Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ahhotep I

Ahhotep I was such an important figure in the early New Kingdom that she is considered to have been a pivotal figure in the founding of the eighteenth dynasty. She had a long and influential life and ruled as regent after the death of her father. She enabled her two sons (Kamose and Ahmose I) to unite Egypt after the Hyskos occupation. She was instrumental in driving the Hyskos invaders out of Egypt. She lived until the age of ninety and was buried beside Kamose at Thebes.
She is the one who has accomplished the rites and taken care of Egypt… She has looked after her soldiers, she has guarded her, she has brought back her fugitives and collected together her deserters, she has pacified Upper Egypt and expelled her rebels.
Weapons and jewelry found in the tomb of Ahhotep I include an axe depicting Ahmose I striking down a Hyskos soldier, and flies in honor for the queen in her role against the Hyskos. She was considered a warrior Queen and was presented with the Order of Valor. She was honored with a stela, commissioned by Ahmose I in the temple of Amun-Re that praises her military accomplishments.

Rome and Egypt

One of the most powerful of the ancient states, Rome emerged from a small, rural community in Italy to conquer most of the Mediterranean world and to bring to an end the long pharaonic history of Egypt in 30 B.C.E.

The first significant involvement of Rome in the affairs of Egypt occurred in 170 B.C.E. when the strife between Egypt and Syria (under King ANTIOCHUS IV) ended with both sides appealing to the Romans to decide who should be the rightful claimant to the throne. The two candidates were PTOLEMY VIII EUERGETES II (the favorite of the Egyptians) and PTOLEMY VI PHILOMETOR (the nephew and favorite of Antiochus IV). The Roman Senate decided to split the rule of the country, so that Philometor reigned in MEMPHIS and Euergetes controlled ALEXANDRIA. This state of affairs proved unsatisfactory to the Egyptians, who wasted no time upon Antiochus’s departure back to Syria to rise up against Philometor. Antiochus responded by marching on Egypt with an army. The Egyptians appealed once more to Rome.

The Roman Senate dispatched a three-man commission to Egypt, and in 168 there occurred the famous encounter between Antiochus IV and Papillius Laenas at Eleusis just outside of Alexandria. Laenas gave Antiochus the terms of the Senate: the Syrians must depart Egypt or there would be war. Laenas then used a stick to draw a circle in the sand around Antiochus’s feet and demanded an answer before he set foot out of the ring. The Syrian agreed to the Senate’s demands, and Ptolemy VI was installed as ruler of all Egypt; Ptolemy VIII was made king of Cyrenaica.

Rome now stood as the supreme arbiter of Egyptian affairs. Thus, when PTOLEMY XII NEOS DIONYSIUS was driven from Egypt in 58 B.C.E. he fled to Rome. After paying extensive bribes and cultivating the political favor of Julius CAESAR, Ptolemy XII returned to Egypt and was reinstated with the assistance of three Roman legions. The remainder of his reign was as a virtual client of Rome, and Ptolemy left provision in his will for the Romans to have oversight over the transition of power to his children, CLEOPATRA VII and PTOLEMY XIII.

The bitter political struggle between Cleopatra and her brother went largely unnoticed by the Romans owing to their own civil war. In 48 B.C.E., however, following the defeat of POMPEY the Great by Julius Caesar at the battle of Pharsalus, Pompey fled to Egypt and what he hoped would be the sanctuary of the court of Ptolemy. The Roman general was immediately assassinated by a cabal of Egyptian courtiers, and his head was given as a gift to Caesar upon the dictator’s arrival in Alexandria.

Caesar decided the dispute between Ptolemy and Cleopatra in favor of the queen, and Ptolemy died in the fighting that followed. In a famous romance, Caesar and Cleopatra became lovers and produced PTOLEMY XV CAESARION. Following Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C.E., Cleopatra established a relationship with Marc ANTONY. Their political and personal alliance culminated in the war with Caesar’s nephew, Octavian (the future AUGUSTUS) and the battle of ACTIUM in 31 B.C.E. The defeat of the Egyptian fleet and army opened the door for the Roman conquest of Egypt. Cleopatra committed suicide in famed fashion by stinging herself with an asp, and Marc Antony died on his own sword. Octavian, the future Augustus, entered Alexandria on August 1, 30 B.C.E. Henceforth, until the Arab conquest in 641 C.E., Egypt remained a territory of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Exodus

Was Ramses the Great pharaoh of the Exodus? The biblical Exodus of the Jews from Egypt is generally thought to date from the reign of Ramses II, though no such episode appears in Egyptian records or is linked to the expulsion of the Hyksos by Ahmose.

