The Hyksos – The Second Intermediate Period
With the reign of Queen Neferusobek, the last pharaoh of the 12th dynasty, the historical period of the Egyptian civilization commonly called the Middle Kingdom ends, then came The Hyksos – Second Intermediate Period.
In reality, however, time does not stop the history that continues its inexorable course, while the change of dynasty is often justified by the fall of the family that remains without heirs, the change of a historical period finds justification only in the presence of some important event or following of upheavals that mark history and highlight the beginning of a new era.
In the context we are examining, none of this would justify this change. We, however, faithful to the Royal papyrus of Turin, to the list of the kings of Saqqara and to the usual Manetone, let us take this passage confirmed by them, specifying, however, that the list of the kings of Abydos, with the intention perhaps of forgetting this period ominous for Egypt, it definitely jumps from Amenemhat IV to the first king of the XVIII dynasty, Ahmose I. Without prejudice to the almost certain date of ascent to the throne of Ahmose I, retreating we can establish that the duration of the Second Intermediate Period goes from 1786 to 1567 BC, (1790-1543 according to Cimmino).
The Second Intermediate Period, as already the first, arises following the reign of some insignificant pharaohs who are opposed by the various local nomarchs, often also fighting each other, in the absence of strong central power.
The Hyksos – Second Intermediate Period
In this specific case, it must be added that, precisely because of the weakness of central power, Asian peoples come from Asia and invade the entire Delta and part of the Nile valley, they are the Hyksos, which we will discuss later.
Let’s see first, in broad terms what the Second Intermediate Period was. Let’s first go back to the story of our usual reporter, the historian Manetone, although in many cases unreliable, he tells us that the 13th dynasty of Theban origin was composed of sixty pharaohs who reigned for a total of 453 years.
The 14th dynasty would include seventy-six from Xois, present-day Sakha, in the Delta region, there are two interpretations regarding the dynasty’s total duration, the first speaks of 184 years while the second of 484.
There are considerable divergences on the dynasties from the XV to the XVII among the historians who have handed down to us the work of Mentone, such as Eusebio, Sesto Africano, and Giuseppe Flavio.
From the work of Sesto Africano, we learn that the XV dynasty consists of six foreign kings, the “shepherd kings”, the Hyksos, who reigned for 284 years.
Also of the shepherd kings, the XVI dynasty was also formed, thirty-two who reigned for 518 years, while for the seventeenth dynasty there reigned forty-three Hyksos sovereigns and forty-three Theban sovereigns for a total of 151 years.
From this, it appears immediately evident the scarce reliability, not only of Manetone but also of the various historians who have transcribed it.
If we try to add up the years of reign, even considering the lowest datum for the XIV dynasty we obtain that in the Second Intermediate Period 217 kings have reigned and the duration of the whole period amounts to 1,590 years.
Duration is seven times higher than that established by the substitute date provided by the El-Lahun papyrus.
The papyrus of Turin, despite being a source of inestimable value despite being very fragmented, does not give us better data.
At this point, all Egyptologists agree that what is presented to us is the list of many sovereigns who reigned simultaneously in various regions of the country distant from each other.
In conclusion, the XV dynasty coincides with the domination of the Hyksos, the XVI is considered fictitious while for the XVII only the Theban princes included in it are considered.
In the following articles, we will see in more detail the history and events of this unfortunate period of Egyptian civilization.
At the end of the 12th dynasty, with which the end of the Middle Kingdom coincides, we enter the dark period of ancient Egyptian history called the “Second Intermediate Period”.
For almost inexplicable reasons the 12th dynasty leads to an abyss that will be all the more serious as it will see, for the first time, the invasion of the Two Lands by foreign peoples.
The XIII dynasty is composed of weak sovereigns who are incapable of governing the country, in this climate of anarchy the local nomarchs raise their heads and return, as they did in the “First Intermediate Period”, to govern their districts independently, which of course it weakens, even more, the central power thus creating the conditions favorable to the aims of the enemies.
According to the sources we received, the XIII dynasty began around 1786 BCE, (1790 BCE according to Cimmino), with the reign of an obscure pharaoh to which many others follow whose names are lost in the ephemeral as their kingdoms are ephemeral.
The news that Manetone gives us, as already mentioned in another article, is not at all reliable while the Royal Canon of Turin misses the entire Second Intermediate Period, with the aim, perhaps, of making it forget. We skip the intricate and poorly documented events that alternate for over half a century and arrive at 1730 BC.
Already around 2000 BC there are reports of populations moving towards the south moving, perhaps from the Caucasus, reaching Syria, Persia, and Galilee, where traces of their settlements have been found.
With a creeping invasion, with little fighting and without encountering great resistance, these populations entered Egypt and between 1730 and 1720 BC. But in reality who were these peoples? Manetone, is for us the main source of information, (despite everything), and all we can learn is thanks to what historians Eusebio, Sesto Giulio Africano, and Giuseppe Flavio, the latter, who kept a large part of Manetone’s second book in Egypt tells us in a passage:
<< ……… “Tutimaeus. In his kingdom, I don’t know why a blow of God’s discontent broke over us “, ………” A people of ignoble origins from the East, whose coming was unexpected, had the audacity to invade the country, which dominated with strength without difficulty and without even needing to fight “……… >>.
