Egyptian Myth and Legend, by Donald Mackenzie, , at sacred-texts.com
The Sebek-Ra Rulers--A Great Pharaoh--The Shadow of Anarchy--Coming of the "Shepherd Kings"--Carnival of Destruction--A Military Occupation --Causes of World--wide Unrest--Dry Cycles--Invasions of Pastoral Peoples--History in Mythology--Tribal Father and Mother Deities--Sutekh, Thor, Hercules--Mountain Deities and Cave Demons--Hyksos Civilization--Trade with Europe and Asia--The Horse--Hittite Influence in Palestine--Raid on Babylon--Kassites and Aryans--Aryan Gods in Syria--Mitanni Kingdom.
AFTER the close of the Golden Age the materials for Egyptian history become somewhat scanty. The Thirteenth Dynasty opened peacefully, and the Sebek-Ra names of its kings indicate that the cults of the crocodile and the sun held the balance of power. The influence exercised by the Pharaohs, however, appears to have been strictly circumscribed. Some of them may have reigned in Crocodilopolis or its vicinity, but Thebes ultimately became the capital, which indicates that the Delta region, with its growing foreign element, was considered insecure for the royal house. The great kings of the Twelfth Dynasty had established their power in the north, where they found it necessary to keep watchful eyes on the Libyan and Syrian frontiers.
Succession to the throne appears to have been regulated by descent in the female line. Evidently the Legitimists were resolved that alien influence should not predominate at Court, and in this regard they must have received the support of the great mass of the Egyptian
people, of whom Herodotus said: "They contentedly adhere to the customs of their ancestors, and are averse from foreign manners". It is significant to find that the father of one of the Sebekhotep kings was a priest who achieved greatness because he married a princess. This Sebekhotep was followed by his son, who had a Hathor name, but he was dethroned after a brief reign. The next Pharaoh was the paternal uncle of the fallen monarch. His royal name was Neferkhara-Sebekhotep, and he proved to be the greatest ruler of this obscure period. He controlled the entire kingdom, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the second cataract, where records were made of the rise of the Nile. On the island of Argo, near the third cataract, he erected two granite statues over 20 feet in height, which stood in front of a large temple. Nubian aggression must have been held firmly in check by a considerable garrison. But not for long. After two weak kings had reigned, the throne was seized by Neshi, "the negro", a worshipper of Ra and Set. His colossal statue of black granite testifies to the supremacy achieved by the Nubian raiders. In the north another usurper of whom we have trace is Mermenfatiu, "Commander of the Soldiers".
The shadow of anarchy had again fallen upon Egypt. Once more, too, the feudal lords asserted themselves, and the kingdom was broken up into a number of petty states. A long list of monarchs is given by Manetho, and these may include many of the hereditary nome governors who became Pharaohs in their own domains and waged war against their neighbours. Thebes remained the centre of the largest area of control, which may have enjoyed a meed of prosperity, but the rest of Egypt must have suffered greatly on account of the lack of supervision over the needful distribution of
water. Peasants may well have neglected to till the soil in districts ever open to the raids of plunderers, exclaiming, in the words of the Twelfth-Dynasty prophet: "What is the good of it? We know what is coming."
Egypt was thoroughly disorganized and unable to resist its enemies. These were ever watchful for an opportunity to strike. The Nubians had already achieved some success, although they were ultimately expelled by the Thebans; the Libyans must have been active in the north, while the Asiatics were pouring over the Delta frontier and possessing themselves of great tracts of territory. Then came the Hyksos invaders, regarding whose identity much controversy has been waged. They were evidently no disorganized rabble, and there are indications that under their sway Egypt became, for an uncertain period, a part of a great empire of which we, as yet, know very little.
Josephus, the patriotic Jewish historian, who believed that the Hyksos were "the children of Israel", quoted Manetho as saying that "they were a people of ignoble race who had confidence to invade our country, which they subdued easily without having to fight a battle. They set our towns on fire; they destroyed the temples of the gods, and caused the people to suffer every kind of barbarity. During the entire period of their dynasty they waged war against the people of Egypt, desiring to exterminate the whole race. . . . The foreigners were called Hyksos, which signifies 'Shepherd Kings'."
Manetho's reference to a carnival of destruction is confirmed by the inscription of Queen Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who declared with characteristic piety:
I have restored what was cast down,
I have built up what was uncompleted,
Since the Asiatics were in Avaris of the north land,
And the barbarians were among them, destroying buildings,
While they governed, not knowing Ra.
