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Dynasties of Ancient Egypt
Predynastic Period
Protodynastic Period
Early Dynastic Period
1st 2nd
Old Kingdom
3rd 4th 5th 6th
First Intermediate Period
7th 8th 9th 10th
11th (Thebes only)
Middle Kingdom
11th (All Egypt)
12th 13th 14th
Second Intermediate Period
15th 16th 17th
New Kingdom
18th 19th 20th
Third Intermediate Period
21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Late Period
26th 27th 28th
29th 30th 31st
Graeco-Roman Period
Alexander the Great
Ptolemaic Dynasty

The Third Intermediate Period refers to the time in Ancient Egypt from the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in 1070 BC to the foundation of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty by Psamtik I in 664 BC, following the expulsion of the Nubian rulers of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty.

Political developments

This period is characterized by the country's fracturing kingship. Even in Ramesses's day, his dynasty (the Twentieth) was losing its grip on power in the city of Thebes, whose priests were becoming increasingly powerful. After his death, his successor Smendes I ruled from the city of Tanis, and High Priests of Amun at Thebes ruling the south of the country. In fact this division is 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 I in 945 BC (or 943 BC), whom many, especially those adhering to the vaidity of the Bible, think was descended from Meshwesh immigrants, while others, particularly Nubiologists (those researching Nubia), have proposed that he was a Nubian. 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 III of the Twenty-Second Dynasty controlling Lower Egypt by 818 BC while Takelot II and 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 found the Upper Egyptian Libyan Dynasty of Osorkon IIITakelot 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.

The Nubian kingdom 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 BC his successor, Piye, marched North and defeated the combined might of several native Egyptian rulers such as Peftjaubast, Osorkon IV of Tanis, and Tefnakht of Sais. Piye established the Twenty-fifth Dynasty and appinted the defeated rulers as his provincial governors. He was succeeded first by his brother, Shabaka, and then by his two sons Shebitku and Taharqa.

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 Assyria and from about 700 BC the question became when, not if, there would be war between the two states. Taharqa's reign and that of his successor, (his cousin) Tanutamun, were filled with constant conflict with the Assyrians against whom there were numerous victories, but ultimately Thebes was occupied and Memphis 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 I was 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 unparalled peace and prosperity from 610-526 BC. Unfortunately for his dynasty, a new power was growing in the Near East – Persia. Pharaoh Psamtik III had succeeded his father Ahmose II scarcely a year in 526 BC before he had to face the might of Persia at Pelusium. The Persians had already taken Babylon and Egypt was no match. Psamtik was defeated and briefly escaped to Memphis, but ultimately he was imprisoned and executed at Susa, capital of the Persian king Cambyses, who now assumed the formal title of Pharaoh.

Historiography

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 chronology but 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 Rohl have novel or controversial theories about the family relationships of the dynasties comprising the period.

Bibliography

  • 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. [1996]. 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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