This “people of ignoble origins” is that of the Hyksos. According to some they were Mitanni, Hurriti or Sciti, according to others they were Israelites, according to others they were a group of various Asian peoples. It was Manetone who called the invaders “Hyksos” from the deformation of the Egyptian word Heka Khasut. that is “head of a foreign country”, in Egyptian literature they are called “Amu”.
Manetone tells us that after the Hyksos had invaded the country, they established their own dynasty of pharaohs, the first of these was called Salitis or Salatis and settled in Menfi, later occupied the city of Avaris by fixing its capital therefrom which could more easily control both Egypt and Syria.
From Avaris they descended southwards later, along the eastern part of the Delta, and expanded along the lower course of the Nile. Around 1675 BCE, the domination of the Hyksos extended from the southern Levant to Gebelein, opposite Luxor.
The Hyksos ruled Egypt at a time when Egyptian society was going through a profound crisis, devoid of those values that had made the Two Lands a unique example in history.
With the Hyksos also came the Hurrite gods of Egypt, such as Teshup, the god of the sky and the storm, who merged with the local ones. In this period the cult of Seth assumed great importance in the Nile delta, which later, perhaps because of its “connivance” with the enemy, was banned from the official Egyptian pantheon and relegated to the role of an evil deity.
The pharaohs of Upper Egypt lived with the Delta invaders, perhaps as vassals. For over two centuries, more than two hundred pharaohs reigned, and in this confusion, the Hyksos succeeded in establishing themselves by spreading new traditions and customs in Egypt.
The Hyksos are responsible for the introduction of the war chariot, the horse, a new type of bow and a more advanced bronze working. The fact that in later times the Hyksos were described as sudden invaders, militarily strong thanks to the use of the horse and the chariot, finds no confirmation in the archaeological checks.
From the research carried out, no historical or artistic monument worthy of note was erected during their rule, no literary work relating to their dominion in Egypt. Only complaints such as those contained in the Papyrus of Ipuwer that speaks of invaders who agitated and tormented the land of Egypt for a long time.
Some archaeologists share the thesis handed down to us by Manetone that the domination of the Hyksos had a negative impact on the history of Egyptian civilization.
Tradition has told us in fact of a people of barbarians, cruel and sacrilegious, who burned cities, exterminated populations, destroyed temples and worshiped only one god, the bloodthirsty Seth. Therefore a rough and bellicose people, moreover regardless of the hygienic aspect so dear to the Egyptians.
It is said that they were carriers of disgusting diseases including leprosy and that, once they were defeated, circumcision was imposed in order to be able to recognize them. On the other hand, the judgment of other archaeologists (Massimo Bontempelli, Ettore Bruni and others), according to which Egypt, during the Hyksos domination, did not suffer any economic impoverishment and any cultural barbarism.
Their rulers adapted perfectly to Egyptian society, also adopting the local political system. Far from demolishing the existing institutions, they governed with totally Egyptian systems and methods, such as for example court ceremonials, adopted hieroglyphic writing and made many of their own often assimilated with theirs and the pharaohs continued to keep the title of Ra in their names.
It also happened that, maintaining the Hyksos the ties with the Asian populations from which they came, they extended the interests of Egypt to Asia with which commercial relations were also developed by land, something that happened exclusively by means of shipments by sea through Byblos.
A notable advantage came to the Egyptians from learning new customs and new techniques hitherto unknown. In addition to the horse and the cart, the Hyksos introduced new weapons, the dagger and the ax of material much more resistant than bronze, the iron, until then practically unknown in Egypt.
The innovations introduced by the Hyksos, including technical innovations, also exerted a considerable influence on Egyptian sculptural and pictorial art. On the contrary, no artistic style was ever elaborated by the Hyksos who confined themselves to taking possession of Egyptian works.
At this point, it can be said that the Hyksos domination did not bring about radical changes in the Egyptian traditions but guaranteed its continuity. During the Second Intermediate Period, pharaohs Hyksos reigned in Avaris and Egyptian pharaohs in Thebes.
Then we come to the XVII dynasty whose princes ruled Upper Egypt from Thebes but paid tribute to the Hyksos rulers of the XV dynasty. But how many are the pharaohs of the seventeenth dynasty? Manetone speaks of mixed sovereigns, 43 Egyptians and 43 Hyksos who reigned for 151 years.
Obviously the list of Manetone is not entirely reliable as it is not supported by more or less ascertained sources, as already mentioned the Royal Canon of Turin does not contain details but only an overall total and some names appear without any order in the Hall of the ancestors of Karnak.
According to the list compiled by Jurgen von Beckerath, which agrees with that of Cimmino, except for the position of Antef V, the pharaohs are 14. The penultimate Egyptian pharaoh of this dynasty was Seqenenra Ta’o who reigned in Thebes, while Avaris reigned at the same time. last pharaoh Hyksos Apophis, (of both we have already spoken extensively about the “noisy hippos”).
