Ancient Egypt (Rawlinson)/How the Hyksos were Expelled from Egypt
|←THE GREAT INVASION--THE HYKSOS OR SHEPHERD KINGS--JOSEPH AND APEPI||Ancient Egypt (Rawlinson) by
How the Hyksôs were Expelled from Egypt
|THE FIRST GREAT WARRIOR KING, THOTHMES I.→|
At first sight it seems strange that the terrible warriors who, under Set or Saïtes, so easily reduced Egypt to subjection, and then still further weakened the population by massacre and oppression, should have been got rid of, after two centuries or two centuries and a half, with such comparative ease. But the rapid deterioration of conquering races under certain circumstances is a fact familiar to the historian. Elamites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, rapidly succeeded each other as the dominant power in Western Asia, each race growing weaker and becoming exhausted, after a longer or a shorter interval, through nearly the same causes. Nor are the reasons for the deterioration far to seek. Each race when it sets out upon its career of conquest is active, energetic, inured to warlike habits, simple in its manners, or at any rate simpler than those which it conquers, and, comparatively speaking, poor. It is urged on by the desire of bettering its condition. If it meets with a considerable resistance, if the conquest occupies a long space, and the conquered are with difficulty held under, rebelling from time to time, and making frantic efforts to throw off the yoke which galls and frets them, then the warlike habits of the conquerors are kept up, and their dominion may continue for several centuries. Or, if the nation is very energetic and unresting, not content with its earlier conquests, or willing to rest upon its oars, but continually seeking out fresh enemies upon its borders, and regarding war as the normal state of its existence, then the centuries may be prolonged into millennia, and it may be long indeed before any tendency to decline shows itself; but, ordinarily, there is no very prolonged resistance on the one side, and no very constant and unresting energy on the other. A poor and hardy people, having swooped down upon one that is softer and more civilized, easily carries all before it, acquires the wealth and luxury which it desires, and being content with them, seeks for nothing further, but assimilates itself by degrees to the character and condition of the people whom it has conquered. A standing army, disposed in camps and garrisons, may be kept up; but if there is a cessation of actual war even for a generation, the severity of military discipline will become relaxed, the use of arms will grow unfamiliar, the physical type will decline, the belligerent spirit will die away, and the conquerors of a century ago will have lost all the qualities which secured them success when they made their attack, and have sunk to the level of their subjects. When this point is reached, thoughts of rebellion are apt to arise in the hearts of these latter; the old terror which made the conqueror appear irresistible is gone, and is perhaps succeeded by contempt--the subjects feel that they have at least the advantage of numbers on their side; they have also probably been leading harder and more bracing lives; they see that, man for man, they are physically stronger than their conquerors; and at last they rebel, and are successful.
In Egypt there was, further, this peculiarity--the conquered people occupied two entirely distinct positions. In the Delta, the Fayoum, and the northern Nile valley, they were completely reduced, and lived intermixed with their conquerors, a despised class, suffering more or less of oppression. In Upper Egypt the case was different. There the people had submitted in a certain sense, acknowledged the Hyksôs monarchs as their suzerains, and indicated their subjection by the payment of an annual tribute; but they retained their own native princes, their own administration and government, their own religion, their own laws; they did not live intermixed with the new comers; they were not subject to daily insult or ill-treatment; the fact that they paid a tribute did not hinder their preserving their self-respect, and consequently they suffered neither moral nor physical deterioration. Further, it would seem to have been possible for them to engage in wars on their own account with the races living further up the Nile, or with the wild tribes of the desert, and thus to maintain warlike habits among themselves, while the Hyksôs were becoming unaccustomed to them. The Ra-Sekenens of Thebes, who called themselves "great" and "very great," had probably built up a considerable power in Upper Egypt during the reigns of the later "Shepherd Kings;" had improved their military system by the adoption of the horse and the chariot, which the Hyksôs had introduced; had practised their people in arms, and acquired a reputation as warriors.
More particularly must this have been the case with Ra-Sekenen III., the contemporary of Apepi. Ra-Sekenen the Third called himself "the great victorious Taa." He surrounded himself with a council of "mighty chiefs, captains, and expert leaders." He acquired so much repute, that he provoked Apepi's jealousy before he had in any way transgressed the duties which he owed him as a feudatory. In the long negotiation between the two, of which the "First Sallier Papyrus" gives an account, it is evident that, while Ra-Sekenen has committed no act whereof Apepi has any right to complain, he has awoke in him feelings of such hostility, that Apepi will be content with nothing less than either unqualified submission to every demand that he chooses to make, or war à outrance. Never was a subject monarch more goaded and driven into rebellion against his inclination by over-bearing conduct on the part of his suzerain than was Ra-Sekenen by the last "Shepherd King." The disinclination of himself and his court to fight is almost ludicrous: they "are silent and in great dismay; they know not how to answer the messenger sent to them, good of ill." Ra-Sekenen, powerful as he had become, "victorious" as he may have been against Libyans and negroes, and even Cushites, dreaded exceedingly to engage in a struggle with the redoubted people which, two centuries previously, had shown itself so irresistible.
