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Hyksos / Hykussos in hieroglyphs
X1 Z1

ḥqꜣ(w)-ḫꜣst / ḥqꜣ(w)-ḫꜣswt[1]
Heqa-chaset / Heqa-chasut[1]
Ruler(s) of the foreign countries[1]
Greek Hykussos (Ύκουσσώς)[2]
Egypt during the Fifteenth Dynasty

The Hyksos (/ˈhɪksɒs/ or /ˈhɪksz/;[3] Egyptian ḥqꜣ(w)-ḫꜣswt, Egyptological pronunciation: heqa khasut, "ruler(s) of foreign lands"; Ancient Greek: Ὑκσώς, Ὑξώς) were a Semitic people, possibly from Western Asia,[4] who settled in the eastern Nile Delta some time before 1650 BC. The arrival of the Hyksos led to the end of the Thirteenth Dynasty and initiated the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt.[5] In the context of Ancient Egypt, the term "Asiatic" may refer to people native to areas east of Egypt.

Immigration by Canaanite populations preceded the Hyksos. Canaanites first appeared in Egypt at the end of the 12th Dynasty c. 1800 BC or c. 1720 BC and established an independent realm in the eastern Nile Delta.[6] The Canaanite rulers of the Delta regrouped and founded the Fourteenth Dynasty, which coexisted with the Egyptian Thirteenth Dynasty and was based in Itjtawy.[citation needed] The power of the 13th and 14th Dynasties progressively waned, perhaps due to famine and plague.[6][7]

In about 1650 BC, the Hyksos invaded the territory of both dynasties and established the Fifteenth Dynasty. The collapse of the Thirteenth Dynasty caused a power vacuum in the south, which may have led to the rise of the Sixteenth Dynasty, based in Thebes, and possibly of a local Abydos Dynasty.[6] The Hyksos eventually conquered both, albeit for only a short time in the case of Thebes. From then on, the 17th Dynasty took control of Thebes and reigned for some time in peaceful coexistence with the Hyksos kings, perhaps as their vassals. Eventually, Seqenenre Tao, Kamose and Ahmose waged war against the Hyksos and expelled Khamudi, their last king, from Egypt c. 1550 BC.[6]

The Hyksos practised horse burials, and their chief deity, their native storm god, Baal,[8] became associated[by whom?] with the Egyptian storm and desert god, Set.[4][9] The Hyksos were a people of mainly Semitic-speaking origin.[4][10] Although some scholars have suggested that the Hyksos contained a Hurrian component,[11][12][13] most other scholars have dismissed this possibility.[14][15][16][17][18] The Hurrians spoke an isolated language, but came under Indo-European rule and influence,[11] and Hurrian etymologies have been suggested for some Hyksos names while Indo-European etymologies have been suggested for a very few names.[12][13] If a Hurrian component did indeed exist among the Hyksos, an Indo-European component becomes difficult to explain, as Indo-European peoples only exercised a significant influence upon Hurrians in Syria after the Hyksos became well established in Egypt.[17][18][19]

The Hyksos brought several technical innovations to Egypt, as well as cultural imports such as new musical instruments and foreign loanwords.[20] The changes introduced include new techniques of bronze-working and pottery, new breeds of animals, and new crops.[20] In warfare, they introduced the horse and chariot,[21] the composite bow, improved battle axes, and advanced fortification techniques.[20] Because of these cultural advances, Hyksos' rule became decisive for Egypt's later empire in the Middle East during the New Kingdom.[20][need quotation to verify]


There are various hypotheses as to the Hyksos' ethnic identity. While the term "Asiatic" is often used for the Hyksos, in the context of Ancient Egypt, it refers to any people native to areas east of Egypt. West Asian origins are suggested, in particular, by the names of individuals such as Khyan and Sakir-Har, and pottery finds that resemble pottery found in archaeological excavations in the area of modern Israel.


The origin of the term "Hyksos" derives from the Egyptian expression heqau khaswet (or heqa-khaset; "rulers [of] foreign lands"), used in Egyptian texts such as the Turin King List to describe the rulers of neighbouring lands. This expression begins to appear as early as the late Old Kingdom of Egypt to refer to various Nubian chieftains and in the Middle Kingdom to refer to the Semitic-speaking chieftains of Syria and Canaan.

The word Hyksos probably originated as an Egyptian term meaning "rulers of foreign lands" (heqa-khaset), and it almost certainly designated the foreign dynasts rather than a whole nation.

Unique in the Ancient Greek language, the word ὑκσώς (trasl. hyksόs, with the rough breathing and the final grave accent, upon omega) is said to be derived from Egyptian. It is used with the unique meaning of "king shepherd", by Manetho (in Ios. Ap. I,14), priest and historian who wrote in Greek and knew the pre-Ptolemaic documents to support his history.[22] Until the decipherment of hieroglyphics Manetho was the only available source for a list of the egyptian kings. As a proof of its non-Greek origin, the word ὑκσώς (hyksōs) does not observe the rules of Ancient Greek accent, and is one of the few Greek words with a kappa followed by a sigma, instead of the more common Xi.


