Universal Brotherhood Path June 1900


Revolt of Tafnekht. His Denunciation of Mena. Bokkhoris. His New Laws for Debtors. Egypt Conquered and Ruled by Ethiopians. Rise of Assyria. Wars.

Ethiopia was now the umpire in Egyptian affairs. Pi-ankhi, a descendant of Harbor, the priest-king of Thebes, from his capitol at Noph or Napata, in the highland, had, as "The son of Ra," exercised sovereignty over the Sudan and Upper Egypt. He also claimed dominion over the North. The question was determined by the arbitrament of war.

Lower and Middle Egypt were at this time distinctly divided into twenty or more principalities. In four of these the ruling prince held the rank of king. The names of several of these were the same as those of princes of the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Dynasties: such as Sheshank, Usarkon, Nimrata, Peftat-Rast, Uaputh. We also find several of these names repeated in records by later Assyrian conquerors. Doubtless they were family names given to the children born at later periods; nevertheless, the recurring of such appellations has created difficulties in the unraveling of historic incidents.

The most powerful of these princes was Tafnekht or Tnephakhtos, the king of Sais and Memphis. He was the "Great Prince of the Holy City of Sais," high priest of Ptah at Memphis, prophet of Neith, and commander-in-chief of the Libyan mercenaries. He conceived the purpose of freeing Egypt from the Ethiopians and himself becoming king. "The inhabitants of both realms of Egypt, allied themselves to him," says the inscription of Piankhi; "the princes and lords of the city were like dogs at his feet."

Tafnekht with a large fleet and army invaded the South. The princes and generals of Upper Egypt appealed to Piankhi for help, and he sent a large force from Ethiopia to their aid.

The Ethiopian fleet encountered the forces of Tafnekht near Hermopolis at the frontier of Middle Egypt, and defeated them, capturing many ships and prisoners. A second engagement took place near Herakleopolis, which resulted in "a defeat greater than ever and the capture of their ships upon the river." After this, near the city of Pi-pek, "army joined battle with army. Then the warriors of His Majesty slew much people, as well as their horses. No one knows the number of the slain."

The revolting princes fell back into Northern Egypt and organized for a second campaign. King Nimarata, with an army, recovered Hermopolis, his capital, and all the best territory. A second appeal was made from Thebes to their Overlord.

Piankhi resolved to subjugate all Egypt and not rest content with a nominal sovereignty. "The time has come at last, once for all." he proclaimed, "that I should make the land of Lower Egypt respect me." He marched in person with his army to Thebes, and there celebrated the festival of Amun-Ra. He then put on the serpent-diadem, as king of both Upper and Lower Egypt.

A few days afterward he stormed the city of Hermopolis. Nimarata, finding himself unable to hold out, sent his wife, "the daughter of a king," to solicit the good offices of the wives, daughters and sisters of Piankhi. The Ethiopian monarch graciously permitted him to make submission, and Nimarata did homage to Piankhi with the sistrum as to a divinity. "Then came to him the king's wives and the king's daughters, and they praised the king after the manner of women, but his Majesty did not look upon them."

But Piankhi, though gentle in regard to the hostile acts of Nimarata, was very angry with him for his ill treatment of his horses. He had himself visited the stables and found the horses and colts starving. "I swear," he cried, "as sure as the sun-god Ra loves me, as surely as I breathe the breath of life, it is a viler thing to let these horses starve than all the faults which thou hast committed." He not only as was usual, confiscated the property of the prince and assigned the grain in the storehouses to the god Amun-Ra, but refused to appoint Nimarata to authority as a subordinate ruler.

As Piankhi proceeded northward the several princes hurried to make their submission. Memphis, however, would not submit. The summons of Piankhi for a surrender, reads like imploring rather than menace. "Do not shut the gates, do not fight, thou seat of the god Shu," he pleaded. "I wish to celebrate a sacrifice to Ptah and to the tutelary gods of Memphis. I desire to worship the god Sakar (Ptah) in his own shrine. I wish to be a beholder (or initiate) of the god Anhu-res-nef. After that I will return down the Nile in peace. No harm shall be done to the inhabitants of Memphis. They may prosper and be safe. The children shall not be made to weep."

Tafnekht however, had made ready for resistance. He had strengthened the fortifications till he thought them impregnable. Pie had also placed there additional troops and abundant supplies of everything necessary. He commanded the garrison to make an obstinate resistance. He would go again, he declared to recover the conquered cities and restore the Under-Kings of the South to their possessions.

"Then was his Majesty furious against them like a panther." He gained the city by an ingenious artifice. He brought his fleet close to the fortifications, and the men on board climbing the masts of the vessels, leaped to the walls and entered. "Then was Memphis taken like an inundation, and many of the people in it were killed or brought away alive as prisoners to the king.

