HyksosHyk"sos (?), n. [Gr. �, fr. Egypt. hikshasu chiefs of the Bedouins, shepherds.] A dynasty of Egyptian kings, often called the Shepherd kings, of foreign origin, who, according to the narrative of Manetho, ruled for about 500 years, forming the XVth and XVIth dynasties. It is now considered that the XVIth is merely a double of the XVth dynasty, and that the total period of the six Hyksos kings was little more than 100 years. It is supposed that they were Asiatic Semites.
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|Hykos / Hykussos in hieroglyphs|
Heka-chaset / Heka-chasut
Ḥq3-ḫ3st / Ḥq3-ḫ3swt 
Ruler(s) of the foreigners
Dynasties of ancient Egypt
The Hyksos ([pronunciation?]Egyptian heqa khasewet, "foreign rulers"; Greek Ὑκσώς, Ὑξώς, Arabic: الملوك الرعاة, shepherd kings) were an Asiatic people who took over the eastern Nile Delta, ending the thirteenth dynasty, and initiating the Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt.
The Hyksos first appeared in Egypt during the eleventh dynasty, began their climb to power in the thirteenth dynasty, and came out of the second intermediate period in control of Avaris and the Delta. By the fifteenth dynasty, they ruled Lower Egypt, and at the end of the seventeenth dynasty, they were expelled.
The historian Josephus maintains that the Hyksos were in fact the children of Jacob who joined his son Joseph to escape the famine in the land of Canaan.
There are various hypotheses as to the Hyksos ethnic identity. Most archeologists[who?] describe the Hyksos as multi-ethnic, to include all of the peoples who occupied the emporia of the delta. Some were warlords seeking employment by the Egyptians as mercenaries. Some were unemployed agricultural workers looking for work helping produce food and resorting to banditry, theft and other crimes when they did not get it. Some were skilled tradesmen, professionals, doctors, lawyers, scribes, priests, diplomats, accountants. Some were merchants importing raw materials: timber from Byblos, semi-precious stones from as far away as Afghanistan, tin, copper, bronze, medicines for the doctors, perfumes for the wigmakers, bitumen, natron, linen, frankincense and myrrh for the mummification industry at Karnak or exporting grain and beer to as far away as Greece.
The origin of the term "Hyksos" derives from the Egyptian expression heka khasewet ("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 in Egypt, referring to various Nubian chieftains, and as early as the Middle Kingdom, referring to the Semitic chieftains of Syria and Canaan.
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 at this period. Most scholars have rejected this theory and Helck himself has now abandoned this hypothesis in a 1993 article.
Modern scholarship usually[who?] assumes that the Hyksos were likely Semites who came from the Levant. Kamose, the last king of the Theban 17th Dynasty, refers to Apophis as a "Chieftain of Retjenu (i.e., Canaan)" in a stela that implies a Semitic 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." 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.
The issue of Sakir-Har's name, one of the three earliest 15th 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:
|“||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, which are both West Semitic (Ya'qub-Har and Anar-Har) 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.'||”|
As to a Hyksos “conquest”, some archaeologists[who?] depict the Hyksos as “northern hordes . . . sweeping through Canaan and Egypt in swift chariots”. Yet, others refer to a ‘creeping conquest’, that is, a gradual infiltration of migrating nomads or seminomads 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. In The World of the Past (1963, p. 444), archeologist 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.” However, this view still makes it difficult to explain how “wandering groups” could have gained control of Egypt, especially since the twelfth dynasty, prior to this period, is considered to have brought the country to a peak of power.
In his Against Apion, the 1st-century CE historian Josephus Flavius 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 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. The mention of "Hyksos" identifies this first exodus with the Hyksos period (16th century BC).
Josephus records the earliest account of the false but understandable etymology that the Greek phrase Hyksos stood for the Egyptian phrase Hekw Shasu meaning the Bedouin-like Shepherd Kings, which scholars have only recently shown means "rulers of foreign lands."
The Bible (Genesis) portrays the arrival of Jacob's family and their statement to Pharaoh of their intent to function as shepherds, whereby Pharoh allotted them the land of goshen (Avaris), with the Hebrew chronological work Seder ha-Dorot detailing the initial entry of Joseph's extended family into Egypt as being welcomed by the Egyptian masses.
Traditionally,[who?] 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, Manetho mistranslated Hyksos as "Shepherd Kings".  
The Hyksos had Canaanite names, as seen in those with names of Semitic deities such as Anath or Ba'al. They introduced new tools of warfare into Egypt, most notably the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot.
The known rulers for the Hyksos 15th dynasty are:
|Sakir-Har||Named as an early Hyksos king on a door jamb found at Avaris.
Regnal order uncertain.
|Khyan||c. 1620 BC|
|Apophis||c. 1580 BC to 1540 BC|
|Khamudi||c. 1540 BC to 1530 BC?|
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. Hyksos relations with the south seem, to have been mainly of a commercial nature, although Theban princes appear to have recognized the Hyksos rulers and may possibly have provided them with tribute for a period. The Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty rulers established their capital and seat of government at Avaris.
