Ahmose I

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Ahmose I, also spelt Amosis I, from the Egyptian iaHms, or "Iah is born". An Egyptian Pharaoh, and founder of the 18th Dynasty, who completed the reunification of Egypt and the expulsion of the Hyksos, ending the Second Intermediate period, and beginning the New Kingdom.

His reign is estimated to have been around 25 years, with approximate dates been c.1550 - 1500 BC, during which time he ended the Hyksos occupation, united the nobility, and laid the foundations for the period of Egypt's greatest period as a empire, and Bronze Age super-power, securing strategic sites in Nubia and the Levant.

The archaeological record shows him to also have been a great builder, active through the country and deep into Nubia, and constructing the last royal pyramid complex, located in Abydos.


Contents

Family Background

Ahmose was descended from the 17th dynasty line of Theban rulers who ruled Upper Egypt during the Hyksos occupation, and a son of Ta'a II, and ultimately from the dynastic matriarch, Tetisheri, reverence for whom was shown throughout the early 18th Dynasty, and lived into the time of Ahmose's reign.

It used to be believed the his predecessor, Kamose, was his elder brother, but the current view is this may be inaccurate, and that Kamose was more likely been a brother of Ta'a II, who came to the throne when Ta'a II was killed in battle, and Ahmose too young to effectively rule at such a critical time.

He took Ahmose-Nefertari, his sister, as his principal wife, and both she and his mother would be key figures during his reign, and prominent players in state affairs, being the first two holders of the post of God's Wife of Amun. Ahmose-Nefertari outlived Ahmose, and continued to play a part in the reign of their son, Amunhotep I.


Early Campaigns

We are left with a good account of some of the campaigns of Ahmose from the tomb of one of his military commanders, Ahmose, son of Ebana. Following his rise to the throne, there was a lull in the war, as the Hyksos also had a new ruler, Khamudi, following the death of Apepi.

When hostilities resumed, Ahmose bypassed the Hyksos stronghold of Avaris, pressing north to Heliopolis. Within three months had had advanced to Tjaru, the Egyptian border fortress on eastern edge of the Delta. The Hyksos were now essentially cut off from their homeland and only feasible route of retreat. This done, Ahmose made his move against Avaris itself.

The battle for Avaris appears to have been a drawn out affair, with the Egyptians having to adapt to new military technologies they had only recently adopted from the Hyksos, namely the chariot and an early version of the composite bow.

Ahmose son of Ebana records the initial clash being naval, with him aboard the warship "Northerner" before a ground campaign conducted with chariots and on foot, before two more naval campaigns, and a final land campaign "to the south of this town".

Classical sources say the war itself ended with a negotiated settlement upon which the Hyksos would leave Egypt, but the exact situation is unknown for certain. In either case, the Egyptian exploited the situation to the full, as event post-unification attest. Egypt was now essentially unified, but not yet at peace.


Post Re-unification

Following the Hyksos expulsion, Ahmose pressed southward into Nubia, where local chiefs had sided with the Hyksos as part of a an earlier Hyksos initiative to defeat the 17th Dynasty Upper Egyptian state by forcing the rulers to fight on two fronts simultaneously. The exact order of events here is unclear, and it is possible Ahmose was forced to do just this, as (possibly) at the same time his armies also advanced out into the Levant, engaging in three year siege of Sharuhen, which was ultimately captured. The Nubian campaign was also successful.

Possibly immediately following this, two dissident groups emerge, one under Aata, in the south, and possibly again a Nubian, and an Egyptian group led by a dissident named Tetian, whom Bourriau argues may well have been leading a group of northern minor Princes, who had served the Hyksos and now feared for their position. Ahmose son of Ebana writes tellingly of the seriousness with which Ahmose regarded this rebellion:

Then came that foe named Tetian. He had gathered the malcontents together. His Majesty slew him; his troop was wiped out. Then I was given three persons and five arurae of land in my town

Whilst the death of a rebel leader was the only acceptable punishment for such a character in Egypt, the slaying of his entire troop is extremely uncharacteristic, the norm being to conscript them into the service of the Pharaoh's army.

However, ultimately all rebellions were dealt with, and the last five years of the reign of Ahmose would be dedicated to building. Later in his reign, he also appears to have established trading relations deeper in the Levant, cut off by the Hyksos occupation, trading with Byblos, an ally since the Early Dynastic period, and Phoenicia.


Monuments and Archaeology

Ahmose began a large number of building projects across Egypt and deep into Nubia. Activity to his reign has been recorded at Avaris, Buhen, Heliopolis, Karnak, Memphis and in particular, Abydos, where he constructed the last royal pyramid, along with a valley temple and a cenotaph to his ancestor, Tetisheri. The pyramid complex was first excavated by the Egypt Exploration Fund between 1899 and 1902, with work carried out by Arthur Mace. However, a much more detailed excavation has been conducted in recent years by Steven Harvey, which has given us the first depictions of chariot warfare and horses in Egypt, imagery of archers and captives, including vividly preserved colours.

In Avaris, Ahmose demolished the Hyksos fortifications and palaces, and rebuilt them, constructing a palace for himself on the same site. This palace is curious, featuring frescos of Minoan origin that indicate a deep knowledge of Minoan beliefs, leading some to speculate that Ahmose had a secondary wife who was of Minoan origin. There is no firm evidence of this, however. At present, the decorative scheme remains unexplained, though it is possible settlers from earlier periods remained in the city and served under Ahmose as artists.

The actual tomb of Ahmose has not yet been located. Though a single, well made shabti figure from his burial lies in the British Museum, it is of unknown provenance. It is widely believed he was buried in Western Thebes, along with his 17th Dynasty predecessors, with the pyramid complex at Abydos acting as a cenotaph. Though Harvey has not ruled out a burial at Abydos, this seems unlikely. His mummy was discovered in the Deir El Bahri cache in 1881 in an excellent state of preservation, and now rests in the Luxor Museum, alongside some of the burial goods of Ahhotep I which contained his cartouche. However, there is some doubt over whether or not the body is actually that of Ahmose I.


References

  • Borreau, J (2000), The Second Intermediate Period in: Shaw, I (Ed.), The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, OUP, Oxford
  • Dodson, A and Hilton, D (2004), The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, London
  • Lichtheim, M (1976), Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol. II : The New Kingdom, University of California Press, Los Angeles
  • Newby, P H (1980), Warrior Pharaohs : The Rise and Fall of the Egyptian Empire, Guild Publishing, London
  • Harms, W (2003), Abydos: A Place With Many Stories to Tell, University of Chicago Chronicle, Vol 23 #6
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