Piankhi displayed the clemency that was usual with him. First of all he placed guards to protect the temples. "It was a matter of great moment with him, as the inscription declared "on account of the supreme holiness of the gods to offer libation of water to the tutelary divinities of Memphis; to purify Memphis with salt, balsam and frankincense; and to establish the priests in their office. His Majesty went into the temple, purifying himself with the holy water in the Star-Chamber. He performed everything that was prescribed for the king of Egypt."

The inhabitants of the territory around Memphis fled from their houses in terror. The princes who had taken up arms, and the commander of the Libyan mercenaries hastened to make their submission. Tafnekht and Usarkon of Bubastis, remained unsubdued. Piankhi hurried forward. As each city in the way opened its gates he waited to perform the customary religious rites.

Usarkon no longer withheld submission, and the "hereditary lord" of Kemur (Athribis) followed his example, as did likewise the other princes with "the Grand Masters of the Fan-Bearers and the Grand Masters of the king's Grandsons." They were all re-instated as viceroys.

Tafnekht was now alone, abandoned by his allies. His malediction upon the name and memory of Mena, the first king of United Egypt, has been preserved upon a tablet in the temple at Thebes. He denounced that monarch for having corrupted and demoralized the Egyptians by inducing them to abandon that simplicity which had for ages assured to them a pure and happy life. Now, he declared, they had fallen, they had become cowardly, and a prey to their adversaries.

He put forth a last effort. He dismantled his capitol at Sais, removing everything valuable to a conqueror for booty. He then made a stand at Masdi, an island of the Nile. Piankhi sent Petisi, the Under-King of Athribis against him. Tafnekht found himself unable alone to hold the field. The independence of Egypt was a lost cause, and he had no alternative but to submit. "Then his Majesty sent to him Pet-tani Amun-nes-tasni, the leader of the Prayers, and Pi-uz-na, the general. Tafnekht presented them with silver and gold, with robes and jewels. Then he went up into a sanctuary and prayed to the god. He purified himself by an oath before the god; that he would no more transgress the king's command, nor compass harm to any prince. With this pledge his Majesty was satisfied."

All Lower Egypt was now submissive to the Ethiopian king. The princes assembled to do him homage as their divine lord. There was, however, against any coming nearer, an impediment of custom and religion. "They did not enter the king's house because they were unclean; (1) and besides they ate fish which was an abomination to the king."

Nimrata of Hermopolis had now been received into the king's favor. "He went into the king's house, because he was clean, and did not eat fish."


Piankhi loaded his ships with his booty, "all the good things of Lower Egypt, all the products of Phoenicia, and all the woods of the Holy Land," His voyage up the Nile to Napata, his capital, was triumphant. "His heart was glad; the banks of the river resounded with music. The inhabitants in the West and East took their drums to make melody at his approach."

Egypt was henceforth ruled from Napata, and not from Thebes or any metropolis in the North. The servant had become greater than the master.

Piankhi did not live long to enjoy the fruit of his victories; and with him the lineage of Harhor, the Egyptian priest-king, became extinct. He was succeeded by Kash-ta, (2) a native Ethiopian prince. The princes of Northern and Middle Egypt revolted, and Bokkhoris or Bok-en-ranf, the son of Tafnekht, became king. He had succeeded his father in the government of Sais, and that city was now his capital. Manetho has classed him as the sole monarch of the twenty-fourth Dynasty. There have doubts been expressed as to whether his authority extended to Upper Egypt, but they seem to be resolved by the fact that his father's famous denunciation of King Mena was recorded on a pillar of the temple at Thebes.

His reputation as a statesman and law-maker was very high and his maxims were familiar proverbs for more than seven hundred years. He was commended as "Bokkhoris the Wise," and Plutarch describes him as a man of very inflexible disposition, whom the goddess Isis overshadowed with her serpent to show him how to determine causes with equity. He was feeble in body, but delighted in everything that related to the welfare of his people. Owing to the unsettled condition of affairs in Egypt, commerce had decayed. Money was scarce and hard to procure, a fact which bore intolerably upon unfortunate debtors. Bokkhoris decreed that no one might be imprisoned for debt, and likewise that no claim of indebtedness should be valid and binding when it had not been acknowledged in writing, if the debtor denied it on oath. The borrower was also permitted to pledge the body of his father as security for a loan; but this permission was accompanied by the proviso that his ancestral tomb was placed under the control of the lender. The debtor was thus inhibited from bringing in it the body of any member of his family, and if he died without having paid the obligation, burial was denied to his own body in that or any other tomb.

A law was also made in regard to the succession to the throne.

