II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > B. Kingdoms of Western Asia and Africa, to 323 B.C.E. > 3. Egypt, c. 3500–332 B.C.E. > e. The New Kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period (18th–24th Dynasties)
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
e. The New Kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period (18th–24th Dynasties)
Note: For the 18th to 20th Dynasties, there is a high and a low chronology, differing by some 10 to 20 years. The low chronology is used here.  1
18th Dynasty. Amosis (Ahmose, 1552–1527) drove the Hyksos out of the country and reestablished the power of the central government. Rather than remaining in a single capital, the 18th-Dynasty kings divided their time between Thebes and Memphis. The worship of the Theban god Amun became increasingly important, and the priesthood of Amun became a political force. Amenophis I (Amenhotep, 1527–1506) secured the Nubian and Libyan borders. Nubia was administered by a viceroy called the “King's Son of Kush.” Tuthmosis I (Tuthmose, 1506–1494) and Tuthmosis II (1494–1490) both fought successful campaigns in Nubia and Syria-Palestine (See Geography).  2
THE REIGNS OF HATSHEPSUT AND TUTHMOSIS III. Tuthmosis II associated his wife (and half-sister), Hatshepsut, (1490–1468) with him in his reign, and when he died at an early age, Hatshepsut seized power. At first she acted as regent of Tuthmosis III (1490–1436), but in 1489 Hatshepsut proclaimed herself “king” and thereafter depicted herself as a man. Meanwhile, Tuthmosis grew up in the army. In 1468 he took power: the fate of Hatshepsut is unknown. Tuthmosis immediately invaded Syria-Palestine, and at the first Battle of Megiddo (1468) defeated a coalition of Canaanite states under the leadership of the king of Qadesh (See 640–609). In a further series of campaigns, Tuthmosis III established an empire stretching to the Euphrates. He even crossed the river and pillaged Washukanni, the capital of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni (See c. 1550–1250). In Nubia, he moved the border to the Fourth Cataract and founded a fortified town at Napata (See 747–656). The title pharaoh (per`o, “Great House”), previously used to refer to the royal palace, was now used to refer to the king himself.  3
THE REIGN OF AMENOPHIS III. Under Amenophis III Egypt enjoyed unparalleled wealth and peace. Amenophis built an enormous mortuary temple at Thebes, including two enormous statues of himself, the Colossi of Memnon (65.6 ft. high). He also built the gigantic temple to Amun at Luxor and founded a new city in Nubia called Gematen (“finding Aten”), which reflected the rising importance of this god. Although Amenophis made diplomatic marriages with two daughters of Mitannian kings, his chief wife was Queen Tiy, the daughter of a Nubian general.  4
THE REIGN OF AMENOPHIS IV (AKHENATEN). Amenophis IV and his wife, Nefertiti, introduced an anomalous Egyptian monotheism. The god of the solar disk, Aten, was now worshipped as the only deity. The king changed his name to Akhenaten (“Pleasing to Aten”) and built a new capital at Akhetaten (“Horizon of Aten,” modern Tell al-‘Amarna), halfway between Memphis and Thebes. Here were found the Amarna letters, correspondence with the kings of Babylonia, Mitanni, the Hittites, and others written on clay tablets in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the period. Egypt's empire began to disintegrate. Some areas of Syria-Palestine broke away, and others were taken over by the Hittites (See c. 1375–1345).  5
THE END OF THE 18TH DYNASTY. After Akhenaten's death, his son-in-law Tutankhaten (1347–1337) abandoned the Aten cult, changed his name to Tutankhamen, and moved the government back to Memphis and Thebes. He is chiefly known for this tomb, which yielded fantastic treasures when discovered in 1922 C.E. The last king of the 18th Dynasty was a usurper, Horemheb (1333–1305), who had worked his way up from a scribe to become chief commander of the army. A capable ruler, Horemheb took steps to suppress graft and corruption, particularly in tax collection, restored the temples of Amun, and undertook a campaign in Asia, which reached Carchemish in Syria (See Geography).  6
