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Historical Outline of Egyptian Dynasties

Mythological Period (???)

Amun-Ra, sun god, rules as Pharaoh at Thebes, in Upper Egypt.

Thoth and Nut, offspring of Ra, conspire to have their own offspring succeed him as Pharaoh (establishing tradition that pharaohs marry own sisters). Their children Osiris and Isis rule as king and queen at Thebes.

War between Ra's successors: Osiris at Thebes vs. his jealous brother Set who rebels at Memphis, in the Nile Delta or Lower Egypt. War between rival cities was likely real.

Set vanquishes Osiris but is in turn overthrown by Horus, son of Osiris and last god to rule as Pharaoh. Subsequent mortal pharaohs held to be his descendants.

Predynastic Period: 5200 BCE

Legendary Scorpion King rules in Delta

Archaic Period: 3100 BCE

Dynasty I: Menes, alleged descendant of Scorpion King, unites Upper and Lower kingdoms, rules from Memphis.

Dynasty II: Khasekhem again unites kingdoms following period of dissolution.

Old Kingdom: 2686 BCE

Dynasty III: Zoser builds Step Pyramid at Sakkara, 2650 BCE (Imhotep, architect).

Dynasty IV: Reign of Khufu (Cheops) (2589-2566); proper pyramid adopted at Giza. Khafre (Chephren) (2558-2533) builds Sphinx (representing Horus).

Dynasty V: Beginnings of expansion into Kush (Nubia), Palestine.

Dynasty VI: Ends in social collapse.

First Intermediate Period: 2181 BCE

Dynasty VII: Herakleopolis, in Middle Egypt, becomes dominant city.

Dynasty VIII: Civil strife

Dynasty IX: Herakleopolis versus Thebes

Dynasty X: Theban Pharaoh Mentuhotep III reunites Egypt.

Middle Kingdom: 2106 BCE

Dynasty XI: Thebes is dominant. Irrigation works built, Nubia conquered.

Dynasty XII: Capital moved back to Memphis, trade with Asia opened. Under Pharaoh Sesostris (1971-26), colonization of Greece launched (according to later writings of Herodotus).

Dynasty XIII: Ends with invasion of Hyksos (Aamu, or Asians), probably Semites.

Second Intermediate Period: 1786 BCE

Dynasty XIV: Hyksos rule, capital estabished at Avaris in Delta; horse and chariot introduced.

Dynasty XV: Revolt to dislodge Hyksos begins at Thebes.

Dynasty XVI: War against Hyksos, even as their rulers adopt Egyptian traditions.

Dynasty XVII: Book of the Dead written, attributed to god Thoth; Ahmose completes expulsion of Hyksos.

New Kingdom: 1550 BCE (Golden Age)

Dynasty XVIII: Capital established at Thebes. Campaigns in Nubia under Amenhotep (Pleasing to Amun) I (1525-1504), Thutmose I (-1492). Thutmose II (-1479) crushes Nubian revolt, campaigns in Palestine. Queen Hatshepsut (-1457) opens trade with Punt (Ethiopia). 1458, Thutmose III continues Palestine campaign, captures Joppa (Jaffa), Megiddo; builds temple to Amun-Ra at Karnak. Amenhotep II (1427-1393), noted for athletic prowess, continues conquests in Asia. Thutmose IV (-1383) makes alliance with Mitanni (Hurrian people of Euphrates Valley) against Hittites, unearths and restores Sphinx. Amenhotep III, the Magnificent, (-1345) threatens Hittites, Assyrians; builds temple to Amun-Ra at Luxor. Amenhotep IV (1353-1337) challenges priesthood of Amun, promotes rival cult of Aten-Ra, changes name to Akhenaten (Spirit of Aten), removes capital to Akhetaten (Amarna) in Middle Egypt (where cult of Aten is based). His successor Tutankhamun (-1327) restores cult of Amun, returns capital to Thebes. Some foreign possessions lost during internal religious struggle.

Dynasty XIX: Rameses II, the Great (Ozymandias to Greeks, from Usser-maat-Re, Chosen of Ra, his title) (1279-1213), ends Thebes-Akhetaten rivalry by removing capital to Memphis, re-takes lost possessions in Syria, makes peace with Hittites, opens trade with Mycenaean Greece. Egyptian empire is at its height.

