Last Dynasties and the Fall of Ancient Egypt

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29th Dynasty sphinx

The Late Period (712 to 332 B.C.) includes the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th Dynasties, with one period of Nubia rule and one period of Persian rule (a second period of Persian rule occurred later). The 25th dynasty was Nubian. This marked the beginning of the Late Period. The 27th and 31st dynasties were Persian. After the 27th dynasty the Persians were expelled but returned once again. After experiencing a brief period of autonomy after the Persians were expelled the first time, Egypt was conquered again by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.

After 1085 B.C. Egypt was divided and ruled by priests. Egyptian culture went into a period of decline. Treasuries shrunk as a result of expensive monument building and military campaigns. There were food riots and strikes. In 525 B.C., Egypt was conquered the Persians The New Kingdom was followed by the Third Intermediate Period (1075 to 715 B.C.), the Late Period (715 to 332B.C.) and the Greco-Roman Period (332 B.C. to A.D. 395).

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: The Later Dynastic Period [the last dynasties of the Late Period] is the last period of Egyptian independence under Dynasties 28 to 30 (404 - 343 B.C.). As for Egypt’s position in the world, this was the time their military and diplomatic efforts focused on preventing reconquest by the Persian Empire. At home, Dynasties 28 - 29 were marked by a frequent shift of rulers, whose reigns often started and ended violently; in comparison, Dynasty 30 was a strong house, the rule of which was interrupted only from the outside. Culturally this period saw the continuation of certain Late Egyptian trends (archaistic tendency, popularity of animal cults, cult of Osiris and divine couples), which became the platform for the evolution of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods.

The Late Dynastic Period was not only the last period of Egyptian independence but also paved the way to the advent of Hellenism in many respects. Due to its alliances with the Greek city-states, Egypt became a standing factor of their international situation. The contacts to Greeks were strong enough to produce even a certain “Hellenization” (at least some knowledge of the Greek culture) in Egyptian society: the Hellenic education of Manetho mentioned by Josephus Flavius is likely to have been acquired still under Dynasty 30. The religious trends represented at that time (the flourish of the animal cult; the cult of royal statuary; the importance of mammisi; the choice of such building grounds as Edfu, Dendara, the isle of Philae, etc.) is well-attested under the Ptolemies.”


Websites on Ancient Egypt: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt ; Discovering Egypt; BBC History: Egyptians ; Ancient History Encyclopedia on Egypt; Digital Egypt for Universities. Scholarly treatment with broad coverage and cross references (internal and external). Artifacts used extensively to illustrate topics. ; British Museum: Ancient Egypt; Egypt’s Golden Empire; Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Oriental Institute Ancient Egypt (Egypt and Sudan) Projects ; Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre in Paris; KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt; Ancient Egypt Magazine; Egypt Exploration Society ; Amarna Project; Egyptian Study Society, Denver; The Ancient Egypt Site; Abzu: Guide to Resources for the Study of the Ancient Near East; Egyptology Resources

Dynasties 28–30 (522–343 B.C.): the Late Late Period

from the 30th dynasty

According to Minnesota State University, Mankato: “The second part of the Late Period (425-342 B.C.) is marked as a time of strife from outside and a resurgence of Egyptian culture. Attacks from the Persians and Greeks plagued all three Dynasties, but through luck and strategic planning, the Egyptians were able to stand against the threat, and although mostly isolated, they were even able to counter attack on different occasions. We see art and literature resurging during these dynasties, with more emphasis placed on temple building and maintenance. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, the end of Late Period II marks the last time Egyptians would rule Egypt until modern times.” [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, +]

James Allen and Marsha Hill of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: In 404 B.C., a coalition of these rulers succeeded in overthrowing their Persian masters. From 404 to 399 B.C., Egypt seems to have been ruled by Amyrtaios II of Sais, who is traditionally recognized as the only pharaoh of Dynasty 28. Control then passed for twenty years (399–380 B.C.) to Dynasty 29, in the eastern Delta city of Mendes, and finally to Dynasty 30, in the mid-Delta city of Sebennytos. [Source: James Allen and Marsha Hill, Department of Egyptian Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, \^/]

