New Kingdom Egypt Imperialism

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

A lot of important changes happened in Egypt during the New Kingdom. In this lesson, we're going to see how the rise of imperialism in Egypt reshaped the Mediterranean.

The New Kingdom and Egyptian Empire

When we think of Egyptian history, things that often come to mind include the treasures of King Tut's tomb, the massive statues of Ramses II, and powerful armies racing across the desert. All of these images have something in common: they all date to the New Kingdom.

Spanning from roughly 1570 to 1069 BCE, the New Kingdom is the best-documented period of Egyptian history, as wealth flowed and education rose. It was also the time in which Egypt went from being a kingdom of the Nile to expanding its control around the Mediterranean. This was the era in which Egypt became an empire, and the wealth and influence it amassed would change the world forever.

Background

To understand the rise of New Kingdom imperialism, we need to understand what happened to the Middle Kingdom. By the 18th century BCE, Egyptian kings had weakened, allowing other powers to start growing around the Nile. The Middle Kingdom fell to internal strife, and these other powers rose to establish control in what we call the Second Intermediate Period.

Most notable were the Hyksos, foreign, Semitic kings who took control over Lower Egypt. The Egyptian kings still ruled from the city of Thebes, but that was basically all they had left. The Hyksos controlled most of Lower Egypt. At the same time, the Kingdom of Kush had risen to dominate Upper Egypt and Nubia.

Rise of the New Kingdom

So, why is it important for us to know about the Hyksos and the Second Intermediate Period? This experience had major impacts on the Egyptian kings, who started fighting the Hyksos in earnest in the 16th century BCE.

The king to finally defeat the Hyksos (no easy feat) was Ahmose I, who drove them from Lower Egypt. He then turned his attention south, marching into Kush to regain control of Lower Egypt. Through his military leadership, Ahmose I ultimately reunified all of Egypt around 1570 BCE. At this time, he declared the start of Egypt's 18th Dynasty, which historians identify as the start of the New Kingdom.

Egypt was restored, but Ahmose I had fought long and hard to accomplish that. He had also studied his history, and blamed the negligence of the Middle Kingdom rulers for allowing the Hyksos to become so powerful. Ahmose I swore this would never happen again. He believed that if he conquered everybody else, Egypt would be safe from foreign invasion.

With this vision, Ahmose I became the first Egyptian monarch to expand the kingdom's borders beyond the Nile region. His campaigns took him south into Nubia and as far north as Palestine and Syria.

The chariot was extremely influential on the rise of Egyptian imperialism
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Ironically, Ahmose I's military success was largely thanks to an old enemy. The Hyksos had been the first people to introduce bronze weapons into Egypt, replacing the less-reliable copper ones, and were also the first to introduce the horse and chariot. These were substantial advances in military technology, and with them Ahmose I raced across the eastern Mediterranean region with his newly trained, better equipped, professional military.

Expansion of the Empire

Ahmose I started Egyptian imperialism, conquering far-reaching lands and exploiting their resources. This was maintained by later monarchs as well, but the greatest champion of the empire was Thutmoses III_ (r. 1479-1425 BCE).

Thutmoses III put substantial effort into expanding Egypt's imperial borders and was a skilled military commander. He led 17 military campaigns in 20 years, and was able to fully conquer kingdoms as far south as Sudan, and stretching across the Mediterranean coast from Libya in North Africa to Syria in the Levant. Egyptian imperialism reached its height under Thutmoses III.

The Egyptian Empire at its greatest extent
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