Under Merenptah (1213-03), son of Rameses II, raids begin by Libu (Libyans) and Akawasha (Achaean Greeks, or Sea People), who threaten Memphis.

Dynasty XX: Rameses III (1184-1153), last of great warrior pharaohs, repulses raids by Libyans, killed by assassin. Rameses IV-XI fall under growing sway of priesthood of Amun. High priest Hrihor overthrows dynasty.

Third Intermediate Period: 1070 BCE

Dynasty XXI: Power divided between high priests of Karnak at Thebes and kings of Tanis in Delta; Nubia secedes, Libya invades.

Dynasty XXII: Libyan kings. Demotic cursive script replaces hieroglyphics in daily temporal matters. Sheshonq I (945-24) sacks temple at Jerusalem.

Dynasty XXIII: Libyan rule continues.

Dynasty XXIV: Libyans lose grip as new peoples invade from south and east.

Dynasty XXV: Egypt divided by rival powers: Assyrians take Memphis; Kushites (Nubians) take Thebes. Assyrians introduce camel. Nubian Pharaoh Taharka drives Assyrians from Memphis c. 690, briefly unites all Egypt under his rule.

Dynasty XXVI: Saite dynasty achieves temporary re-unification.

Late (Persian) Period: 525 BCE

Dynasty XXVII: Persians under Cambyses II (son of Cyrus the Great) conquer Egypt. 490, Darius I crushes revolt in Delta following his defeat by Greeks at Marathon. His successor Xerxes I restores order, purges administrative bureaucracy of Egyptians.

Dynasty XXVIII: Revolt at Memphis restores Egyptian rule.

Dynasty XXIX: Struggle to keep Persians at bay.

Dynasty XXX: 343, Nectanebo II, last native pharaoh, ousted by resurgent Persians under Artaxerxes III

Dynasty XXXI: Persian rule re-consolidated.

Empire of Alexander: 331 BCE

Persians ousted by Alexander of Macedon, who arrives in Egypt as liberator, establishes new capital at Alexandria, on the coast. Hailed as Pharaoh, he moves on to conquer Mesopotamia and points east from Persians, overthrowing Darius III. Empire divided after his death in 323, making Egypt effectively independent, but under a Greek ruling class. Alexander's general Ptolemy becomes satrap of Egypt.

Ptolemaic Dynasty: 304 BCE

Ptolemy declares himself king of Egypt. The Ptolemies, his successor kings, meld Greek, Egyptian culture, rule from Alexandria. Dynasty reaches height of power c. 230 under Ptolemy III/Euergetes I, who briefly holds Syria, Nubia. Subsequent bloody internecine dynastic struggles exploited by Rome, which establishes a foothold in North Africa after the fall of Carthage in 146.

Roman Period: 30 BCE

Egyptian embroilment in Roman civil war. Suicide of Cleopatra VII following her lover Mark Anthony's defeat by Octavius at Actium; Octavius (soon to become Augustus Caesar) takes Alexandria, has Cleopatra's son by his late uncle Julius Caesar (Caeserion) killed, ends Egyptian dynastic rule. Roman armies advance up Nile but are repulsed by Nubians; Thebes repeatedly changes hands.

40 CE: Christianity introduced by St. Mark the Evangelist; initially takes hold in Jewish quarter of Alexandria. Mark is martyred by the Roman authorities in 68, but his teachings spread. Church of Alexandria gains wide following, first to call its bishop "Pope."

180 CE: Pantaenus founds Catechetical School of Alexandria.

270: St. Anthony founds monastic movement, as many Christians withdraw to desert caves and abandoned pharaonic tombs to escape Roman persecution.

284: Diocletian's harsh persecution of Alexandrian Christians (hundreds killed) leads to emergence of more indigenous Coptic church (from Koptos, ancient city near Thebes formerly associated with cult of Thoth, and old Greek word for Egypt) and calendar (284 AD=1 AM, Annus Marturius, Year of the Martyrs); Coptic liturgical language based on old Egyptian, with script melding demotic and Greek.