The German Egyptologist Wolfgang Helck once argued that the Hyksos were part of massive and widespread Hurrian and Indo-Aryan migrations into the Near East. According to Helck, the Hyksos were Hurrians and part of a Hurrian empire that, he claimed, extended over much of Western Asia during this period. Most scholars have rejected this theory, and Helck himself abandoned this hypothesis in a 1993 article.[23]

The Hyksos were probably Semites who came from the Eastern Mediterranean. Kamose, the last king of the Theban 17th Dynasty, refers to Apepi as a "Chieftain of Retjenu" in a stela that implies a Canaanite background for this Hyksos king: this is the strongest evidence for a Canaanite background for the Hyksos. Khyan's name "has generally been interpreted as Amorite "Hayanu" (reading h-ya-a-n) which the Egyptian form represents perfectly, and this is in all likelihood the correct interpretation."[24] Kim Ryholt furthermore observes the name Hayanu is recorded in the Assyrian king-lists for a "remote ancestor" of Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1813 BC) of Assyria, which suggests that it had been used for centuries prior to Khyan's own reign.[25]

The issue of Sakir-Har's name, one of the three earliest Fifteenth Dynasty kings, also leans towards a West Semitic or Canaanite origin for the Hyksos rulers—if not the Hyksos peoples themselves. As Ryholt notes, the name Sakir-Har:[26]

is evidently a theophorous name compounded with hr, Canaanite harru, [or] 'mountain.' This sacred or deified mountain is attested in at least two other names, both West Semitic (Yaqub-Har and Anat-her), and so there is reason to suspect that the present name also may be West Semitic. The element skr seems identical to śkr, 'to hire, to reward,' which occurs in several Amorite names. Assuming that śkr takes a nominal form as in the names sa-ki-ru-um and sa-ka-ŕu-um, the name should be transliterated as either Sakir-Har or Sakar-Har. The former two names presumably mean 'the Reward.' Accordingly, the name here under consideration would mean 'Reward of Har.'

— Kim Ryholt

As to a Hyksos "conquest", some archaeologists depict the Hyksos as an invading horde of Asiatics.[27] Yet, others refer to a "creeping conquest", that is, a gradual infiltration of migrating nomads or semi-nomads who either slowly took over control of the country piecemeal or by a swift coup d'état put themselves at the head of the existing government. In The World of the Past (1963, p. 444), archeologist Jacquetta Hawkes stated: "It is no longer thought that the Hyksos rulers... represent the invasion of a conquering horde of Asiatics... they were wandering groups of Semites who had long come to Egypt for trade and other peaceful purposes." However, since then, it has been acknowledged by Egyptologists that the 14th Dynasty came for trade purposes while the 15th (the Hyksos) came in war.


In his Against Apion, the first-century AD historian Josephus debates the synchronism between the Biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and two Exodus-like events that the Egyptian historian Manetho (ca. 300 BC) apparently mentions. It is difficult to distinguish between what Manetho himself recounted, and how Josephus or Apion interpret him. Josephus identifies the Israelite Exodus with the first exodus mentioned by Manetho, when some 480,000 Hyksos "shepherd kings" (also referred to as just 'shepherds', as 'kings' and as 'captive shepherds' in his discussion of Manetho) left Egypt for Jerusalem.[28] The mention of "Hyksos" identifies this first exodus with the Hyksos period (16th century BC).

Josephus provides the earliest recorded instance of the much repeated false etymology of the term Hyksos, as a Hellenised form of the Egyptian phrase Hekw Shasu, meaning "Shepherd Kings". Scholars have only recently shown that the term derives from heqa-khase, a phrase meaning "rulers of foreign lands".[29]

Apion identifies a second exodus mentioned by Manetho when a renegade Egyptian priest called Osarseph led 80,000 "lepers" to rebel against Egypt. Then, Apion additionally conflates these with the Biblical Exodus, and contrary to Manetho, even alleges that this heretic priest changed his name to Moses.[30] Many scholars[31][32] do not interpret lepers and leprous priests as literally referring to a disease, but rather to a strange and unwelcome new belief system.

Modern scholarship[edit]

A group of people labelled Asiatics (the glyphs immediately above the head of the first animal) entering Egypt c.1900 BC. From the tomb of 12th-dynasty official Khnumhotep II, at Beni Hasan.

As to a Hyksos "conquest", some archaeologists depict the Hyksos as "northern hordes ... sweeping through the Levant and Egypt in swift chariots". Yet, others refer to a "creeping conquest", that is, a gradual infiltration of migrating nomadic or semi-nomadic people, who either slowly took over control of the country piecemeal, or, by a swift coup d'etat, put themselves at the head of the existing government. Archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes states:

It is no longer thought that the Hyksos rulers ... represent the invasion of a conquering horde of Asiatics ... they were wandering groups of Semites who had long come to Egypt for trade and other peaceful purposes.[33]

It is generally thought that the Hyksos were probably Semites who came from the Levant. Kamose's explicit statement about the Asiatic origins of Apophis is the strongest evidence for a Canaanite background for the majority of the Hyksos. However, other interpretations are possible.

Hurrians or Indo-Europeans[edit]

Contemporary with the Hyksos, there was a widespread Indo-Aryan expansion in central and south Asia. The Hyksos used the same horsedrawn chariot as the Indo-Aryans, and Egyptian sources mention a rapid conquest. The German Egyptologist Wolfgang Helck once argued that the Hyksos were part of massive Hurrian and Indo-Aryan migrations into the Near East. According to Helck, the Hyksos were Hurrians and part of a Hurrian empire that, he claimed, extended over much of Western Asia during that period. In a 1993 article, Helck admitted that there is no evidence of a grand-scale Hurrian invasion,[34] but noted the possibility of a sea invasion of Indo-European peoples, mainly from Anatolia. However, this hypothesis is not supported by most scholars.

