Towards the end of the 13th Dynasty Egypt underwent great political upheaval and withdrew from Nubia. In the north the Hyksos took control of Lower Egypt. In the south Wawat and the fortresses, including Buhen, were occupied by Kush. Not all Egyptians fled. This stela is from a group of monuments from Buhen belonging to a single family who administered the fortress over several generations under Kushite rule. Some Egyptian soldiers stayed and worked for them. An inscription of one Egyptian soldier states that he served "as a valiant servant, … washing my feet in the waters of Kush, in the company of King Nedjeh."
Huge attack from the south on Elkab and Egypt by the Kingdom of Kush and its allies from the land of Punt, during the 17th dynasty (1575-1525 BC)
Conquers all of Egypt and rules as pharaoh of Egypt until his death. He is portrayed as a ruler who did not glory in the smiting of his adversaries, as did other kings, but rather preferred treaties and alliances. His victories on a stela (called the Victory Stela ("Hear of what I did, more than the ancestors"), now in the Egyptian Museum. In 716 B.C. Piankhy died after a reign of over thirty years. He was buried in an Egyptian style pyramid tomb at el-Kurru, accompanied by a number of horses, which were greatly prized by the Nubians of the Napatan period. Daughters: Shepenupet II and Qalhata.
His was the Golden Age of the Nubian domination of Egypt. Throughout his reign Shabaka made many additions to Egyptian temples, such as those at Memphis, Abydos and Esna. Shabaka appointed his son, Horemakhet as High Priest of Amun at Thebes, although the real power in the region lay with his sister Amenirdas I, whose mortuary temple and tomb are at Medinet Habu. Pharaoh Shabaka is noted in the Old Testament, Genesis 10:7.
Son of Shabaka. Once the Assyrians had appointed Necho I as king and left Egypt, Tanwetamani marched down the Nile from Nubia and reoccupied all of Egypt including Memphis. Necho I, the Assyrians' representative, was killed in Tanwetamani's campaign. He became King of Egypt for 7 years. In reaction, the Assyrians returned to Egypt in force, defeated Tanwetamani's army in the Delta and advanced as far as south as Thebes, which they sacked.
The Assyrian reconquest effectively ended Nubian control over Egypt although Tanwetamani's authority was still recognized in Upper Egypt until his 8th Year in 656 BC when Psamtik I's navy peacefully took control of Thebes and effectively unified all of Egypt.
This is the end of the 25th Dynasty Egypt; withdrew to Nubia; moved their administrative center further south to Napata.
Harsiotef’s inscription is especially interesting because it describes the holy site of Gebel Barkal as it was in his day. He speaks of covering temples partly with gold, of laying out gardens and cattle pens, and of rebuilding the old royal palace there, which, he says, had sixty rooms. Son was Nastasen.
In his early reign, a prince from Egypt named Khababash invaded Lower Nubia. Prince Khababash came with transport ships, people, and cattle. Nastasen’s army defeated the invaders, took their treasure, and dedicated it to the god Amun. Ancient text mentions several other battles against desert peoples. These were also victorious and resulted in the capture of large numbers of cattle, goats, and gold.
Arqamani builds large pyramids at Meroe. Kalabsha Temple decorations was attributed to the Nubian Pharaoh Arqamani from the 3rd century BC. The building seems to have been finished by the Romans with reference to Caesar Augustus. The Nubian king moves the royal necropolis from Napata to Meroe, a site between the fifth and sixth cataracts. Meroe, already an important center during the Napatan Period, becomes the capital of the Nubian kingdom. Meroe's location at the convergence of a network of caravan roads with trade routes along the White and Blue Niles makes it East Africa's most important center of trade. The Nubians of the Meroitic Period manufacture richly decorated textiles, graceful decorated ceramic vessels, objects of bronze and iron, exceptionally fine gold and cloisonné jewelry, and other luxury items.
350 AD - The traditional theory is that the kingdom at Meroe is destroyed during an invasion by Ezana of the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. However, the Ethiopian account seems to describe the quelling of a rebellion in lands they already control. It also refers only to the Nuba, and makes no mention of the rulers of Meroe. However, no details of rulers are known after this date, making their survival unlikely.