Although true, this narrative contained in the Sallier I papyrus reports what we could define, “the drop that breaks the vase”, in fact, we know that Seqenenra Ta’o was the first Egyptian prince who, after a period of diplomatic relations, he took a war action against the invaders in which perhaps he was killed.
He was succeeded by his son Kamose, who reigned for three years (according to some, five according to others). Regardless of the duration, his reign assumed considerable importance due to the fundamental military initiatives that he undertook against the Hyksos, which had now come to rule most of the country.
Of this we talk about the “Tablet Carnarvon”, one of the two fragments of a large wooden stele found in 1909 in the tomb n. 9 to Thebes by Howard Carter who worked for Lord Carnarvon. The tablets are entirely written in hieratic and report parts of Kamose’s military campaign report.
What is reported in the tablets gives us a sufficiently complete picture of the various campaigns of this sovereign? Kamose wants to free Egypt once and for all to bring it back to its former glory:
<< ……… I would like to know what my strength is for, when a sovereign sits in Avaris and another in Kush and I sit on the throne with an Asian and a Nubian, each in possession of his slice of Egypt and I cannot go to Menfi without passing in front of them ……. >>,
but his ministers are against denouncing the treaties stipulated with the Hyksos sovereigns recalling the advantages of the status quo:
<< ……… Look, everyone is faithful up to Qir. We are quiet in our part of Egypt. Elephantine is powerful, and the central part (of the lands) is faithful to us up to Qir.
Men keep for us the best of their lands. Our herds graze in the papyrus swamps. Wheat is available for our pigs. Our herds are not stolen …….. >>. Kamose, however, is adamant:
<< ……… Nobody can rest when he is stripped by the taxes of the Asian. I want to raise myself against him and I hope to open his belly. My hope is to free Egypt and drive out the Asian ………. >>.
Kamose immediately began a military campaign by hurling himself northwards, against Neferusy, near Ermopoli where Teti, Egyptian ruler and vassal of the Hyksos reigned. In the second year, Kamose headed south to the land of Kush ruled by an ally of Apophis.
We received a written report of this expedition on a commemorative stele found in Buhen. Further texts that we have received report that in the third year of the war Kamose reached the Delta besieging the city of Avaris without being able to conquer it.
During his reign, Kamose changed the name three times, which led archaeologists to believe that the kings had been three. The hypothesis declined when it was learned, from the report of the inspectors to the tombs sent by Ramesses IX in the necropolis of Dra Abu el-Naga, reported in the Abbott Papyrus, that there was only one tomb in the name of Kamose and the same is defined:
<<. ………. The King’s sepulcher, the Sun that provides for the creation, the son of the Sun, Kamose, examined today, was in good condition ………. >>.
A curiosity, with Kamose, begins the names theophores which include a glyph that represents the horns of the lunar bull. Some scholars believe that the image is of Semitic origin. The period of the Hyksos domination remains more than ever a dark period for many reasons, there are many factors still unknown that have conditioned that period of history and of which numerous hypotheses have been advanced.
Who were the Hyksos and where did they come from? Why did they go down to Egypt? Were they driven by some exceptional event or cataclysm? Were the Jews of the Old Testament? Would their expulsion from Egypt coincide with the exodus of Moses? These and other questions have caused rivers of ink to flow and the answers of the scholars are very discordant, there are hardly any concrete proofs and the literature finds ample space to make the imagination run wild. In the next articles, I will try to deepen, as far as possible, the topic analyzing all the possible hypotheses.
DISPUTED BETWEEN APOPI AND SEQENENRA
Seqenenra Ta’o, (or Seqenenra Djehuty-aa), “the brave” or “the brave” was the penultimate Pharaoh of the seventeenth Egyptian dynasty who reigned for a few years around 1560 over the Theban region, (the dating is very uncertain). He married his sister, Ahhotep I, “Great Royal Bride” with whom he fathered two sons, (known), Kamose and Ahmose, who, succeeding him to the throne, succeeded in driving away from the Hyksos from Egypt. Kamose, the last pharaoh of the seventeenth dynasty who, following in the footsteps of his father who had started the war against the invaders, continued the struggle, arriving to besiege, without conquering it, the capital of the Hyksos, Avaris.
Ahmose succeeded, succeeding him on the throne and that he succeeded in driving them out definitively. But let’s go back to Seqenenra Ta’o which is said to have maintained relations with the ruler of Lower Egypt Ipepi, (or Apopi). A literary work, contained in the Sallier I papyrus entitled: “Dispute between Apops and Seqenenra”, of which only the first part has been preserved, tells us what was perhaps a ridiculous pretext to justify the beginning of hostilities between the Thebans and the Hyksos. Even then, as always, history needed to be tamed to justify certain actions. The papyrus begins:
<< This happened while the land of Egypt was in hard affliction because there was no sovereign with life, health, and prosperity that was king of that time. When king Seqenenra, life, health, and prosperity, ruled the city of the south, (Thebes), misery reigned in the city of Asians while prince Apophis was in Avaris …….. king Apophis, life, health, and prosperity, he had created Seth his lord ……. built for this god a temple in marvelous work and every day he rose to make offerings to Seth and the Great ones wore garlands of flowers …….. The king Apopis one day gathered the high officials of his palace and told them that he wanted to send a message to the king of the southern city, (obviously provocative ed), but he didn’t know what to write to him ……. >>.