But if the hated Hyksos were wreckers of buildings, so were the Egyptians, who were ever prone to obliterate all records of unpopular rulers. Khufu's enduring pyramid defied them, but they destroyed his mummy and perpetuated his memory in a spirit of undeniable bitterness, although he was one of their greatest men. He was an enemy of their gods, which means that he laid too firm a hand upon the ambitious and acquisitive priests. Thutmose III and Akenaton also undertook in their day the vengeful work of erasing inscriptions, while Rameses II and others freely appropriated the monuments of their predecessors. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that few traces of the Hyksos rulers survive, and that, in a folktale, they are referred to as "the impure". They ruled "not knowing Ra", and were therefore delivered to oblivion. Manetho, who compiled his history about a thousand years after they were driven from the country, was unable to ascertain much about them. Only a few of the kings to whom he makes reference can be identified, and these belong to the Fifteenth Dynasty. Of the Sixteenth Dynasty he knew little or nothing, but in dealing with the Seventeenth he was on surer ground, because Upper Egypt had then regained its freedom, and was gradually reconquering lost territory in the north.
The Hyksos overwhelmed the land at the close of the Fourteenth Dynasty. Then they chose for a king "one of their own people". According to Manetho his name was Salatis, and with him begins the Fifteenth Dynasty. He selected Memphis as his capital, and there
"he made Upper and Lower Egypt pay tribute", while he left garrisons at places which were "considered to be proper for them". Did the Hyksos, therefore, effect merely a military occupation of Egypt and compel the payment of tribute to a controlling power in Asia? On this point we obtain no clear idea from Manetho, who proceeds to state that the foreigners erected a strongly fortified town called Avaris--afterwards destroyed by the Egyptians--and there they kept a garrison of 240,000 men, so as to secure the frontier from the attacks of the Assyrians, "who, they foresaw, would invade Egypt". Salatis held military reviews to overawe all foreigners.
Whatever enemy the Hyksos feared, or prepared to meet, it was certainly not the Assyrians, who were at the time fully occupied with their own affairs; they had not yet attained to that military strength which subsequently caused the name of their god Ashur to be dreaded even in the Nile valley.
The reference, however, may be to Babylonia, where, as we shall see, an aggressive people had made their appearance.
In absence of reliable records regarding the Hyksos people, or perhaps we should say peoples, for it is possible that there was more than one invasion, we must cross the frontier of Egypt to obtain some idea of the conditions prevailing in Asia during this obscure but fascinating period.
Great changes were passing over the civilized world. Old kingdoms were being broken up, and new kingdoms were in process of formation. The immediate cause was the outpourings of pastoral peoples from steppes and plateaus in quest of "fresh woods and pastures new", because herbage had grown scanty during a prolonged
"dry cycle" in countries like Arabia, Turkestan, and the Iranian plateau. Once these migrations by propulsion began, they were followed by migrations caused by expulsion. The movements were in some districts accompanied by constant fighting, and a people who displayed the best warlike qualities ultimately became conquerors on a gradually increasing scale. Another cause of migration was the growth of population. When an ancestral district became crowded, the surplus stock broke away in "waves". But movements of this kind invariably followed the line of least resistance, and did not necessarily involve marked changes in habits of life, for pastoral peoples moved from upland to upland, as did agriculturists from river valley to river valley and seafarers from coast to coast. When, however, peaceful settlements were effected by nomads in highly civilized areas an increased impetus must have been given to migration from their native country, where their kindred, hearing of their prosperity, began to dream dreams of the land of plenty. Nomads who entered Babylon or Egypt became "the outposts" of those sudden and violent migrations of wholesale character which occurred during prolonged periods of drought. The Hyksos conquest of Egypt is associated with one of these "dry cycles".
In an earlier chapter 1 we have referred to the gradual expansion from North Africa of the early Mediterranean "long heads", who spread themselves over the unoccupied or sparsely populated valleys and shores of Palestine, Asia Minor, and Europe. Simultaneously, or not much later, Asiatic "broad heads" moved in successive "waves" along the mountain ranges; these are the Alpine people of the ethnologists, and they are traced from the Himalayas to Brittany and the British Isles. The beliefs and
tribal customs of the Mediterraneans appear to have been mainly of Matriarchal character, while those of the Alpine folk were mainly Patriarchal.
The mixture of these peoples caused the development of a great civilization in Asia Minor, and so, it is believed, had origin the Hittite kingdom. Other races were embraced, however, in the Hittite confederacy. Mongols from Turkestan moved southward during a dry period apparently, and became a strong element in the Hittite area of control, while Semites from Arabia, who appeared at very early times in Syria, became allies of the rising people, with whom they fused in some districts. The eagle-nosed, bearded Alpine Hittites are believed to be represented by the present-day Armenians and the Mongolian Hittites by the Kurds. Some ethnologists are of opinion that the characteristic Jewish nose indicates an early fusion of Hittites and Syrians. There was also an Alpine blend in Assyria, where the Semites had facial characteristics which distinguished them from the ancestral stock in Arabia.