19th Dynasty. Horemheb was succeeded by another military man, Ramses I (1305–1303), whose family came from Tanis. His son, Seti I (1303–1289) set out to reconquer western Asia. He was successful in Palestine and southern Syria, extending control as far as Qadesh on the Orontes (See c. 1344–1250). Seti built a great temple at Abydos and continued work on the great Hypostyle Hall in Karnak.  7
THE REIGN OF RAMSES THE GREAT. Ramses II spent much of his reign on military campaigns. In Libya he defeated the Tehenu and built a series of fortifications guarding the western frontier. He also subdued the Nubian tribes and built a temple at Abu Simbel between the First and Second Cataracts, which included colossal statues 70 ft. high. The main military activity of Ramses II was a long struggle with the Hittite Empire. In 1286 he fought the Battle of Qadesh against King Muwatallis—the Egyptians claimed victory, but the Hittites actually won (See c. 1344–1250). Further fighting ensued, until in 1270 Ramses signed a peace treaty with the new Hittite king, Hattusilis. Tanis was rebuilt as a new capital and called Pi-Ramses, the biblical “store-city of Ramses” (Exodus 1:11). Ramses II completed the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak.  8
THE END OF THE 19TH DYNASTY. Merneptah (1224–1204) defeated an incursion of Libu (Libyans) and Sea Peoples at the Battle of Piyer (1220). Some of these Sea Peoples, who had destroyed the Hittite Empire and ravaged the Near East, might be identified with later Mediterranean peoples: the Akiyawash (Achaeans), Turush (Etruscans), Luku (Lycians), and Sharden (Sardinians). The Merneptah Stele records a successful campaign in Palestine which defeated, among others, the people of Israel, their first datable mention in history. The 19th Dynasty ended in a series of short, confused reigns. The final ruler was a woman, Queen Tawosre (1194–1186), who took the throne with the name Sitre (“Daughter of Ra”).  9
20th Dynasty. After a short interregnum, order was restored by a military figure, Sethnakhte (1186–1184), whose son took the name Ramses III (1184–1153). Ramses III defeated the Libyans and in his 8th year overcame another coalition of Sea Peoples: Peleset (Philistines), Tjeker (Sicels?), Danuna (Danaoi?), Sharden (Sardinians), Weshwesh, and Shakrusha. The scenes of Ramses III's victory are shown on the walls of the mortuary temple at Medinet Habu. In general, Egypt was stable and prosperous under Ramses III, but in the closing years of his reign there were signs of unrest, including the first known strike in history, by funerary artisans in Thebes. After the death of Ramses III, there was a series of weak kings, Ramses IV–XI (1153–1069), and the central government declined into impotence. In the time of Ramses XI (1099–1069), Herihor, the high priest of Amun-Ra at Karnak, ruled Upper Egypt from Thebes. Much of the Delta was controlled by a local official, Smendes (Nesbenebdeb). The Tale of Wenamun, another quasi-historical story, reflects the unsettled conditions of Egypt, and its lack of international stature. During the New Kingdom, the cult of the dead and the availability of the afterlife extended even to relatively minor officials and private persons. Tomb paintings show naturalistic scenes of everyday life. While drawing on earlier material, the Book of the Dead was compiled during this period. By the end of the New Kingdom, the population of Egypt had risen to some 4.5 million.  10
21st (Tanite) Dynasty. After the death of Ramses XI, Smendes (Nesbenebdeb, 1069–1043) claimed the kingship and ruled from Pi-Ramses (Tanis). The hereditary high priests of Amun-Ra, descendants of Herihor, governed Upper Egypt as a theocracy, and the viceroy of Nubia (King's Son of Kush) (See 1506–1069) ruled independently in the south, although both recognized the 21st Dynasty pharaohs as titular rulers. The rise of the Kingdom of Israel created a powerful state in Palestine. It was probably Siamun (978–959) who married his daughter to King Solomon (1 Kings 11:1). The Instruction of Amunemope, one of the most famous of Egyptian books of wisdom, was written around this time. The Book of Proverbs quotes a number of its precepts (Prov. 15:16, 17:1, 22:17–24:22).  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.