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Kushite Empire

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Kushite Empire

"Kushite Empire" redirects here. For for its origins, see Kingdom of Kush.
Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt

760 BC–656 BC
Kushite Egypt in 700 BC.
Capital Meroe
Languages Ancient Egyptian, Nubian
Religion Ancient Egyptian religion
Government Monarchy
 -  760 BC-752 BC Kashta (first)
 -  664 BC-656 BC Tantamani (last)
 -  Established 760 BC
 -  Disestablished 656 BC

Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

The Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt, known as the Nubian Dynasty or the Kushite Empire, was the last dynasty of the Third Intermediate Period of Ancient Egypt.

The 25th dynasty was a line of rulers originating in the Nubian Kingdom of Kush and most saw Napata as their spiritual homeland. They reigned in part or all of Ancient Egypt from 760 BC to 656 BC.[1] The dynasty began with Kashta's invasion of Upper Egypt and culminated in several years of unsuccessful war with the Mesopotamian based Assyrian Empire which was to result in the destruction of the Kushite Empire, the ejecting of the Nubians and conquest of Egypt by Assyria. The 25th's reunification of Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, and also Kush (Nubia) created the largest Egyptian empire since the New Kingdom. They ushered in an age of renaissance by reaffirming Ancient Egyptian religious traditions, temples, and artistic forms, while introducing some unique aspects of Kushite culture.[2] It was during the 25th dynasty that the Nile valley saw the first widespread construction of pyramids (many in modern Sudan) since the Middle Kingdom.[3][4][5] After the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Sennacherib defeated attempts by the Nubian kings to gain a foothold in the Near East, their successors Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal invaded Egypt and defeated and drove out the Nubians. They were succeeded by the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt, initially a puppet dynasty installed by and vassals of the Assyrians, the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest.


The known rulers, in the History of Egypt, for the twenty-fifth dynasty are the following:

Dynasty XXV pharaohs
Pharaoh Horus-name Reign (BCE) Pyramid Consort(s)
Kashta Maare c. 760 BC – c. 752 BC Kurru 8 Queen Pebatjma (Kurru 7?)
Piye Seneferre c. 752 BC – 721 BC Kurru 17 Queen Tabiry (Kurru 53)
Queen Abar (Nuri 53?)
Queen Khensa (Kurru 4)
Queen Peksater (Kurru 54)
Nefrukekashta (Kurru 52)
Shabaka Neferkare 721 BC – 707 BC Kurru 15 Queen Qalhata (Kurru 5)
Queen Mesbat
Queen Tabekenamun?
Shebitku Djedkare 707 BC – 690 BC Kurru 18 Queen Arty (Kurru 6)
Taharqa Khunefertumre 690 – 664 BC Nuri 1 Queen Takahatenamun (Nuri 21?)
Queen Atakhebasken (Nuri 36)
Queen Naparaye (Kurru 3)
Queen Tabekenamun?
Tantamani Bakare 664 – 656 BC (died 653 BC) Kurru 16 Queen Piankharty
Queen [..]salka
Queen Malaqaye? (Nuri 59)

The period starting with Kashta and ending with Malonaqen is sometimes called the Napatan Period. The later Kings from the twenty-fifth dynasty ruled over Napata, Meroe, and Egypt. The seat of government and the royal palace were in Napata during this period, while Meroe was a provincial city. The kings and queens were buried in El-Kurru and Nuri.[6]

Alara, the first known Nubian king and predecessor of Kashta was not a 25th dynasty king since he did not control any region of Egypt during his reign. While Piye is viewed as the founder of the 25th dynasty, some publications may include Kashta who already controlled some parts of Upper Egypt. A stela of his was found at Elephantine and Kashta likely exercised some influence at Thebes (although he did not control it) since he held enough sway to have his daughter Amenirdis I adopted as the next Divine Adoratrice of Amun there.


The twenty-fifth dynasty originated in Kush, or (Nubia), which is presently in Northern Sudan. The city-state of Napata was the spiritual capital and it was from there that Piye (spelled Piankhi or Piankhy in older works) invaded and took control of Egypt.[7] Piye personally led the attack on Egypt and recorded his victory in a lengthy hieroglyphic filled stele called the "Stele of Victory." Piye revived one of the greatest features of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, pyramid construction. An energetic builder, he constructed the oldest known pyramid at the royal burial site of El Kurru and expanded the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal.[4] Although Manetho does not mention the first king, Piye, mainstream Egyptologists consider him the first Pharaoh of the 25th dynasty.[3][4][5][8] Manetho also does not mention the last king, Tantamani, although inscriptions exist to attest to the existence of both Piye and Tantamani.

Piye made various unsuccessful attempts to extend Egyptian influence in the Near East, then controlled from Mesopotamia by the Semitic Assyrian Empire. In 720 BC he sent an army in support a rebellion against Assyria in Philistia and Gaza, however Piye was defeated by Sargon II, and the rebellion failed.[9]


Shabaka conquered the entire Nile valley, including Upper and Lower Egypt, around 710 BC. Shabaka had Bocchoris of the preceding Sais dynasty burned to death for resisting him. After conquering Lower Egypt, Shabaka transferred the capital to Memphis. Shabaka restored the great Egyptian monuments and returned Egypt to a theocratic monarchy by becoming the first priest of Amon. In addition, Shabaka is known for creating a well preserved example of Memphite theology by inscribing an old religious papyrus into the Shabaka Stone. Shabaka supported an uprising against the Assyrians in the Israelite city of Ashdod, however he and his allies were defeated by Sargon II.


