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The period of Egyptian history treated in the present volume has been continued from the end of the reign of Seānkh-ka-Rā, the last king of the XIth Dynasty, to the end of the reign of Thothmes II., i.e., from about 2500 to 1550 B.C. This period is one of the most important in the history of Egypt, for during its course the Egyptians founded their great colony in Nubia, and defeated the Hyksos, and began to extend their possessions into Western Asia. We see the capital of the country now definitely transferred from Memphis to Thebes, the result probably of the difficulty found in ruling the warlike tribes of the south from a city so far to the north as Memphis. The great kings of the XIIth Dynasty, the Amenemḥāts and the Usertsens, having made firm their hold upon Nubia as far south as the head of the Third Cataract, turned their attention to increasing the material prosperity of the land, which they had re-organized, and which they were ruling with capable hands, by constructing systems of canals and other irrigation works, the greatest of which
was the famous Lake Mæris. Such works were, no doubt, carried out by forced labour, but few could complain of this, for they were of public utility, and benefited the community far more than the Pyramids, those mighty monuments of the great kings of the IVth and Vth Dynasties. The Pyramids, however, which were built by the greatest kings of the XIIth Dynasty, though smaller, prove that the hands of the architect and the master-mason had not lost their cunning. The extension into Nubia of the kingdom of Egypt brought with it serious responsibilities and wars with which the immediate successors of the Amenemḥāts were unable to cope, and during the XIIIth and XIVth Dynasties they had the greatest difficulty in maintaining the integrity of their kingdom against the attacks of the nomadic Semitic tribes on the East, of the Libyans on the West, and of the Nubians in the South. During the XVth and XVIth Dynasties we find that the “filthy” Hyksos took possession of the Delta, where they began the period of their rule by the wanton destruction of the temples and their gods, but where they finished by adopting Egyptian civilization, and by adding the greatest of their tribal gods, Sutekh, to the companies of the Egyptian gods. Subsequently the ambition of the Hyksos kings aimed at the sovereignty of the whole country from the sea to Nubia, but the attempt which they made to gain it was foiled by the intrepidity of the Theban kings, who defeated them in more than one decisive engagement,
and who eventually expelled them from the country. Their departure was the first and greatest Exodus from the Delta, and it became the historic fact around which, in later centuries, the Hebrews hung the traditions of their greatness in Egypt, and their expulsion therefrom. In fact, late writers like Josephus have entirely confused this great Exodus with that smaller Exodus during which the descendants of the Patriarch Jacob were obliged to flee to Palestine. The kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty understood the serious danger with which Egypt was threatened by the nomadic Semitic tribes of her north-east frontier, and took steps immediately to obtain possession of cities and towns in Southern Syria, from which they could control the movements of the restless and rebellious tribes in the neighbourhood. How they succeeded in effecting their purpose is briefly described in this and in the following volume. Chronologically, however, the period treated in the present section is full of difficulty, and in the present state of Egyptological knowledge no satisfactory account of it can be given. The compilers of the King Lists were themselves hopelessly perplexed, and it is evident that many parts of their chronological systems are entirely artificial. The Turin Papyrus would probably have helped us out of this difficulty, but no reliance can be placed upon it as an authority for constructing the chronology of Dynasties XII.—XVII. In spite of recent assertions to the contrary, the remarks by Rosellini, de Rougé, Birch,
and Wiedemann show that it is useless for critical purposes, first, because of the lacunae in it, and secondly, because the re-joining of many of the fragments by Seyffarth is hopelessly wrong. We can only hope that some fortunate “find ” of papyri may give to Egyptologists an unbroken copy of the work.
E. A. WALLIS BUDGE.