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EGYPTIAN HISTORY - PART 5
Gigantic Temple Columns
It is probable that these were the people who later appear as mercenaries, and who finally grew to be a dangerous power in the land.
The remainder of this Ramesside dynasty (Ramses IV.XIII.) was weak; the sovereigns were the tools of priests and mercenaries by turn, till the priest dynasty (the twenty-first) of Herhor. (q. v, Manetho, Smendes) and Pinotem (Manetho, Psusenes) usurped the throne. Our main indebtedness to those sovereigns is in the fact that they hid the remains of their great predecessors so thoroughly that they remained in a rooky chamber at Der el-Bahari undiscovered till 1881.
During these periods of weakness the Libyan power was developing again, and under Sheshonk I. (Biblical, SHISHAK, q. v.) and Osorkon (q. v.) of the twenty-second dynasty, about 930 B. C., it so dominated Egypt that even the. governors of cities and the high priests at Memphis and Thebes were Libyans. The adherents of the royal priesthood fled to Ethiopia and there founded an Egyptian kingdom with NAPATA (q. v.) as its capital, and with the priests of Amon in actual power.
This kingdom continued through the two following dynasties, twenty-third and twenty-fourth. During the earlier the Ethiopian Pianchi conquered Egypt as far as Memphis; the later, consisting of one king, the Bocchoris of the Greeks, was overthrown to make room for the Ethiopian (twenty-fifth) dynasty under SABAKA (q. v.) in 716 B. C. With Sabaka, who is supposed to have been the "So" of the Bible, and with Taharka (Biblical, TIRHAKAH, q.v.), the Hebrews had relations of confederation, as also with NECHO (q. v.) and Apries (Manetho, Uaphris Bibl., HOPHRA, q. v.) of the following (twenty-sixth) dynasty (see below). The efforts at foreign conquest put forth by those kings came to nothing in the face of superior power, but at home there was peace for about 138 years.
The Temple Complex at Luxor
During this time Psemtik I. (Greek, PSAMMETICHUS, q. v.) built in many parts of the land; efforts were made to establish commerce in new regions, and under Necho a fleet circumnavigated Africa. The establishment of Greek colonies in the Delta at Naucratis and Daphnae was also promoted, but with results which in the long run were detrimental to the ancient order of things. In the earlier contests with Assyria the confederations came to naught, and finally Essarhaddon conquered the land as far as Thebes, making Egypt an Assyrian province from 662-654 B.C. With the aid of Greek mercenaries Psammetichos I. expelled them, and endeavored to restore the land to its former greatness, introducing the titles, language, writing, and art of the old kingdom. It was a period of renaissance, but in the nature of things it could not be permanent.
The rising Persian kingdom threatened, and when Cambyses in 525 B. c. met Psammetichos III. at Pelusium, a single battle sufficed to overthrow him. The Persian rule continued till 400 B. C. amid numerous popular uprisings, incited by members of the ancient royal line who maintained an independent existence in the marshy lands of the Delta. The Persian power became weakened, and was finally overthrown. Thence nearly till the arrival of Alexander the Great in 332, the twenty-eighth to the thirtieth dynasties held sway, having with Greek aid broken the Persian yoke. The most famous of the rulers between 400 and 332 B. c. was Nectanebo I. (q. v.) of the thirtieth dynasty, who not only successfully held his own against the Persians, but also pursued the arts of peace at home, building and repairing temples throughout the land.
Ancient Egyptian Women
With Nectanebo II. in 345 B. c. the native rulers ceased, when after a valiant but ill-advised campaign he fled to Ethiopia with such treasures as he could gather hastily, leaving Egypt to become again a Persian satrapy for a brief space. This triumph was short-lived, and in 332 Alexander the Great was hailed as the deliverer of Egypt. The Greek conquest established a Greek royal family, the Ptolemies, to rule Egypt. Egypt was no longer governed by its own nobility. Under the Ptolemies (1.XVI.) Egypt's old commanding position was lost, but it began to assume a place of importance as an intellectual center. Old temples were renewed and new ones were built. This period gave us the historical work of Manetho and the Septuagint version of the Scriptures, while about the wonderful library of Alexandria there grew up a class of scholars distinguished by their love of letters and science.
After the death of Cleopatra, the last Ptolemeic ruler, Egypt became a Roman province governed by prefects. The ancient relugion, writings, and customs were conserved, and the priests preserved the ancient fiction of Pharaohs, sons of Re, the sun-god. Even Decius, 250 A. D., appears as a Pharaoh after Egypt had become Christian. But so far as power and national feeling were concerned Egypt was dead. The Roman emperors wrote their names in hieroglyphics under a wretched orthography and they built temples, but this was probably as an expedient for holding the people in a more quiet subjugation. While political death had come, intellectual life revived under the influence of Christianity, and for centuries its influence was felt in the world of Christian thought. The edict of Theodosius in 381 A. D. making Christianity the religion of Egypt, marked the annibilation of the ancient regime, whose only reminiscence was the Coptic language which became the vehicle of Christian, especially Gnostic, thought and the speech of divine service. See COPTS, COPTIC CHURCH, and COPTIC
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