By Eni Kazemi ~ November 3rd, 2012. Filed under: Ancient Egypt - .
The 18th Dynasty starts not with the accession of a new royal family to the throne, but with the reign of Ahmose, a brother or nephew of his predecessor Kamose, who is counted as the last king of the previous dynasty.
After about a decade of relative peace and status quo with the Hyksos who still controlled the northern half of the country, the Theban king Ahmose rekindled Kamose’s war against these foreign rulers. Within 5 years, he succeeded in expelling them from his country, reuniting it back under the sole rule of one Egyptian king.
Perhaps driven by the desire to make sure that Egypt never again would fall under a foreign rulership, Ahmose continued his military campaigns after the expulsion of the Hyksos. Through a series of campaigns both in Syria-Palestine and in Nubia, Ahmose extended Egypt’s realm of influence well beyond its borders, stretching from at least as far north as the city of Bybos and perhaps even beyond, down to the second cataract town of Buhen in the south.
From this reign on, Egypt would become a military power that the neighbouring states and kingdoms would need to reckon with.
The reign of Ahmose’s son and successor Amenhotep I was somewhat more peaceful than that of Ahmose and seems to have focused more on the building of new temples throughout the country.
Although he was not buried there, Amenhotep I, along with his mother Ahmes-Nefertari, would be revered until long after his death by the craftsmen who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
With Thutmosis I a new family ascended to the throne. The mother of the new king is only known by the title of King’s Mother, which she obtained after her son came to power. She was neither the sister, daughter nor wife of a king, which means that the father of Thutmosis I, who is not known, was definitely not a king. It is sometimes argued that the royal line was continued through Ahmes, Thutmosis’ principal wife, but the fact that this queen is not known to have held the title King’s Daughter, does indicate that she was neither a daughter of Ahmose nor Amenhotep I. Her title King’s Sisiter might as well mean that she was the sister of Thutmosis I himself, .
Following some rebellions in the conquered territories, Thutmosis I launched a series of military campaigns both in Syria-Palestine and in Nubia. Towards the end of his reign, Egypt’s southern border was at the at the town of Napata, near the 4th cataract, deep into Sudan, while in the north, the country’s influence stretched as far as the town of Karkemish, not far from the modern day Turkish border.
The bounty Thutmosis brought back from his campaigns, and the tribute that foreign kings and vassal rulers would send to Egypt on a regular basis, brought a wealth to the country unlike anything it had ever seen before. This wealth flowed mainly to the building of temples, particularly the temple of the god Amun-Re at Karnak.
Thutmosis I was the first king to be buried in the Valley of the Kings, a tradition that would be followed until the end of the New Kingdom.
Ahmose’s ceremonial axe shows the king slaying an enemy.
Stretching from Karkemish, on the shores of the Euphrates river in the North, to Napata at the 4th cataract of the Nile in the South, Egypt reached its widest expansion during the reign of Thutmosis I and Thutmosis III.
Thutmosis I was succeeded by his son Thutmosis II who died after a brief reign leaving only an infant son, Thutmosis III, to inherit the empire. The widow and sister of the deceased king, Hatshepsut, was appointed regent on behalf of the new king, her stepson. Within a few years, Hatshepsut evolved from regent to king, forcing the young Thutmosis III into the role of junior partner in a corregency.
Hatshepsut’s reign was generally a peacefull one, during which the country prospered. A trading mission to the mysterious land of Punt is often considered as one of the most important accomplishments of this remarkable queen-turned-king and was left very well documented in her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahari.
An important part of Egypt’s prosperity continued to flow to large building projects. Hatshepsut added many new shrines and a pair of obelisks to the great temple of Amun at Karnak and she extended or built several temples throughout the country. Her most remarkable building achievement, however, was be the unique mortuary temple she built at Deir el-Bahari, on the Westbank of Thebes.
At Deir el-Bahari on the westbank of Thebes, Hatshepsut built a unique funerary temple.
When Hatshepsut disappeared from the political stage the then adult Thutmosis III was faced with a rebellion that threatened Egypt’s hold on Syria-Palestine. Like his grandfather before him, Thutmosis III embarked on a series of military campaigns in Syria-Palestine and in Nubia that reinforced Egypt’s control over both areas. Rather than executing the vassals that had rebelled against him, Thutmosis III confirmed them in their power, ensuring himself of their loyalty by bringing their heirs back to Egypt, not just as hostages, but also to “educate” them so that, when they would succeed their fathers, they too would remain loyal to Egypt.