Since the Theban pharaoh possessed a large tank in which numerous hippos wallowed, they suggested that he send a representative to Thebes to ask Seqenenra to remove the hippo tank because they were so noisy that they prevented him from sleeping in his palace in the far city of Avaris. So he did. When the messenger showed up at Thebes, he was led to the presence of Seqenenra who asked him:
“Why did you come to the southern city? Why did you travel to me? >>. The messenger replied: “King Apophis sent me to tell you:” empty the hippopotamus pool which is east of the city because it disturbs my sleep day and night, the noise they make stuns me “>>.
You can imagine the astonishment of Seqenenra at those words, she stayed a long time without knowing what to answer and finally said:
<< But is it really true that your lord has heard of the hippopotamus pond which is located east of the southern city? ….. the messenger replied: “reflect on the question I came to you …… >>.
Seqenenra ordered that the messenger be refreshed with every good thing after which he told him to go back to his lord and to tell him ……. (missing part).
The text does not go any further but, regardless of the reality of the story, it is not difficult to think that Seqenenra Ta’o, who was the first Egyptian prince to have an active diplomatic attitude against the Asian occupants, has taken war actions against the Hyksos, but obtained a poor one.
success. The reasons for the death of Seqenenra are not clear even if he is thought to have died in battle. His mummy was found in the cachette of Deir el-Bahari in 1881 by Gaston Maspero who slanted it and found himself facing a macabre spectacle. The face showed impressive signs of violence, wrote Maspero:
“It is not known whether he fell on the battlefield or if he was the victim of some conspiracy; the appearance of his mummy proves that he died a violent death at around forty years of age ……… his body must have remained for some time where it fell ….. “.
So much so that the mummification had to be completed quickly and as best as possible on the body already in an advanced state of decomposition. As mentioned above, his successors will complete the expulsion of the Hyksos, in Seqenenra Ta’o the merit is acknowledged for having started the Egyptian rescue.
Let us now try to investigate the Hyksos phenomenon on the basis of what has been handed down to us by ancient historians who, like all historians, even modern ones, have reported in their writings that information that they could barely recover from the traditions, oral histories, and scarce written sources, following those they considered most important. Often their stories have undergone a skimming that took into account their personal views and various prejudices.
To consider also that, where there were gaps or where it was necessary to glorify this or that character or to exalt one’s nation, they quietly resorted to additions, falsehoods, and distortions of reality. Already telling stories that preceded them by centuries if not millennia had to be an awkward job, if we add to this the above, we can realize how difficult the interpretation of these texts can be for us.
Another very important factor is when history meets religion, at this point, more than ever, we come across the distortions that are inserted, even in later periods, in the stories to affirm their convictions.
Therefore an absolute caution is required in the consultation and in the quotations of what is reported in the various historical and archaeological sources, caution that must above all be applied when we try to understand the reality-based only on what is proposed to us by modern historians.
It is not bad to maintain a sort of doubt about undocumented facts as they are hypotheses, perhaps shared by many, but still hypotheses. I apologize for the long preamble but I have considered it appropriate to do as the subject we are entering is extremely difficult and thorny precisely because it is of a historical-religious nature.
So let’s get to the heart of the subject by considering the first questions I asked in the previous article. Who were the Hyksos and where did they come from? Why did they go down to Egypt? Were they driven by some exceptional event or cataclysm? Most scholars agree that the Hyksos were a group of Indo-European peoples who probably came from the Turkish-Caucasian region who, moving southward, even incorporated peoples of Semitic origin.
These migrations would have started according to some around 2000 BC in creeping form and not with intentions of conquest.
Some settlements found in Galilee, Syria, and Persia seem to have belonged to the Hyksos even though it was only in Egypt that they settled permanently around 1730-1720 BC. But why a heterogeneous set of peoples descends from the Caucasus, a colorful region against the background of majestic nature, rich in coniferous forests, deep gorges, lakes and fertile plains dotted with vines and fruit trees?
It is natural to ask why people living in a similar place at some point decide to leave and head towards unknown and almost unknown lands, without a real purpose of conquest but only as migration. According to most archaeologists, the Hyksos were a melting pot of people, dedicated to the most diverse activities: pastoralism, banditry, handicrafts, trade, etc.
Others instead are inclined to consider them as nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples. Personally, I wonder how could a similar soup of people possess the skills and technology to allow it a more advanced bronze work than the Egyptians, in addition to the invention of weapons, such as the ax and the iron dagger, (the latter practically unknown in Egypt), not to mention the domestication of the horse and the manufacture of the war chariot following the invention of the wheel.
