Hyksos

Kings Dynasty 15:1674-1567 BC; Dynasty 16: c.1684-1567 BC.
    During the Second Intermediate Period, Egypt was ruled by a line of kings known as the Hyksos. According to the historian *Manetho (as preserved in *Africanus), there were six Hyksos kings in the Fifteenth Dynasty, thirty-two in the Sixteenth Dynasty, and during the Seventeenth Dynasty the Hyksos and the princes of Thebes ruled concurrently. *Josephus, quoting *Manetho, claimed that the Hyksos were a people of obscure racial origin who invaded Egypt from the east and subdued the country without a blow. They overpowered the Egyptian ruler, burnt the cities and temples of the gods and appointed a Hyksos leader, Salitis, as king. He exacted tribute from the Egyptians and lived at Memphis; a city known as Avaris (situated somewhere in the eastern Delta) became the Hyksos capital. *Josephus interpreted the name 'Hyksos' to mean 'Shepherd Kings' or 'captive shepherds', which lent support to his theory that the period of Hyksos rule was reflected in the Biblical story of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt. More recent theories have speculated on the origin of the Hyksos— whether they formed a mass invasion of new people and whether they included large numbers of Hurrians, an Indo-European group from Mesopotamia. The evidence indicates that the Hyksos should probably not be regarded as an entire race but rather as a group of Palestinian leaders who, perhaps because of the pressure of new migrations in the north in c.1700 BC, were pushed down into Egypt. The term 'Hyksos' is in fact derived from the Egyptian title which meant 'rulers of foreign countries'; this had been in use for centuries as a term of reference for the tribesmen who lived along and regularly harrassed Egypt's north-eastern borders.
    During the Thirteenth Dynasty, the country had become fragmented under a line of weak rulers and consequently, the Hyksos (who were probably of predominantly Semitic origin) were able to penetrate Egypt's borders, first taking the eastern Delta and finally controlling the whole country. They were apparently successful in dominating Lower and Middle Egypt but by 1600 BC, the southern princes of Thebes and local rulers in Nubia exhibited a marked degree of independence and autonomy. Under their princes *Seqenenre Tao II, *Kamose, and *Amosis I, the Thebans ultimately drove the Hyksos from Egypt and established the New Kingdom with the Eighteenth Dynasty.
    The Hyksos invaders were not a new ethnic force but consisted of the leaders of those same tribes who has always harrassed Egypt. In effect, they provided a change of rulership, but they took over the existing Egyptian administration and officials and they appear to have respected and encouraged Egyptian civilisation, introducing no distinctive new culture of their own. The later native traditions gave a biased account of them as cruel and impious, but this would seem to have been exaggerated; indeed, their rule and imposition of tribute was probably very similar to the pattern established by earlier native kings.
    The city of Avaris was situated in the eastern Delta, although its exact location remains uncertain—it may have stood where Tanis was later built or at the site of Qantir, several miles further south. The Hyksos adopted Seth as their royal patron god, but their form of the deity seems to have had more in common with the Asiatic god Baal than with the evil divinity found in Egyptian mythology. The anarchy and destruction that later records attribute to the Hyksos were almost certainly propogandist, attempting to glorify the Theban princes who had 'saved' Egypt. Nevertheless, the Hyksos interlude changed some basic Egyptian attitudes: the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty pursued an aggressive rather than a defensive foreign policy, establishing a political and military buffer for Egypt by bringing the petty states of Syria-Palestine under their control and influence. The Hyksos period was also the time when various technical and military developments were introduced into Egypt, including forts, metalworking advances, new weapons, the use of horses and chariots, the vertical loom, and the lute and the lyre.
BIBL. Save-Soderbergh, T. The Hyksos rule in Egypt. JEA 37 (1951) pp. 53-71; Van Seters, J. The Hyksos. New Haven: 1966; Labib, P. Die Herrschaft der Hyksos in Agypten und ihr Sturz. Gluckstadt: 1937.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
   The Greek form of the Egyptian Heka Khasut, “ruler of foreign lands.” This title was used by the Egyptians for the various Asiatic chieftains in Palestine and Syria. The later derivation of “shepherd kings” is erroneous. The Egyptians were always wary of Asiatic encroachment, and during Dynasty 12 Amenemhat I built a wall to exclude unwanted Asiatics. Nevertheless, some immigration was permitted as an Asiatic settlement grew up around Avaris, and Asiatic travelers are depicted at Beni Hasan. During the Second Intermediate Period, large numbers of Asiatics settled in Egypt and eventually took over most of the country, founding the Hyksos Dynasty 15 and adopting many of the attributes of Egyptian rulers. Thebes apparently became a vassal state but ultimately rebelled and succeeded in capturing the Hyksos capital at Avaris and driving them from Egypt.
   See also Apepi; Iannas; Khayan; Salitis.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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