"Kushite Empire" redirects here. For the kingdom south of Egypt, see Kingdom of Kush.
Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt
|744 BC–656 BC|
Kushite Empire in 700 BC
|Common languages||Egyptian, Meroitic|
|Religion||ancient Egyptian religion|
• 744–714 BC
• 664–656 BC
|ISO 3166 code||EG|
The 25th dynasty was a line of pharaohs who originated in the Kingdom of Kush, located in present-day northern Sudan and Upper Egypt. Most of this dynasty's kings saw Napata as their spiritual homeland. They reigned in part or all of Ancient Egypt from 744–656 BC. The dynasty began with Kashta's invasion of Upper Egypt and culminated in several years of both successful and unsuccessful wars with the Mesopotamia-based Neo-Assyrian Empire. The 25th Dynasty's reunification of Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt, and Kush created the largest Egyptian empire since the New Kingdom. They assimilated into society by reaffirming Ancient Egyptian religious traditions, temples, and artistic forms, while introducing some unique aspects of Kushite culture. It was during the 25th dynasty that the Nile valley saw the first widespread construction of pyramids (many in what is now Sudan) since the Middle Kingdom.
After the emperors Sargon II and Sennacherib defeated attempts by the Nubian kings to gain a foothold in the Near East, their successors Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal invaded and defeated and drove out the Nubians. War with Assyria resulted in the end of Kushite power in Northern Egypt and the conquest of Egypt by the Neo-Assyrian Empire. They were succeeded by the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, initially a puppet dynasty installed by and vassals of the Assyrians, the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Achaemenid Empire invaded. The fall of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty also marks the beginning of the Late Period of ancient Egypt.
The twenty-fifth dynasty originated in Kush, 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. 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. Although Manetho does not mention the first king, Piye, mainstream Egyptologists consider him the first Pharaoh of the 25th dynasty. 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 of a rebellion against Assyria in Philistia and Gaza, however Piye was defeated by Sargon II, and the rebellion failed.
Shebitku conquered the entire Nile Valley, including Upper and Lower Egypt, around 712 BC. Shebitku had Bocchoris of the preceding Sais dynasty burned to death for resisting him. After conquering Lower Egypt, Shebitku transferred the capital to Memphis. Recent research by Dan'el Kahn 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 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.
Although the Manethonic and classical traditions maintain that it was Shebitku's invasion which brought Egypt under Kushite rule, the king burning his opponent, Bocchoris-Bakenranef, alive, there is no direct evidence that Shabaqo did slay Bakenranef, and although earlier scholarship generally accepted the tradition, it has recently been treated more sceptically.
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 Philistine city of Ashdod, however he and his allies were defeated by Sargon II.
The most recent archaeological evidence shows that Shabaka ruled Egypt after Shebitku and not before—as previously thought. The construction of the tomb of Shebitku (Ku. 18) resembles that of Piye (Ku. 17) while that of Shabaka (Ku. 15) is similar to that of Taharqa (Nu. 1) and Tantamani (Ku. 16) [39 – D. Dunham, El-Kurru, The Royal Cemeteries of Kush, I, (1950) 55, 60, 64, 67; also D. Dunham, Nuri, The Royal Cemeteries of Kush, II, (1955) 6-7; J. Lull, Las tumbas reales egipcias del Tercer Periodo Intermedio (dinastías XXI-XXV). Tradición y cambios, BAR-IS 1045 (2002) 208.] . secondly, Payraudeau notes in French that "the Divine Adoratrix Shepenupet I, the last Libyan Adoratrix, was still alive during the reign of Shebitku because she is represented performing rites and is described as "living" in those parts of the Osiris-Héqadjet chapel built during his reign (wall and exterior of the gate) [45 – G. Legrain, "Le temple et les chapelles d’Osiris à Karnak. Le temple d’Osiris-Hiq-Djeto, partie éthiopienne", RecTrav 22 (1900) 128; JWIS III, 45.]. In the rest of the room it is Amenirdis I, (Shabaka's sister), who is represented with the Adoratrix title and provided with a coronation name. The succession Shepenupet I - Amenirdis I thus took place during the reign of Shebitku/Shabataqo. This detail in itself is sufficient to show that the reign of Shabaka cannot precede that of Shebitku/Shabataqo. Finally, Gerard Broekman's GM 251 (2017) paper shows that Shebitku reigned before Shabaka since the upper edge of Shabaka's NLR #30's Year 2 Karnak quay inscription was carved over the left-hand side of the lower edge of Shebitku's NLR#33 Year 3 inscription. This can only mean that Shabaka ruled after Shebitku
Taharqa was a Nubian king that ruled over Egypt after the Kushite invasion. He ruled as Pharaoh from Memphis, but constructed great works throughout the Nile Valley, including works at Jebel Barkal, Kawa, and Karnak. 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 (modern Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Territories and Sinai) and southern Aramea (modern southwestern Syria and southern Lebanon) had fallen to the Mesopotamian based Assyrian Empire, and by 700 BC war between the two empires became inevitable. Taharqa enjoyed some 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 Judah and King Hezekiah in withstanding a siege by King Sennacherib of the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9). There are various theories (disease, divine intervention, Hezekiah's surrender) as to why the Assyrians failed to take the city. However, Sennacherib's annals record Judah was forced into tribute after the siege. Sennacherib drove the Egyptians from the entire region and back into Egypt. After preventing the Egyptians from gaining a foothold in the region, the Assyrians did not return to the area to do battle for another 20 years, being preoccupied by revolts among their Babylonian brethren and also the Elamites, Scythians and Chaldeans. Sennacherib was murdered by his own sons in revenge for the destruction of the rebellious Mesopotamian city of Babylon, a city sacred to all Mesopotamians, the Assyrians included.