Shabaka Ruled Egypt 716-702 BC
National Museum, Kharthoum
Ruled 643-623 B.C.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Colossal statue of King Aspalta
Ruled, 593-568 BC
King Aspalta is one of the best known kings of Nubia. He is thought to have been a great grandson of Taharqa, the last important Nubian ruler of Egypt (690-664 BC).
From his brother Anlamani, Aspalta inherited a kingdom extending from Aswan, Egypt, to modern Khartoum, Sudan,Barely sixty-four years before, his ancestor Taharqa had ruled included all of Egypt, but the Assyrians had driven him out and back into Nubia where he died.
Gilded silver mask of Queen Malakaye who wears a striated wig and broadcollar.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Sphinx of Queen Shepenwepet II of the 25th Dynasty; daughter of Piye. She is known as God's Wife of Amun, which gave her power approaching that of royalty, and served as counterparts to the High Priest of Amun at Thebes.
Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, 1978 [Dates given on this website was taken from this book.]
The Kingship of Cush in the Sudan, B.G. Haycock; Comparative Studies in Society and History; Volume 7, Issue 4 (July, 1965);
pp. 461-480; (Cambridge University Press)
After the death of Ramses, Egypt entered a long decline. As Egypt weakened, Nubian neighbors to the south, in what is now Sudan, grew strong. They eventually moved north taking control and trying to rebuild—primarily through the efforts of five great Nubian kings—the great Egyptian traditions they had seen crumble away.
Rather than conquer Egypt, they restored it. They celebrated Egyptian religious festivals and even took over some Egyptian burial practices. The first of these kings, a ruler named Piye, even built a pyramid, though it had been a thousand years since the last Egyptian pyramid had risen from the desert.
In ancient times, much of what is now Sudan was known as Nubia, or the Kingdom of Kush (also spelled Cush). The Black Pharaohs, as they were known, ruled over a mighty empire stretching along the Nile Valley 2,500 years ago. The Nubians were powerful and wealthy kings who controlled large territories along the Nile.
Nubia extended along the Nile River from what is now Aswan in Egypt to present-day Khartoum in Sudan. The ancient Nubians and ancient Egyptians throughout their history were rivals as well as allies, depending on which period one is researching. Egyptians attacked and conquered Nubia many times, but Nubians actually conquered and controlled all of Egypt for a period of about 100 years, from 760 to 664 BC. The Nubians saw themselves not as foreign conquerors but as restorers of Nubian/Egyptian glory. These Kushite pharaohs were deeply religious and had a great regard for tradition. The cultural and religious life of Egypt, formerly so flourishing, was in decline when they took over. But under them, there was a renaissance. They restored ancient temples and built many new ones. They revived religious ceremonies that had fallen into disuse. They won the support of the strong Egyptian clergy and also of the people. The Nubians believed they were the god's representatives, from the southern pole, chosen to unite and protect the ancient empire and to restore ma'at throughout the land. They ruled Egypt like the pharaohs of earlier centuries, respecting ancient Nubian/Egyptian traditions. Even when Ancient Egypt was controlled by outsiders, Nubian men and women continued to hold high positions within Ancient Egypt.
Archeological findings have shown that the founding of Kerma (first capital of Nubia) dates back to 7,000 BC. Nubia pre-dates Egyptian civilization and its lifespan outlasted Egypt, Greece and Rome combined. The African army had defeated both Egyptian, Greek and Roman enemies. At the height of its power, Nubia was the center of the ancient world. The Kingdom of Kush, with its alphabet, commerce and architectural triumphs was the equal of its ancient world counterparts. As royal tombs for their rulers they built pyramids which numbered more than all those of Egypt. In the modern world, the memory of this once great empire refuses to fade into history.
King Taharqa -- 25th Dynasty Egypt
Taharqa's twenty six year reign (690-664 BC) stands out from any other in the Third Intermediate Period by the extent of the building program he implemented in the first sixteen years of his reign, and the extent of the fighting with the Assyrians in the later years. [Assyrians originated in the upper Tigris river valley in the Armenian mountains.] See location of Ancient Assyria.