Amorites or West Semites[edit]

Kamose, the last king of the Theban 17th Dynasty, refers to Apophis as a Chieftain of Retjenu in a stela that implies a Canaanite background for this Hyksos king. Khyan's name "has generally been interpreted as Amorite Hayanu (reading h-ya-a-n), which the Egyptian form represents perfectly, and this is in all likelihood the correct interpretation", says Ryholt.[35] Ryholt, furthermore observes that the Assyrian lists of kings record the name Hayanu for a "remote ancestor" of Shamshi-Adad I (c.1800 BC) of Assyria, which suggests that it had been used for centuries prior to Khyan's own reign.[36]

The etymology of the name of Sakir-Har, one of the three earliest 15th-Dynasty kings, also implies a West Semitic or Canaanite origin for the Hyksos rulers, if not the Hyksos peoples themselves. As Ryholt notes, the name Sakir-Har

is evidently a theophorous name compounded with hr, Canaanite harru, [meaning] "mountain". This sacred or deified mountain is attested in at least two other names which are both West Semitic (Ya'qub-Har and Anat-Har) and so there is reason to suspect that the present name also may be West Semitic. The element skr seems to be identical with śkr, "to hire, to reward", which occurs in several Amorite names. Assuming that śkr takes a nominal form as in the names sa-ki-ru-um and sa-ka-ŕu-um, the name should be transliterated as either Sakir-Har or Sakar-Har. The former two names presumably mean "the Reward". Accordingly, the name here under consideration would mean "Reward of Har".[37]

Phoenicia-Palestine in the MB II period[edit]

John Van Seters in his book, The Hyksos: A New Investigation, argues that the Ipuwer Papyrus does not belong to the First Intermediate Period of Egyptian history (c. 2300-2200 BC), as previously thought, but rather to the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1700-1600 BC).

On the basis of the archaeological investigation, the foreigners of Egypt are seen as a geographical extension of the corresponding culture of Phoenicia-Palestine in the MB II period, a culture with a highly advanced urban society. This civilization of the Levant has its roots in the Amurrite world of both Syria and Mesopotamia in the Old Babylonian period, and has a direct heir in the so-called Canaanite world of the Late Bronze Age. The MB II period began during the Middle Kingdom, and by the end of the Twelfth Dynasty the whole of Phoenicia-Palestine was under the influence of Egypt, with diplomatic ties and active cooperation between the rulers of the various city-states and the rulers of Egypt. During the early Thirteenth Dynasty, the foreigners had much freer access into Egypt. Many of them rose to places of high honor in the administration of the country.[38]

15th Dynasty[edit]

X1 Z1
in hieroglyphs

Traditionally, only the Fifteenth Dynasty rulers are called Hyksos. The Greek name "Hyksos" was coined by Manetho to identify the Fifteenth Dynasty of Asiatic rulers of northern Egypt. In Egyptian Hyksos means "ruler(s) of foreign countries", however, Josephus mistranslated Hyksos as "Shepherd Kings".[39]

The earlier Fourteenth Dynasty of Egypt had also been West Asian and Semitic-speaking; however, its pharaohs did not style themselves "Hyksos", and they seem to have been vassals of the Thirteenth Dynasty who oversaw a community of Asiatic merchants and shepherds who had been granted land in the Nile Delta. The Hyksos, by contrast, were largely Amoritic invaders who, capitalizing on a weak moment in Egypt's history, managed to conquer the entire country briefly as far south as Thebes (under Khyan, ca. 1582 BC).

The Hyksos had Canaanite names, as seen in those with names from ancient Semitic religion such as Anat or Baal. Several of their pharaohs did in fact adopt the Egyptian title hekw chasut (foreign overlords) for themselves, along with Egyptian throne names. They introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot.

The names, the order, and even the total number of the Fifteenth Dynasty rulers are not known with full certainty. The names appear in hieroglyphs on monuments and small objects such as jar lids and scarabs. In those instances in which Prenomen and Nomen do not occur together on the same object, there is no certainty that the names belong together as the two names of a single person. The Danish Egyptologist Kim Ryholt sums up the complex situation by stating that "there are only vague indications of the origin of the Fifteenth Dynasty" and concurring that the small number of surviving names of the Fifteenth Dynasty are "too few to allow for general conclusions" about the Hyksos' background in his 1997 study of the Second Intermediate Period.[40] Furthermore, Ryholt stresses that

we also lack positive indications that any of the rulers of the Fifteenth Dynasty were related by blood, and, accordingly we could be dealing with a dynasty of mixed ethnic origin.[41]

The suspected rulers for the Fifteenth Dynasty are:

Name Dates
Sakir-Har Named as an early Hyksos king on a doorjamb found at Avaris.
Regnal order uncertain.
Khyan c. 1620 BC
Apepi c. 1595 BC to 1555 BC?
Khamudi c. 1555 BC to 1545 BC?

Manetho's history of Egypt is known only through the works of others, such as Against Apion by Flavius Josephus. These sources do not list the names of the six rulers in the same order. To complicate matters further, the spellings are so distorted that they are useless for chronological purposes; there is no close or obvious connection between the bulk of these names—Salitis, Beon or Bnon, Apachnan or Pachnan, Annas or Staan, Apophis, Assis or Archles—and the Egyptian names that appear on scarabs and other objects. The Turin king list affirms there were six Hyksos rulers, but only four of them are clearly attested as Hyksos kings from the surviving archaeological or textual records: 1. Sakir-Har, 2. Khyan, 3. Apophis and 4. Khamudi.

