Third Intermediate Period

The Third Intermediate Period (around 1070 BCE – 664 or 525 BCE) began when King Ramesses XI died, and the New Kingdom collapsed.

It was another era of decline, disunity and foreign rule in Egypt. It happened during the Late Bronze Age when many other ancient civilizations fell too.

Thanks to a lot of written sources, such as the Priestly Annals and various hieroglyphic graffiti, we know quite a lot about this period.

Near the end of the New Kingdom, the government of Egypt became divided.

The last twentieth-dynasty pharaoh, Ramesses XI, lost control of even the city of Thebes, which had been the capital of Egypt for generations.

Thebes was now controlled not by another pharaoh but by priests.

Facts about The Third Intermediate Period

  • Pharaoh Smendes I founded the twenty-first dynasty in Egypt. His capital city was Tanis, not Thebes, and only Lower Egypt was under his control.Middle and Upper Egypt were virtually controlled by the High Priests of the Egyptian god Amun at Thebes.
  • The twenty-second dynasty rulers were not native Egyptians – their family belonged to the Meshwesh immigrants who came from Ancient Libya.Nevertheless, the founder of the dynasty, Pharaoh Shoshenq I, brought another brief era of stability to Egypt.The country was united for over a century, but then, after the death of Osorkon II, it split again.
  • Near the end of the ninth century BCE, Egypt was divided into two states.Shoshenq of the twenty-second dynasty controlled lower Egypt, and Middle and Upper Egypt were under the control of Takelot II and, later, Osorkon III.
  • Meanwhile, Pedubast I proclaimed himself pharaoh and tried to establish a new dynasty in Thebes. This resulted in civil war.
  • The civil war winner was Osorkon III, who established the twenty-third dynasty in Upper Egypt.Two generations later, Upper Egypt further divided into city-states, controlled by local rulers – some of them were later labelled as the twenty-fourth dynasty rulers.
  • Around 732 BCE, the Nubian King Piye routed the joint army of Egyptian rulers and established the Nubian twenty-fifth dynasty.The defeated Egyptian local rulers became his provincial governors. Piye’s successors were Shabaka, Shebitku, and Taharqa.
  • Egypt was remarkably stable and powerful during the rule of the Nubian dynasty.Its pharaohs, especially Taharqa, restored temples and monuments – and build new ones – at cities throughout the Nile valley.They constructed their pyramids at Napata. At some point after Pharaoh Taharqa’s death, his successors retreated to Napata and the dynasty later formed the Kingdom of Kush.
  • The Assyrians conquered major Egyptian cities of Thebes and Memphis in 664 BCEand established a line of client kings – the twenty-sixth dynasty in Lower Egypt.These kings, however, made use of later instability of the Assyrian empire and set free of their influence.
  • The Third Intermediate Period ended with the Assyrian conquest. However, soon after that, Pharaoh Psamtik I reunited Egypt and ruled for 54 years form the city of Sais.During his reign – and the reign of his next three successors – Egypt was firm and prosperous.This period is known as the Late Period, and it ended when, in 525 BCE, the Persian Empire conquered Egypt, and the Persian King Cambyses declared himself pharaoh.

What did you learn?

Who controlled Thebes at the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period?
Thebes was under control of High Priests of Amun.

Who founded the twenty-first dynasty in Egypt and moved the capital to Tanis?
It was Pharaoh Smendes I.

Which dynasty of foreign origin ruled Egypt until the Assyrians came and sacked the country?
It was the Nubian twenty-fifth dynasty.

Which period began when the Third Intermediate Period ended?
It was the Late Period.