The Rise of Taharqa: Ruler of Nubia and Egypt
Publication Date: 10/01/2003
Author: Frank Yurco, Egyptologist
How did Taharqa envision his kingship? Was he content to rule just Nubia and Egypt? Or, did he plan to extend his rule even farther north? For the answers, historians often turn to time media records of the time: inscriptions.
The earliest surviving written evidence of Taharqa's existence dates to 701 B.C., when he was still a prince. The Nubian ruler Shebitqo had summoned him north from Nubia to lead a march against the Assyrians encamped at Jerusalem. Earlier in the 701 B.C. campaign led by the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib against Hezekiah, the king at Judaea, the Nubians and Egyptians had suffered defeat at El-Tekeh. Scholars are divided on Taharqa's role in ending Sennacherib's campaign.
However, in the Book of Isaiah in the Bible, Hezekiah learns that Taharqa is coming with an army. The biblical reference also refers to an angel coming down and slaying the 5,000 Assyrians besieging Jerusalem.
Surviving historical accounts of the period explain the event in more specific detail. Before the siege, Hezekiah had blocked all the waterholes outside Jerusalem in order to wall off the city from the enemy mid close all entryways. He then had the Siloam Tunnel dug to bring water directly into Jerusalem.
Sennacherib, meanwhile, concentrated his efforts on capturing Lachish. After a prolonged siege, he did so and then subdued other city-states in the region. By the time his 5,000 men had advanced on Jerusalem, it was mid-summer. Without water, many Assyrians fell ill. The illness then quickly spread among the soldiers encamped all around the city. Sennacherib knew he had to act: The illness affecting his men was spreading, and it was clear that his troops were vulnerable to enemy attack since they were not encamped in one location. Worse, he had reports that said Taharqa was advancing north.
Existing evidence suggests that the campaign ended quickly. It also suggests that Hezekiah, the chief conspirator against the Assyrians, continued as ruler of Judaea. In some documents, reference is made to his dying at a later date in his own bed. Seals from papyrus documents uncovered at Nineveh, Sennacherib's capital, provide evidence at an agreement between Sennacherib and Shebitqo.
The Nubians, for their part, had no interest in controlling the Levant--the lands bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Rather, their main interest was in establishing and maintaining trade relations. The fact that documents tell of these trade privileges ending in 679 B.C., when Sennacherib's successor Esarhaddon took control of Assyria, proves that such trading ventures did indeed exist under Sennacherib.
By 690 B.C., the stage was set. Taharqa sat on the throne of Nubia and of Egypt. When Esarhaddon led his Assyrians south into Egypt in 674 B.C., Taharqa was ready not only to defend his kingdom but also to pursue the invading enemy.
Frank Yurco is an Egyptologist, with an interest in the Rameside Period and in the Kushite Period with its involvement with Israel and the subsequent Assyrian involvement with Egypt under Taharqo.
Copyright 2003 Cobblestone Publishing, Co.