Khyan and Apophis are by far the best attested kings of this dynasty, whereas Sakir-Har is attested by only a single doorjamb from Avaris that bears his royal titulary. Khamudi is named as the last Hyksos king on a fragment from the Turin Canon. The hieroglyphic names of these Fifteenth Dynasty rulers exist on monuments, scarabs, and other objects.

Two Hyksos pharaohs remain unknown. Many scholars have suggested that they were Maaibre Sheshi, Aper-Anath, Samuqenu, Sekhaenre Yakbim or Meruserre Yaqub-Har (who are all attested by seals or scarabs in the Delta region) but, thus far, all that is certain is that they were Asiatic kings in the Egypt's Delta region. They could be either the remaining two Hyksos kings or were members of the previous Fourteenth Dynasty at Xois.


The Hyksos kingdom was centered in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt and was limited in size, never extending south into Upper Egypt, which was under the control of Theban-based rulers, except briefly, for about three years, at the end of Khyan's reign and the beginning of Aphophis'. The Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty rulers established their capital and seat of government at Avaris.

An earlier group of Asiatic peoples depicted entering Egypt c. 1900 BC, from the tomb of a Twelfth Dynasty official Khnumhotep II under pharaoh Senusret II at Beni Hasan.

The rule of these kings overlaps with that of the native Egyptian pharaohs of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Dynasties, better known as the Second Intermediate Period. The first pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Ahmose I, finally expelled the Hyksos from their last holdout at Sharuhen in Gaza by the sixteenth year of his reign.[42][43]

Scholars have taken the increasing use of scarabs and the adoption of some Egyptian forms of art by the Fifteenth Dynasty Hyksos kings and their wide distribution as an indication of their becoming progressively Egyptianized.[44] The Hyksos used Egyptian titles associated with traditional Egyptian kingship, and took the Egyptian god Set to represent their own titulary deity.[45] The native Egyptians viewed the Hyksos as non-Egyptian "invaders". When they were eventually driven out of Egypt, all traces of their occupation were erased. No accounts survive recording the history of the period from the Hyksos perspective, only that of the native Egyptians who evicted the occupiers, in this case the rulers of the Eighteenth Dynasty who were the direct successor of the Theban Seventeenth Dynasty.[46] It was the latter who started and led a sustained war against the Hyksos. Some[who?] think that the native kings from Thebes had an incentive to demonize the Asiatic rulers in the North, thus accounting for the destruction of their monuments. Scholars such as John A. Wilson found that the description of the Hyksos as overpowering, irreligious foreign rulers had support from other sources.[47]

The independent native rulers in Thebes do seem,[citation needed] however, to have reached a practical modus vivendi with the later Hyksos rulers. This included transit rights through Hyksos-controlled Middle and Lower Egypt and pasturage rights in the fertile Delta. One text, the Carnarvon Tablet I, relates the misgivings of the Theban ruler's council of advisors when Kamose proposed moving against the Hyksos, who he claimed were a humiliating stain upon the holy land of Egypt. The councilors clearly did not wish to disturb the status quo:

[W]e are at ease in our (part of) Egypt. Elephantine (at the First Cataract) is strong, and the middle (of the land) is with us as far as Cusae [near modern Asyut]. The sleekest of their fields are plowed for us, and our cattle are pastured in the Delta. Emmer is sent for our pigs. Our cattle have not been taken away… He holds the land of the Asiatics; we hold Egypt[.][48]

It would appear as though Hyksos administration was accepted in most quarters, if not actually supported by many of their northern Egyptian subjects.

Theoretical invasion[edit]

The Hyksos invasion as imagined in the 19th century, by Hermann Vogel.

Manetho's account, as recorded by Josephus, describes the appearance of the Hyksos in Egypt as an armed invasion by a horde of foreign barbarians who met little resistance, and who subdued the country by military force. He records that the Hyksos burnt their cities, destroyed temples, and led women and children into slavery.[49]

It has been claimed[50] that new revolutionary methods of warfare ensured the Hyksos the ascendancy in their influx into the new emporia being established in Egypt's delta and at Thebes in support of the Red Sea trade. Herbert Eustis Winlock describes new military hardware, such as the composite bow, as well as the improved recurve bow, and most importantly the horse-drawn war chariot, as well as improved arrowheads, various kinds of swords and daggers, a new type of shield, mailed shirts, and the metal helmet.[50]

In recent years the idea of a simple Hyksos migration, with little or no war, has gained support.[51] According to this theory, the Egyptian rulers of the Thirteenth Dynasty were preoccupied with domestic famine and plague, and they were too weak to stop the new migrants from entering and settling in Egypt. Even before the migration, Amenemhat III carried out extensive building works and mining, and Gae Callender notes that "the large intake of Asiatics, which seems to have occurred partly in order to subsidize the extensive building work, may have encouraged the so-called Hyksos to settle in the delta, thus leading eventually to the collapse of native Egyptian rule."[52]

By around 1700 BC (just over a hundred years later), Egypt was fragmenting politically, with local kingdoms springing up in the northeastern delta area. One of these was that of King Nehesy, whose capital was at Avaris; he ruled over a population consisting largely of Syro-Canaanites who had settled in the area during the 12th Dynasty, and who were probably mainly soldiers, sailors, shipbuilders and workmen. His dynasty was probably replaced by a West-Semitic-speaking Syro-Canaanite dynasty that formed the basis of the later Hyksos kingdom, able to spread southwards because of the unstable political situation while aided by "an army, ships, and foreign connections."[53]

Josephus, quoting from the work of the historian Manetho, described more of an Egyptian assimilation to the corrupt ways of the emporia, followed by a rebellion of those who wished to perpetuate native Egyptian centered culture, rather than any kind of military struggle.

