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The Nubian Pharaohs

Lesser-known Pharaohs - The Pharaohs - The People

What: 25th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt

When: Approx. 744 to 656 BC and the last Dynasty of the 3rd Intermediate Period

Capital City: Napata, Memphis and Thebes

Who: Pharaohs who came from Kush; modern day north Sudan and Upper Egypt

The Very Beginning

King Kashta ruled Nubia from his Capital City of Napata; roughly 400km North from the present Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

He began the Kushite involvement in Egypt by arranging for his daughter, Princess Amenirdis I, to become the next God’s Wife of Amun in the mighty city of Thebes once Pharaoh Osorkon III’s daughter, Princess Shepenupet I, left the post.

This gave future Kushite Royals the thread that connected them legitimately to the Throne of Egypt.

The First Invasion

Nubian King Piye led the invasion of Egypt himself which he chronicled in his hieroglyphic “Stele of Victory”. This Stelae gives Egyptologists the information of how Piye records his elevation to be, “Pharaoh of all Egypt”, and how he further legitimised his reign by announcing him the, “Son of Re . . . . . Beloved of Amun” and Ruler of Lower & Upper Egypt. He therefore became the first Pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty. Current thinking sees the effort and planning that went into this Kushite invasion as the reason as to how Egypt was so readily conquered, and not due to a case of “exhaustion” which was previously thought to be the case.

First Pharaoh: Piye

Piye tried to extend Egypt’s Empire; for example, in 720BC Pharaoh sent an army to support a rebellion against Assyria, but this was defeated

Constructed the oldest Pyramid at El Kurru, the Kushite royal burial site

He loved horses and had 8 buried with him, his horses were bred and then imported from Nubia to Egypt

Added a Colonnaded Forecourt to the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal

He made Chariotty a priority and insisted that they enhance their training and tactics

Second Pharaoh: Shebitku

  • Conquered the Nile Valley and Lower Egypt; everything apart from the Nile Delta
  • When he captured Sais, the Capital City of Lower Egypt at the time, the new Pharaoh may have had the old Pharaoh of Sais, Pharaoh Bocchoris, burned to death
  • Pharaoh then made Capital City in Memphis

Third Pharaoh: Shabaka

  • Captured the whole Nile Delta and brought Egypt back under the control of one Pharaoh only
  • Supported an uprising again the Assyrians for the city of Ashdod; this was defeated
  • Pharaoh took on the role to restore the damaged Monuments and Temples which the Libyans had left to rot
  • Took on the role of First Priest of Amun as the older Dynasty Pharaohs had done

Fourth Pharaoh: Taharqa

  • Crowned in 690BC in Memphis and chose Tanis as his Capital
  • Added to the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal and to Karnak Temple in Thebes
  • He undertook Military Campaigns which were successful against the Libyans, the Shasu Nomads, maybe the Phoenicians, and maybe the Khor
  • At Karnak he added Colonnades at the Temple Entrance, Structures to the Sacred Lake, and a Kiosk in the First Courtyard
  • He also built the largest Pyramid at El Kurru and a rock cut Tomb

The Loss

Pharaoh Taharqa, 4th Nubian Pharaoh of Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period, lost Egypt in 671BC, when King Esarhaddon, king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, invaded and conquered the north of Egypt including the capturing of the former Capital City, Memphis. He imposed a tribute and then withdrew. But it wasn’t until 669BC that Pharaoh Taharqa managed to regain Memphis and the Nile Delta area.

King Esarhaddon entered Egypt and tried to recapture his lost territories, but he died and was succeeded by his son, now King Ashurbanipal. With his Assyrian Army, King Ashurbanipal recaptured Egypt all the way down to Thebes. Pharaoh Taharqa fled with the Royal Family in retreat to his original Kingdom of Nubia and approx. 4 years later he died in 664BC.

The Reconquest

Pharaoh Taharqa’s probable son and definite successor was Tantamani. He sailed along the Nile north from Napata in Nubia to Thebes via Elephantine. There he set up his Court and centre of Military Campaigns. Pharaoh Tantamani then began his reconquest, claiming back Sais and killing the Assyrian leader in Egypt, Necho I, and then moving on and reclaiming all land as far as Memphis and some of the cities in the Nile Delta.

But this was not the end, merely the first act of the Reconquest.

The Third and Last Act

Psamtik I did not stay loyal to his Assyrian King. He expelled the Assyrian Army and made himself the 26th Dynasty of Egypt. In 656BC Pharaoh Psamtik I sent a fleet to Thebes in the south and peacefully managed to regain control of Upper Egypt and reunify the country as one.

The Second Act

The slain Necho I’s son, Psamtik I, managed to escape Pharaoh’s grasp and fled home, back to Assyria where he raised an army with his King, Ashurbanipal. They reinvaded in 664BC, causing Pharaoh Tantamani fled the north of Egypt to Thebes pursued all the way to Thebes. Perhaps Pharaoh did not have enough strength left within his fleeing army, or perhaps for other reasons, Pharaoh fled Egypt back to Nubia and abandoned Thebes to be sacked by the Assyrians; the outcome was that Psamtik I was then made ruler of Lower Egypt by his King who left back to Assyria.

The Nubians never invaded Egypt again but continued to rule from their Capital City in Napata and when former Pharaoh Tantamani died he was buried in the Royal Cemetery with the Nubian Pyramids.

They left behind them an Egypt who had been reintroduced to the Temples, Deities and Pyramids of the Middle Kingdom periods.

Their Dynasty signalled the end of the Third Intermediate Period and after they fell from the Pharaonic Throne the Late Period of Ancient Egypt commenced.


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