The riches of Nubia and providential bumper crops brought by extraordinarily favorable climatological conditions, Taharqa invested considerable resources into celebrating the glory of Amun, first in his own Kingdom of Napata, but also in his Egyptian territories. Immensely respectful of Egypt's cultural heritage, Taharqa set out to draw on the traditions of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, using new materials (previous Intermediate Period cash-strapped kings had taken to pilfering stone from older buildings) to restore and build anew. In his kingdom of Napata, he built in every important site: Sanam, Napata, Abu Dom, and Kawa. In Kawa particularly, he rebuilt and expanded on a temple complex that became the second most important in his kingdom of Napata. In Egypt, it is at Karnak that he made the greatest impact, thanks to the energy of the man he installed as Prince (mayor) of the City: the great Nubian Mentuemhat. At Karnak, the Sacred Lake structures, the kiosk in the first court, and the colonnades at the temple entrance are all owed to Taharqa and Mentuemhat. Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom and royal residence of Kushite kings also received much attention, paying much respect to the importance of the god Ptah, despite the Kushite's devotion to Amun.
This devotion of Egypt's resources towards peaceful undertakings would not last. In 674 BC, King Esarhaddon of Assyria, angered over Egyptian interference with his vassal states in Palestine, attacked Egypt. Taharqa swiftly rebukes their advance, and the invaders retreat. But three years later, in 671 BC, the Assyrians try again and succeed. After several disasters, namely where the superior Assyrian iron weapons of defeated Nubia bronze ones, the ousting of Taharqa from Egypt, the floods mentioned by al-Masudi (10th c, Arab), etc, Nubians are said to “have gone east” and the Kushites to “have gone west”.
The Assyrians take Memphis, capture the royal queen and the crown prince, establishing native puppet-chieftains beholden to Assyria. Taharqa retreats. The Assyrians install their representatives in all key positions. In Sais, Nekau swears allegiance to the Assyrians and his son is sent to Assyria for political training. As soon as the Assyrians leave, Taharqa drives his forces north and regains control of Egypt. In 667 BC, the Assyrians come back, pushing much further south this time.
Taharqa flees to Napata, and the Assyrians once again get Egyptian governors to pledge allegiance to Assyria. When they leave again, several local kings and governors plot to bring Taharqa back. But this time, the Assyrians squelch the insurrection by having all plotters assassinated. The only surviving Egyptian is Nekau, who had prudently abstained from participating in the plot while his son (the future Psamtik I) was still in the hands of the Assyrians. Taharqa was betrayed a second time by the alien chiefs of the Delta, and Taharqa abandons his hopes of ever regaining Egypt. Mentuemhat, governor of Thebes, remained loyal to Taharqa, as did the "divine spouse of Amun." King Tanwetamani was the last Nubian King to attempt to re-take Egypt. By 653 BC, Nubian 25th Dynasty dominance of Egypt was at an end, and also the old dynastic culture that the Nubians tried to restore.
The Assyrians appointed Psammetikhos I as pharaoh and started the 26th dynasty. He married an Ethiopian princess. Settled the Greek mercenaries in permanent camps near Bubastis. Offended the warrior caste, which deserted in great numbers to the Ethiopians.
Both Psammetikhos I and his father, Necho I of Sais were originally involved with an intrigue associated with the Kushite ruler, Taharqo against Assyria, but were then captured, held and indoctrinated by the Assyrians. Shortly after the Assyrians left Psammetikhos I in control, the Assyrians suffered internal political turmoil, giving Psammetikhos I a chance to seize power in Egypt.
The Assyrians were forced to let go of Egypt under pressures from Psammetikhos I and their internal problems. Psammetikhos I established military garrisons at the Nubian border to prevent invasions from the Kushites again. His successor, Psammetikhos II invaded Upper Nubia under the threat of Kushite invasion. He defeated the Kushites, forcing the Kushite Kings to retreat further south to the city of Meroe.
The ancient Nubian had religious beliefs similar to those of the ancient Egyptians. For example, they buried their kings in pyramid tombs. There are actually more pyramids remaining in Sudan than there are in Egypt. The Kushites had their capital first at the city of Napata, then moved it to Meroe after they were conquered by the Assyrians. Nubian monarchs ruled for 1,000 years more.