The rule of these kings overlaps with that of the native Egyptian pharaohs of the 16th and 17th dynasties of Egypt, better known as the Second Intermediate Period. The first pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Ahmose I, finally expelled the Hyksos from their last holdout at Sharuhen in Gaza by the 16th year of his reign. 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. The Hyksos used Egyptian titles associated with traditional Egyptian kingship, and took the Egyptian god Seth to represent their own titulary deity. It appears, that Hyksos administration was accepted in most quarters, if not actually supported by many of their northern Egyptian subjects. In spite of the prosperity that the stable political situation brought to the land, the native Egyptians continued to view 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. 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. From this viewpoint the Hyksos dynasties represent superficially Egyptianized foreigners who were tolerated, but not truly accepted, by their Egyptian subjects. In contrast scholars such as John A. Wilson found that the description of the Hyksos as overpowering, irreligious foreign rulers had support from other sources.
The independent native rulers in Thebes do seem, 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, whom he claimed were a humiliating stain upon the holy land of Egypt. The councilors clearly did not wish to disturb the status quo:
|“||… we 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…"||”|
Manetho's account, as recorded by Josephus, of the appearance of the Hyksos in Egypt describes it 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.
It has been claimed, 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 E. 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.
In the last decades the idea of a simple migration, with little or no violence involved, has gained support. Under this theory, the Egyptian rulers of 13th Dynasty were too weak to stop these new migrants from travelling to Egypt from Asia and were preoccupied by struggling to cope with domestic famine and plague. Even before that, 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."
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 and he ruled over a population consisting largely of Syro-Palestinians 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-Palestinian dynasty that formed the basis of the later Hyksos kingdom, which was able to spread southwards because of the unstable political situation, aided by "an army, ships, and foreign connections."
Josephus, quoting from the work of the historian Manetho, described more of an Egyptian assimilation to the corrupt ways of the emporia, followed by rebellion of those who wished to continue to live the life in Ma'at, 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||”|
The ceramic evidence in the Memphis-Fayum region of Lower Egypt 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. Bourriau's evidence strongly suggests that the traditional Egyptian view, 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 17th Dynasty are Theban wares again found in the Fayum-Memphis region. 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.
Bourriau argues that Manetho's description of Hyksos rule is confirmed by the evidence in the Kamose texts that Kamose rejected 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.
By the Thirteenth dynasty of Egypt, the foreign warlords had taken the name of Pharaoh for themselves and then began 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 that there is little evidence of battles or wars in general in this period. 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.
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. Skill in the use of mathematicsand well organized competent administration, the real power of the Hyksos, was less quickly appreciated by their rivals.
The war against the Hyksos 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, Auserra Apophis (also known as Apepi or Apophis). The tradition took the form of a tale in which the Hyksos king Apopi 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 far-away Avaris. The real reason was probably that their main god was Seth, 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, Seth the desert god, who was worshipped exclusively according to the tale, represented a manifestation of evil. 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, to have led military skirmishes against the Hyksos, and judging by the vicious head wounds on his mummy in the Cairo Museum, he may have died during one of them. His son and successor, Wadjkheperra 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.
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 the Hyksos king Aawoserra Apophis at Avaris to his ally the ruler 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 Bahriya Oasis in the Western 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. His Year 3 is the only date attested for Kamose and he may have died shortly after the battle from wounds.
By the end of the reign of Apophis, perhaps the second last Hyksos kings 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 Fayyum at Atfih. This great Hyksos king 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, Kamose's successor and the founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty.,
Ahmose, who is regarded as the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty 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 another Ahmose, a soldier from El-Kab, a town in southern Upper Egypt, whose father had served under Seqenenra Tao II, and whose family had long been nomarchs of the districts. It seems, 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 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:
After the fall of Avaris, the fleeing Hyksos were pursued by the Egyptian army across northern Sinai and into southern Canaan. 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.,
The Hyksos continued to play a role in Egyptian literature as a synonym for "Asiatic" down to Hellenistic times. The term was frequently evoked, against such groups as the Semites settled in Aswan or the Delta, and this may have led the Egyptian priest and historian Manetho 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. It may also indicate that the "expulsion" of the Hyksos reported in the Egyptian records mainly refers to the expulsion of the Semitic rulers and military/political elite and does not indicate a mass expulsion of the lower classes who, in the Ancient World, were traditionally exploited by their conquerors rather than expelled or massacred.
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 re-invigorated an anti-Hyksos stance to strengthen their nativist reaction towards the Asiatic settlers of the north, who may, 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,[who?] who attempted to identify it within their own mythology with the expulsion of Belus (Baal?) and the daughters of Danaos, associated with the origin of the Argive dynasty.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hyksos|
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