His successor, King Esarhaddon, tired of attempts by Egypt to meddle in the Assyrian Empire, began an invasion of Egypt in 671 BC. Taharqa was defeated, and Egypt conquered by Esarhaddon. Taharqa fled to his Nubian homeland. Esarhaddon describes "installing local kings (i.e. rulers and governors) Nubians/Kushites I deported from Egypt, leaving not one left to do homage to me". The Assyrian conquest ended the Nubian invasion that was in the 25th dynasty in Egypt.
However, the Assyrians only stationed their own troops in the north, and the native Egyptian puppet rulers installed by the Assyrians were unable to retain total control of the south of the country for long. Two years later (669 BC), Taharqa returned from Nubia and seized control Egypt from the native vassal rulers as far north as Memphis. Esarhaddon set about returning to Egypt to once more eject Taharqa from the south; however, he fell ill and died in the northern Assyrian city of Harran before departing. His successor Ashurbanipal sent a general with a small, well-trained army corps which easily 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 recent project to depict Taharqa in a major motion picture. As of 2017, the status of this project is unknown.
A study of the sphinx that was created to represent Taharqa indicates that he was a Kushite pharaoh from Nubia.
His successor, Tantamani, also made a failed attempt to regain Egypt from the Assyrian Empire. He invaded Egypt and defeated Necho, a native Egyptian prince and 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 that it never truly recovered. A native Egyptian ruler, Psamtik I, was placed on the throne, as a vassal of Ashurbanipal of Assyria; he was the first ruler of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. In 656 BC, Psamtik I peacefully took control of rebellious Thebes and effectively unified all of Egypt, though it remained subject to Assyria until the Assyrian Empire began to tear itself apart with a brutal series of internal civil wars in the 620s BC. Tantamani and the Nubians were never again to pose a threat to either Assyria or Egypt. However, upon his death, Tantamani was buried with full honours in the royal cemetery of El-Kurru, upstream from the Kushite capital of Napata.
Although the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty controlled Ancient Egypt for only 73 years (744–671 BC), it holds an important place in Egyptian history due to the restoration of traditional Egyptian values, culture, art, and architecture.
Relief of a High Official, c. 670–650 BC. 1996.146.3, Brooklyn Museum; This relief's style makes it possible to attribute it to one of the palatial tombs of Dynasty XXV and Dynasty XXVI built by great officials such as Montuemhat, governor of Upper Egypt.
Main article: List of pharaohs
The pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty ruled for approximately seventy-three years in Egypt, from 744 BC to 671 BC.
|Piye||Usimare||c. 744–714 BC||Kurru 17||Tabiry (Kurru 53)
Abar (Nuri 53?)
Khensa (Kurru 4)
Peksater (Kurru 54)
Nefrukekashta (Kurru 52)
|Kashta is sometimes considered the first pharaoh of the dynasty, as opposed to Piye.|
|Shebitku||Djedkare||714–705 BC||Kurru 18||Arty (Kurru 6)|
|Shabaka||Nefer-ka-re||705–690 BC||Kurru 15||Qalhata (Kurru 5)
|Taharqa||Khunefertumre||690–664 BC||Nuri 1||Takahatenamun (Nuri 21?)
Atakhebasken (Nuri 36)
Naparaye (Kurru 3)
|Tantamani||Bakare||664–656 BC||Kurru 16||Piankharty
Malaqaye? (Nuri 59)
|Lost control of Upper Egypt in 656 BC when Psamtik I captured Thebes in that year.|
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.
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.
He moved his capital to Thebes and became king of Kush and Misr (Egypt) forming the 25th dynasty. Kushite power stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the present Ethiopian boundary. Some Egyptians welcomed the Kushite presence and saw them as civilised people and not as barbarians. Their culture was a mixture of indigenous Egyptian and Sudanese elements and physically their appearance included Egyptian, Berber-Libyan and other Mediterranean elements as well as the Negroid blood coming from the region of the fifth and sixth cataracts