The first king of 30th Dynasty was Nectanebo I (380–362 B.C.). When Achoris, the last member of the 29th Dynasty, died Nectanebo I ousted his son and assumed control of the throne. Shortly after taking over, Egypt was attacked by a combined force of Persians and Greeks. The attackers successfully made it across the western side of the Nile delta, but were delayed before they could take Memphis due to mutual distrust. The Egyptian army was able to take advantage of the discord and counterattacked, driving the invaders out. The remainder of his reign was stable and peaceful and was marked by a vigorous period of temple building. Nectanebo I did much to restore temples across Egypt. He erected a kiosk on Philae, a sacred island. After he died, he was succeeded by his son, Teos. Nectanebo I is sometimes called is Nakhtnebef [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, +]

Nectanebo I’s ambitious program of temple construction, Alllen and Hill wrote “was continued on an even grander scale by Nectanebo II (360–343 B.C.). The latter king managed to hold off another Persian attack in 351 B.C., but in 343 B.C. a third attack succeeded, and Egypt fell once again to the Persians, who were defeated in turn by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. These final invasions were the death blow to Egyptian control of their own country. Nectanebo's dynasty is recognized as the last in ancient Egyptian history, and Nectanebo II became the last Egyptian to rule in Egypt for the next 2,500 years.” /^/

List of Rulers from the Late Period

Late Period
(ca. 712–332 B.C.)
Dynasty 25 (Nubian), (ca. 712–664 B.C.)
Shebitqo31 (ca. 698–690 B.C.)
Taharqo (Loses control of Lower Egypt)32 (ca. 690–664 B.C.)
Tanutamani (Loses control of Upper Egypt) (ca. 664–653 B.C.)
[Source: Department of Egyptian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2002]

statue from the 29th dynasty

Dynasty 26 (Saite) (688–252 B.C.)
Nikauba (688–672 B.C.)
Necho I (672–664 B.C.)
Psamtik I33 (664–610 B.C.)
Necho II (610–595 B.C.)
Psamtik II (595–589 B.C.)
Apries34 (589–570 B.C.)
Amasis35 (570–526 B.C.)
Psamtik III (526–525 B.C.)

Dynasty 27 (Persian), 525–404 B.C.)
Cambyses (525–522 B.C.)
Darius I (521–486 B.C.)
Xerxes I (486–466 B.C.)
Artaxerxes I (465–424 B.C.)
Darius II (424–404 B.C.)

Dynasty 28, 522–399 B.C.)
Pedubaste III (522–520 B.C.)
Psamtik IV ((ca. 470 B.C.)
Inaros ((ca. 460 B.C.)
Amyrtaios I ((ca. 460 B.C.)
Thannyros ((ca. 445 B.C.)
Pausiris ((ca. 445 B.C.)
Psamtik V ((ca. 445 B.C.)
Psamtik VI ((ca. 400 B.C.)
Amyrtaios II (404–399 B.C.)

Dynasty 29, 399–380 B.C.)
Nepherites I (399–393 B.C.)
Psammuthis (393–393 B.C.)
Achoris (393–380 B.C.)
Nepherites II (380–380 B.C.)
Dynasty 30, 380–343 B.C.)
Nectanebo I (380–362 B.C.)
Teos (365–360 B.C.)
Nectanebo II36 (360–343 B.C.

Persians (343–332 B.C.)
Khabebesh (343–332 B.C.)
Artaxerxes III Ochus (343–338 B.C.)
Arses (338–336 B.C.)
Darius III Codoman (335–332 B.C.)

Social History of the Late Late Period

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “A few things should be said about the major features of Egyptian society under the Late Dynastic Period. The royal power of this period can be defined in the first place as the military and the political authority. The ritual function, once inherent for the Egyptian kingship, was by that time vested mostly in the priesthood, although the king ought to have been a beneficent donor to temples. Egypt became closely connected to the Greek world, including even a minor migration to its states; symptomatically, the fourth century B.C. was the time when Egypt started its own minting in order to pay its mercenaries from abroad. [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

