The First Intermediate Period
The First Intermediate Period start already from the fifth dynasty, we witness a slow but progressive decline of the central power of the pharaoh with a consequent increase of the local rulers.
The nomarchs were preoccupied with their territory, increasingly disengaging from the central authority further reducing the royal influence.
With the advent of the VI Dynasty, things continued to get worse and worse until they reached a crucial point during the long reign of Pepi II when social unrest began to emerge which would lead Egypt.
For over two centuries, to be prey to disorder, of anarchy at the provincial level and, perhaps, also of foreign invasions.
The decay of central royalty, accelerated in this also by the numerous and continuous incursions of the Bedouins now out of control, caused a climate of uncontrollable disorders to be generated that have been handed down to us.
In many interesting papyruses, written, in successive epochs, by the scribes on behalf of the rulers of the 12th dynasty with the intention of celebrating the restoration of order and stability.
It is obvious that the reading of these writings must be done with caution in the sense that the gravity of the situation, described in them, is certainly the result of exaggerations tending to highlight the great work of pacification of the pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom.
“I will try to recover some of these writings that I will propose to you to let you know the tone used by the scribes“.
In reality, we do not have the certainty that this climate of revolution has affected the whole of Egypt, almost nothing is known of this period.
Memphis only becomes a symbolic capital and the power is fragmented into several parts.
The Economic-social revolution
It should be noted that one of the causes that contributed to feeding disorders and often infighting should also be attributed to the occurrence of climatic events that led to a drying up of the southern areas around 2300 BC.
This led to a decrease in food resources, forcing the population of those areas to take refuge in the valley, thus causing an economic-social revolution.
Let us now try to understand something in the tangle of dynasties and pharaohs that have followed in this dark period.
The first intermediate period:
The first intermediate period can be divided into three parts.
1- VII and VIII dynasty during which the complete disintegration of the unitary state occurs.
2- IX dynasty, a new center of power is born in Upper Egypt, in the capital of the 20th century, Ha-Ninsu, (Heracleopoli).
3- X dynasty, the princes of Thebes prevail over the Heracleopolitans and found the foundations for the reunification of Egypt which will then take place with the XI dynasty, starting the Middle Kingdom.
lists of Pharaohs:
Menton and the various lists of kings agree in recognizing for the seventh dynasty the alternation of about seventy kings, based in Memphis, who reigned for seventy days.
For the VIII dynasty, known only from the royal lists, a precise number is not possible, it is thought that from 18 to 27 pharaohs some of whom would have reigned simultaneously.
Giulio Sesto Africano, quoting Manetone, writes: “….. twenty-seven kings of Memphis who reigned for 146 years …….”. Eusebius of Caesarea speaks of five kings who reigned a century.
Irrefutable data as there are no archaeological finds testifying if it is true or false.
In a later age papyrus, “Ipuwer’s lamentations“, we read that at that time the not-so-identified “Asians” ruled the Egyptians.
Some also advanced the hypothesis that at the beginning of the 8th dynasty an independent kingdom had been formed in Upper Egypt under the name of Coptic that would last about forty years.
In 1946 the Egyptologist W. C. Hayes showed that this Coptic dynasty never existed.
As for the X and the XI dynasty, often associated with the name “Eracleopolitana”, the identification of the rulers of one or the other dynasty is made even more difficult by the repetition of identical names.
The phrase of Manetone reported by Giulio Sesto Africano is not very reliable when he states: “….. nineteen kings of Heracleopolis who ruled for 409 years …..”.
In the south, supplanted by the Mephite kings, the nomarchs of Thebes gathered the southern names around themselves under the rule of an even more energetic family of warrior princes, four of them bearing the name of Antef.
Egypt seems to have returned to the prehistoric era, with a grouping of names in the north, in Middle Egypt (eracleopolitan dynasty), of which we know some kings, (Kheti I, II and III and Merikara}, and one in the south, in Thebes, headed by the Antef.
It soon came to a clash and the situation remained confused for a long time between alternate vicissitudes of victories and defeats on both sides, until, in 2060 BC, we find Egypt once again united under Mentuhotep I, a descendant of the Theban governors who ruled the southern names; from this date the Middle Kingdom begins.
Most scholars agree in evaluating the duration of the period between Nitocris and the end of the reign of Mentuhotep I from two hundred to two hundred and fifty years, but their opinion is little more than a conjecture.
By: Piero Cargnino
Sources and bibliography:
Cimmino Franco, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, Milan 2003
Alan Gardiner, “The Egyptian civilization”, Einaudi, Turin 1997
W. S. Smith, “The Ancient Kingdom in Egypt and the Beginning of the First Intermediate Period”, the Saggiatore, 1972
Miroslav Verner, “the mystery of the pyramids”, Newton & Compton editor, 2002)