By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of gods… Finally, they appointed as king one of their number whose name was Salitis. He had his seat at Memphis, levying tribute from Upper and Lower Egypt and always leaving garrisons behind in the most advantageous positions.[54]

Recent archaeological finds at Edfu could perhaps establish that the Hyksos 15th Dynasty was already in existence at least by the mid-13th Dynasty reign of king Sobekhotep IV. In a 2011 paper by Nadine Moeller, Gregory Marouard and N. Ayers,[55] these three scholars discuss the discovery of an important early-12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) administrative building in the eastern Tell Edfu area of Upper Egypt, which was in continual use into the early Second Intermediate Period until the Seventeenth Dynasty, when its remains were sealed up by a large silo court. Fieldwork by these Egyptologists in 2010 and 2011 led to the discovery of a large adjoining hall which proved to contain 41 sealings showing the cartouche of the Hyksos ruler Khyan together with 9 sealings naming the 13th Dynasty king Sobekhotep IV.[56] The secure and sealed contexts of these seals likely demonstrate that Sobekhotep IV and Khyan were contemporaries. This would mean that the 13th Dynasty did not control all of Egypt when Sobekhotep IV acceded to power and that there was a significant overlap between the 13th and 15th Dynasties since Sobekhotep IV was only a mid-Thirteenth Dynasty ruler – although one of its most powerful kings. Therefore, Manetho's statement that the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty violently replaced the Thirteenth Dynasty would appear as a piece of later Egyptian propaganda. This analysis of the discoveries in Edfu as well as the conclusions drawn from it are rejected by Robert Porter however, who argues that Khyan ruled much later than Sobekhotep IV and that the seals of a pharaoh were used even long after his death.[57]

The ceramic evidence in the Memphis-Faiyum region of Lower Egypt also argues against the presence of new invading foreigners. Janine Bourriau's excavation in Memphis of ceramic material retrieved from Lisht and Dahshur during the Second Intermediate Period shows a continuity of Middle Kingdom ceramic type wares throughout this era. She finds in them no evidence of intrusion of Hyksos-style wares.[58] Bourriau's evidence strongly suggests that the traditional Egyptian teaching, long espoused by Manetho, that the Hyksos invaded and sacked the Memphite region and imposed their authority there, is fictitious.

Not until the beginning of the Theban wars of liberation during the Seventeenth Dynasty are Theban wares again found in the Faiyum. Some texts indicate that while the Hyksos controlled the delta region administratively, the Thebans were too busy mining gold and making money off the Red Sea trade to care. Lower Egypt and Thebes functioned autonomously, and shared limited contact with each other.[59]

Bourriau argues that Manetho's description of Hyksos rule is confirmed by the evidence in the Kamose texts: Kamose's rejection of vassal status, the strict control of the border at Cusae, the imposition of taxes on all Nile traffic, and the existence of garrisons of Asiatics led by Egyptian commanders.[60]

By the Thirteenth Dynasty, the "foreign warlords" had taken the title pharaoh for themselves and had begun to fight over it. Some argued there was no need to pay tribute, homage or obedience to a weak king, and that began to cause problems.

Supporters of the peaceful takeover of Egypt claim there is little evidence of battles or wars in general in this period.[61] They also maintain that the chariot didn't play any relevant role, e.g. no traces of chariots have been found at the Hyksos capital of Avaris, despite extensive excavation.[62]

As the chariot became an important weapon of the nobles and kings of that period, it became a symbol of power throughout Eurasia, Mycenaean Greece, India, Mesopotamia, Eastern Europe and China. Kings were portrayed on chariots, went to war in chariots, and were buried in chariots.

Theban offensive[edit]

Under Seqenenre Tao[edit]

Mummified head of Seqenenre Tao, bearing axe wounds. The common theory is that he died in a battle against the Hyksos.

The revolt which drove the Hyksos from Upper Egypt began in the closing years of the Seventeenth Dynasty at Thebes. Later New Kingdom literary tradition has brought one of these Theban kings, Seqenenre Tao, into contact with his Hyksos contemporary in the north, Apepi (also known as Apophis). The tradition took the form of a tale in which the Hyksos king Apepi sent a messenger to Seqenenre in Thebes to demand that the Theban sport of harpooning hippopotami be done away with; his excuse was that the noise of these beasts was such that he was unable to sleep in faraway Avaris. The real reason was probably that their main god was Set, who was represented as part man, part hippopotamus. Jan Assmann argues that because the Ancient Egyptians could never conceive of a "lonely" god lacking personality, Set the desert god, who was worshipped exclusively according to the tale, represented a manifestation of evil.[63] Perhaps the only historical information that can be gleaned from the tale is that Egypt was a divided land, the area of direct Hyksos control being in the north, but the whole of Egypt possibly paying tribute to the Hyksos kings.

Seqenenre participated in active diplomatic posturing, which probably consisted of more than simply exchanging insults with the Asiatic ruler in the North. He seems[citation needed] to have led military skirmishes against the Hyksos, and judging by the vicious head wounds on his mummy in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, he may have died during one of them. His son and successor, Kamose, the last ruler of the Seventeenth Dynasty at Thebes, is credited with the first significant victories in the Theban-led war against the Hyksos.

