Second Intermediate Period

Just like the First Intermediate Period, the Second Intermediate Period falls between two periods of political stability.

The Second Intermediate Period of Egypt was a time of divided Egypt with the Hyksos ruling in the north, Egyptian rule in the center, and Nubians ruling in the south.

The Egyptian rulers of the 13th Dynasty moved the capital from Itj-tawi to Thebes and loosened their control over the north. Successful trade and immigration brought Semitic peoples to Avaris, eventually gaining power and wealth in Egypt.

Three Capitals

The second such period began when the Middle Kingdom ended, and it ended when the New Kingdom started. Instead of one, there were three capitals:


Itjtawy, south of Memphis – this city was founded by Amenemhet I and it served as a capital for a number of thirteenth-dynasty kings.


Avaris (present-day Tell ad-Dab’a) in the eastern delta of Nile – was a big ancient settlement largely populated by Levantine population


Thebes in Upper Egypt – this city was the administrative center in the twelfth dynasty.

We can divide the Second Intermediate Period into three phases


The thirteenth dynasty pharaohs govern Egypt from Itjtawy, and Thebes is still an administrative center for the southern part of the country. However, at least two people in Tell ed-Dab’s near the eastern delta of Nile claim to be the king, one after another. They are later labelled as the fourteenth dynasty.


A series of Egyptian kings (sixteenth dynasty) rules southern Upper Egypt from Thebes. At the same time, a dynasty of kings with foreign names rules the whole of Egypt from Avaris. They are known as the Hyksos, and they form the fifteenth dynasty.


The war between the fifteenth and seventeenth dynasties takes place. The seventeenth-dynasty king Sekenenre Ta’o attacked the Hyksos king Apophis, without much success. His son Kamose tries the same, and his brother Ahmose finally manages to expel the Hyksos, reunite Egypt and establish the New Kingdom.

Who were the Hyksos?

Near the end of the Middle Kingdom, many people from the area of Palestine and Syria came to Egypt. The Egyptians called them the Asiatics.

These people did not invade the Egyptian territory. The Egyptian government probably invited them because they were skilled boat-makers.

The Asiatic were housed and worked in the Nile Delta, where large ports and trading centres were located.

These immigrants probably had nothing to do with the collapse of the Middle Kingdom.

However, once the Second Intermediate Period began and brought instability, they established a dynasty of their own – the Hyksos or the fifteenth dynasty.

They ruled the north, while the seventeenth dynasty, located in Thebes, ruled the south of Egypt.

It is possible that the seventeenth-dynasty kings were merely vassal rulers of the Hyksos dynasty – until they decided to arise up.

Many theories have been advanced regarding the identity of the Hyksos, including that they fled the Aryan invasion of Asia as refugees. They may have invaded as far south as Abydos from Avaris, according to some scholars.

Archaeological evidence proved that the Hyksos conquered Egypt false for centuries. From Syria-Palestine via overland trade routes, the Hyksos settled in Avaris and established themselves.

Rise of the Hyksos

During Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, the 12th Dynasty was considered a golden age. There were many monuments and inscriptions built during the 13th Dynasty, but the cause of its dissolution is unclear.

The Egyptian government left Itj-tawi and returned to Thebes for whatever reason, leaving the north open to whatever political powers had strength.

Expelling the Hyksos

Eventually, the whole of Egypt was under the control of Hyksos kings. At some point around 1640 BC, the Theban seventeenth-dynasty kings decided to put an end to Hyksos rule.

King Sekenenre Ta’o tried to deal with Apophis’s forces, but he died in the battle. His successor Kamose continued fighting the Hyksos and managed to push them back to Avaris.

King Kamose died young, but his brother Ahmose continued where he had left.

After he chased the Hyksos out of Egypt and sacked a number of villages outside of the Egyptian borders, Ahmose secured the eastern border.

A strong military presence was a guarantee that the Hyksos would never return.

This pharaoh is now known as Ahmose I – the first king of the eighteenth dynasty and the New Kingdom.

What did you learn?

Which city was the capital of the Hyksos dynasty?
It was Avaris; present-day Tell ad-Dab’a.

Who were the Hyksos?
They were immigrants from Asia, who here brought to build boats and ships for the Egyptian navy.

Which Egyptian king rebelled against the Hyksos?
It was King Sekenenre Ta’o.

Which king managed to expel the Hyksos and start a new dynasty?
It was King Ahmose I.