21 Third Intermediate Period

The Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069–525 BCE) is the era following the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570–c.1069 BCE) and preceding the Late Period (c.525–332 BCE). The Third Intermediate Period began as the reign of Ramesses XI (1107–1077 BCE), the last pharaoh of the New Kingdom, came to an end. The power of the great New Kingdom pharaohs had been waning throughout the 20th Dynasty (c. 1190–1077 BCE) while that of the High Priests of Amun had grown. By the end of the New Kingdom, the god Amun was effectively the ruler of Egypt as the pharaoh was no longer considered a necessary intermediary between the people and their gods. The cult of Amun, based in their great and ever-expanding temple of Karnak at Thebes, owned more land and had more wealth than the crown and their influence had become considerable. Instead of the pharaoh interpreting the will of the gods, the priests consulted Amun himself and the god would answer them.

In the 21st Dynasty one finds a number of rulers with Egyptian names who still were most likely Libyan, and in the latter dynasties, Libyans reigned from both Tanis and Thebes under Libyan names, attesting to the acceptance of non-Egyptians in positions of power; a situation which would have been intolerable in Egypt’s earlier history. Far from a strife-torn era, the early part of the Third Intermediate Period was one of remarkable tolerance and cooperation.

The 22nd Dynasty was also Libyan, whose kings now ruled openly under Libyan names. It was founded by Shoshenq I (943–922 BCE), who unified Egypt and embarked on military campaigns reminiscent of the days of Egypt’s empire. His successes, however, did not last long after his death. To the south, the Kushite king Kashta (c. 750 BCE) recognized Egypt’s weakness and moved to capitalize on it. Kashta greatly admired Egyptian culture and had ‘Egyptianized’ his capital city of Napata and, by extension, his realm.(19)


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