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real pyramid at Medun; Cheops (Khufu), who built the Great Pyramid at Ghizeh : Khephrên, commemorated by the second great pyramid and the Sphinx; Mycerinus (Menkewre), the builder of the Third Pyramid. All these, with the exception of Zoser, belong to the Fourth Dynasty, and form the first really important group of Egyptian sovereigns. With the kings of the other dynasties of this Old Kingdom period we shall have nothing to do, despite the fact that under them Egyptian art attained its highest excellence in many particulars and left us the most magnificent of the tombs at Sakkâra.
The “Middle Kingdom” is the period of the Amenemhets and Sesostrises (Usertesen), of whom Sesostris III was the most famous. Little time need be spent over these here, save to say that they are commemorated by pyramids at Lisht, Dashûr, and Illahûn, in the long line that makes such an impressive showing along the lofty west bank of the Nile for sixty miles as one journeys south from Cairo.
It is with the rise of the full-fledged empire of Egypt, on the successful expulsion of the Shepherd Kings, that the history of the land begins to be genuinely inspiring, presumably because the light thrown by recorded history on the events of that prosperous age is so much more intense than it is in the case of preceding periods. From the rise of
Ahmosis down through the long and imposing line of Amenhôteps and Ramessids, the history of Egypt is fairly well deciphered from a multitude of records in stone and papyrus. It affords us by far the most important group of names since the period of the pyramid builders; and the reading of Egyptian history at this point ceases to be a burden and becomes a positive delight
The land begins to expand outwardly as well as to develop inwardly. Foreign conquests push the frontier southward and eastward, far into Asia. Countless small principalities become tributaries of the all-conquering Pharaoh, who adds Palestine, Nubia, and a large part of Arabia to his dominions. Meantime enormous works proceed at home, and Thebes, with her hundred gates, becomes a famous city destined to a certain immortality.
By this time the power of the priests of Ammon has increased to such an extent that their ranks appear to furnish the regular recruiting of the royal house. The great monarchs of the classic Eighteenth Dynasty are temple-bred, and their queens appear in the records as priestesses of the shrine. The rich spoils of war go to extend and adorn the already enormous fane of Ammon, which rises at Karnak a scant two miles from the twin temple of Luxor. Between these great monuments to the prevailing faith runs a
magnificent street lined with ram-headed sphinxes, and all around spreads the capital city of the ancient world, up and down the steep bank of the Nile. Now, of a truth, is the glorious summer of Egypt's rule.
By one of those rare benefactions that occasionally attend our human race, Egypt was blessed during the years that followed the expulsion of the Hyksos with a succession of extraordinary rulers, practically all of one royal house, – of a family which maintained its strength so consistently that it held the rod of empire in its own hands at Thebes for practically two centuries. It was a remarkable line, and its monument in history is a record of notable achievements. The characteristic names of its rulers were Amenhôtep and Thutmosis, the several kings alternating in those names from father to son for generations. Each name shines resplendent in at least one representative, curiously enough, in the third of each, — and the records of Amenhôtep III and Thutmosis III will not perish from the earth.
The conquests abroad, however, did not long endure after the Thutmosis-Amenhôtep family had fallen into decay. It was an empire based purely and simply on the power of the sword. It had no geographical justification. And with the rise of the fourth Amenhôtep, a man given to dreaming and to religious speculation, the outlying dependencies fell
away. The fourth Amenhôtep, however, is by no means an unimportant figure in the annals of the time. It was he who led the revolt from the cult of Ammon-Ra and instituted a new religion of his own devising. He removed his capital from Thebes to a new city of his own building now known as Tell el Amarna. And the whole episode affords one of the most interesting studies in the records of the empire. To be sure, the movement accomplished little in the end. The worship of Ammon refused to die at the monarch's word, even though he so far deferred to the notions of the time as still to deify the sun's disc. Ammon returned to the throne and Thebes once again became the capital. Nevertheless this sporadic foreshadowing of the monotheistic idea will not be overlooked by any thoughtful reader, and it is likely to be concluded that this ill-starred Amenhôtep was very far from being the least important of his illustrious line, despite his conspicuous failure as a potentate.
It was during the reign of this notable royal family that one famous woman succeeded in gaining the chief power and reigned for a time in her own right. This was the great Queen Hatasu - or Hatshepsowet, as the books commonly call her. She had a stormy time of it for a while, because of a constant quarrel with her husband-brother, Thutmosis III, but
in the interval managed to snatch a few lively years of power which she shared with no one. Her ability in local and foreign administration was in no wise inferior to that of her brethren, and one may still read in the painted porticoes of her terraced shrine opposite Thebes the tale of her expedition to the Red Sea, to the distant land then known as Punt.
One other very notable woman of the same period is Queen Tii, wife of the great Amenhôtep III, whose tomb, with that of her parents, formed one of the greatest achæological “finds" of recent years. Whether Queen Tii was a foreigner or native-born need hardly concern us. But it is pleasant to believe that this influential and able woman bore an important part in the affairs of her day, albeit as a consort only, and was mainly instrumental in giving to the mind of her ill-fated son, Amenhôtep IV, that monotheistic bent spoken of a moment ago, which so arrests the attention of modern investigators.
The tombs of nearly all these potent monarchs were built in the bare and desolate valley across the Nile from the city of Thebes, in what we now know as the “Valley of the Kings.” Pyramids they no longer erected; but they had the same solicitude for an enduring and an inviolable resting-place that had actuated Cheops and Khephrên centuries before, and took prodigious pains to keep the location of their