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 THE PERIOD OF THE DECLINE 
(1085BC to 333 BC)

 

 

During this period, Egypt was invaded several times and was ruled by a succession of foreign kings. After the separation of the kingdom into 2 parts (effected by the king of Yanis and the High Priests of Thebes) the Libyans seized the throne and the northern capital of Tanis to BUBASTIS.

Under the authority of the new Libyan king CHECHONQ Ist (who ruled the kingdom of the North from 950BC to 929BC), their religion suffered from the influence of the Berbers and the cat goddess Bastet became the great national goddess whom one associates with the lion goddess Sekmet. The new Berber king totally without scruples named his son High Priest of the Southern Kingdom and even built a grand new temple at Thebes to the goddess BASTET.

Egyptian dogma took a downward turn in its fundamental ethics; the cult of idols overshadowed that of Amon. Paradoxically it was CHECHONQ 1st who welcomed the Hebrew Jeroboam into the country, when his brother Roboam exiled him. Under cover of some bands of Bedouins who roamed the region of dried up lakes, CHECHONQ I invaded Gaza and laid siege to Jerusalem which to maintain its freedom was forced to deliver up the treasures of King Solomon to the invader. When he learned later of the plans of his supposed protector, Jeroboam tried in vain to escape while this usurper of the Egyptian throne advanced further and extended his suzerainty over Syria and Palestine in 925BC.

In 883, an extremely cruel king Assurnazirpal II came to the Assyrian throne whereas in Egypt the Libyan dynasty continued with the reign of Osorkon II (874 BC to 850BC). We have to wait until 730BC before we finally see the last king of the XXI St Libyan dynasty !

 


Statue of Assurbanipal

 

The troubled period of the kings of SAIS  (730BC to 525BC)

 

Tefnakht, a prince from Sais, dethroned the last Libyan king and having assumed power over the kingdom of the Delta hoped to also take over the kingdom of the South which was ruled by an Ethiopian king at that time, from his capital at NAPATA.

Alas, this failed and Tefnakht conceded to the Ethiopian king (named Piankhi) who returned to Napata, where he died in 716BC) His brother Chabaka succeeded him on the Ethiopian throne. In 689BC, the Ethiopian Taharga was named governor of Thebes. He established himself at Tanis, where he started a campaign of intrigue, which exasperated the Assyrians.

In 671BC, the Assyrian Assahardon took the possession of Memphis, taking the whole family of King TAHARQA prisoner. TAHARQA tried twice to reconquer the Delta but died in 664BC. His son Tanut-Amon succeeded him but the new Assyrian king Assurbanipal stopped his approach by cutting off the road to the south. This was the end of the reign of Ethiopian kings over Upper Egypt. Alas, the city of Memphis was retaken by the Assyrians and Thebes was completely sacked, and Necho lst was made king of the Delta by the Assyrians.

PSAMETIK 1st, the son of the now dead Necho, was named the ONE KING of the 2 Egyptian kingdoms, who believed him to be a submissive figurehead.

In 653BC, Psametik 1st took advantage of a war that delivered him Elam and Assyria, and hunted the Assyrians from his borders with the help of the soldiers of king GYGES of Lydia, and a large number of foreign mercenary soldiers. As under the Old Kingdom, Memphis again became the capital of the two kingdoms, and Sais replaced Heliopolis as the theological centre.

Nobles again buried themselves in necropoles at Saqqarah, or to the west of Thebes. Egypt seemed to be born again in its faith and its new found unity. In 627BC, the death of the king Assurbanipal triggered a war of succession, which was won by the king of the Chaldees, Nabopolassar. He took possession successively of Uruk, Sippar and even of Babylon, where he had himself proclaimed king in 616BC.

This same year (627BC), Scythians (fierce horsemen of the steppes) subdued the Medes (under whose authority they were), and continued to move in bands towards N. Assyria and Palestine. Psametik intervened then to stop their advance.

In 625BC, Cyaxare, the leader of the Medes murdered the Scythian chiefs at a feast to which he had invited them, and thus freed himself from their domination.

