The 18th Dynasty - The Glory that was Egypt

ahmose pharaoh 18th dynastyKing Ahmose is traditionally known as the founder of the 18th Dynasty, the first king of the New Kingdom, as he was the first of his family who ruled in Egypt without any opposition. The historical texts explain that Kamose did not complete the expulsion of the Hyksos, having died before he could finish the task. It was up to Ahmose to free the Two Lands of foreign domination.

Once he expelled the Hyksos, Ahmose faced the task of consolidating the borders of Egypt, which he achieved through a series of quick campaigns that sealed the Syrian frontier and subjected Nubia (Kush).

Ahmose reigned for 25 years, built temples and gave power and land to his subordinates.

The Hyksos were an emigrant people who settled in northern Egypt and gradually gained hyksos horse and chariotpolitical power, so that by 1600 B. C., Lower Egypt was ruled by them. Their first king, Salitis, established his kingdom in Memphis, but then moved the capital to the city of Avaris. Hyksos is the hellenized term for the Egyptian name "heqa khasewet", which means Alien Rulers. They are credited for introducing the horse and chariot to Egypt. It took the Egyptians nearly a century to expel them to what is now Israel's border with Syria. Avaris was totally destroyed by Ahmose.

Reunification of the Two Lands
All of Egypt was again ruled by one king, from the new capital city of Thebes, present day Luxor. Ahmose I strengthened the economic system, restored trade with other countries, rebuilt temples and government buildings destroyed during the war and rewarded those who supported him in the war of liberation.

Military Conquests and Economic Prosperity
Pharaoh Ahmose was not satisfied to just expel the Hyksos from Egypt. He invaded the kingdom of Nubia to the south and the various kingdoms of Canaan to the north, destroying the old allies of the Hyksos and capturing a large booty. These military conquests made an empire of Egypt. Tributes from conquered peoples and the trade with Nubia, Syria, Phoenicia, Crete, Cyprus and the Aegean islands brought great wealth to Egypt.

Amenhotep I, successor of Ahmose, fought against the Libyans and moved southward up the Nile river across Nubia, reaching the second cataract.

In his many campaigns, Thutmose I advanced his troops beyond the fourth cataract of the Nile in Upper Nubia, and in the Middle East came to contemplate the banks of the Euphrates while battling against the peoples of Syria and the nascent Mitanni Empire.

Thutmose II had a very brief reign, which his stepsister Hatshepsut, direct descendant of the great pharaohs liberators of the Hyksos, saw as an opportunity to ascend to the throne of Egypt and become the first great woman in history.

As pharaoh, Hatshepsut did not participate in military campaigns of great consequence, but embarked on a major trade expedition which brought in valuable trees of frankincense and myrrh, strange animal species never before seen and generous cargoes of gold, ivory, ebony and other precious woods that significantly enriched the royal and temple coffers.

ancient egypt map empire 18th dynastyUpon the death of Hatshepsut, Thutmose III was at last sole king of Egypt. In the 34 years that Thutmose III ruled completely alone, he launched numerous campaigns, both in the Middle East and in Nubia and emulating his grandfather, the great Thutmose I, conducted numerous conquests. The "Napoleon of Egypt" conducted at least 17 military campaigns in Palestine and Syria, and reached the Euphrates. Under his reign Egypt achieved its maximum territorial extension, with dominion over Syria, Palestine, the Sinai and throughout Nubia.

The reign of Amenhotep III can be described as the most prosperous in the entire history of Egypt, because it was immediately after the glorious Asian campaigns of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II. The stability achieved by his predecessors brought an era of unprecedented prosperity due to taxes imposed on the vanquished peoples. Egypt was, arguably, the major power in the area. Peace also favored trade, an additional source of wealth.

Akhenaten, his son and successor, was more concerned over issues of religious policy. During his reign, the Hittites, in alliance with its Amorite and Babylonian neighbors took this opportunity to revolt and advance to the very borders of Egypt. All the Assyrian colonies were lost.

There are no known military campaigns carried out during the reign of Tutankhamen.

Horemheb was the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. He was a descendant of an old aristocratic family, although not related to any member of the royal family. During the reign of Akhenaten, Horemheb was the commander of the troops and one of the leaders of the army. He tried to recover the country's international influence, by undertaking the conquest of southern Palestine and planning the future invasion of Syria. Horemheb has gone down in history as a king who ruled with an iron hand and a certain toughness, but managed to stabilize the running of government, very abandoned since the time of Akhenaten.

The priestly class was one that most benefited with the conquests and the reunification of Upper and Lower Egypt, especially that of Thebes, dedicated to the cult of Amen. As an Egyptian steward of patriotism, Amen went from being a local deity to almighty god of Egypt, identified with Re, the god of gods (ntr ntrw). Great wealth in gold and wheat were administered by the priests of the Temple of Amen at Karnak.

All the kings of the 18th Dynasty, with the exception of Akhenaten, made generous donations to the god Amen of Thebes. Hatshepsut, in particular, owed much to the priests of Amen because without their help, it would not have been possible for her to ascend the throne as pharaoh.

Hatshepsut had succeeded, with great gifts, in securing the support of the clergy of Amen, and now the priests were too powerful. Thutmose III further expanded their domains, but also limited their influence by appointing friends as high priests.

The power of the clergy of Amen was too great and already beginning to compete with that of the pharaoh. Therefore, instead of doing as his predecessors, who legitimized their kingship by the intercession of Amen, Thutmose IV opted to declare that the god Re assured him in a dream by the Great Sphinx, That Thutmose would become pharaoh if he removed the sands that have covered much of the long forgotten monument. That legend is written in the Thutmose Stella presently located between the paws of the Sphinx.

