Ancient Egypt New Kingdom

The New Kingdom started when Ahmose I expelled the Hyksos and returned to Egypt, around 1550 BCE, and it lasted until the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period, around 1069 BCE.

The New Kingdom, also known as the Egyptian Empire, was Egypt‘s most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power. It was followed by the Third Intermediate Period.

The New Kingdom saw Egypt expand into the Levant and Nubia, and hold wide territories in the Near East.

King Ahmose I reformed the government and administration of Egypt. Most importantly, he established a permanent army, which transformed Egypt into a true imperial force.

Lower Egypt was first ruled by the Hyksos, which were driven out by Ahmose I who expanded the borders of Egypt and made it a member of the “Club of Great Powers.”

The Beginning of the New Kingdom

During the 13th Dynasty, the Middle Kingdom was dissolved, and the Hyksos and Kush ruled. This is the Second Intermediate Period.

Hyksos writers would have you believe that the time of the Hyksos was chaotic and destroyed, but evidence from the time shows that there was a cordial relationship between Avaris and Thebes.

Egyptian king Seqenenra Taa went to war with the Hyksos king Apepi, but he died in battle. Despite Kamose’s efforts, the Hyksos remained in Egypt until Ahmose I regained control.

Rise of the New Kingdom

During the 18th Dynasty, Egypt had some of the most famous kings, including Ahmose I, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, and Tutankhamun.

During Hatshepsut’s reign, Egypt expanded its trade abroad, while Ahmose I continued the campaigns of his fathers.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of Thutmose I and the royal wife of Thutmose II, built the Karnak temple in Luxor and re-established the trade networks of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Preparations and funding for the mission were handled by her.

The 19th Dynasty

Seti I was Ramesses I’s successor, and he continued to rebuild Egypt‘s temples and shrines. He also sanctioned military expeditions.

Seti I reformed Egypt and groomed Ramesses II for power. Because Ramesses II is associated with the unnamed Egyptian ruler in the Biblical Book of Exodus that he’s the best-known pharaoh today.

After Kadesh, Ramesses II defeated the Hittites and signed the world’s first peace treaty.

Merenptah succeeded Ramesses II when he was 96. He was 60 when he took power. In battle, he defeated the Libyans, aligning himself with his father’s image as a warrior king.

Amenmesse succeeded Merenptah, who tried to take power from the rightful heir Seti II. He was succeeded by Merenptah Siptah, who was followed by Twosret, who Setnakhte followed.

The 20th Dynasty

After Merenptah’s death, it looks like things got a little weird, and Setnakhte wasn’t just usurping Merenptah’s throne.

While Setnakhte established stability, his records are unclear. Egypt‘s past may have motivated him to drive off another invasion.

Ramesses III was the last strong pharaoh of the New Kingdom, and he kept Egypt safe and prosperous, but his empire slipped away. Ramesses IV tried to emulate the great pharaohs of the past but died after a short reign.

Ramesses V struggled to hold the empire together while fighting the priests of Amun. And Ramesses VI didn’t do much better.

It seems that Amun priests have gained enough power now to rule Egypt, based on records from the period known as Whm Mswt (Wehum Mesut).

The End of the New Kingdom

In the aftermath of Ramesses III, Egypt was divided into Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Efforts to maintain the empire had ceased.

In shifting the capital from Thebes to Avaris, Ramesses II weakened the government by handing it over to the priests, who were able to gather wealth because Amun had become the King of the Gods.

Amun’s priests were in direct contact with the gods and could intercede on behalf of the people and receive answers directly from them.

Syrian, Palestinian, and Libyan regions followed suit, and the Egyptian Empire collapsed. After this, Egypt entered the Third Intermediate Period, which ended with the Persian invasion of Egypt following the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE.

The Pharaohs and Dynasties of the New Kingdom

  • The dynasties that ruled Egypt during the New Kingdom were the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth. During that time, Egypt became a great military force and a true empire.
  • Thutmosis III of the eighteenth dynasty is often called the Napoleon of Egypt. For the first twenty years of his reign, he was in the shadow of his wife – who was also his stepmother and his aunt – Queen Hatshepsut. While she governed the political affairs of the country, he was training in the army. When she died, Thutmosis started conquering the nearby lands, such as Syria, and fortifying the empire.
  • King Akhenaten was born Amenhotep IV, but he changed his name because he worshipped a god called Aten. This pharaoh is most famous for changing the religion of the Egyptians and for being married to the legendary Nefertiti. Akhenaten wasn’t interested in going to war, and so the Hittites – later great enemies to the Egyptians – conquered territories in Phoenicia and Canaan.
  • Tutankhamun also belonged to the eighteenth dynasty, but no matter how interesting he is to us because of his magnificent tomb and a golden mask, he left no visible trace on the history of Egypt. He died very young and under mysterious circumstances. His vizier Ay succeeded him.
  • The last pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty, Horemheb, made his Vizier Ramesses his heir. Ramesses founded the nineteenth dynasty. He, his son Seti I, and grandson Ramesses II made Egypt more powerful than ever.
  • Ramesses II fought the Hittites to recover territories in the Levant that previously belonged to Egypt. Also, during his time, the empire was wealthy and stable. The pharaohs who ruled after him were less successful and less known. The last pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty was named Twosret, and the founder of the twentieth dynasty was Setnakhte, the father of Ramesses III.
  • Ramesses III was the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom. During his reign, a number of enemy tribes, known as the Sea Peoples, attacked Egypt from nearly all sides, but Ramesses managed to repel them all. However, his military victories – and the colossal monuments that he built – were quite costly, and by the end of his reign, Egypt experienced a shortage of food. Eventually, he was killed in a conspiracy.
  • Ramesses III’s successors – all named Ramesses – were not particularly successful in dealing with natural disasters, drought, and famine that followed.At the same time, the administration was corrupt, and people rebelled against the government. When Ramesses XI died, the dynasty – and the New Kingdom – was over. Then began the Third Intermediate Period.

What did you learn?

Which pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty is known as the Napoleon of Egypt?
It was Thutmosis III.

Which pharaoh in the New Kingdom was more interested in changing the religion of Egypt than in protecting the land and conquering new territories?
It was Akhenaten.

Who was the pharaoh who defended Egypt from the Sea Peoples?
Ramesses III

Which period began after the New Kingdom ended?
Third Intermediate Period