“Trade with Greeks is attested in the Naucratis Stela of Nectanebo I stipulating 10 percent tax on the Naucratite import to the benefit of the temple of Neith at Sais. However, Egypt's connections to the outside world hardly had any serious impact on the fundamentals of its own society: significantly, the coin minted for the payment of mercenaries was not put into circulation inside the country, and its economy remained basically natural. Inside the country the growth of the economy under Nectanebo II made it necessary to increase the number of “planners”: instead of one there were three “planners” at Memphis, Hermopolis Magna, and Hermonthis

“The outcome of Teos’ manipulations is a rather telltale indicator of the internal state of Egypt of the time: though radical and rapid, his actions were well-motivated by the military need. The resistance to Teos must have come from the corporations, into which Egyptian society had split since the beginning of the first millennium B.C., the priesthood and the military class being the most authoritative. To sum up, the rulers of the period (Nectanebos undoubtedly being the strongest figure ever since the end of the Saite time) were not able to overcome the decentralization of the Egyptian society.”

Religion in the Late Late Period

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “Of the Late Dynastic Period, Dynasty 30 is especially known for excessive temple building, which touched both major and minor temple centers (Thebes, Memphis, Abydos, Heliopolis, Hermopolis Magna, Hermopolis Parva, Sais, Bubastis, Mendes, Sebennytos, Saft el-Henna, Edfu, Dendara, Elephantine, Philae, Hibis in the Kharga Oasis, etc.), its climax being the reign of Nectanebo II. This required great expenditures, which might have been covered by the income of the temples themselves. [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

“The reform that presumably made it possible was carried out by Nectanebo I, the result being visible in the growth of the state income and the architectural boom under Nectanebo II . The integration of the royal cult with the local cults of sacred animals, once established under Amasis, took a more definite shape under Dynasty 30: the kings provided for the organization of special rearing places for sacred animals and their cemeteries; the most important was the Serapeum at Saqqara that was built and enlarged by Nectanebo I and II and housed their cult temple and perhaps burials. Evidence of the cult of the sacred bull Buchis (embodiment of the god Montu worshiped in the Theban region) appeared under Nectanebo II.

“The building strategies of Dynasty 30 in Egyptian temples often focused on the creation of processional avenues and enclosure walls, as well as the erection of naoi. The former two devices were undoubtedly intended to delineate and partly to expand the sacred space of temples; as for the naoi with rich decoration in imagery and text, their installation is considered

Ideology in the Late Late Period

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “The concept of kingship that must have prevailed in the early fourth century B.C. is presented best of all in the “Demotic Chronicle”: though Early Ptolemaic, it summed up the attitude of the Egyptian elite (in the first place the priesthood) towards the Late Dynastic Period kings. The “Demotic Chronicle “shows them easily deposed if and when they declined from the standard of behavior defined as “law”. Thus, the kings’ nature revealed itself to be similar to human nature, with its aptitude to temptations; and the idea of the king’s sacrality came to be compatible with the recognition of his weaknesses, which might have led to the loss of kingship, i.e., in Egyptian terms, to the loss of sacrality as well. To say the least, sacrality must have been thought not inherent to a king; and its loss by him, for the lack of a stronger authority in the mundane, must have certainly been attributed to a divine will. [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

“A replica of this idea might be seen in the sculpture groups that show Nectanebo II in front of the giant falcon Horus. This composition was often thought to represent the protection of the king through the god, though it has been shown that these sculptures were objects of worship, with special priesthoods installed for them in major temple centers. The sculpture group of this type from Tanis shows on its base a symptomatic inscription: “Be alive Horus Beloved by Two Lands, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the divine falcon, issue of Isis, Lord of Two Lands Senedjem-ib-Ra…”. Judging from the divine epithet inserted in the royal title, the sculpture group represented the identity of the god and the king; and this is also seen in the designation of these cult objects (known from the titles of their priests) “Nectanebo-the-Falcon”. Their cult must have been installed by Nectanebo II in temples in order to emphasize that the embodiment of the divinity in him was unceasing; and if the need to stress this was felt, the relationship between the king and the god was generally thought to cease. The “functioning” of “Nectanebos-the-Falcons” must have been designed to affirm that Horus, son of Isis, was immanent to the person of Nectanebo II, whatever his deeds were. The “Demotic Chronicle “clearly denounced this ambition: “Shall you say in your heart: ‘the king’s office is with me, and nobody will take it from me’? Sword is the king’s office, whose appearance is the falcon’s image. They say: ‘a mightier sword might rise!’”. “A mightier sword” was probably the god’s wrath against the king’s arrogance.

