Ancient Egypt: The Final Years of Dynasty XXII


By Bob Brier, Long Island University

At the end of Dynasty XXII, Takelot I follows Osorkon I, but little is known about him. And then comes Osorkon II. They were powerful kings with great treasures. And what we’re going to see here is a little bit of a family feud. Osorkon II’s cousin, Harsiese, is made high priest at Karnak.

Ancient drawing of Gardens of Amon at the Temple of Karnak
No matter what internal crisis Egypt went through, economic welfare made it possible for the country to remain stable. (Image: SiefkinDR/Public domain)

Dynasty XXII and Alliance with Byblos & Isreal

Again, keeping it in the family. But what does Harsiese do? He declares himself king. So now you’ve got it again, two kings, northern and southern. But anyway, Harsiese dies, and what Osorkon II does is replaces Harsiese with his own son. So he’s consolidating it pretty quickly.

Now at this time, though, there is going to be a threat to these Libyan kings. Assyria is growing strong. Assyria, all the way to the north. And they’re marching south. They’re marching south. And something rather surprising happens. Egypt allies itself with Byblos and Israel and marches north, and stops the Assyrians on the Orontes River, far away from the border of Egypt. They don’t want them coming close. So at least for now, the Assyrians are moved out.

This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Egypt’s Wealth Kept Turmoil at Bay?

Now we have another king coming in: Takelot II, son of Osorkon II. And he maintains stability. Things are stable. He builds. And what we have to understand at this point is where this stability is coming from. 

It comes from the wealth of Egypt. You see, even in times when Egypt is politically in distress and when there’s feuding, there are certain constants. The Nile is overflowing. It doesn’t matter what your politics do; that the Nile is going to overflow, and that the Nile is going to enable your peasants, your farmers, to grow crops. More crops than you need. You are going to have a surplus of crops because that’s the great thing about Egypt. They could always grow more crops than they needed. 

Ushabti of Takelot II
Despite his best efforts, the civil war in Egypt continued during Takelot II’s reign. (Image: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Public domain)

That’s how you can afford to feed thousands of priests for the temples of Amun. And that’s how you can afford a standing army. So the peasants are going to be growing crops. And this surplus, you can trade for things like silver and gold. So there is a kind of wealth in Egypt that’s almost impossible to kill. When Egypt was in turmoil, people were always interested in it. It was still wealthy. So during Takelot II’s reign, there was a kind of stability of wealth.

But during his reign, there was a civil war. It lasts for nearly 10 years, back and forth. People want wealth within the family, perhaps. So there is battling. Real battling. There is one kind of rebellion where Takelot moves quickly. Kills the leaders. He doesn’t just kill them, though; that’s not enough. He burns their bodies as a statement. No chance of immortality. Remember, Egyptians are resurrectionists. If you don’t have your body, you’re not going to get up and go to the next world. So he burns their bodies. It’s a kind of brutal display of “don’t mess with me.” 

Was Dynasty XXIII a Threat to the Dynasty of Bubastis?

Anyway, the civil war continues. There are problems at the end of this dynasty. And we even have a group of people popping up at another Delta city, Leontopolis. “Lion City.” Now it’s important to remember that this is also in the Delta. These people are ruling from Bubastis in the Delta, and now we don’t have faraway kings claiming they’re kings. We have almost next-door neighbors in the Delta. And this is a competing dynasty, the XXIIIrd, minor nobodies. But they take names after the great kings, like Sheshonq and Osorkon.

So we have this kind of spurious dynasty, Dynasty XXIII, ruling in the Delta. They’re not ruling much. They’re just putting their names in cartouches, calling themselves kings. And Dynasty XXII, the real dynasty, the dynasty of Bubastis, ends with Osorkon IV. It ends with him saying, “I am king of all Egypt.” And it ends with a few of these minor kings of the other dynasty claiming that they are kings. 

So in a sense, it began by unifying with the Libyans, but it ended with a little bit of divisiveness. They did great things for 200 years. But it ends again with a little bit of a division. But again, Egypt was going to be united once again, but this time by people who were very closely tied to the Egyptians.

Common Questions about the Final Years of Dynasty XXII

Q: How did Egypt remain stable during the crises of Dynasty XXII?

Egypt was blessed with unbeatable wealth. Regardless of political conditions, the Nile always overflowed, resulting in a constant surplus of crops. This surplus could be used to trade many things. No matter what political turmoil occurred during the Dynasty XXII, Egypt remained stable.

Q: How did Takelot convey his message during the civil war of Dynasty XXII?

During the civil war of the Dynasty XXII Takelot kills the rebels and burns their bodies. For the Egyptians, who believe in resurrection, this is an important message. It means that there is no body left for these rebels to carry into the next world. In a way, this was Takelot’s way of warning his enemies.

Q: How did Dynasty XXII and Dynasty XXIII co-exist?

The Dynasty XXII and XXIII were rivals. The Dynasty XXIII claimed the right to the crown but had neither power nor military importance. So this became a minor feud between the two dynasties for a few years until the next dynasty arose.

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