During this period there was a large influx of foreigners into Egypt. Phoenicians came as traders; Greeks and Carians came as mercenaries. Immigrants from the Near East, Libya, the Aegean, Nubia, and elsewhere settled in Egypt. Islam arrived in the African continent in the 5th year of Muhammed's prophethood; this would be around the 7th century (CE) with the migration of his followers from Mecca to Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
The Rise and Decline of the Kingdom of Meroe
Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, 1995, pp. 44-45:
"During the final century of the BC era, the kings of Meroe expanded their rule into Lower Nubia between the first and second cataract. This led to clashes with the Roman rulers of Egypt. A Meroite army attacked the border town of Syene in 23 BC and destroyed or seized a number of statues and other valuables. A bronze head of the Roman emperor Augustus, probably seized in this raid, was discovered by archaeologists at Meroe in 1912. The Meroite raid provoked a Roman counter attack which penetrated as far a Napata and caused much destruction. When the Roman army finally retired to Egypt, they took with them several thousand captives whom they sold into slavery. Despite this military setback, under the leadership of King Natekamani, who ruled from 12 BC to 12 AD, the Meroite kingdom recovered to reach the height of its power and artistic achievement. During Natekamani's reign the kingdom stretched from the Ethiopian foothills in the south to the first cataract in the north. The wealth of the period was displayed in the building of temples and palaces. Over the next two centuries relations with the Roman rulers of Egypt were normally cordial and Meroe contributed to the Roman expansion of trade through the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean."
"The kingdom of Meroe came to an end sometime after 300 AD. Royal burials ended soon after that date and sometime between 300 and 350 AD the town of Meroe was abandoned. A number of factors seem to have been responsible for the collapse of the kingdom. The former power of Meroe had been built on the strength of its iron industry and agricultural base and the wealth of its foreign trade. Between 200 and 300 AD, Meroe gradually lost the benefit of both these advantages. The agricultural base declined as the environment became worn out through over-exploitation. The mounds of waste slag suggest the scale of the former smelting industry and this would have consumed hugh quantities of charcoal. Trees were cut down faster than new ones could grow. This led to erosion and loss of topsoil. The land, which had supported a thriving agricultural population for over a thousand years, lost its former fertility."
"In addition Meroe lost its advantageous trade postion. Its trade was closely tied to the wealth of Roman Egypt, through it connections down the Nile or along the Red Sea. As Roman wealth declined, there was less demand for Meroe's luxury goods. At the same time Meroe's Red Sea trade to the Indian Ocean was lost to her better placed neighbor the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum. In about 350 AD the army of the Aksumite King Ezana invaded the island of Meroe. By then the capital had already been abandoned and the region was in the hands of a people whom the Aksumites referred to as the Noba. It is not known exactly who the Noba were. They may have been an invading group of pastorlists from the south or southwest. On the other hand they may have been a subject Nubian people who regained control of the region when the power of their Meroite rulers collapsed."
The people of Sudan first had contact with Islam when the Baqt Treaty was signed with Egyptian Muslims in AD 652. Objects from the Islamic world such as pottery, textiles and glass were subsequently imported into the area. The Christian king of Makuria was deposed in AD 1323 and was replaced by a Muslim. Arab migration immediately increased and scholars set up Koranic schools and mosques. The southern kingdom of Alwa was taken over by Arab people in AD 1504.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century AD a powerful Islamic state called the Funj Sultanate rose in the middle Nile valley. It gained power without violence, indicating that there was already a large Muslim community in the area. The Funj capital until AD 1821 was Sennar, about 250 km south of Khartoum. It was a large, unfortified town notable for its palace, mosque, marketplaces and cemeteries. From the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries the region of Darfur, to the west, also saw the rise of an Islamic state. The power of the Funj declined from the late eighteenth century and the Turco-Egyptian government conquered its territory in 1821.
"Nubian Spirit" is a beautifully shot documentary which unravels the fascinating and often magical legacy of Ancient Sudan. It shines light onto the Ancient African culture, history and spiritual mythology of the people from the Nile Valley. The film digs deep into Ancient Africa's numerous contributions to modern civilization. It draws out the reality of such disciplines as astronomy, architecture, science and much more that the Ancient Africans used to make sense of their world.