In 613BC: ASSUR, then NINEVAH (612BC) were invaded, robbed and destroyed.

In 610BC, Psametik 1st died, and Necho II followed him to the throne.

In 609BC, taking advantage of the downfall of Assyria, Necho II invaded Syria and Palestine, where he defeated Josias king of Jerusalem at Megiddo, who died in combat. Finding Joachaz, son of Josias, non-compliant to his wishes, he removed him in favor of his son Elyaquim (Joiaqim) who agreed to give over the spoils of war to Egypt.

Four years later, prince Nebuchadnesor II soundly defeated the Egyptians at Karkemish, then he pursued the fugitives to kill them.

After Nabopolassar had died, Nebuchadnesor II came to collect the spoils of war from Syria, Phoenicia (Lebanon) and Jerusalem. These countries therefore turned to Egypt for help, but it was in vain, as Necho II limited his borders to Gaza.

In 598BC, Joiaqim, the new king of Jerusalem, tried to liberate his people from the yoke of Babylonian. One year later Nebuchadnesor II took Jerusalem, stole the treasures of the temple and removed Joiaqim, giving the throne to his uncle Sedecias.

In 589BC, on the death of Psametik II, his son Khaaib-Re Apries, had to fight the Babylonians as soon as he became king. Nebuchadnesor II returned to lay siege to Jerusalem, which surrendered after two years! The Egyptian army, which had come to liberate Jerusalem had to retreat; and poor Sedecias, who was captured during his flight, watched his son being put to death, before having his own eyes put out.

This rout of Apries provoked a spirit of rebellion in Egypt, which degenerated into civil war, and the Egyptian Makimois mercenaries, who had been called to help the prince of Cyrene (being attacked by the Dorians) returned, they were in a pitiable state...

In 570BC, general Ahmose took power, and according to Herodotus, herded the dissident Greeks and Carians into the region of Naucratis. For some years Egypt experienced a time of peace and prosperity. Ahmose consolidated his friendship with the Greeks and king Cresus of Lydia. He was even going to finance the reconstruction of the temple to Apollo at Delphos, when he was burned to death in a fire in 548BC.

 

The domination of PERSIA over Egypt

 

In 526BC, Psametik IIIrd ascended to a shaky throne, however this same year, CAMBYSE II, who had just succeeded Cyrus II, marched into Egypt crushing the wretched Egyptian army at Peluse in the spring of 525BC. Psametik III took refuge in Memphis, his last bastion, which also fell in its turn. Psametik was taken in chains to Suse, and it is said that Cambyse had the unhappy bull APIS slaughtered, and whilst he ate it, he said "See how one eats the god of Egyptians..."

Oudjahorresne, a priest of Sais who had been in the service of the Persians, (teaching Cambyse about the Egyptian traditions), received from the king permission to clear the refuse and dirt cluttering the access to the temple of Neith (she was the mother of Re), and to re--establish the Egyptian traditional processions.

 

 
Archer of Darius 1st - king of Persia

 

On the death of Darius 1st in 486BC, his son XERXES 1st succeeded him as king. Egypt took advantage of this and rebelled, but unfortunately, this was short-lived.

In 465BC, ARTAXERXES 1st succeeded his dead father. Even though he had killed his brothers who were before him in the line of succession, he showed clemency towards the Jews, whom he allowed to return in groups to their land of Israel!

In 404BC, ARTAXERXES IInd (Mnemon), came to the imperial throne of Persia, and governed until 358BC. He could not prevent the uprising in the year 398BC, by the new Pharaoh NEPHERITES 1st of Mendes, who for a time liberated Egypt from the domination of Persia, and formed a military alliance with Athens.

The Pharaoh NECTANEBO 1st (reigned 378BC to 360BC) originally from Sbennytos in the delta of the Nile, successfully prevented an offensive by the Persian army.

His successor and great-nephew NECTANEBO II made a new alliance with the Greeks, to stop the army of the conqueror Artaxerxes III (351BC), but he could not prevent a new assault by the Persians (in 342BC), and had to flee for shelter in the hills of Upper Egypt. He was the last independent Egyptian pharaoh.