Under Kamose[edit]

Scarab bearing the name of the Hyksos King Apepi, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Kamose sailed north from Thebes at the head of his army in his third regnal year. He surprised and overran the southernmost garrison of the Hyksos at Nefrusy, just north of Cusae (near modern Asyut), and Kamose then led his army as far north as the neighborhood of Avaris itself. Though the city was not taken, the fields around it were devastated by the Thebans. A second stele discovered at Thebes continues the account of the war broken off on the Carnarvon Tablet I, and mentions the interception and capture of a courier bearing a message from Apepi at Avaris to his ally, the ruler of the Kingdom of Kush (modern Sudan), requesting the latter's urgent support against the threat posed by Kamose's activities against both their kingdoms. Kamose promptly ordered a detachment of his troops to occupy the Bahariya Oasis in the Libyan Desert to control and block the desert route to the south. Kamose, called "the Strong," then sailed back up the Nile to Thebes for a joyous victory celebration, after what was probably not much more than a surprise spoiling raid in force that caught the Hyksos off guard.[citation needed] His Year Three is the only date attested for Kamose and he may have died shortly after the battle from wounds.[53]

By the end of the reign of Apepi, perhaps the second-to-last Hyksos king of the Fifteenth Dynasty, the Hyksos had been routed from Middle Egypt and had retreated northward and regrouped in the vicinity of the entrance of the Faiyum at Atfih. This Fifteenth Dynasty pharaoh had outlived his first Egyptian contemporary, Seqenenra Tao II, and was still on the throne (albeit of a much reduced kingdom) at the end of Kamose's reign. The last Hyksos ruler of the Fifteenth Dynasty, Khamudi, undoubtedly had a relatively short reign that fell within the first half of the reign of Ahmose I, Kamose's successor and the founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty.[citation needed]

Under Ahmose[edit]

Close-up of a drawing of axe blade depicting Ahmose I striking down a Hyksos Warrior, part of the burial equipment of Queen Ahhotep I.

Ahmose I, who is regarded as the first pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt may have been on the Theban throne for some time before he resumed the war against the Hyksos.

The details of his military campaigns are taken from the account on the walls of the tomb of Ahmose, son of Ebana, a soldier from El-Kab, a town in southern Upper Egypt, whose father had served under Seqenenra Tao, and whose family had long been nomarchs of the districts. It seems[citation needed] that several campaigns against the stronghold at Avaris were needed before the Hyksos were finally dislodged and driven from Lower Egypt. When this occurred is not known with certainty. Some authorities[who?] place the expulsion as early as Ahmose's fourth year, while Donald B. Redford, whose chronological structure has been adopted here, places it as late as the king's fifteenth year. The Ahmose who left the inscription states that he followed on foot as his King Ahmose rode to war in his chariot (the first mention of the use of the horse and chariot by the Egyptians); in the fighting around Avaris he captured prisoners and carried off several hands (as proof of slain enemies), which when reported to the royal herald resulted in his being awarded the "Gold of Valor" on three separate occasions. The actual fall of Avaris is only briefly mentioned: "Then Avaris was despoiled. Then I carried off spoil from there: one man, three women, a total of four persons. Then his majesty gave them to me to be slaves."[64]

After the fall of Avaris, the fleeing Hyksos were pursued by the Egyptian army across northern Sinai Peninsula and into the southern Levant. Here, in the Negev desert between Rafah and Gaza, the fortified town of Sharuhen was reduced after, according to the soldier from El-Kab, a long three-year siege operation. How soon after the sack of Avaris this Asiatic campaign took place is uncertain. One can reasonably conclude that the thrust into southern Canaan probably followed the Hyksos' eviction from Avaris fairly closely, but, given a period of protracted struggle before Avaris fell and possibly more than one season of campaigning before the Hyksos were shut up in Sharuhen, the chronological sequence must remain uncertain.[citation needed]

Later times[edit]

The Hyksos continued to play a role in Egyptian literature as a synonym for "Asiatic" down to Hellenistic times. The term was frequently evoked[citation needed] against such groups as the Semites settled in Aswan or the delta, and this may have led the Egyptian priest and historian Manetho (or Ptolemaeus the Mendesian) to identify the coming of the Hyksos with the sojourn in Egypt of Joseph and his brothers, and led to some authors identifying the expulsion of the Hyksos with the Exodus. For instance, Justin Martyr says:

Moses is mentioned as the leader and ruler of the Jewish nation. In this way he is mentioned both by Polemon in the first book of his Hellenics and by Apion son of Posidonius in his book against the Jews, and in the fourth book of his history, where he says that during the reign of Inachus over Argos the Jews revolted from Amasis king of the Egyptians and that Moses led them. And Ptolemaeus the Mendesian, in relating the history of Egypt, concurs in all this.[65]

With the chaos at the end of the 19th Dynasty, the first pharaohs of the 20th Dynasty in the Elephantine Stele and the Harris Papyrus reinvigorated an anti-Hyksos stance to strengthen their nativist reaction towards the Asiatic settlers of the north, who may[citation needed] again have been expelled from the country. Setnakht, the founder of the 20th Dynasty, records in a Year 2 stela from Elephantine that he defeated and expelled a large force of Asiatics who had invaded Egypt during the chaos between the end of Twosret's reign and the beginning of the 20th Dynasty and captured much of their stolen gold and silver booty.