“Probably, in the ideas of the fourth century B.C. the legitimate royal and, accordingly, the divine status of the ruler utterly depended on god’s embodiment in him; god would leave him if he violated the accepted standard of behavior. Such violations were in the first place misdemeanors in the provision of cult that was the king’s duty: no wonder, Teos was utterly bad in the “Demotic Chronicle”.”

Twenty Eighth Dynasty (404 – 399 B.C.): the Single King Amyrtaios II

mytaios Aramaic papyrus from the 28th dynasty

Amyrtaios II (Amyrtacu, Amyrteos) was the former Prince of Sais who took over the Egyptian throne when Darius II died in 404 B.C. For nearly a decade he led a revolt against Persian rule. Upon the death of Darius II he declared himself king and once again established a native monarchy in Egypt. Little is known about him except that his capital was at Sais in the Delta and he managed to assert his authority as far south as the old Egyptian border at Aswan. He was the sole king of the twenty-eighth dynasty. [Source: Mark Millmore,, [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ]

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “Placing the Roman digit behind the name of the king in brackets is motivated by his probable connection to the rebels’ leader Amyrtaios, who fought against the Persians together with Inaros in the mid-fifth century B.C.. The traditional dynastic names of the anti-Persian leaders (Psammetichus, father of Inaros) led to believe that they could have been the descendants of the earlier Libyan royal houses. [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

“After the defeat of Inaros in 454 B.C., a sort of guerrilla autonomy retaining contacts with its Athenian supporters existed in the Western Delta; it is attested in c. 412/411, and it probably was the base for the victorious revolt of Amyrtaios (II). It must have started c. 405 B.C. in Lower Egypt; by 400 B.C. the rebels held Elephantine where the local Jewish garrison produced the latest Egyptian documents dated with the years of Artaxerxes II. Amyrtaios was the only king of Dynasty 28 according to Manetho; his Egyptian attestation; no monuments of his time have yet come to light. The execution of Tamos, the “satrap “(provincial governor) of Ionia of Egyptian descent who fled to Egypt after the misfortune of Cyrus’ mutiny, by Amyrtaios demonstrates his reluctance to irritate the Persians by housing their enemies.”

Twenty Ninth Dynasty 399 – 380 B.C.

Achoris of the 29th dynasty

With the Persians and Assyrians gone Egypt was free of foreign rule and there was a period of consolidation and restoration. The 29th Dynasty was founded by Nephrites I who moved the capital from Sais to the more centrally-located Mendes. More writing and art was produced during this time than during previous dynasties. After the death of Nepherites I there was a power struggle in which Hakor prevailed. During the 14th year of his reign he embraked on a massive building campaign. In 389 B.C., Egyptians and Greeks formed an alliance against the Persians, with Greek mercenaries helping the Egyptians to withstand several Persian attacks.The kings in this period were : Nepherites I 399-393 B.C.; Hakor 393-380 B.C. ; and Nepherites II 380, B.C. [Source: Mark Millmore,, Minnesota State University, Mankato,]

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “The founder of this house Nepherites I (“His greatness grows”) came from Mendes. In a short interregnum after his reign, power was claimed by his son, whose name is unknown, and by Psammuthis. In the end Hakoris, possibly a minor son of Nepherites I, prevailed; his reign is the longest period of stability in this dynasty. The feud recurred after the death of Hakoris, whose son Nepherites II failed to succeed him for long. [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

“The most important developments of the time were obviously the alliances and the military activities of Egyptian kings aimed at preventing the Persian reconquest of their country. Nepherites I sided somewhat reservedly with Sparta, rejecting a military alliance but sending material support to its army in Asia Minor. Hakoris actively sought allies to fight against Persia: in the early 380s B.C., he negotiated treaties with Euagoros of Cyprus and, probably with the latter’s mediation, with Athens; there is a possibility that Egypt had contacts with Pisidia (in modern Turkey), which was de facto independent of Persia. Around that time the Egyptians hired the Athenian general Chabrias. However, contacts to Athens were made ineffective by the Peace of Antalcidas in 386 B.C. that prohibited the city and other Greek poleis to side overtly with the enemies of Persia. In the mid-380s B.C., Artaxerxes II waged war against Cyprus and Egypt: the former was defeated by 380, while the latter defended itself gloriously—as attested by Isocrates—for three years. The precise dating of this war is unknown, though it is likely to be placed c. 385 - 383 B.C., undoubtedly under Hakoris.”