All these things would make one think instead of an advanced civilization, well organized in its territory that, if we exclude expansionist aims, bring us back to the question: why did they leave their country? Were they driven by some exceptional event or cataclysm? The foregoing illustrates the remarkable confusion that exists not only in ancient Egyptian history but also among its modern interpreters.
Consequently, it is very difficult to come to a concrete conclusion about the history of the “Hyksos phenomenon”.
In an unspecified period, concomitant with the Second Egyptian Intermediate Period, in the Aegean Sea the end of the world happened, the island of Thera, (Santorini), gave to human civilization one of the greatest strength tests that mother nature has ever made to experience.
An eruption, according to some, there was more than one, whose final explosion is estimated to have released into the atmosphere and into the surrounding environment pyroclastic material for a volume of about 100 cubic km. I am not going to tell you about the devastation that struck the Cycladic islands and that accelerated the end of the Minoan civilization, just think that on the island of Thera a layer of 60 meters of white tefra was deposited which still covers the ground while the island of Crete, it was covered with about 5 millimeters of ashes, but this is another story.
Let’s try to imagine the effects caused by an eruption of that type, after some initial explosions, from the volcanic cone a very dense column of ash begins to come out, called “Plinian column”, which the wind rapidly moves towards the east. The amount of dust and ash released into the atmosphere is such as to reach even the Black Sea and affect the climate, while for kilometers and kilometers pyroclastic fragments rain down, which is fragments of lava that can even reach considerable dimensions.
Then when the eruption ends, the seawater penetrates through the cracks inside the caldera and comes into contact with the hot magma, an immense explosion is generated, it is calculated that energy equal to about 6,000 warheads has been released. thermonuclear, which breaks the island in several places causing it to sink and leaving at its center an immense caldera, which we can still admire today.
The roar was so strong that it was even felt in Egypt. As if this were not enough, the eruption also triggered a tsunami with high waves from 35 to 150 meters that more or less violently hit all the coastal areas of the Mediterranean. The coasts of Egypt were certainly affected, on which the waves of the tsunami struck, bringing devastation and death. However, the opinion prevails that, since Egypt is too far from important areas of seismic activity, it would have suffered much less from the effects of the cataclysm.
The beginning of the Bronze Age, whose effects are also found in Egypt, coincides with this catastrophe, as explained by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, led by the Italian Elisabetta Boaretto in the journal Scientific Reports. Clear traces of the cataclysm were found as far as Thrace on the coasts of Turkey and Palestine. The size of the event was such as to affect the climatic conditions of the affected areas causing serious damage to the environment and particularly to agriculture, effects that persisted for quite some time.
If for a moment we try not to focus on the dates, of which there are no real certainties, could this have been the cause for which various populations left their lands and went down south where they had known that the conditions were better? Certainly we need a little imagination, but this is not lacking even to the most careful and informed scholars. Let’s see: it seems that the Hyksos arrived in Egypt around 1730 BC, the eruption of Santorini would be roughly around 1627 BC, (Estimates of Aarhus University, Denmark, 2006).
The date of 1627 BC, which already anticipates by over 50 years the estimates based on archaeological studies using the “conventional Egyptian chronology”, was established following the discovery, between the volcanic ashes of Santorini, of an olive branch which, subjected to radiocarbon dating, it would have indicated that date.
Now since a correct radiocarbon dating is influenced by numerous factors such as corrections and adjustments that involve the application of complex formulas, (see the controversy on the dating of the Shroud of Turin), which are beyond my competence, even in this case I prefer to maintain a sure doubt. From what I seem to understand, the results of radiocarbon analysis involve an approximation of about + or -5-6%. If we apply this approximation to the resulting data, (1627) we arrive at the date of 1708, next to what is considered for the invasion of the Hyksos, 1720 BC Surely now all the thunderbolts of those who disagree will reach me.
But I want one thing to be clear: this is not a theory I sell for certain, I could not afford it, but only a critical analysis, completely personal, subject to all the objections that could be put forward. Other lightning strikes I expect to receive regarding the articles that will follow where we will analyze the possibility that the descent of the Hyksos brought with them the “Habitus”, the Jews of Jacob and that their expulsion coincides with the exodus.
Let us now address the thorniest argument: “Were the Hyksos the Habirus, (Jews) of the Old Testament?” In light of what was said in the previous articles, which, I repeat, only reflect one of the many hypotheses about the invasion of the Hyksos in Egypt, personally I would exclude that, at least at first, the Habirus were present among the invaders, at least not in a number significant. The only support available is the version of Manetone, elaborated by the Jewish historian of the first century Giuseppe Flavio in his work entitled “Contro Apione”, in which he claims to have reported “word for word” the story of Manetone.
In the first edition of the second book, Manetone treats the dynasties from the XII to the XVIII, including in the latter also the pharaohs of the XIX dynasty. In this first edition, the Hyksos are called “shepherds prisoners” who then become the “Pastor Kings” in the two subsequent editions. In this story, according to Josephus, the Hyksos were really the Israelites.
