The Kushite Conquest of Egypt
The official date for the Kushite conquest of Egypt is not definitely
decided. However it is known that Kush had exercised political control
over Egypt as early as the ninth century BC. During this period,
Lower Egypt was ruled by a group of Libyan kings, who were always
on the fight over power allocation. Those Libyans originally immigrated
to Egypt from the Libya in the twelfth century BC.1 Then,
due to their expertise in war, many of them ended up taking important
positions in the Egyptian military.
Starting from the 22nd Dynasty, when Egypt was already
weakening, many of those Libyan militants claimed the official right
over the kingship of all of Egypt.2 The Kushites took
advantage of the deteriorating situations in Egypt, and hence exercised
political control. Evidence suggest that the eleven Libyan kings,
who were ruling Egypt at the time, were in the hands of the Kushite
state under superficial titles of kings turning them into puppet-like
During the eighth century the Libyan kings rebelled against the
Kushite control and wanted to demolish the cult of Amon at Thebes
and replace it with their Lower Egyptian cult of Hermopolis, thus
proclaiming independence.3 Since the Kushites were followers
of the Amon cult, the Thebans appealed to the Kushites for help.
In response, the Kushite pharaoh Piankhi, successor and brother
of Kashata, invaded Lower Egypt about 728 BC, he crushed the rebelling
armies of Tefnakht (King of Sais) and Oskorn (King of Tanis), the
strongest and most influential Libyan kings in Lower Egypt.
In 759 BC, Kashata (760-747 BC)4, Pharaoh of Kush after
Alara, invaded Upper Egypt and brought the region under the total
militaristic control of Kush. At the time the capital of Upper Egypt
was Thebes, which was also the main center for the Cult of Amon.
Around the same year, Kushite pharaoh Piankhy carried extensive
militaristic campaigns and reoccupied Lower Egypt. Piankhy then
pronounced himself pharaoh of both Lower and Upper Egypt. On the
Victory Stela, from Napata, Piankhy records the circumstances surrounding
his victory over the Egyptians, including the taking of Memphis.
On the stela, Piankhy boasts of his military victories:
"Forward Against it! Mount the walls! Penetrate into the
houses across the river!' Thus Memphis was taken by a flood of water.
Multitudes were slain therein or brought as living captives to his
Instead of punishing his enemies, the pharaoh employed them to
further strengthen his government as government administrators and
military generals. Consequently, Tefnakht surrendered and swore
to serve Piankhy as his king. Afterwards, Piankhy returned to Napata,
his homeland, and continued to rule the whole region from over there,
while the Kushite military presence in Egypt ensured his authority.
Stela of Piankhy from Jebel Barkal. The stela proclaims Piankhy
as the King of Egypt and Kush, under the supervision of the
God Amun of Thebes and Amun of Napata. Source: Wildung, Dietrich.
Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
Sphinx of Shepenwepet II, representative of the Kushite royalty.
Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the
Bust of Shebako from Memphis. Source: Wildung, Dietrich. Sudan:
Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile.
During the hundred years of ruling Egypt, Kush had extensively
interacted with, and had influence upon, the Near East and the Far
East, in politics, economy, and cultures. The impact of such interaction
is still waiting deeper investigations. Nonetheless, apparently
the Kushite culture had not witnessed big differences in basic norms
In about 720 BC, the Assyrians under King Sargon conquered much
of Southeast Asia. Their armies attacked and sacked what is known
as the Brook of Egypt, east of the Sani. Eventually, Oskoron (a
previously Libyan ruler who fought Piankhy then forgiven and given
a position by Piankhy to become a watchdog for Kush in Egypt), launched
a massive military campaign to face Sargon.
Edited: Feb. 2009.