It would seem, however, that he was forced to take up arms at last. We have, unfortunately, no description of the war which followed, so far as it was conducted by this monarch. But it is evident that Apepi was completely disappointed in his hope of crushing the rising native power before it had grown too strong. He had in fact delayed too late. Ra-Sekenen, compelled to defend himself against his aggressive suzerain, raised the standard of national independence, invited aid from all parts of Egypt, and succeeded in bringing a large army into the field. At the first he simply held his own against Apepi, but by degrees he was able to do more. The Hyksôs, who marched against Thebes, found enemies rise up against them in their rear, as first one and then another native chief declared against them in this or that city; their difficulties continually increased; they had to re-descend the Nile valley and to concentrate their forces nearer home. But each year they lost ground. First the Fayoum was yielded, then Memphis, then Tanis. At last nothing remained to the invaders but their great fortified camp, Uar or Auaris, which they had established at the time of their arrival upon the eastern frontier, and had ever since kept up. In this district, which was strongly fortified by walls and moats, and watered by canals derived from the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, they had concentrated themselves, we are told, to the number of 240,000 men, determined to make there a final stand against the Egyptians.
It was when affairs were in this position that Ra-Sekenen died, and was succeeded by a king of a different family, the first monarch of the "Eighteenth Dynasty," Aahmes. Aahmes was a prince of great force of character, brave, active, energetic, liberal, beloved by his subjects. He addressed himself at once to the task of completing the liberation of his country by dislodging the Hyksôs from Auaris, and driving them beyond his borders. With this object he collected a force, which is said to have amounted to nearly half a million of men, and at the same time placed a flotilla of ships upon the Nile, which was of the greatest service in his later operations. Auaris was not only defended by broad moats connected with the waters of the Nile, but also bordered upon a lake, or perhaps rather a lagoon, of considerable dimensions. Hence it was necessary that it should be attacked not only by land, but also by water. Aahmes seems to have commanded the land forces in person, riding in a war-chariot, the first of which we have distinct mention. A favourite officer, who bore the same name as his master, accompanied him, sometimes marching at his side as he rode in his chariot, sometimes taking his place in one of the war-vessels, and directing the movements of the fleet. After a time formal siege was laid to Auaris; the fleet was ordered to attack the walls on the side of the lagoon, while the land force was engaged in battering the defences elsewhere. Assaults were made day after day with only partial success; but at last the defenders were wearied out--a panic seized them, and, hastily evacuating the place, they retired towards Syria, the quarter from which they had originally come. Aahmes may have been willing that they should escape: since, if they had been completely blocked in and driven to bay, they might have made a desperate resistance, and caused the Egyptians an enormous loss. He followed, however, upon their footsteps, to make sure that they did not settle anywhere in his neighbourhood, and was not content till they had crossed the desert and entered the hill country of Palestine. Even then he still hung upon their rear, harassing them and cutting off their stragglers; finally, when they made a stand at Sharuhen in Southern Palestine, he laid siege to the town, took it, and made a great slaughter of the hapless defenders.
The war did not terminate until the fifth year of Aahmes' reign. Its result was the complete defeat of the invading hordes which had held Lower and Middle Egypt for so long, and their expulsion from Egypt with such ignominy and loss that they made no effort to retaliate or to recover themselves. Vast numbers must have been slain in the battles, or have perished amid the hardships of the retreat; and many thousands were, no doubt, made prisoners and carried back into Egypt as slaves. It is thought that these captives were so numerous as to become an important element in the population of the eastern Delta, and even to modify the character of the Egyptian race in that quarter. The lively imagination of M. François Lenormant sees their descendants in the "strange people, with robust limbs, an elongated face, and a severe expression, which to this day inhabits the tract bordering on Lake Menzaleh."
It is probable that Aahmes had for allies in his war with the "Shepherds" the great nation which adjoined Egypt on the south, and which was continually growing in power--the Kashi, Cushites, or Ethiopians. His wife appears by her features and complexion to have been a Cushite princess, and the marriage is likely to have been less one of inclination than of policy. The Egyptians admired fair women rather than dark ones, as is plain from the unduly light complexions which the artists, in their desire to flatter, ordinarily assign to women, as well as from the attractiveness of Sarah, even in advanced age. When a Theban king contracted marriage with an Ethiopian of ebon blackness, we are entitled to assume a political motive; and the most probable political motive under the circumstances of the time was the desire for military assistance. Though in the early wars between the Kashi and the Egyptians the prowess of the former is not represented as great, and the designation of "miserable Cushites" is evidently used in depreciation of their warlike qualities, yet the very use of the epithet implies a feeling of hostility which could scarcely have been provoked by a weak people. And the Cushites certainly advanced in prowess and in military vigour as time went on. They formed the most important portion of the Egyptian troops for some centuries; at a later period they conquered Egypt, and were the dominant power for a hundred years; still further on, they defied the might of Persia when Egypt succumbed to it. Aahmes, in contracting his marriage with the Ethiopian princess, to whom he gave the name of Nefertari-Aahmes--or "the good companion of Aahmes"--was, we may be tolerably sure, bent on obtaining a contingent of those stalwart troops whose modern representatives are either the Blacks of the Soudan or the Gallas of the highlands of Abyssinia. The "Shepherds" thus yielded to a combination of the North with the South, of the Egyptians with the Ethiopians, such as in later times, on more than one occasion, drove the Assyrians out of the country.
- "Manuel d'Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient," vol. i. p. 368.