The Exodus was the great deliverance extended to the Israelites “ . . . on the very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts,” Exodus 12:51.

“There is no surviving Egyptian source that described the Exodus. This is not surprising,” commented Nicolas Grimal, “given that the Egyptians had no reason to attach any importance to the Hebrews.”

Documents place the people known as Apiru in Egyptian records at the time of Tuthmose III. During Ramses’ reign, the Apiru were employed in the transportation of stone listed in Leiden Papyrus 348; they were further mentioned in Papyrus Harris I. As brick makers they were mentioned in the neighborhood of the royal harem at Medinet el-­ Ghurob in the Fayum. In the reign of Ramses IV, about 800 worked in the quarries of Wadi Hammamat.

“One document that could provide evidence of a newly formed kingdom of Israel is a stele, dated to the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign,” as told in New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. “Here the name Israel appears (KRI IV, 12–19). There are two further historical records: the journey of the Chosen People in the desert, which lasted forty years, and the capture of Jericho, which occurred after the death of Moses. The fall of Jericho sets the day of 1250 b.c. So the Exodus may have taken place in the early part of the thirteenth century b.c.”

Various scholars have placed Moses in close relationship with Pharaoh Ramses II and as the son of Queen Hatshepsut, who later assumed the Egyptian throne. Moses received his Egyptian education (Acts 7:22) to represent his community in the government. His education at the court (Exodus 2:10– 11) may be interpreted as he benefited from the education provided to future Egyptian state employees. Thus, he would have been with his own people during the reign of Sethos I, the time fortifications were built in the eastern delta and foundations were built for the future city of Piramses (Exodus 1:11). “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-­ cities, Pithom and Raam’ses.”

“It is often speculated that Jewish captives worked on the construction of Piramses,” wrote Bernadette Menu. Was this biblical spelling meant to be Piramses? Moses’s murder of the guard, his flight to the land of Midian, his marriage, his acceptance of God’s revelation, the encounter with the Burning Bush, and his return to Egypt take the dates to the first years of Ramses II’s reign. The book of Exodus has lengthy descriptive dialogue between Moses and a pharaoh. If one is to set aside the Old Testament’s chronological dates, the Exodus could be placed around 1290 b.c. rather than 1441 b.c. This would suggest the pharaoh of the Exodus was Ramses II.

Unresolved Affairs

Although Ramses II was educated by the best tutors and had experienced battles by his father’s side, the priests still doubted his ability to rule Egypt. The young pharaoh had a number of plans in mind, including extensive construction goals that ultimately yielded glorious temples and stone reliefs dedicated to his reign (above).

Ramses took on the old and unsolved problems of the monarchy. Whether or not he had been pleased with his father’s mutual nonaggressive pact with the Hittites is uncertain. What is known is that Ramses had grown restless and now wanted to conquer the intruders so that he could gain back all the Egyptian territories lost by previous pharaohs. To fund these campaigns and build and equip an army he needed gold. There were rich deposits in the eastern deserts around Nubia, but to mine the ore water was essential, and every past king had tried and failed. In the third year of his reign, Ramses formed a plan and summoned his court to discuss how to bring up a well.

“Now, one of these days . . . His Majesty was sitting on the electrum throne, wearing the head fillet and tall plumes . . . thinking about the desert lands where gold could be found, and meditating on plans for digging wells . . . Ramses’ wishes were like magic. The court responded, ‘You are like Re in all that you have done whatever your heart desires comes to pass. If you desire something overnight comes the dawn and it happen[s] immediately!’” according to Kenneth A. Kitchen.

Satisfied with this response, Ramses sent a survey to the Nubians. He commanded a well to appear on the route to Akuyati. As if Hapi had been waiting for Ramses’ appeal, the god of the Nile responded. Overnight, water gushed forth at 12 cubits, a little more than 20 feet (6 meters) below ground. Not at all mystified by Ramses’ close relationship, nor surprised by Hapi’s immediate help, they were nevertheless elated. In honor of the new artesian well, Wadi Allaki, the court named it “the well, Ramses II is valiant of deeds.”