An event which was regarded as of greater importance was the death of the Sacred Bull, Apis. This occurred in the sixth year of his reign, and the embalmed body was placed in the Serapeion in the same chamber in which the mummy of an Apis had been deposited in the thirty-seventh year of Sheshank IV. This indicates that Bokkhoris and probably his father, were related by descent or marriage with the kings of the Twenty-second Dynasty.

Neither wise laws nor efficient administration could arrest the decline into which Egypt had fallen. The nation that Thothmes III. had stigmatized as "the vile race of Kush," had become braver and stronger than the former masters.

Sab-ki (3) or Sabako, the son of Kashta, succeeded to the throne, and proceeded at once to establish anew the dominion over Egypt. He swooped through the Cataracts, carrying all before him. Bokkhoris was made a prisoner in his own capital of Sais and burned alive. This act of unqualified and unpardonable cruelty, unprecedented in Egypt, was characteristic of a ferocious barbarian; and he doubtless hoped by it to strike terror into the whole nation. But a cruel punishment only educates others to a like cruelty. Modern ecclesiastical history illustrates this.

Sabako was of the same Barbara race and religious worship as the inhabitants of Thebes; but to the population of Northern Egypt he was an alien as well as usurper. He ruled there with a heavy hand. Herodotus records of him that when an Egyptian of the North was guilty of an offense, he did not punish him with death, but sentenced him according to the turpitude of his crime, to raise the ground to a greater or less extent in the neighborhood of the city to which he belonged. The result of this procedure showed that the rule of the new monarch was acceptable in Lower Egypt, and most of all at Bubastis, the capital of the Twenty-second Dynasty. "The cities thus came to be more elevated than they had ever been before,'' the historian remarked. "Among the many cities which thus attained to great elevation, none (I think) was raised so much as Bubastis, where is a temple of the goddess Bubastis."

Few innovations were made in the government. Thebes and Memphis continued to be capital cities, and Manetho, who regarded the northern provinces as more essentially Egypt, names the Ethiopian monarchs as constituting the Twenty-fifth Dynasty.

The working of the gold mines of Nubia was suspended. There was other use for soldiers than to keep captives and convicts at their work. A formidable power had arisen in Southwestern Asia to contest with Egypt its dominions and to become the umpire and overlord of the nations. The former conditions passed forever away.

Tiglath-pileser II., a Kurdish or Assyrian chieftain, had made himself king at Nineveh. He waged war vigorously and subjected the Babylonians, Chaldeans and Arabs, and also the kings of Khita, Hamath, Syria, Phoenicia and the northern Israelitish monarchy. Even Judea was involved in the conflicts.

The new kingdom of Assyria now extended from the Zagros Mountains to the Mediterranean and to the very border of Egypt. With the conquest of Phoenicia the half-savage Assyrians were enabled to attain a higher degree of culture. Commercial facilities were extended, and the Phoenician dialect became the language of tradesmen at Nineveh as it had long been in Northern Egypt. Tiglath-pileser adopted the imperial title of a king of Sumir and Akkad. His death took place not long after, probably by assassination, and Shalman-eser IV., one of his generals, mounted the throne.

The tributary monarchs at once declared their independence. Meredakh-Baladan, a Chaldean prince at Babylon, led in the movement.

The northern monarchy had also revolted. Llosea, the king, had been first put in office by Tiglath-pileser, and retained by his successor. Shalmaneser discovered later that he was in correspondence with Sabako, but the Egyptian king was too feeble or timid to help his allies. Shalman-eser accordingly deposed Hosea, overran what remained of his dominion, and besieged Samaria.

He was called home, however, by an outbreak, and Sargon, a prince of the old Assyrian Dynasty, seized the throne at Nineveh.

Like other kings at their accession to power, Sargon was obliged to conquer the tributary states anew. He captured Samaria, and carried away the inhabitants, twenty-seven thousand in number, together with others of their countrymen, dispersing them over distant regions of Media and Assyria. The depopulated territory became speedily infested with lions and other beasts of prey.

After this, Ilu-bahid, a Hebrew or Phoenician chief, proclaimed himself king of Hamath and formed an alliance with Sabako, and with Arpad, Samaria, and Damascus. Sargon defeated the confederates at Gargar, and having captured Ilubahid, he with the cruelty characteristic of the Assyrians, flayed him alive. Sargon next marched against Gaza. Hanun, the king, had been a fugitive in Egypt, but had returned to his capital to take part in the revolt. Sabako, who had failed to help the other princes, came now with an army to the aid of his vassal, but encountered a crushing defeat. The account as given by Sargon has been found at Nineveh. "Hanun, king of Gaza, and Sibahe the Overlord of Egypt, met me at Raphia (on the Egyptian border). They came into my presence and I defeated them. Sibahe fled away, but I took Hanun prisoner with my own hand."