The story of the Hyksos was known to the Greeks,[66] who attempted to identify it within their own mythology with the expulsion from Egypt of Belos (Baal?[67]) and the daughters of Danaos, associated with the origin of the Argive Dynasty.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rainer Hannig: Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch-Deutsch : (2800-950 v. Chr.). von Zabern, Mainz 2006, ISBN 3-8053-1771-9, p. 606 and 628–629.
  2. ^ Folker Siegert: Flavius Josephus: Über die Ursprünglichkeit des Judentums. p. 111.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b c "Hyksos (Egyptian dynasty)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Redford D., Egypt, Canaan and Israel in ancient times, 1992
  6. ^ a b c d Ryholt, K. S. B.; Bülow-Jacobsen, Adam (1997). The Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period, C. 1800-1550 B.C. Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 978-87-7289-421-8. 
  7. ^ Manfred Bietak: Egypt and Canaan During the Middle Bronze Age, BASOR 281 (1991), pp. 21-72 see in particular page 38
  8. ^ Sarah Iles Johnston (2009). Ancient Religions. p. 10. 
  9. ^ Morenz, Siegfried (2013). Egyptian Religion. Routledge. p. 238. ISBN 978-1-136-54249-7. 
  10. ^ Starr, Chester G. (1991). A History of the Ancient World. Oxford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-19-506628-9. 
  11. ^ a b Ochsenwald, William L. "Syria: Early history". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8 September 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Drews 1994, p. 254
  13. ^ a b Bright 2000, p. 60
  14. ^ Martin Bernal (1987). Black Athena: The archaeological and documentary evidence. p. 40. 
  15. ^ Marc Van De Mieroop (2011). A History of Ancient Egypt. p. 149. 
  16. ^ Michael C. Astour (1967). Hellenosemitica: An Ethnic and Cultural Study in West Semitic Impact on Mycenaean Greece. p. 93. 
  17. ^ a b John Van Seters (2010). The Hyksos: A New Investigation. p. 185. 
  18. ^ a b J.R Kupper (1963). The Cambridge Ancient History, Northern Mesopotamia and Syria. p. 38. 
  19. ^ Geoffrey W. Bromiley (1995). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J. p. 785. 
  20. ^ a b c d John R. Baines; Peter F. Dorman. "Ancient Egypt: The Second Intermediate Period". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  21. ^ p5. 'The Encyclopedia of Military History' (4th edition 1993), Dupuy & Dupuy.
  22. ^ Lorenzo Rocci (1993). Vocabolario Greco-Italiano (in Italian). Città di Castello (Perugia): Società Editrice Dante Alighieri. ; this word was not quoted in the A Greek-English Lexicon, years editions of 1853 and of 1893.
    And also the full acronym used for title of Manetho's work
  23. ^ see W. Helck's Orientalia 62 (1993) "Das Hyksosproblem" pp.60–66 paper
  24. ^ Ryholt, Kim S.B.. The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C., Museum Tuscalanum Press (1997) p.128.
  25. ^ Ryholt, p.128
  26. ^ Ryholt, pp.127–128
  27. ^ See p. 37 in: Gunn, Battiscombe (1919). "New Renderings of Egyptian Texts: II. The Expulsion of the Hyksos". The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 5 (1): 36–56. Retrieved 22 August 2018 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). 
  28. ^ Josephus, Flavius, Against Apion, 1:86–90.
  29. ^ Finkelstein, Israel and Silberman, Neil Asher, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, 2001, The Free Press, New York City, ISBN 0-684-86912-8 p. 54
  30. ^ Josephus, Flavius, Against Apion, 1:234–250.
  31. ^ Miriam - From Prophet to Leper
  32. ^ Egyptian Account of the Leper's Exodus
  33. ^ Jacquetta Hawkes. (1963). The World of the Past, p. 444
  34. ^ see W. Helck's Orientalia 62 (1993) Das Hyksosproblem pp.60–66 paper
  35. ^ Ryholt, Kim SB. The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C. (1997) by Museum Tuscalanum Press, p.128
  36. ^ Ryholt, Ibid., p.128
  37. ^ Ryholt, op. cit., pp.127–128
  38. ^ Seters, John Van (1 April 2010). The Hyksos: A New Investigation. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-60899-533-2. 
  39. ^ Lloyd, A.B. (1993). Herodotus, Book II: Commentary, 99-182 v. 3. Brill. p. 76. ISBN 978-90-04-07737-9. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  40. ^ Kim Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C., Museum Tuscalanum Press, 1997. p.126
  41. ^ Ryholt, op. cit., p.126 An example given by Ryholt "is the family of the kings Warad-Sin and Rim-Sin of Larsa. Their father had been the ruler of two Amorite tribes, but both he and their grandfather had Elamite names, while they themselves had Akkadian names, and a sister of theirs had a Sumerian name.
  42. ^ Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt, p.193. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988.
  43. ^ Redford, Donald B. History and Chronology of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt: Seven Studies, pp.46–49. University of Toronto Press, 1967.
  44. ^ Booth, Charlotte. The Hyksos Period in Egypt. p.15-18. Shire Egyptology. 2005. ISBN 0-7478-0638-1
  45. ^ Booth, Charlotte. The Hyksos Period in Egypt. p.29-31. Shire Egyptology. 2005. ISBN 0-7478-0638-1
  46. ^ cf. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, editor Ian Shaw, p. 186, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-280293-3
  47. ^ The Culture of Ancient Egypt, John Albert Wilson, p. 160, University of Chicago Press, org. pub 1956 -still in print 2009, ISBN 0-226-90152-1
  48. ^ Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), pp 232f.
  49. ^ History of Egypt from the Earliest Time to the Persian Conquest, James Henry Breasted, p. 216, republished 2003, ISBN 0-7661-7720-3
  50. ^ a b Winlock, Herbert E., The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes.
  51. ^ Booth, Charlotte. The Hyksos Period in Egypt. p.10. Shire Egyptology, 2005. ISBN 0-7478-0638-1
  52. ^ Callender, Gae, "The Middle Kingdom Renaissance," in Ian Shaw, ed. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, 2003 ISBN 978-0-19-280458-7 p. 157
  53. ^ a b Bietak, Manfred "Second Intermediate Period, overview" in Kathryn Bard, ed., Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt Routledge 1999 ISBN 0-415-18589-0 p57
  54. ^ Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, I:75–77
  55. ^ Nadine Moeller, Gregory Marouard & N. Ayers, Discussion of Late Middle Kingdom and Early Second Intermediate Period History and Chronology in Relation to the Khayan Sealings from Tell Edfu, in: Egypt and the Levant 21 (2011), pp.87-121 online PDF
  56. ^ Moeller, Marouard & Ayers, Egypt and the Levant 21, (2011), pp.87-108
  57. ^ Robert M. Porter: The Second Intermediate Period according to Edfu, Goettinger Mizsellen 239 (2013), p. 75-80
  58. ^ The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. Eliezer Oren, University of Pennsylvania 1997. cf. Janine Bourriau's chapter of the archaeological evidence covers pages 159-182
  59. ^ James K. Hoffmeier, Book Review of The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. Eliezer Oren, University of Pennsylvania 1997. in JEA 90 (2004), p.27
  60. ^ The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, editor Ian Shaw, p. 195, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-280293-3
  61. ^ Booth, Charlotte. The Hyksos Period in Egypt. p.10. Shire Egyptology. 2005. ISBN 0-7478-0638-1
  62. ^ Bard, Kathryn (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-415-18589-9. 
  63. ^ Of God and Gods, Jan Assmann, p47-48, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, ISBN 0-299-22550-X
  64. ^ ANET, p.233f
  65. ^ Justin Martyr, Hortatory Address to the Greeks (ch 9) in Volume 1 of Roberts, A., & Donaldson, J. (1950). The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., page 277.
  66. ^ E.g. Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca ,2.1.4.
  67. ^ Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks 1959 (1974:30): "Belos, whose name reproduces the Phoenician Ba'al, 'Lord'".