Hittite theology is of special interest to us because its influence can be traced in Egypt immediately before and especially during the Hyksos period. Some of the tribes of Asia Minor worshipped the Great Mother deity Ma or Ammas, who, like the Libyan Neith and other virgin goddesses of the Delta, was self-created and had a fatherless son. She was essentially an earth goddess, and of similar character to Astarte, Aphrodite, the Cretan serpent goddess, "Our Lady of Doves" in Cyprus, the Celtic Anu or Danu in Ireland, and the Scottish Cailleach Bheur who shaped the hills, let loose the rivers, and waved her hammer over the growing grass.
In Cilicia the male deities predominated, and in southern Cappadocia, where primitive tribal beliefs appear
to have fused early, we find a great rock sculpture, depicting, it is believed, the marriage of the Great Father and Great Mother deities of the Alpine and Mediterranean peoples.
The Great Father god of the Hittites is Pappas or Attis ("father"), who was best known to the Egyptians as Sutekh. He is identified with Baal, "the lord," a deity no longer regarded as Semitic in origin. It was the moon god Sin, for instance, who gave his name to Sinai, and the Arabian sun deity was female.
Sutekh is depicted on a cliff near Smyrna as a bearded god with curly hair and a high, curving nose. He looks a typical mountaineer, clad in a tunic which is tightened round the waist by the "hunger belt" so familiar in Scottish hill lore, and wearing boots with turned-up toes, specially suited for high snow-covered altitudes.
Sutekh was a sky and atmosphere deity who caused the storms and sent thunder. He was a god of war, and wore goat's horns to symbolize fertility and the male principle. As Tark or Tarku he is depicted carrying in one hand a hammer and in the other three wriggling flashes of lightning, suggesting the Teutonic Thor. He is also shown grasping a mace and trident or a double battleaxe. As Ramman 1 with double horns, and bearing his axe and three thunderbolts, he received adoption in Babylonia after the Hittite conquest.
When the Great Mother was wedded to the Great Father, her son may have been regarded as the son of Tarku also. It was probably the younger deity who was identified by the Greeks with Hercules, son of Zeus. But we need not expect a continuity of well-defined ideas regarding deities of common origin who have developed
separately. These two gods, the Great Father and the son of the Great Mother, are sometimes indistinguishable. They not only varied in different districts, but also at different periods. In the latest phase of Hittite religion the Great Father, the conquering war god of the Alpine people, predominated, and he absorbed the attributes of other deities in localities where Hittite influence became supreme.
The Hittite deities were associated with mountains and mysterious caves, which indicates that in their earliest stages they were giants and hags of the type familiar among the Tyrol mountains, in the Scottish highlands, and in Scandinavia. They had also their animal affinities and were depicted standing on the backs of lions and lionesses. The double-headed eagle and the three-legged symbol had also religious significance.
In addition to the deities there were fearsome demons. The Hittite Typhoon, like the Egyptian Set and Apep serpent, warred against the gods. He was half-human and half-reptile--the upper part of his body was that of a man and the lower that of a serpent. He lived in a cave which was connected by an underground passage with the cave of the gods. Tempests issued from his jaws and lightning flashed from his terrible flaming eyes. He was slain by Tarku, as the Hydra was slain by Hercules, and the various dragons of European story were slain by heroes of popular romance.
Egypt also had its somewhat colourless dragon legend, which was probably imported. In one of the Horus stories, Set became a "roaring serpent", and in this form he concealed himself in a hole (a cave) which, by command of the ubiquitous Ra, he was not permitted to leave. He thus became identified with the Apep serpent. Sutekh, the later Set, who was regarded in the Delta as
the true sun god, displaced Ra and Horus and figured as the "dragon slayer". The earlier Set was not originally a demon. He was, it would appear, the god of a foreign people who entered Egypt in pre-Dynastic times and were ultimately associated with all that was evil and impure, like the later Hyksos who worshipped Sutekh.
In Syria and Mitanni, prior to the Hyksos period, the Great Father deity of the Hittites became the supreme god. The most reasonable inference is that he was the divine representative of the conquering people in Asia Minor. He bore several territorial names: he was Hadad or Dad in Syria and Teshub (or Teshup) in Mitanni; he was Tarku farther north. But that he was identical with Sutekh there can be little doubt, for when Rameses II entered into a treaty with the Hittites, Sutekh and Amon Ra were referred to as the chief representative gods of the two great empires.