In the fourth year of his reign, Ramses and his Egyptian army of charioteers, infantry of swords and shield bearers, and Sea People in his captivity, set sail for Syria. They journeyed northward along the Phoenician coast. Canaan (Palestine and Phoenicia), Amurru, and Syria formed a vast bubble zone between the warring empires. When they reached Tyra, they advanced overland and eastward to attack Amurru (site of modern-day Lebanon) in the vicinity of Qadesh. Surprised by the unexpected Egyptian assault, Hittite ally and overlord Prince Benteshina was unable to defend Amurru. To prevent any further loss of territory, he surrendered the city. Benteshina became a tribute-paying vassal of Egypt. Confident with his effortless conquest, many prisoners, and much Hittite booty, Ramses planned to conquer the Hittites at Qadesh the following year. Upon their return to Piramses, the victorious battle was carved on the walls of the major temples.

Ancient People

Ancient Egyptians considered Re to be the father of all the gods. Often represented in lion, cat, or falcon form, it is said that Re-created mankind from his own tears. Re (above) is depicted as a cat fighting his enemy snake god Apophis, the god of darkness.

Ancient Egyptians are believed to have belonged to the eastern branch of a people known as the Hamites. They were said to be descendants of Ham, the youngest of the biblical Noah’s three sons, the original speakers of the Hamitic language. The Fellahin (farmers in Arab countries) have been described as the true Egyptians and the oldest people of civilization. They lived in small villages along the riverbanks. Their houses were made of bundles of reeds coated with chopped straw and silt from the ditches. Palm fronds covered the roofs and provided protection from the extreme elements. With crudely made hoes, hand axes, and sickles, they farmed the rich topsoil and raised barley, corn, onions, a coarse grain called cyllestis, and flax for meal and fabric. They kept goats, sheep, and water buffaloes; made bread in clay ovens or open fires; and ate dried fish and wild fowl. Mulberries, gathered from the marshes, were used for lamp oil. When men ventured into the Nile to fish, they sailed in lightweight river skiffs made from papyrus. Ancient tomb art depicts a single man, standing at the bow, holding a long pole to fend off the river’s inevitable crocodile or rhinoceros.

“Food, bread, beer, and all good things,” is a phrase found engraved on a funerary stele and used by the host to inform his guests. The stele provided historians with an ancient menu. Greek historian Herodotus took it a step further and wrote, “They eat loaves of bread of coarse grain which they call cyllestis. They made their beverage from barley, for they had no vines in their country, ate fish raw, sun-dried or preserved in salt brine.” Foods were served in pottery bowls painted with ducks and deer and on exquisite alabaster dishes.

The bedouins were the wanderers, sometimes called nomads, who traditionally dwelled in the Western and Sinai deserts. They lived in tribes and moved herds of camels and flocks of sheep from oasis to oasis to find suitable pastures. They ate lamb and rice, and their camels supplied a source of milk. From camel hair they made tents, carpets, and their clothes. The head of the tribe was called a sheik. Although bedouins led a primitive and largely isolated life, the women could engage in business and choose their husbands. In ancient times, they were often predaceous and known to plunder from raids on other settlements, passing caravans, and one another.

Nubian people came from northern Sudan and lived along the Nile Valley near Aswan. Like the Fellahin, they made their homes from river mud and straw reeds. Their livelihood came from the dense thickets of date palms that grew along the river’s edge. The palms furnished them with food and materials for timber and making rope. Nubians were also invaders who attempted to control Egypt. In turn, there were long periods during which Egyptian pharaohs, such as Ramses II, controlled and collected taxes from the Nubians. In armed conflict, the Nubians were highly skilled archers and fearless warriors who fought bitter battles against the imposing armies. Taken as prisoners, they were forced into slave labor in the brickfields or had to drag endless tons of stone for Ramses’ great pylon gateway.

During the Middle Kingdom, Semitic-speaking people made their homes in Egypt. They worked as servants or members of Egyptian households, adapting to certain ways of their new masters. Pharaohs had strict control of immigrants and people who were already residents. Many came as prisoners of war: Canaanites, Amorites, and Hurrians. Others became slaves on the vast temple grounds. It they were fortunate, they might work in government departments. The hungry or homeless immigrants came as compulsory slaves.

The Apiru were thought of as displaced, rootless people who easily mixed with others mentioned in the Bible. These people were probably Hebrews or clan groups from Israel. Their forefathers, Jacob and Joseph, had come to Egypt to escape the famine. According to Exodus 1:13–14, “So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor, and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and all kinds of work in the field.”