Thirtieth Dynasty 380 – 343 B.C.

from the 30th dynasty

The 30th Dynasty was founded by Nectanebo I, who reigned for eighteen years. During this period Egypt was invaded by an army of Persians and Greeks. At first they overwhelmed the Egyptians, but Nectanebo launched a counter attack and was able to drive them out. defeated them. Nectanebo I’s son Takos, with the support of Greek mercenaries, attacked the Persians in an effort to claim Syria but himself unpopular at home by raising taxes to fund the adventure. The Pharaohs of this dynasty supported a return to the old ways. They refurbished old temples and built new ones and promoted art and literature. When the 30th Dynasty ended with the death of Nectanebo II, the Persians took over Egypt for the second time, ending Egyptian rule over Egypt. The kings from this period were Nectanebo I 380-362 B.C.; Takos 362-360 B.C.; amd Nectanebo II 360-343 B.C.. [Source: Mark Millmore,]

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “Soon after the death of Hakoris the royal power was seized by Nectanebo I. The name-form “Nectanebo” used by English-speaking scholars for both the first and the third ruler of Dynasty 30 is a conventionality based on the Greek form found in the “Romance of Alexander”, where it actually applies to the last Egyptian king Nectanebo II, who was represented as the father of Alexander the Great. It is noteworthy that the “sequence” of the two Egyptian names was established only after the discovery of the “Demotic Chronicle”. [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

“A debatable issue in the history of Dynasty 30 is its chronology. It is quite certain that Nectanebo I reigned for 18 years and died in his Year 19. The totality of the years of Nectanebo II is 18; but at the same time the date of the Persian invasion into Egypt (which is generally dated to 343 B.C.)—according to the Greek and the Demotic versions of the so-called “Nectanebo’s Dream”—is the middle of his Year 16: the night from 21 to 22 Pharmouthi of this year, i.e., probably 5 to 6 July 343 B.C., must have preceded this event shortly before. At the same time, the sources are unanimous that the second king of Dynasty 30 Djed-Hor ruled solely for two years. Taken together, these figures are the basis of the chronology found in table 1 above. Recently arguments have been given for redating the invasion of Artaxerxes III to a later time, between November 340 and summer 339 B.C.. If true, this redating calls for a new shift in the Egyptian chronology of the fourth century B.C.; hence the need for its much more thorough discussion than appropriate here. However, it also implies discounting the date of the “Nectanebo’s Dream “as relevant to Artaxerxes’ invasion, which is hardly reasonable.”

Kings of the Thirtieth Dynasty 380 – 343 B.C.

Ivan Ladynin of Lomonosov Moscow State University wrote: “Nectanebo I was a native of Sebennytos and a commander of the army under preceding kings. Under Nectanebo I, Egypt stood alone before the Persian threat; nevertheless the Egyptians repulsed a mighty Persian assault in 373 B.C.. Its failure despite its great strength (200,000 Asiatic warriors and 20,000 Greek mercenaries under the command of the famed generals Pharnabazus and Iphicrates, on 500 warships: Diod., XV.41.3) demonstrated the decline of the Persian power (also seen in the Great Satrapal Revolt in Asia Minor in the 360s B.C.). [Source: Ivan Ladynin, Lomonosov Moscow State University, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013, ]