Recent research by Dan'el Kahn [11] suggests that Shebitku was king of Egypt by 707/706 BC. This is based on evidence from an inscription of the Assyrian king Sargon II, which was found in Persia (then a colony of Assyria) and dated to 706 BC. This inscription calls Shebitku the king of Meluhha, and states that he sent back to Assyria a rebel named Iamanni in handcuffs. Kahn's arguments have been widely accepted by many Egyptologists including Rolf Krauss, and Aidan Dodson [12] and other scholars at the SCIEM 2000 (Synchronisation of Civilisations of the Eastern Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C.) project with the notable exception of Kenneth Kitchen and Manfred Bietak at present.


Taharqa ushered in one of Ancient Egypt's greatest periods of renaissance. He ruled as Pharaoh from Memphis, but constructed great works throughout the Nile Valley, including works at Jebel Barkal, Kawa, and Karnak.[13] At Karnak, the Sacred Lake structures, the kiosk in the first court, and the colonnades at the temple entrance are all owed to Taharqa and Mentuemhet. Taharqa built the largest pyramid in the Nubian region at Nuri (near El-Kurru).

From the 10th Century BC onwards Egypt's remaining Semitic allies in Canaan and southern Aramea (modern Syria) had fallen to the Mesopotamian based Assyrian Empire, and by 700 BC war between the two empires became inevitable. Taharqa enjoyed some minor success in his attempts to regain a foothold in the Near East by allying himself with various Semitic peoples in the south west Levant subjugated by Assyria. He aided Jerusalem and King Hezekiah in withstanding a siege by King Sennacherib of the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:9;Isaiah 37:9), although it appears that disease among the besiegers was the major factor in the Assyrians failing to take the city. Nevertheless, Sennacherib's annals record Judah was forced into tribute regardless.[14] Eventually however, Sennacherib drove the Egyptians from the entire region and back into Egypt. Sennacherib was murdered by his own sons in revenge for the destruction of the rebellious Mesopotamian city of Babylon. His successor, King Esarhaddon, tired of Egyptian meddling in the Assyrian Empire began an invasion of Egypt in 671 BC. Taharqa was defeated with surprising ease by Esarhaddon, and fled to his Nubian homeland.[14] Esarhaddon describes "installing local kings and governors" and "All Ethiopians (read Nubians/Kushites) I deported from Egypt, leaving not one left to do homage to me".

However, the native Egyptian puppet rulers installed by the Assyrians were unable to retain total control of the entire country for long, and two years later (669 BC) Taharqa returned from Nubia and seized control of Egypt as far north as Memphis. Esarhaddon set about returning to Egypt to once more eject Taharqa, however he fell ill and died in Harran along the way. His successor Ashurbanipal sent a general with a small army corps which defeated and ejected Taharqa from Egypt once and for all. He died in Nubia two years later. Taharqa remains an important historical figure in Sudan and elsewhere, as is evidenced by Will Smith's current project to depict Taharqa in a major motion picture.


His successor, Tantamani, also attempted to regain Egypt. He defeated a native Egyptian prince named Necho, who was a vassal ruler of Ashurbanipal, taking Thebes in the process. The Assyrians based in the north, then sent a large army southwards. Tantamani was routed and fled back to Nubia, and the Assyrian army sacked Thebes to such an extent it never truly recovered. A native ruler, Psamtik I was placed on the throne, as a vassal of Ashurbanipal and the Assyrians, he was the first ruler of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. In 656 BC, Psamtik I peacefully took control of Thebes and effectively unified all of Egypt, though it initially remained subject to Assyria. Tantamani and the Nubians were never again to pose a threat to either Assyria or Egypt. However upon his death he was buried with full honours in the royal cemetery of el-kurru upstream from the Kushite capital Napata.[14]

The successors of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty settled back in their Nubian homeland, where they established a kingdom at Napata (656 - 590 BC) then later, at Meroë (590 BC - 4th century AD).


Although the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty controlled Ancient Egypt for only 89 years (from 760 BC to 671 BC), it holds an important place in Egyptian history due to the restoration of traditional Egyptian values, culture, art, and architecture. The 25th dynasty likely influenced Greek visitors. Herodotus wrote that the Aethiopians (Greek and Assyrian-Babylonian name for Kush) may have been the most ancient people on Earth and that Egypt was founded from Ethiopia.[15] Herodotus also posited that the Greek gods originated in Ethiopia (e.g. Homer's references to the gods going to Ethiopia to convene). It's unclear whether Herodotus' claims were inspired by 25th dynasty inscriptions or contemporary accounts that have not been independently verified as historical fact. It's known that the 25th Dynasty rulers restored many ancient texts. For example, Shabaka caused the "Shabako Stone", or "Memphite Cosmology", to be carved in stone from a more ancient text.

Gallery of images

See also


Further reading

  • G.A. Reisner, , 2 (1919), pp. 237–254

External links

  • (French) Voyage au pays des pharaons noirs Travel in Sudan : pictures and notes on the Nubian historyde:Dritte Zwischenzeit (Ägypten)#25. Dynastie
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