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Egyptian History - Part 3

Silent Sentinels of Ean Egyptian Temple
Silent Sentinels of Ean Egyptian Temple

For the first time Egypt entered upon foreign conquest. Its armies conquered the Nile valley south of the first cataract as far as Semneh and Kumneh (see HALFA, WADI), where Usertasen III. placed fortresses to guard the new frontier.

At home temples were erected at various places, and tombs were excavated from the rock at Beni Hasan and SIUT (q. v). Some colossi at Tanis and Abydos come from the same source. From Amenemha III. proceeded an undertaking which required great engineering skill, the construction of Lake Moeris (q. v.), in the Fayum, excavated as a reservoir for surplus water to be used for irrigation in seasons of low Nile. The dynasty lasted 160 years, its kings were regarded as ideal rulers, and its language and orthography were classical models for after ages.

But this period was as an oasis in the desert. In times following, till the close of the seventeenth dynasty, there must have been great commotion and internal unrest. The monuments are few, though the names of rulers who must be assigned to this interval number upward of 150. The state was in a weakened condition, offering itself an easy prey to the invading Hyksos (q. v.). Concerning these people little is known; they left few traces of themselves in buildings and monuments to tell their story. The length of their stay is unknown, only that they were worshipers of SUTECH (q. v.), and that their strongholds were Avaris (see Pelusium), San (see Tanis), and Bubastis (see Pi-Beseth).

The Sphynx
Sphynx and the Great Pyramid

The Hyksos threw the country into still greater confusion, but seem to have been content for the most part to remain quietly within their strong places in the Eastern Delta, and to receive tribute from the vassal Egyptian princes. But civilization was not dead even under the weight of this barbarian oppression, and in the seventeenth dynasty it began again to reappear. The tombs at GURNAH (q. v.) testify that an organized state existed, and it is evident that the native kings were in control at least as far north as Thebes. The cause of the outbreak which ended in the expulsion of the Hyksos hordes was religious. Apepi, the Hyksos, demanded of Ra-sekenen, the "prince of the southern city," Thebes, that he renounce the worship of Amen-Ra and adopt that of Sutech. A refusal led to war, which became aggressive on the part of the Thebans till it developed into a struggle for supremacy lasting for years. It was brought to a successful close by Ahmes I., the first king of the eighteenth dynasty, who in his third campaign not only drove the Hyksos from their last stronghold, Avaris, but pursued them into Palestine.

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