Nectanebo II

“Nectanebo’s son Teos became his coregent in c. 365 B.C.. Egypt’s offensive against Persia took place at the end of his brief reign (c. 359 B.C.). Incidentally, the aims of this war (and especially their motivation that led Teos to perceive them realistically) deserve being studied better than they have been. According to Diodorus, the king intended to take military actions in Syria, while his nephew Nectanebo was besieging the towns of Phoenicia; this means that he planned to seize at least the entire Eastern Mediterranean. This plan had to be inspired by a profound belief that the Persians could be defeated, a belief backed by enthusiasm, which is unlikely to have been quite irrational. One ought to recall here the arguments of Isocrates that the Persian empire was rotten and easy to overcome, which set the stage for the Greco- Macedonian invasion. The strength of Teos’ offensive was considerably greater than that of Alexander’s Oriental campaign at its start: Teos amassed 80,000 Egyptian troops and 10,000 elite Greek mercenaries, 200 warships, and had with him famous Greek generals: the Athenian Chabrias, who had already served Egypt, and the much-aged but still active Spartan king Agesilaus. To prepare his war, Teos, on Chabrias’ advice, put the economy of Egypt under strict control confining the income of the temples to 10 percent of their regular size, confiscating from his subjects precious metal, and introducing a 10 percent tax on all revenues and deals; these measures must have caused indignation, first of all on the part of the priesthood.

“Teos’ campaign collapsed with the outright mutiny of his nephew general Nectanebo, who on the initiative of his father Tjahepimu—brother of Teos or perhaps Nectanebo I and Egypt’s vicegerent for the duration of war—was declared king. Chabrias, who stayed at Teos’ service as a private mercenary, wanted to remain loyal to him; but Agesilaus, who represented the Spartan state, declared Sparta the ally of Egypt and not of Teos personally and supported the new king. Teos followed the example of the Athenian Themistocles more than a century earlier and fled to Persia, perhaps with some supporters. Another claimant to the throne, whose name is not known, appeared at Mendes and was oppressed by Nectanebo II and Agesilaus. The interregnum ended with the abolition of Teos’ pre-war measures by Nectanebo II.

“The reign of Nectanebo II continued under the menace of assault from the outside: the Persians, who had been preparing an attack since 354/3, tried to invade Egypt in 351/0 and finally succeeded in 343 B.C.; eventually the “Romance of Alexander “depicted him as a magician who put his skills in effect to repulse enemies. In the 340s the Egyptians were trying to support the anti-Persian insurrection of Phoenician cities (also sending to them the Greek mercenaries): the revolt spread to Cilicia, Cyprus, and Judah, and Artaxerxes’ invasion of Egypt in 343 B.C. was actually a sequel of its oppression. There is a probability that Nectanebo II fled

32nd Dynasty: Alexander the Great in Egypt

Alexander the Great

In November 332 B.C. Alexander entered Egypt, an unhappy vassal of Persia. He received a hero's welcome. In Memphis, the Egyptian capital, he made a sacrifice to Apis, the sacred Egyptian bull, and was recognized as a pharaoh. Hieroglyphics of Alexander's adventures adorn temples in Luxor.

In 331 B.C., Alexander the Great trekked 300 miles across the Sahara desert for no military reason to Siwa Oasis (near Libyan border), where he met with the oracle at the Zeus-Amum temple and asked questions about his future and divinity. The oracle greeted Alexander as the son of Amun-Re and gave him the favorable omens he wanted for an invasion of Asia. The 24-year-old Alexander arrived at Siwa by camel. He asked the oracle whether was the son of Zeus. He never revealed the answer to that question.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Alexander's military campaign was the founding of Alexandria. Arrian wrote that "he himself designed the general layout of the new town, indicating the position of the market square, the number of temples...and the precise limits of its outer defenses." After Alexander died, Alexandria grew into the center of Hellenistic Greece and was the greatest city for 300 years in Europe and the Mediterranean.

According to Minnesota State University, Mankato: “The arrival of the Macedonians marked the end of political autonomy of Egypt. Egypt's new rulers, Alexander and the Ptolemies, tipped the balance of world power firmly towards the west. They preserved the basic framework of Egyptian society, while they operated according to the rules of their own culture. Alexander and the Greeks had the same problem as the Persians, the empire was so extensive that they could not rule the whole entity according to the same set of laws. In order to insinuate the Greeks into Egypt's theocratic method of government, Alexander was obliged to seek the assistance of the very fixture that had supported the pharaohs: the priesthood. Slowly the Greco/Roman culture began to replace the Egyptian cultural milieu. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, +]