In a second story, which Giuseppe Flavio defines as fictitious, Manetone recounts that, while the Hyksos assumed the dominion of Egypt without battle and after the destruction of cities and temples, a large group of 80,000 lepers and sick people arrived in Avaris from Palestine and they were allowed to settle in the city after the departure of the shepherd kings. Modern scholars, already unwilling to give complete trust to Manetone, do not agree with the quotations of Josephus when he associates the Hyksos with the Israelites.
Some archaeologists are inclined to believe that the Hyksos were “northern hordes, which traveled through Palestine and Egypt on fast carts”, others prefer to think of a “conquest by penetration”, that is a gradual infiltration of migrant nomads who took control of country slowly or gradually.
English archaeologist and writer Jacquetta Hawkes, in her 1963 work, “The World of the Past”, on page 444 cites:
<< It is no longer thought that the Hyksos rulers represent the invasion of a horde conqueror of Asians. It seems that the name means “Rulers of the Higher Countries”, and they were wandering groups of Semites who had long since come to Egypt to trade and for other peaceful purposes. >>.
This explanation makes it difficult to believe that such “wandering groups” could have conquered a country that the 12th Egyptian dynasty had brought to the height of power, despite the chaos that followed with the subsequent dynasty. All this highlights the difficulties encountered when trying to extricate oneself from a situation of complete confusion which confirms if ever it were needed, the impossibility of reaching a concrete conclusion about the validity of the “Hyksos phenomenon”.
Personally I agree with those scholars who think there was a more or less creeping invasion, but absolutely not painless for the Egyptians, in the sense that even if there were no great battles, due to the chaos we mentioned above, there were however clashes that did not prevent the Hyksos from conquering the Delta and founding the city of Avaris.
Since I think we can safely say that the Hyksos were peoples of warriors, well-armed and well equipped, I do not think that, at least at first, they could have among their ranks the Habiru that in that historical period were probably still at the status of nomadic shepherds of the lands of Canaan.
I am rather inclined to pay more attention to what Josephus calls Manetone’s “fictitious story” when he recounts that, later, “a large group of 80,000 lepers and sick people came to Avaris from Palestine”. And I explain why I have inclined to this story also by resorting to some statements contained in the Bible. According to the biblical story, a certain Yusuf, (Joseph, son of Jacob), sold by his brothers, arrives as a slave in Egypt, imprisoned and then released because he interprets the pharaoh’s dream, (the seven fat cows and the seven lean cows), the pharaoh names him Grand Vizier, Gen. 41:40, 41 << ……… You will be personally above my house and all my people will obey you ………. see I place over you the whole country of Egypt …….. >>.
After some time Joseph brings the tribe of Jacob his father to Egypt to whom the pharaoh assigns: << ……… the best of the country, the country of Gosen ……. .. >>, (Gen. 47: 6).
The above, with the exception of the Bible, is not documented in any writing. The figure of the biblical Giuseppe raises many doubts among scholars who object among other things that perhaps an Egyptian pharaoh would never have elevated to the rank of a vizier a foreigner, not an Egyptian but an Asian.
However, if we start from the assumption that Joseph was part of those Hyksos who invaded Egypt, or integrated with time, the fact that it was a pharaoh Hyksos who named him vizier may seem more acceptable. Regardless of the Bible, historians and professors of theology have always wondered how it was possible that in a country like Egypt a figure like Joseph was not mentioned who, as a great Vizier, was the most powerful man after the pharaoh. It is interesting to know that:
<< ………. the verdant oasis of the Fayyum, where lush flowers and beautiful fruits grow … …… turning this district into a paradise that otherwise would be a desert … ……. the Fayyum owes this to the 334 km long channel that leads to the water of the Nile ……… the name of this very ancient aqueduct, known not only by the fallen but by the whole Egypt is “Bar Yusuf”, (Joseph’s channel) ……… >>,
(Werner Keller, “The Bible was right”, Garzanti, 1956).
We also object that this is not significant, but I recall that “group of 80,000 lepers and sick people who came to Avaris from Palestine” of which Manetone speaks in his “fictitious story”. Perhaps they were neither lepers nor ill but simply the Habiru who, to escape a probable famine, came to Egypt hosted by the Hyksos. As for the Exodus, this happened about 430 years after the entry of the Jews into Egypt and we will talk about it later.
Kamose, the last Egyptian pharaoh of the seventeenth dynasty, in the third year of the war, arrived in the Nile Delta besieging the capital of the Hyksos, Avaris. He failed to conquer the city but the occupation of the Delta, according to some scholars, can be considered as a first reunification of the Two Lands. As we have already said in another article, the causes of his death, after only three years of reign, (or five), are not clear, his mummy presents serious injuries which would suggest that he died in battle.
He was succeeded by the young brother Ahmose, son of Seqenenra Ta’o and a younger wife, Queen Ahhotep, sister and wife of Ta’o who held the regency until the age of his son. Despite being one of the most important pharaohs, we know very little about him and what we know came from the inscriptions in the tombs of two of his soldiers, probably generals of his army, Ahmes son of Abana and Ahmes Pennekhebet. Around his figure reigns a certain confusion created by Giuseppe Flavio who translating Manetone reports that to hunt the Hyksos was a king by the name of Misphragmuthosis but then to transform the name into Tethmosis, mistakenly leading him to think of the figure of Thutmose.
