Intermediate Periods of Egypt

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The First Intermediate Period is also referred to as dark period. It refers to the period 2181-2055 BC, after the Old Kingdom. The period includes seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth a fraction of the eleventh dynasties. During the period, there were two competing power bases in the Upper and the Lower Egypt. The second intermediate Period refers to the second time when Egypt fell into disorder, between the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. It is associated with the appearance of Hyksos; their reign involved the Fifteenth dynasties. The three centers in Egypt during the second intermediate period included the Avaris, itj-tawy and Thebes.

Discussion

Fragmentation during the first intermediate period

There are many factors that led to the end of the first intermediate period. Many of them are however hypothetical. One of the hypothesized reasons is the extraordinary long reign of Pepi II. He was the last major Egyptian pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty. Pepi II ruled from the time he was young until he was in his nineties. He had outlived many heirs. This caused succession problems in the royal household. The Old Kingdom fell apart because of the resulting disorganization (Kinnaer, 2012).

The Old Kingdom also fell because provincial monarchs had gradually become influential and powerful. They became more independent. They were isolated from the central command. This was a threat to the kingdom. They further erected tombs in their own areas and also raised armies. As a result of conflicting interests among neighboring provinces, there was intense rivalry and warfare. The wars were damaging and even made later rulers to be more distrustful of one another (Kinnaer, 2012). In addition, economic control at the provinces was advantageous to provinces that lay on the North-South border, for example, Avaris. The provinces were strategically located and were used as trade routes by people from both Upper and Lower Egypt. The provinces introduced a trade tax. As a result of increased economic power, these provinces would invade others. Due to their strategic location, they would suffer from direct attacks from neighboring provinces (Bard, 2008).

Heracleopolis was the power bases in the Lower Egypt. Thebes was the power base in the Upper Egypt. The ensuing political chaos led to pillaging of temples, vandalizing of existing artwork and destruction of statuses of kings (Malek, 1999). When local rulers stopped giving loyalties to the pharaoh, there was intense competition for political power and territorial control. The Intef rulers/kings controlled the Upper Egypt in the South while the Heracleopolis kings controlled the Lower Egypt in the North. As both lines of kings expanded control southward or northward, their dynasties clashed with one another. Theban kings defeated Heracleopolitan rulers around 2055 BC (Bard, 2008)

During the first intermediate period, the Nile River was streaming less water. It was the main source of water for the various provinces. Massive agricultural fields existed along the Nile. As water became less available, a drier climate was witnessed. There was a fall in crop yields. When famine spread all over Egypt, fragmentation increased.

After the ninth dynasty, some powerful and wealthy monarchs rose out of the Southern province of Siut. They maintained close connections with Heracleopolitan royal household kings. This was evidenced in inscriptions in tombs. The province was near the middle of the North and South provinces and would also be affected by attacks by provinces in both the North and the South.

The Heracleopolitan kingdom was founded in the Upper Egypt. It established a famous line of kings referred to as Theban line of kings. The Theban line of kings led to the end of the first intermediate period. The kings ruled the eleventh and twelfth dynasties. They were descendants of Inyotef, a monarch of Thebes. Inyotef was from the South. One of his successors, Intef II began attacking the North. The line of Intef kings succeeded in defeating Heracleopolitan kings in North and unified Egypt to prolong the eleventh dynasty. This brought Egypt into the Middle Kingdom (Gardiner, 1961).

The most outstanding reason for unification of Egypt is as a result of Theban line of kings. The kings rose from powerful provinces in the South. The unequal power of provinces made kings feel that they could challenge each other. In addition, monarchs had shown some degree of independence in the first intermediate period. They were also gradually becoming powerful too. When the Southern provinces became more powerful than those in the North, and some in the South, the balance of power was altered. The Theban line of kings felt that they could expand their rule and impose their will on the people of neighboring provinces. These people were too weak to resist. In addition, the economic status of the weak provinces made the respective kings to be detached from subjects. The reigns were, for all intent and purposes, peaceful. They reigns of kings in the last three dynasties were characterized by reduced power and influence; they were less significant compared to those in the Old Kingdom (Bard, 2008).