In the negotiations which followed, Sabako not only agreed to pay tribute, but submitted to the appointing of Assyrian governors in Egyptian provinces. The seal of this treaty has been found in the archives at Kuyunjik, but the text has not been deciphered. Sabako died soon afterward, and was succeeded by his son Sab-ata-ki upon the throne of Egypt, and by Ta-ha-ra-ka or Tirhaka, the husband of his sister, in Ethiopia.

Egypt had now begun to realize the abject condition so graphically described by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, XIX.

"They fought every one against his brother,
And every one against his neighbor.
City against city and kingdom against kindgom.
The spirit of Egypt had melted within her, . . .
"And I have given the Egyptians into the hands of a cruel lord,
And a fierce king shall rule over them. . .
"The princes of Tanis are befooled,
The princes of Memphis are deceived;
The chiefs of her tribes have misled Egypt.
They have made Egypt go wrong in every effort,
As a drunken man she staggers. . . .
"There is a highway out of Egypt to Assyria;
The Assyrians have come into Egypt,
And the Egyptians into Assyria,
And the Egyptians are enslaved by the Assyrians."

Cruel as were the revenges of Sargon they aroused enmity more than terror. When he went on a campaign in one direction, a revolt was certain to break out in another. Spurred on by encouragement from the king of Armenia, the princes in that vicinity rose up in arms. They were speedily reduced again to subjection, and their people were then removed to Syria and Phoenicia.

Pisiri, the king of the Khitans, who had been loyal to Tiglath-pileser, now became disaffected and formed an alliance with the king of the Muskhi or Meshekh. His capital, the city of Karkhemosh, was the seat of the goddess Anat or Anahid, the Divine Mother, and it rivalled the cities of Phoenicia in wealth and commerce. It was now captured by Sargonq; the king and his family were made prisoners, and the inhabitants were dispersed over all parts of the Assyrian dominion.

Thus the ancient monarchy of Khita with the people known to us as Hittites, disappeared from the world. So complete was the oblivion into which it passed, that for twenty-five centuries its very existence was forgotten. Another revolt occurred in southern Palestine. The kings of the countries contiguous to Assyria fomented these revolts in order to divert the conqueror from making an attack upon themselves.

The king of Egypt failed, as in other cases, to come to the help of the allies. Sargon sent his tartan or commander-in-chief to take Ashdod. Yavan escaped into Egypt, and then into Ethiopia. Ashdod was captured and the inhabitants carried away. Sabataki hastened to make peace and Yavan, the unfortunate rebel prince, was delivered to Sargon in chains. "The king of Melihu (Meroe) lives in a distant country," says Sargon. "From the most remote time it has never been known that an ancestor of his came to offer homage to an ancestor of mine, but the immense fear and dread with which my majesty inspired him, obliged him to acknowledge the might of the Assyrian gods, and to bow down before me."

The Hebrew prophet was unsparing in his denunciation of the cowardly behavior of Babylon and Egypt. "The strength of Egypt on which you counted has been to you a cause of shame," he declared to king Hezekiah. "When your princes were at Tanis and your embassadors at Hanes, they were made ashamed of a people that were of no benefit to them. Vain and empty is the help of Egypt; wherefore I call her 'the Blusterer that sits still.' "

Sabako had not long survived the defeat of Raphia. The reign of Sabataki his successor, was feeble and inglorious. The taunt of the Assyrian vizier or rabsaki was fully justified by him, that to lean upon Egypt was to lean on a broken reed that was sure to wound the hand. "So is Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to all those who trust in him." He instituted numerous revolts in Syria and Palestine, and then left the unfortunate insurgents to their fate, while he made overtures of peace to the conqueror.

At his death Tirhadah became king also of all Egypt, and introduced a more worthy and vigorous administration.


1. It will be remembered that the Apostle Peter is said to have been condemned by his fellow-disciples for going to men uncircumcised and eating- with them; and that Paul denounced him for double dealing in this respect. The Patriarch Joseph also set a table apart from his brethren because it was an abomination to the Egyptians to eat bread with the Hebrews. Genesis XLII, 32. (return to text)

2. This name in the Barabara dialect means the "son of a horse;" Nimara-ta, the "son of a leopard;" Pi-ankhi, the "everlasting." (return to text)

3. The name Sab-ki signifies "a male cat:" Sab-ako-to, the "son of a male cat." Pi-mai also means cat. It will be remembered that the cat was venerated as a divine animal, to injure which was sacrilegious. (return to text)

Universal Brotherhood Path