A statue of the final Egyptian God’s Wife of Amun at Thebes, Ankhenesneferibre (from Pinterest)
A Short History of Egypt – to about 1970
[Unknown Student, Stanford University]
Chapter 9. – The Decline of the Empire.
By 1085 B.C. the great days of Egypt were over. Except for an interlude in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. the seven and a half centuries from 1085 B.C, to the conquest by Alexander the Great [Murderer] was a period of internal disunity and foreign Nomination.
The approximate chronology of this period is as follows
1085 – 945. Twenty first Dynasty – divided rule.
944 – 715. Twenty second to Twenty fourth Dynasties – divided rule and Libyan control.
715 – 664. Twenty fifth (Ethiopian) Dynasty.
664 – 525. Twenty sixth (Egyptian – Saite) Dynasty. Renaissance of Egyptian culture and power.
525 – 404. Twenty seventh (Persian) Dynasty.
404 – 343. Twenty eighth to Thirtieth Dynasties. Some degree of independence from Persia.
343 – 332. Thirty first (Persian) Dynasty.
332 B.C. Conquest by Alexander the [Greek].
The Twenty first Dynasty – nobles of Tanis in the delta – strove for authority against the priests of Amun in Thebes. The Twenty second to Twenty fourth Dynasties was a further period of divided rule, during which Libyan chiefs who had been employed in the Egyptian army founded a Libyan dynasty with their capital at Bubastis in the delta. Then came the conquest of Egypt by the Kings of Cush (in Nubia) who ruled as the “Ethiopian” Dynasty. These kings, whose capital was at Napata, were not Ethiopians in the modern sense – they were not from Abyssinia. In those days the land known to the Greeks as Ethiopia included Nubia.
Under the Ethiopian Dynasty there was some revival of prosperity, and of religious cults under the priests of Amun. But in an attempt to extend their realm into Palestine the Ethiopians came into conflict with the military might of Assyria, then at the peak of its power. They were driven back, and in 661 B.C. Ashurbanipal of Assyria conquered Egypt. But Assyrian power, which was soon to be overthrown by
the Medes and the Chaldeans, was short lived in Egypt. Psamtik, son of the Governor of Sais (in the delta) appointed by Ashurbanipal, rebelled against the Assyrians and drove them out, and established the Twenty sixth (Saite) Dynasty.
In the Saite period Egypt recovered her status as an independent nation and one of the world’s reading civilisations. There was a renaissance of art and architecture, the masterpieces of the Old and Middle Kingdoms being deliberately imitated. Trade revived, and Egypt became once more prosperous. Psamtik I, who reigned from about 663 to 610 B.C, initiated this revival; and it was carried on by his son Necho,
during whose reign (610-595) a Phoenician expedition, commissioned by him, successfully circumnavigated Africa in the course of three years.
Necho also tried to regain Egypt’s lost Asian empire. He conquered Judea by his victory over Josiah at Megiddo (609 B.C.), but his army was routed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon at Carchemish (in Syria) and driven out of Asia. Military ventures by Necho’s successors were likewise unsuccessful.
A feature of the Saite Dynasty was the close relationship with the Greek city states and Lydia in Asia Minor. Greek merchants were encouraged to come to Egypt, where a purely Greek city, Naucratis, became the main commercial Centre of the kingdom. Greek mercenaries served in the Pharaoh’s army; and one of the last Pharaohs of the dynasty, Amaris, married a Greek princess. Greek scholars studied at the university at Memphis, famous for its medical school. And Egyptian forms and methods had a considerable influence on Greek art and architecture.
The Saite era was brought to an end by the appearance on the world scene in 550 B.C. of a new great power – the Persian Empire, created by Cyrus the Great. Lydia, Chaldean Babylonia, and Egypt combined to oppose him, to no avail. By 546 B.C. Cyrus had conquered Lydia (taking King Croesus prisoner), and in 538 B.C.
Babylonia and its dependencies Syria and Palestine submitted to him. Shortly before his death in 529 B.C. Cyrus put his son Cambyses in charge of his plans to conquer Egypt. Cambyses duly achieved this with the defeat of the Pharaoh Psamtik III at Pelusium, at the eastern end of the delta, in 525 B.C. He established the Twenty seventh (Persian) Dynasty in Egypt.