  • Aharoni, Yohanan and Michael Avi-Yonah, The MacMillan Bible Atlas, Revised Edition, pp. 30–31 (1968 & 1977 by Carta Ltd.).
  • von Beckerath, Jürgen. Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten (1965) [Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23]. Basic to any study of this period.
  • Bietak M., Avaris, the Capital of the Hyksos. Recent Excavations at Tell el-Dab'a, 1996
  • Bimson, John J. Redating the Exodus. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1981. ISBN 0-907459-04-8
  • Bright, John (2000). "A History of Israel". Westminster John Knox Press. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  • Charlotte Booth: The Hyksos period in Egypt. Princes Risborough, Shire 2005. ISBN 0-7478-0638-1
  • Drews, Robert (1 October 1994). "The Coming of the Greeks: Indo-European Conquests in the Aegean and the Near East". Princeton University Press. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  • Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs (1964, 1961). Still the classic work in English. See pp. 61–71 for his examination of chronology.
  • Gibson, David J., Whence Came the Hyksos, Kings of Egypt?, 1962
  • Hayes, William C. "Chronology: Egypt—To End of Twentieth Dynasty," in Chapter 6, Volume 1 of The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition. Cambridge, 1964. With excellent bibliography up to 1964. This is CAH's chronology volume: A basic work.
  • Hayes, William C. "Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II," in Chapter 2, Volume 2 of The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition (1965) (Fascicle 6).
  • Helck, Wolfgang. Die Beziehungen Ägyptens zu Vorderasien im 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (1962) [Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Band 5]. An important review article that should be consulted is by William A. Ward, in Orientalia 33 (1964), pp. 135–140.
  • Hornung, Erik. Untersuchungen zur Chronologie und Geschichte des Neuen Reiches (1964) [Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Band 11]. With an excellent fold-out comparative chronological table at the back with 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasty dates.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I," in Chapter 2, Volume 2 of The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition (1965) (Fascicle 34).
  • Montet, Pierre. Eternal Egypt (1964). Translated by Doreen Weightman.
  • Eliezer D. Oren (Hrsg.): The Hyksos, new historical and archaeological perspectives. Kongressbericht. University Museum Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 1997. ISBN 0-924171-46-4
  • Pritchard, James B. (Editor). Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament(ANET), 3rd edition. (1969). This edition has an extensive supplement at the back containing additional translations. The standard collection of excellent English translations of ancient Near Eastern texts.
  • Redford, Donald B. History and Chronology of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt: Seven Studies. (1967).
  • Redford, Donald B. "The Hyksos Invasion in History and Tradition," Orientalia 39 (1970), 1-52.
  • Redford Donald B. Egypt, Canaan and Israel in ancient times, 1992
  • K. Ryholt. The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period c.1800-1550 B.C. (1997) by Museum Tuscalanum Press.
  • Säve-Söderbergh, T. "The Hyksos Rule in Egypt," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 37 (1951), pp. 53–71.
  • Van Seters, John. The Hyksos: A New Investigation (1967). Two reviews of this volume should be consulted: Kitchen, Kenneth A. "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," in Chronique d'Égypte XLIII, No. 86, 1968, pp. 313–324; and Simpson, William J. Review, in Journal of the American Oriental Society 90 (1970), pp. 314–315.
  • Winlock, H. E. The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes (1947). Still a classic with much important information.

External links[edit]