From 336BC to 330BC, DARIUS III (Codoman), ruled over Egypt, but the army of ALEXANDER III the GREAT invaded Persia in 333BC, and then soundly defeated the army of Darius III at Gargameles in 331BC.

 


Bust of Alexander the Great

 

The GREEK domination of Egypt

 

In the autumn of 330BC, the SELEUCID governor Mazakes handed over the province of Egypt to ALEXANDER III without combat! Alexander, whose dream was to unite all peoples, was welcomed by Egyptians as a liberator, but he died in Babylon at the age of 32! His power-hungry successors pursued a terrible war, which continued until they were overpowered by the Romans. In fact, at his accession, Cassander, the new king of Macedonia, killed Olympia, (the mother of Alexander the Great), Roxane, (his wife) and Alexander IV, (his son).

In Egypt, his general, the son of Lagos, founded the first Greek dynasty, and took the name of PTOLEMY 1st, in 323BC. He made his capital in Alexandria, in Upper Egypt and there created a new religious capital Ptolemais to diminish the role of Memphis.

Even though several great temples, such those at Edfou, Denderah, Esna, Kom-Ombo and the temple to Isis at Philae were rebuilt, they had to accept the birth of the new god Serapis, (whose origin was the bull APIS that become Osiris on his death), and was transformed into Zeus - the chief of all the gods...

We now find ourselves far removed from the religious spirit of Imhotep and the Pyramid builders! Moreover, the people of Israel were not safe either : the Seleucid Antiochos IV wanting to Hellenise Jerusalem, went as far as sacrificing the blood of a pig on the sacred altar, then by stealing the treasures of the temple provoked a Jewish revolt by Mattathias Macchabea and his four sons who would found the dynasty of the Asmonian princes.

In Egypt, Ptolemy II, (285BC to 246BC), the son and successor of Ptolemy II, rejected his first wife to marry his sister! The brother and sister insisted on being deified.....Then Ptolemy IV (the debauched) murdered all his family...

As this Greek dynasty came to favour more and more its own colonists, the Egyptians rebelled first in Alexandria, then in Thebes in Upper Egypt... Ptolemy XII who reigned from 80BC to 58BC, and 55BC to 51BC, let the Roman seize the island of Cyprus and had to flee from their threat! Even though the Roman gave him back his throne, he died 3 years later, leaving his throne to PTOLEMY XIII (aged ten!) He had just married his eldest sister Cleopatra VII, aged seventeen years! Believing to please to Caesar, the young Pharaoh decapitated Pompey, and sent the head to Caesar, who burst into tears. Then the young Pharaoh chased Cleopatra his sister, and wife of Alexander.

 

The ROMAN domination of Egypt

 

Caesar became the lover of Cleopatra, hunted down her brother and killed him in a fight. Cleopatra was ambitious, greedy and very possessive. When Caesar was murdered, Cleopatra VII (without scruples) gave himself to Mark Antony, and made him believe that he was her great love! Mark Antony renounced his wife Octavia, (sister of Octavius) and abandoned her to Actium where he had to confront Octavius, who had come to settle his account. By ordering her general to withdraw his fleet, Cleopatra offered to Octavius the defeat of Mark Antony. He committed suicide on hearing the false rumor of the death of Cleopatra.

 


Queen Cleopatra

 

In her turn, Cleopatra preferred death rather than return to Rome in chains like a slave behind the triumphant chariot of Octavius... Cesarion, (the son of Cleopatra and Caesar) was murdered by the order of Octavius, who became the great emperor AUGUSTUS, who reigned henceforth over all the Empire of Rome, of which Egypt was only a small Province...

For a long time, the images of Osiris and Isis continued to live in the spirit of these people who were completely dominated by their occupying power. But when the Coptic religion (Eastern Christianity) became the religion of the state, the temples were demolished or transformed into rubbish dumps. Only on the arrival of J. Fr. CHAMPOLLION in 1822, were the old hieroglyphic writings deciphered; but some still remain hidden under the sands of Egypt.

 

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