Fragmentation during the second intermediate period

The death of Queen Sobekneferu led to the end of the twelfth dynasty. The succeeding thirteenth dynasty was much weaker. It was unable to unite the entire Egyptian territory. As a result, a provincial ruling family broke away to form the fourteenth dynasty. This was the first significant blow to the central authority. After Sobekhotep’s reign, Hyksos made their first appearance. Sobekhotep ruled the thirteenth dynasty. The Hyksos took control of Avaris town in 1710 BC. The thirteenth dynasty continued to be ruled by several Hyksos chieftains and princes. The later rulers of this dynasty were short-lived monarchs who were controlled by a powerful line of viziers. It is suggested that the rulers might have been elected, not appointed, and that their reigns were characterized by political stability (G.H., 1965).

Memphis broke away from the Itj-tawy dynasty in the south and became the seventeenth dynasty. It was Theban based and traded well with the Northern Hyksos kingdom. Kamose and Seqenenre Tao were the last kings of the seventeenth dynasty. They launched liberation wars, leading to the defeat of Hyksos. Hyksos were forced to go back to Asia. The eighteenth dynasty was created around 1550 BC and the first king was Ahmose I. He succeeded in expelling the remaining Hyksos from Egypt and placed it under a new central administration (Ryholt, 1997).

During the second intermediate period, the economy was no longer controlled by the central government. Various provinces started to depend on themselves in ensuring food security. Kings established a thriving culture in provinces. Provincial artisans adapted cultural motifs of the Old Kingdom while scribes expressed optimism through developing literary styles. The optimism may have led people to identify themselves with provincial administration, thereby promoting independence of provinces.

When Hyksos came to Egypt, they retained the existing models of government. They actually behaved like pharaohs. They integrated Egyptian elements in their culture. This could be one of the reasons why subdivision into provinces persisted. Egyptians did not feel indifferent about the new tribe. Furthermore, the Hyksos and other Semitic invaders brought with them new tools of warfare such as the horse-drawn chariot and the composite bow. These tools may have been used by provinces which went to war with each other. As a result, there would be increased opportunity for fragmentation of groups and people (Ryholt, 1997).

Comparison of the factors that led to fragmentation of the Egypt in the first and second intermediate period

Various reasons for the fragmentation of Egypt during the first and second intermediate periods converge. One of these reasons for the rise in power of various provinces is increasing wealth. In addition, leaders in the break-away provinces or regions had begun on a more independent path, choosing to seek the highest authority. For example, they started building armies.

The kind of rulers of various dynasties determined whether Egypt remained cohesive or not. Rulers who showed a course of action were able to bring people and regions together and vice versa.

Contrast of the factors that led to fragmentation of the Egypt in the first and second intermediate period

The first intermediate period differs from the second intermediate period in terms of initial trigger of fragmentation. During the first intermediate period, the extraordinary long reign of Pepi II started all the kingdom’s woes. Divisions were imminent in the royal family. The death of Queen Sobekneferu marked the beginning of fragmentation in the second intermediate period. One of the reasons why fragmentation increased in the first intermediate period is the famine that followed reduced water supply by the Nile. It was not therefore easy to keep regions together.

Opinion

The style of leadership may have been the main factor for disintegration of regions. Many kings during the first and second intermediate periods had a leadership style centered on personal power and independence. After the first two intermediate periods, visionary leaders would unite the people under one centralized government. Economic power would not have been a major cause for fragmentation since provinces traded with one another, exchanging goods which each province was endowed with.

Various authors and scientists argue that the reduced water supply from the Nile would lead to famine. This would later cause competition and independence as provinces struggled to feed their people. Regions close to the Nile River would be expected to be better off economically than regions far off from it. The Nile runs from the south to the north of Egypt. This means that both the Upper and Lower Egypt were well supplied with water. There would be no side which would become more advantaged more than the other.

Conclusion

The First Intermediate Period is also referred to as dark period. It refers to the period 2181-2055 BC, after the Old Kingdom. The period includes seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth a fraction of the eleventh dynasties. The second intermediate Period refers to the second time when Egypt fell into disorder, between the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom

During the first intermediate period, the extraordinary long reign of Pepi II caused succession problems in the royal household. The Old Kingdom fell apart because of the resulting disorganization. In addition, provincial monarchs had gradually become influential, powerful and independent. Some provinces in between the North and the South would be attacked often by those in the Upper and Lower Egypt. In the first intermediate period, the Nile produced less water, leading to occasional periods of famine.

During the second intermediate period, there were no rulers who would unite Egypt. Problems began when Queen Sobekneferu, the last leader of the twelfth dynasty died. Her successors were weaker. In addition, the Asiatic Hyksos appeared in Egypt and ruled for several decades before they were finally expelled. They portrayed themselves as pharaohs and easily mixed with locals. They brought weapons that would have facilitated wars.

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