped the poor, improved the lot of those who had nothing,
But those who ate my bread have risen up against me.
Thus destroying evil as ATOUM did...

(Despite the fact that the king is called "AMON is at the summit", the reference to ATOUM shows the parity that existed between the two gods, who became one entity, with different name forms) :

Rebuilding that which was in ruins,
I have returned to each town that which it had before,
I have restored everything to its previous grandeur
For the love of justice (But they have conspired againt me!) "

Thus one sees why Sesostris 1st (who ruled for 34 years) was the first king to allow his son and hir Amenemhat II to join him in power during this life and reign.

AMENENHAT II
He also ruled for 34 years during which he attacked the Asian forces in the country, and subdued Canaan, pushing its frontiers as far as Meggido and Ugarit in Syria.

SESOSTRIS III
This reign was the apogee of the Middle Kingdom. He built fortifications right into the heart of what is now Palestine, and when he found that some were conspiring against him, he cut short the rumours by killing those responsible for the plot..

 

The period of Invasion of the Middle East

 

This was not something new, as around 1700BC the Nomadic tribes (the Aryans) invaded India to settle on the banks of the Indus. Like the Hyskos, their chief god was that of lightening (which they feared and worshipped at the same time).

Let us recall that in Mesopotamia the great king HAMMURABI of Babylon (who ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC) had seized Uruk, Ur, Malgum and above all Mari (whose ramparts he destroyed). Then he issued his code of social justice protecting the poor, the widows and orphans. During his reign the building of the immense Tower of Babel was started with its hundreds of temples. The temple of Marduk (the king of the Babylonian gods) was the crowning glory of these buildings.

Babylon had a century and a half of peace, then suddenly the northern frontiers were attacked by hordes of invaders : the Hittites, who burned and sacked the small towns north of the Euphrates. Recently installed in Anatolia, they and their king Moursil 1st, ventured to lay to siege to the mighty Babylon. Unfortunately, despite its great fortifications, the capital fell amid rivers of blood and severed heads. Thousands of women and children were taken to the Hittite capital of Hattousas as slaves.

Moursil was King, Chief Judge and High Priest to his people, and imposed a cult of two sun gods. Like the HYKSOS, they had learned to use iron to build war chariots which gave them an advantage over their adversaries.

Taking advantage of the confusion and disarray, the Hurians invaded Assyria and settled there. Less savage than the indigenous people, they cultivated the land and rebuilt the ruined temples.

Around this time there was a third kingdom which was later called "the Mitanni" which enslaved the Assyrians until 1336 BC.

 

The HYKSOS INVASION or the 2nd Intermediate Period

 

In the year 1785BC, the XIIth dynasty ended, and the XIIIth dynasty in Thebes started badly. Royal power was weakened by internal struggles and the situation resembled that in the 1st Intermediate Period. Again the northern frontiers were threatened by invasion from tribes from the east, (from the Caucasus and Palestine) to conquer the Delta areas. According to certain historians they had a weapon unknown to the Egyptians : war chariots pulled by one or two horses giving them a great advantage in combat.

These were the HYKSOS, and they quickly disposed of the Asiatic troops (Syrian and Canaanite); and fired with power, gave their masters a lesson in return for their previous burden of slavery.

The Hyksos made their capital at AVARIS, a town in the Nile Delta. Besides worshipping the ancient god Set, they honored their god of lightning SOUTHEKOU, whom certain people assimilated with the Canaanite god Baal. Happily they allowed their kings to have the name "Re" and tried to integrate with the Egyptians.

This was a dark period for Egypt, with its historical dates rather blurred, as the kingdom of the South was reduced to 8 nomes situated between Elephantine and Abydos; (however, Manethon says that 34 kings succeeded each other, each incapable of ruling.) Foreign domination in Egypt would last 2 centuries, and even the high plateaux of Nubia declared themselves to be an independent country . Not until 1580BC did the Egyptians achieve the first victory over foreign invaders.

However, this harsh victory took the life of pharaoh SEKENENRE. His son KAMES (or Kamosis) succeeded him and resumed the hostilities against the Hyksos. He marched as far down as Nefrousy and made a surprise attack at dawn on Teti, the son of Pepi..... The King AOUSERRE of Avaris therefore sent a message to the Nubian king of Kouch to ask for aid but the letter was intercepted by KAMOSIS and never reached its destination .

Nevertheless the reconquest would be long and it was not until the reign of AHMOSIS (who succeeded Kamose) that the reconquest of the kingdom was complete.

 

The end of the second Intermediate Period

 

After preparing an offensive for 11 years, starting at the beginning of his reign, King AHMES 1st , in Greek AHMOSIS, (reigning from 1570 to 1546 BC), initially put down the revolt by the governors of the nomes by transforming them into royal administrators. By then being quite confident of his army, he attacked the descendants of the Hyksos, chasing them out of Memphis. Beaten, they retreated north of the Delta.

After taking AVARIS in the 16th year of his reign, the army of Ahmes 1st took the fortress of Charouhen in the south-west of Canaan. This fortress had been the real base of the Hyksos who were then forced to flee into the neighboring countries.

 

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