Manetone assigns him 25 years of the reign that seems to be confirmed by a graffiti found in the quarries of Maasara that reports the 22nd year of Ahmose. One thing that leaves one perplexed is the fact that, after the death of Kamose, the reigning Hyksos ruler, Apophis, did not take advantage of the long pause in the war operations consequent to the minor age of Ahmose, to try to recover, at least in part, the territory lost in battles with Kamose.
When he came of age, Ahmose immediately resumed hostilities against the successor of Apophis, the ruler Hyksos Khamudi. From the inscriptions found in the tombs mentioned above, we learn that Ahmose immediately lashed out against Memphis and Heliopolis, which he regained almost without fighting.
Then he headed north to Avaris, here it was not necessary to place the siege because the occupiers surrendered without fighting. But this was not enough for Ahmose, the grave insult to the honor and integrity of Egypt due to the Hyksos occupation burned too much and the only way to complete redemption, and to avoid repetition in the future, required extending the control by Egypt on northern and eastern Asians.
Once the occupants of Avaris were driven out, and all the Hyksos in Egypt, Ahmose crossed the border chasing the other garrisons en route. The last stronghold of the Hyksos was the ancient city of Sharuhen in the Negev desert. After a three-year siege, Ahmose’s army conquered the city and razed it to the ground. The intent to control the Syrian-Palestinian area to block any attempts at new infiltrations by Semitic people led Egypt to clashes with the Mitanni and Hittite kingdoms.
In the city of Avaris Ahmose, he built several palaces whose pictorial decoration, found fragmented, is strangely executed with technique and colors completely unrelated to the Egyptian tradition, recalling those of the palace of Knossos. But to complete the work it was also necessary to give a lesson to the Nubians who with the Hyksos were allies against Egypt by regaining Nubia.
Without further delay, Ahmose turned south and soon recovered Nubia. The reunification of Egypt was now complete but to keep it safe it had to resort to putting down rebellions in the kingdom of Kush where, following three military campaigns, it reached the island of Sai, between the second and third cataracts, of which it assumed the control by appointing a governor with the title of “Son of the King of Kush”, a position held by a royal prince.
It also appears that towards the end of his reign he sent a punitive expedition also to Phenicia. With Ahmose, whose power now passes from “king-god” to “king-general”, the internal contrast was accentuated with the clergy whose “First Prophet of Amon” aspired to take “de facto” control of the State. It begins with Ahmose I the New Kingdom which will last about 500 years and will include the dynasties from the XVIII to the XX, according to Manetone, and it will be the moment of the maximum expansion of the Egyptian influence so much that it often induces to call it an empire.
A period in which we will witness the greatest religious reform ever seen in Egypt by the heretic pharaoh Akhenaton, but this is a story that we will address later. Ahmose had a “pyramid” built-in Abido, I put it in quotation marks as it is not a real pyramid but a cenotaph which, despite having a side of about 53 meters and a height, originally, of about 40 meters, it was built with sand and lithic debris then covered with limestone to make it more stable.
It does not contain any burial chamber or corridors confirming its nature as a simple cenotaph. Today it looks like a hill of debris-about ten meters high. The sarcophagus of Ahmose, containing his mummy, was found in the famous cachette of Deir el-Bahari where it was hidden with many others to preserve them from violations, today they are kept in the Luxor Museum. The examination of the mummy revealed that the sovereign must have died between the ages of thirty and forty.
As we said above Ahmose drove the Hyksos from Egypt, (all?), We will see this in the next article where we will analyze how the event is treated by scholars trying to extricate themselves from the numerous, and often conflicting, hypotheses that in this regard have been advanced.
Pharaoh Ahmose, therefore, won the Hyksos, drove them from Egypt and pursued them to the Negev desert. The shame suffered by the Egyptians, invaded by a foreign country, rough, dirty and devoid of that civilization that had made the country great, perhaps had been washed. Never again would a foreign country have dared to cross borders. Already, Ahmose drove out the Hyksos and with them the possible Abiru who had settled with them in the Delta.
But which Hyksos and which Habiru had driven Ahmose out? The army in the rout, the court with all its followers, but the people? After domination lasting about 300 years, do we want to think that, at least in the Delta, it was still possible to distinguish the populous Hyksos from the Egyptian populace? Do we want to think that after 300 years of cohabitation a form of mutual integration between the two peoples has not developed? I personally believe that, after 300 years of living together, a certain number of Hyksos-Habiru, especially among the lower classes, have developed a form of reciprocal integration. Perhaps many of them found work on construction sites or in the countryside, the Bible says that the pharaoh said to Joseph:
<< If you recognize that there are capable men among them, set them up on my possessions as heads of the flocks ….. . >>, (Genesis 47: 6), therefore most of them would not have participated in the exodus. But then when we say that the Hyksos-Habiru were driven from Egypt we refer to the army, the court, and the closest collaborators.
