Tag Archives: Akhenaten

Good and bad polytheists (part 2): Ahmose I and Amenhotep IV



Ahmose was born a local king of the Upper Egyptian city of Thebes, towards the end of the Second Intermediate Period, a period of disorder which lasted from 1650 to 1550 BCE. During this time, Lower Egypt was ruled by Semitic invaders from the Levant, called the Hyksos. They were a warlike and cruel people who took advantage of a weak government, seizing and plundering towns, destroying temples, and capturing slaves. Having found an abundance of opportunity and wealth there, they founded a dynasty and ruled by force, setting up fortresses to protect their possession of the land. Their kings styled themselves as pharaohs, but they were, like many or most Semitic rulers, henotheists, that is, worshippers of one God while acknowledging others, a practice that later contributed to monotheism. The Hyksos kings only worshipped Set, the God of the desert, which was looked upon suspiciously by Egyptians, who had known no such custom before. 

But after a reign of 100 years, the invaders grew comfortable enough to relax its absolute power, nor did it have the ability to maintain their rule completely over Egypt. Hence, in Thebes, where a dynasty of local kings had grown in power gradually, Ahmose sought to restore the independence of Egypt and carry on the military exploits of his grandfather Seqenenre Tao and his father Kamose, who had both died in battle. Ahmose proved himself worthy of his noble and brave paternity by conquering and expelling the Hyksos, after a long campaign of several years. In order to maintain independence, he afterwards invaded and pillaged the Levant, and then withdrew to his borders to restore his country. Prosperity returned to Egypt by means of trade and construction, and antique examples were followed in art that preceded the invasion of the Hyksos. Besides this earnest revival, he also attempted to build the last pyramid of Egypt, but the project was unfinished and dropped upon his death after a few years of his short reign as Pharaoh. Nevertheless, even though Egypt was not to be as glorious as it was before, Ahmose was great enough to be remembered as the restorer of Egypt’s independence and the founder of a new age in Egyptian history, namely, the New Kingdom. As great as the acknowledgment is due, it is perhaps a testimony to his modesty and diligence as Pharaoh, that only 3 mediocre statues of his have been found.

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