The success of this policy is shown by the fact that Thutmosis III’s successors would rely more on diplomacy and trade than solely on military power to maintain their empire.
The 18th Dynasty peaked during the reign of Amenhotep III, a great-grandson of Thutmosis III. Sustained by the enormous wealth of past conquests, by tributes and diplomatic gifts of vassal kings and foreign rulers, Amenhotep III became one of the greatest builders in the history of his country.
Like his ancestors, he continued extending the great temple of Amun at Karnak. He also built the temple of the goddess Mut at Karnak, just to the South of Amun’s great temple and somewhat more to the south, he constructed a new temple dedicated to Amun and Amenhotep III himself. On the Theban Westbank, he built a large palace complex and a funerary temple of which, unfortunately, only two badly damaged colossi now bear witness.
Amenhotep’s building activity was not limited to Thebes alone. Throughout his realm, and as far south as the 4th cataract, new temples were built and others extended.
Thutmosis III is considered to be the greatest conqueror in the history of Ancient Egypt.
Another interesting development in the course of Amenhotep III’s reign was more of a religious nature. Next to the apparent deification of the living king, a new god made his appearance in the already vast pantheon of the Ancient Egyptians: Aton, the solar disk.
All the while, however, Amenhotep III continued to support the cult of the god Amun, whose priests became increasingly wealthy and powerful. Perhaps driven by a desire to break this power, Amenhotep IV, the son and successor of Amenhotep III, advanced the status of this new god from being the most important solar god, to being as good as the only god. Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten, which means as much as “ray of Aton“, ordered all temples that were not dedicated to the new god closed and moved the capital away from Thebes to a new city which he built in Middle Egypt: Akhet-Aton, “the horizon of Aton“, which, in modern-day literature is called Amarna. The so-called Amarna Revolution had begun.
As part of his revolution, Akhenaten also made some drastic changes in the way people and things would be represented. The most obvious change would be the way he had himself and the members of his family portrayed. His protruding belly, elongated face, fat thighs and small ankles and arms are in sharp contrast with the young and athletic portrayals of his predecessors. Whether or not this was actually what Akhenaten looked like, is still the subject of much debate.
Although there was some military activity during Akhenaten’s reign, the king seems to have been interested more in his religious and cultural reforms than he was in protecting Egypt’s intrests abroad. Calls for support from his vassals in Syria-Palestine went largely ignored, opening the way for the Hittite empire to expand its own realm of influence in that region.
Akhenaten’s religious reforms were also reflected in the different way he had himself portrayed in statues and reliefs.
Towards the end of his reign, Akhenaten appointed Semenekhkare to be his coregent, leaving all the worldly matters to him. Remarkably, the junior coregent appears to have set the first steps towards a restoration of the old cults.
It would, however, be Tutankhaten, who would abandon the capital of Akhenaten, along with the cult of its god. Having changed his name to Tutankhamun, this young king set about reopening the temples that were closed during the reign of Akhenaten, restoring the old priesthood back to its former power. Despite the importance of his reign, Tutankhamun will probably be best remembered for his tomb, which was found almost intact in the early 1920s.
The mummy mask of Tutankhamun is perhaps one of the most famous finds in the history of archaeology.
Tutankhamun having died without leaving an heir, the throne passed to two of his courtiers. The first was Ay, who is sometimes believed to have been a brother-in-law of Amenhotep III and who married the widow of the deceased king in order to legitimise his claims to the throne.
The second was Horemheb, a former general who served under Tutankhamun and who may have been married to a sister of Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s wife. It was during Horemheb’s reign that the restoration policy after the Amarna Revolution turned into a policy of destruction: Akhenaten’s names were chissled away, his statues torn down and his temples smashed to bits.
As he had no male offspring, Horemheb appointed an old comrade in arms, the general Paramesu, to be his successor. With Paramesu’s accession to the throne as Ramesses I, the 18th Dynasty had come to an end.
The table below lists the kings and queen of the 18th Dynasty:
(*) Note that all dates are approximations only and that even the length of each king’s tenure of power is subject to debate.