Now it is a significant fact that the Hittite war god was the chief deity of the Hyksos. Like Ra-Tum of Heliopolis and Horus of Edfu his appearance in Egypt points to a definite foreign influence. He was the deity of a people who exercised control over subject states--a strange god who was adopted by compulsion because he represented the ruling Power. The Hyksos kings endeavoured to compel the Egyptians to recognize Sutekh, their official non-Arabian god--an indication that their organization had a religious basis.
From Manetho's references to this obscure period we gather that the invaders of Egypt were well organized indeed. Their raid was not followed by those intertribal feuds which usually accompanied forcible settlement in a country by Semitic hordes from Arabia. They did not break up into warring factions, like the early invaders
of Palestine. Before reaching Egypt they must have come under the influence of a well-organized State. They had attained, at any rate, that stage of civilization when a people recognize the necessity for establishing a strong central government.
The Hyksos must be credited with military and administrative experience, seeing that they garrisoned strategic points, and maintained a standing army like the greatest of the Pharaohs. The collection of tribute is also significant In like manner did the later Egyptian emperors extract revenue from the petty kings of subject states in Syria. What Power received the tribute gathered by the Hyksos? All the indications point to the Hittites. If the Hyksos people were not wholly from Asia Minor, it is highly probable that the army of occupation was under Hittite control.
It may be that the invading forces included Semites from Arabia, plundering Bedouins, Amorites, and even Phoenicians who had migrated from the north of the Persian Gulf to the Palestine coast, --and that assistance was given by the Libyans, reinforced by mercenaries from Crete or the Ægean Peninsula. But it is inconceivable that a hungry horde of desert dwellers, or an uncontrolled and homogeneous rabble from Arabia, could have maintained firm control of Egypt for a prolonged period. The nomads, however, who accompanied the Hyksos forces, may have been "the barbarians in the midst of them" who are referred to in the inscription of Queen Hatshepsut. No doubt the invaders were welcomed and assisted by those troublesome alien peoples, who, during the Twelfth Dynasty, had settled in Egypt and absorbed its civilization. But the army of occupation was ever regarded as a foreign element, and in all probability it was reinforced mainly from without. The country must
have been well governed. Queen Hatshepsut admits as much, for she condemns the Hyksos chiefly on religious grounds; they destroyed the temples--perhaps some were simply allowed to fall into disrepair--and they ruled "not knowing Ra". Had the foreign kings followed the example of some of the most popular Pharaohs, they might have purchased the allegiance of the priests of the various cults; but their desire was to establish the worship of the Hittite Sutekh as a result, it may be inferred, of political influence exercised by the foreign power which received the tribute. One or two of the Hyksos kings affected a preference for Egyptian gods.
We must take at a discount the prejudiced Egyptian reference to the hated alien rulers. During the greater part of the Hyksos period peaceful conditions prevailed not only in Egypt but over a considerable area in Asia. The great trade routes were reopened, and commerce appears to have been in a flourishing condition. Agriculture, therefore, must have been fostered; a surplus yield of corn was required not only to pay tribute but also to offer in exchange for the commodities of other countries. We meet, in Manetho's King Ianias, a ruler who was evidently progressive and enterprising. He is identified with Ian, or Khian, whose name appears on Hyksos relics which have been found at Knossos, Crete, and Bagdad in Persia. His non-Egyptian title "ank adebu", which signifies "Embracer of Countries", suggests that he was a representative of a great power which controlled more than one conquered kingdom. Breasted, the American Egyptologist, translates Hyksos as "rulers of countries", which means practically the same thing, although other authorities show a preference for Manetho's rendering, "Shepherd Kings", or its equivalent "Princes of Desert Dwellers". It may be,
of course, that "Hyksos" was a term of contempt for a people whom the proud Egyptians made scornful reference to as "the polluted" or "the impure". To this day Europeans are regarded in China as "foreign devils".
We regard the Hyksos period as "a dark age" mainly because of the absence of those records which the Egyptians were at pains to destroy. Perhaps we are also prone to be influenced by their denunciations of the foreigners. We have no justification for assuming, however, that progress was arrested for a prolonged period extending over about two centuries. The arts did not suffer decline, nor did the builders lose their skill. So thoroughly was the kingdom reorganized that the power of the feudal lords was completely shattered. Even the Twelfth-Dynasty kings were unable to accomplish as much. The Hyksos also introduced the domesticated horse into Egypt, but at what period we are unable to ascertain. Manetho makes no reference to it in his brief account of the invasion. If, however, there were charioteers in the foreign army when it swept over the land, they could not have come from Arabia, and Bedouins were not likely to be able to manufacture or repair chariots. Only a rich country could have obtained horses at this early period. They had newly arrived in western Asia and must have been scarce and difficult to obtain.