Thutmose IV died young, and he was succeeded by his eldest son, Amenhotep III, who continued to worship Re and the solar disc Aten, while pleasing the priestly class of Amen with additions to the temple of Karnak and the construction of the temple of Luxor. By then, both temple complexes had achieved most of the grandiose dimensions we see today. Ramses the Great of the 19th Dynasty would later on built the great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak and the front courtyard and present facade of the Temple of Luxor.

Akhenaten came to the throne with the same name of his father, Amenhotep (Amen is satisfied). However, after four or five year of kinship, as a result of his religious reform, the pharaoh changed his name to the Akh-en-Aten, which means "Pleasing to Aten."

relief akhenaten familiy with solar disk atenTo oppose the power of the priestly class, Akhenaten reformed after four or five year reign with a new monotheistic cult around the life giving light of Re, called Aten, represented as a large winged solar disk, with radiating arms holding the ankh sign of life. Aten was a universal god, creator of all things and preceding the world. The pharaoh was the only prophet of God and his intercessor.

He ordered to close all the temples of the god Amen. The priests were removed of their privileges and their possessions confiscated. As High Priest of Aten, Akhenaten did not accept the authority of the high priest of Amen, who had great religious and political power, and also abolished the worship of Osiris, as life after death depended on loyalty to the pharaoh. People secretly continued worshiping the old gods, though.

After his death, the crown went to the young Tutankhaten. He would have been about nine years old, thus it was easy for officials to cancel all previous reforms, and within four or five year of his reign, the new pharaoh had already changed his name to Tutankhamen, He rehabilitated the temples of Karnak and the worship of gods since time immemorial was restored, along with the priestly caste.

Art and Culture
In his last regnal year, Ahmose began an intense architectural and artistic activity, ordering ten percent of the revenue to be used for the expansion and beautification of temples. His successor, Amenhotep I, founded the city of artisans and builders of tombs, known today as Deir el-Medina.

Thutmose I, the successor of Amenhotep I, was the first pharaoh to be buried in the Valley of the Kings, where the largest number of tombs of the greatest pharaohs of Egypt are located, one of the main tourist destinations and principal center of archaeological research in the world today.

hatshepsut temple deir el bahariDuring the reign of Hatshepsut, Egypt enjoyed one of his greatest moments of prosperity. The female pharaoh order the construction of the largest obelisks that had been erected in Egypt until then. One of the jewels of Egyptian architecture is the funerary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, a structure in the form of long terraces and ramps which is among the destinations most visited by tourists.

Thutmose III ordered the expansion of the temple complex of Amen at Karnak, leaving long inscriptions disclosing his military campaigns and donations made to the temple. He also had seven large obelisks erected at Karnak, which were subsequently transferred to the Western capitals of Rome, Istanbul, London and New York.

The reign of Amenhotep III coincided with a time of peace, prosperity and artistic splendor. The pharaoh conducted numerous building projects in Karnak and oversaw the construction of the temple of Luxor, a monumental building of extraordinary elegant proportions and beauty. His funerary temple, situated on the west bank of the Nile River was at its time the largest religious complex of Thebes. Unfortunately, it was built in an area that suffers continuous flooding. The legendary Colossi of Memnon, two statues, 18 meters high, which were situated at the entrance to the complex, are the only standing remnants of that fabulous complex.

During the reign of his son Akhenaten there was a radical change in ancient Egyptian art. The human representations became much more realistic and the strict conventions used until then were abandoned. This break from tradition in Egyptian art is known as the Amarna style.

Category: Ancient Egypt

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Ahmose I Nebpehtyra-Ahmose
Frees Egypt from the Hyksos and reunifies the Two Lands
1552-1527 BC
Amenhotep I Dyeserkara-Amenhotep
Conducts campaigns abroad and founds the city of tomb builders known as Deir el-Medina
1527-1506 BC
Thutmose I Aakhjeperkara-Thutmose
His expansionist policy leads him to the fourth cataract and the banks of the Euphrates. He founds the Valley of the Kings
1506-1493 BC
Thutmose II Aakheperenra-Thutmose
Little-known King, reigned from 4 to 13 years
1493-1489 BC
Hatshepsut Maatkara-Hatshepsut
Expedition to Punt. Intense construction work including the temple of Deir el-Bahari 1489-1467 BC
Thutmose III Menkheperre-Thutmose
Great Conqueror: Egypt reaches its maximum expansion
1489-1435 BC
Amenhotep II Aakheperura-Amenhotep
Continues the work of his father
1437-1411 BC
Thutmose IV Menkheperura-Thutmose
The Royal House begins to show preference for sun worship at the expense of the priests of Amen
1411-1401 BC
Amenhotep III Nebmaatra-Amenhotep
Egypt reaches its zenith. Temple of Luxor and Colossi of Memnon
1401-1363 BC
Amenhotep IV / Akhenaten Neferkheperura-Amenhotep / Akhenaten
Amarna. Exclusive worship of the solar disc Aten, relocation of the capital and weakening of the empire
1365-1348 BC
Neferneferuaten (Nefertiti) AnKh (et) Kheperura-Neferneferuaten
Wife and coregent of Akhenaten
1353-1351 BC
Smenkhare Ankheperura-Smenkhare
Last coregent of Akhenaten, perhaps Nefertiti with a name change
1351-1347 BC
Tutankhamen Nebkheperura-Tutankhamen
Return of government to Thebes and the ancient gods. Restoration of damaged temples
1347-1338 BC
Ay (II)-Ay KheperKheperura
The military class and the priests of Amen regain control
1338-1334 BC
Horemheb Dyeserkheperura-Horemheb
Persecution of the five previous rulers. Recovery of Palestine
1334-1305 BC