Decline and End of Ancient Egypt

Dr Aidan Dodson of the University of Bristol wrote for the BBC:: “The civilisation of ancient Egypt can be traced back in recognisable form to around 3000 B.C. It was to endure for over three millennia and it is perhaps the most instantly recognisable of all ancient cultures today. The question of how it came to an end is a perennially popular one, but actually quite difficult to answer, as it is by no means agreed as to what constitutes 'the end' of Egypt as an ancient civilisation. |[Source: Dr Aidan Dodson, BBC, February 17, 2011. Dodson is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Bristol|::|]

“Is it the definitive end of native Egyptian rule (at least until the 20th century)? In this case the answer would be the flight of King Nectanebo II in 342 B.C. Is it Egypt's absorption into the Roman Empire in 30 B.C.? Or the last appearance of the ancient hieroglyphic script just before AD 400? Or the closure of the last pagan temples in the sixth century? |In many ways the last suggestion is perhaps the most appropriate, as in all the other cases, the core religious and artistic values of the country continued on, albeit increasingly debased and under pressure. However, the demise of the hieroglyphs was a manifestation of the decline and fall of the ancient religion in the face of Christianity, itself ultimately to be supplanted by Islam. |::|

“But what led up to this event, and the series of other potential 'ends' that we have already referred to? The seeds actually lay around one-and-a-half millennia earlier, when Egypt was apparently at the height of its powers in the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1212 B.C.), during what is known as the 19th Dynasty of Egyptian history. Ramesses' great foes were the Hittites of what is now modern Turkey, a key battle with whom, at Qadesh, was frequently displayed on the great pharaoh's temples.

“One of the differences between their armies was that while the Egyptians were armed with weapons of bronze, the Hittites had access to a new material-iron. Although they had ample reserves of copper (the key component of bronze) within their boundaries, the Egyptians lacked sources of the far more effective metal. While this was by no means a decisive issue, this falling behind in military technology was certainly a contributory factor in the coming decline. |::|

“There were also cracks appearing in the unity of the Egyptian state, and its cohesion was threatened by a short-lived secession of the southern part of the country under the rebel king Amenmesse around 1200 B.C., by the murder of Ramesses III in 1153 B.C., and by civil war in the far south around 1080 to 1070 B.C. Economic crises, raids by foreign bandits, and an orgy of tomb-robbing, during which many of the graves of the ancient pharaohs were looted, accompanied these events. |::|

“The net result was that for the century from 1070 B.C. onwards, under the 21st Dynasty, Egypt was split in two, the north ruled by the pharaoh, based in the new city of Tanis in the north-east of the country, and the south by the High Priest of Amun at Thebes (modern Luxor). The High Priests nominally owed allegiance to the king, but in practice they comprised an independent line of hereditary rulers, whose status was not solely religious, as they also held the title of Army Leader, making their regime probably more of a military dictatorship than a Taliban-style theocracy. |::|

Alexander the Great's Empire

Wars and Invasions Take Their Toll on Ancient Egypt

Dr Aidan Dodson of the University of Bristol wrote: “A short-lived national revival began with the accession of Shoshenq I around 945 B.C. as founder of the 22nd Dynasty. |Although of foreign-Libyan-origins, he brought the south back under central control by the expedient of supplanting the old High Priestly family with his own son, and pursued an aggressive foreign policy, including military campaigns in Palestine, during one of which Jerusalem was sacked. [Source: Dr Aidan Dodson, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“However, within a century, the country had split again, with Thebes now ruled not by High Priests, but by its very own line of pharaohs, the 23rd Dynasty, running in parallel with the Tanite (based in Tanis) northern king. The Theban kings soon found themselves embroiled in a long-running civil war, while in the north a number of semi-independent principalities grew up, all together sapping the strength of the country as a whole. This decline coincided with the rise of a power to the south of Egypt in Nubia-spanning the borders of the modern states of Egypt and Sudan. Long a colony of Egypt, Nubia now had rulers (the 25th Dynasty) who regarded themselves as ideologically the heirs of the ancient culture of Egypt, and as such they became overlords first of Thebes, and then took over the whole of Egypt, becoming pharaohs of a united kingdom of Egypt and Nubia around 720 B.C. |::|