Whence, then, came the horse which shattered and built up the great empires? It was first tamed by the Aryans, and its place of origin is signified by its Assyrian name "the ass of the East". How it reached Western Asia and subsequently made its appearance in the Nile valley, is a matter of special interest to us in dealing with the Hyksos problems.
We must first glance, however at the conditions
which prevailed in the immediate neighbourhood of Egypt prior to the invasion. During the "Golden Age" the Pharaohs were much concerned about maintaining a strongly defended north-eastern frontier. No Egyptian records survive to throw light on the relations between Egypt and Syria, but the large number of Twelfth-Dynasty ornaments, scarabs, and amulets, bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions, which have been excavated at Gezer and elsewhere, indicate that trade was brisk and continuous. A great change had meantime passed over Palestine. "Sometime about 2000 to 1800 B.C.", says Professor Macalister, the well-known Palestinian explorer, "we find a rather sudden advance in civilization to have taken place. This, like all the other forward steps of which recent excavation in the country has revealed traces, was due to foreign interference. The Semitic nations, Amorite, Hebrew, or Arab, never invented anything; they assimilated all the elements of their civilization from without."
During the Twelfth Dynasty, therefore, Palestine came under the sway of a people who had attained a high degree of culture. But they could not have been either Assyrian or Babylonian, and Egypt exercised no control beyond its frontier. The great extending Power at the time was the Hittite in the north. Little is known regarding the early movements of its conquering peoples, who formed small subject states which were controlled by the central government in Asia Minor. That they penetrated into southern Palestine as traders, and effected, at least, a social conquest, is certain, because they were known to Amenemhet I, although he never crossed the Delta frontier. The northern war god was established at an early period in Syria and in Mitanni, and Biblical references indicate that the Hittites were prominent land
owners. They were probably the people who traded with Egypt at Gezer, and with whom the Twelfth-Dynasty Pharaohs arrived at some understanding. It is unlikely that the influential foreign princesses who were worthy to be introduced into the royal harem were the daughters of rough desert dwellers. The Dashur jewellery suggests that the ladies were of refined tastes and accustomed to luxurious living.
We have no means of ascertaining why Senusert III, the son of one of the alien wives, invaded Syria and fought a battle at Gezer. It may be that the Hittites had grown restless and aggressive and it is also possible that he co-operated with them to expel a common enemy--perhaps Semites from Arabia.
Some time prior to the Hyksos invasion the Hittites raided Babylon and overthrew the Hammurabi Dynasty. But they were unable to enjoy for long the fruits of conquest. An army of Kassites pressed down from the mountains of Elam and occupied northern Babylonia, apparently driving the Hittites before them. The Kassites are a people of uncertain origin, but associated with them were bands of Aryans on horseback and in chariots. This is the first appearance in history of the Indo-European people.
A westward pressure of tribes followed. The Kassites and Aryans probably waged war against the Hittites for a period, and the Hyksos invasion of Egypt may have been an indirect result of the migrations from the Iranian plateau and the conquest of Babylonia. At any rate it is certain that the Aryans continued to advance, for, prior to the close of the Hyksos period, they had penetrated Asia Minor and reached the Syrian coastland. Whether or not they entered Egypt we have no means of knowing. All foreigners were Hyksos to the
Egyptians at this time, as all northern barbarians were Celts to the Greeks at a later period. Some change occurred, however, for there was a second Hyksos Dynasty. What we know for certain is that a military aristocracy appeared in Mitanni, where Tushratta, who had an Aryan name, subsequently paid tribute to Egypt in the time of Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaton. He is believed to have been educated in the land of the Pharaohs, and his ancestors must have been the expellers from Mesopotamia of the Hittite rulers; the Mitanni rulers were for a period overlords of Assyria. In addition to the Hittite Sutekh-Teshub, the Mitanni Pantheon then included Indra, Mithra, and Varuna, the well-known Iranian gods. These had been introduced into the Punjab by an earlier Aryan "wave" which swept towards India about the beginning of the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty.
It may also be noted here that when the Egyptians expelled the weakened Hyksos army of occupation they possessed horses and chariots. They afterwards pressed into Syria, but the danger of subsequent invasion was not secured until Thutmose III overcame the Mitanni Power, which apparently was not unconnected with the later "Hyksos" overlordship of Egypt.
During the Hyksos period the children of Israel appear to have settled in Egypt.
257:1 Chapter III.
259:1 "When I bow down myself in the house of Riminon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing."--2 Kings, V, 18.