Since I think that Ahmose, as well as being a great man, was also an enlightened pharaoh, I dare not think that he has undertaken a sort of ethnic cleansing, something as mentioned above, practically impossible, therefore in Egypt many Hyksos-Habirus remained, more or less mixed with the Egyptians.
It is certainly reasonable to think that those of the people who had been more “collaborators” than the Hyksos instead of being expelled have been enslaved and forced to forced labor. This consideration, which may seem superfluous, is in fact not and we must keep it well in mind when later we will talk about the religious reform of the pharaoh Akenaton, of what will follow until the “presumed exodus” of the Jews from Egypt.
Let us now consider the hypothesis put forward by some scholars who say that the exit described by the Book of Exodus would not be an escape from oppression but the expulsion of the Jews by the Egyptians, who would coincide with the Hyksos. The identification of the Hyksos with the Jews has ancient origins, the first that advanced this hypothesis was Herodotus, in the 5th century. BC, then taken up by Josephus and many Church Fathers, the same thing that the historian Diodorus Siculus states in his “Bibliotheca Historica”.
If this were the correct hypothesis then we would be allowed to think that there was no escape of the Jews from slavery in Egypt but that they were simply driven out of Ahmose. In this case, those who wrote the Bible would have misrepresented reality by inventing the exodus. But the hypotheses about the exodus are many, let’s move on to another.
Some scholars say that the exodus in itself could not have happened in the traditionally understood way but could refer, according to the orientalist Mario Liverani, to what has been called “motor code”, in fact, the expression “exodus” (shè ‘ t) and other forms (Vasha “going out”), fall into this definition, or the use of metaphors related to movement used to indicate the change of political belonging of a given region or ethnicity from one domain to another or to freedom.
Beyond the expulsion of the Hyksos, for Jews “leaving Egypt” may have simply meant the “end of Egyptian domination of Palestine”, which actually occurred in the passage from the Late Bronze Age, when Palestine was under Egyptian rule, and the early Iron Age, when, with the invasion of the “Sea Peoples”, the great empires fell into crisis and Palestine achieved autonomy. The meaning of “motor code” lost its meaning towards the end of the 8th century BC when the Assyrian practice of deporting defeated peoples spread among other peoples. Another hypothesis, perhaps the most widespread, is that which refers to the Bible, the Jews arrived in Egypt with Jacob at the behest of Joseph, they were entrusted with the fertile land of Gosen.
On the death of the pharaoh who had accepted them, his successor, worried about the increase of the Jewish population, reduced them to slavery. It was the intervention of Moses, after about 400 years spent building bricks that, after the episode of the plagues, brought them out of Egypt. Episode that is connected to the reign of Pharaoh Rameses II or his son Merenptah.
We will return to it briefly when we discuss the individual pharaohs of the XVIII dynasty. Numerous other hypotheses follow, not least the one that would like to identify Moses with the pharaoh Akenaton or with a priest of Aton.
At this point, however, I decide to stop because it is not my aim to follow the stories of the Habiru or Jews, I would not like to interpret one or the other hypothesis, nor confirm or deny the assumptions of scholars immensely more competent than me, without according to what Prof.
Francesco Lamendola states in his article “There are too many things that do not fit into the biblical story of the Exodus” of 2009 on the website of “Arianna editrice” about the facts concerning the exodus:
<< ….. …. we don’t know when they would have happened. It is not that we ignore the precise moment: we ignore everything; we ignore the names of the pharaohs who would have been involved; we ignore the century in which they took place; we ignore even if indeed there were a Jewish people in Egypt, and, a fortiori, if it was held there in conditions of slavery. >>.
He also states that, when dealing with the history of ancient Israel it should be adopted:
<< ……… the same dispassionate and objective attitude that they assume when one speaks of the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Assyrians or the Hittites, without being influenced by the fact that the Old Testament is a collection of sacred books of two religions still vital, Judaism and Christianity; that is, without mixing the theological and the historical levels …………. Theology, in itself, can never support history, replacing the missing documentary data: this would mean doing bad things history; and, moreover, of the terrible theology. >>.
By: Piero Cargnino
Sources and bibliography:
Cimmino Franco, “Dictionary of Pharaonic dynasties”, Bompiani, Milan 2003
Federico A. Arborio Mella, “Egypt of the Pharaohs”, Murcia, 2005
Salima Ikram, “Ancient Egypt”, Ananke, 2013
Giacomo Cavillier, “Egyptology”, Ananke, 2010Gardiner Alan, “The Egyptian civilization”, Oxford University Press 1961 (Einaudi, Turin 1997
Edda Bresciani, “Great illustrated encyclopedia of ancient Egypt”, De Agostini 2005
Guy Rachet, “Larousse dictionary of the Egyptian civilization”, Gremese Editore 1994
Margaret Bunson, “Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt”, Brothers Melita Editori 1995
Kemet. The voice of Ancient Egypt, “The Hyksos, the invading people”, Web 2017
Maurizio Damiano, “Encyclopedic dictionary of ancient Egypt and of the Nubian civilizations”, Mondadori 1996)