“This prosperous state was to be short-lived, however, as late in the reign of King Taharqa (690-664 B.C.), he became embroiled in a disastrous war with the Assyrians, who invaded and sacked many cities, including Thebes. Upheaval back home led, however, to an early Assyrian withdrawal and the setting up of a native Egyptian regime (the 26th Dynasty) that was to last for some 140 years. |::|

“Although this was apparently a time of peace and well-being, the Assyrian invasion indicated that Egypt's fate was now firmly tied in with the rest of the eastern Mediterranean world, in which it struggled to maintain its economic and military position. Indeed, the army now relied heavily on foreign-especially Greek-mercenaries, rather than the native Egyptians of the country's glory days. |::|

“Egypt thus fell easy prey to the expanding Persian empire in 525 B.C., remaining under their dominion for over a century. National rule was revived between 404 and 342 B.C., but the various regimes (the 28th, 29th and 30th dynasties) were riven by in-fighting, and the Persians reasserted their power in 342 B.C.” |::|

Egypt Reduced to Greek-Influenced Province or Rome

Dr Aidan Dodson wrote : Egypt was seized by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., but regained independence at the break-up of his empire in 310 B.C. However, the new ruler, Ptolemy I, was a Macedonian Greek, and the ruling class of the state was now foreign, running the country as part of the Ptolemaic kings' wider Mediterranean agendas. The ancient religion and culture were supported and new temples built, but the dominant culture was now increasingly European, with Greek becoming the language of state. [Source: Dr Aidan Dodson, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“The increasingly bloody internal struggles of the ruling house brought Egypt within the orbit of the still-growing Roman Empire, culminating in the defeat of the last of Ptolemy's ruling descendants, Cleopatra VII, and her Roman lover Mark Antony in 30 B.C., resulting in the country's absorption into the empire that same year. Egypt now became a mere province, with its primary goal to provide grain for the rest of the empire. |::|

Roman Empire

“While the Ptolemies' support for traditional culture was maintained through a programme of temple-building, in which the Roman emperors were depicted as pharaohs, the infiltration of foreign philosophical and religious ideas continued apace. In particular, Christianity took early root in Egypt, doubtless aided by its many similarities to the popular cult of Osiris and Isis, which also featured an unjustly killed divine figure who was resurrected to provide humans with a guarantee of eternal life. |::|

“The association of the ancient hieroglyphic writing system with the old religion, together with the wide currency of the Greek language in Roman Egypt, led to the Christians beginning to write the native Egyptian language in an augmented version of the Greek alphabet. The old art style was also tainted with paganism, and so was also replaced by a style derived from outside, thus further eating away at key parts of the ancient Egyptian civilisation.” |::|

End of Ancient Egyptian Culture

Dr Aidan Dodson wrote for the BBC: “In the fourth century AD, the old ways were largely concentrated in the south of Egypt and the remote Western Desert oasis of Siwa. Perhaps the most important sanctuaries were concentrated on the temple-island of Philae, on what was then the country's southern border. It was there that last inscription in hieroglyphs was made in 394 AD, as well as the final example of its hand-written form, demotic, in 452 AD, and it was here that the last pagan sanctuaries in the Nile Valley were forcibly closed in 553 AD. [Source: Dr Aidan Dodson, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|] “By then, Egypt was a Christian country which now rejected much of its heritage as indefensibly pagan. All that survived was the Egyptian language itself, fundamentally the same as that spoken by the first pharaohs, three-and-a-half millennia earlier. And even that was not to endure, since with the Arab invasion in 640, Arabic began to displace it, until by the 16th century it was essentially restricted to Church liturgy. But it still clung to life, and its survival was to be a key tool in the decipherment of the ancient hieroglyphs in the 19th century. |::|

“Although now reflecting a dead culture, the image of ancient Egypt continued to endure, through the Bible and the works of ancient and medieval travellers, to be revived in the years that followed the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798, and the decipherment of the hieroglyphs in the 1820s. As a field for scholarly research, or simply a holiday destination, Egypt remains imprinted on the world's consciousness in a way hardly equalled by any other ancient society, centuries after its culture apparently vanished from the earth.” |::|

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt ; Tour Egypt, Minnesota State University, Mankato,; Mark Millmore,; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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