313: Constantine makes Christianity state religion throughout empire; Alexandrian Church revived; Alexandria becomes center of Christian scholarship.

320: Alexandrian priest Arius founds Arian heresy, widely adopted in Balkans.

Byzantine Period: 395 CE

Theodosius divides empire upon his death; Egypt falls within Byzantine sphere, ruled from Constantinople. Greek language and Christian culture are dominant, indigenous "old religion" effectively banned.

Constantinople replaces Alexandria as spiritual center of Christianity, leading to nationalist backlash in Egypt which takes form of religious schisms; Monophysite, Gnostic and Hermetic "heresies" gain wide following, often incorporating elements of old religion ("Hermeticism" from Greek Hermes, equivalent of Thoth). Local followers of Orthodox church, official imperial doctrine, are known as Melkites (from "melk," Semitic word for king). 451, Council of Chalcedon embraces diphysite doctrine, declaring monophysite doctrine heretical, in move to break power of monophysite Alexandrian Pope Dioscorus, the "Pharaoh of the Church." Coptic church adopts monophysite doctrine under leadership of Dioscorus. 527, Justinian exiles Theodosius, Patriarch of Alexandria, for refusing to abandon monophysite doctrine.

616: Sassanid Persians invade and occupy country, favor Monophysites to win support. Persians driven out by Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor, in 629, re-establishing orthodoxy.

Islamic Period: 641 CE

Alexandria falls to Emir ibn al-As, fighting for Caliph Umar of Arabia, second successor to Prophet Mohammed. He is hailed as a liberator by persecuted "heretics," who mostly embrace Islam (Hermes/Thoth now associated with Koranic Prophet Idris, the Hebrew Enoch). Arabic and Islamic culture become dominant, but Coptic church, protected in exchange for a special tax, survives. Cairo becomes new local capital.

Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates

661: Umayyad Caliphate rules from Damascus.

750: Abbasid Caliphate rules from Baghdad. Egypt gains increasing independence and pre-eminence in Islamic world as Abbasids begin to decline, c. 860. Syria and Jerusalem fall within Cairo's control.

969: Fatimid Caliphate established in Cairo following revolt by Berber followers of Ismaili Shi'ite "heresy," who sweep in from the west. At height, Fatimids control all North Africa to Morocco, as well as Sicily; pose powerful rival to Sunni Abbasids. Jerusalem is lost to Seljuk Turks (ostensibly loyal to Abbasids, but less tolerant of Christians) in 1071, prompting Pope to call First Crusade. City is re-taken by Fatimids in 1098, but falls to the Crusaders the following year, precipitating general massacre of the population and nearly a century of war. New Crusade is called as Fatimids launch drive to re-take Jerusalem.

1171: Kurdish warrior Salah al-Din (Saladin) ousts Fatimids, establishes Ayyubid dynasty and restores Sunni Islam. Ayyubids are officially loyal to Abbasid Caliphate, but Cairo has now supplanted Baghdad as center of Islamic power. 1172; Nubians, under Christian kings, invade Egypt in alliance with Crusaders, reach Cairo before they are repulsed. 1187, Saladin drives Crusaders from Jerusalem but bars revenge killings. Third Crusade is launched. 1191, Saladin makes peace with rump Crusader state of Richard the Lion-Hearted, allowing Christians and Muslims alike access to Jerusalem. Peace is broken when new crusades are launched following his death in 1193.

1229: Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil heads off Sixth Crusade by making treaty with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (excommunicated by Pope for his tolerance of Islam), turning city over to Frederick but establishing joint Christian-Muslim control of holy sites. This persists until 1244 invasion of Khwarazmian Turks fleeing the Mongol assault from Central Asia. Khwarazmians are turned back before they reach Egypt, but struggle leads to ascendence of (mostly Turkish) Mameluke military slave caste within Egypt's political elite.

Mamluke Dynasty

1249: Seventh Crusade under Louis IX of France (St. Louis) invades Egypt; Mameluke "slave dynasty" usurps power, expels Crusaders.

1258: Mongols under Hulagu Khan destroy Baghdad, but are turned back by Mamelukes before they reach Egypt. Cairo becomes new seat of Abbasid caliphate, but Mamelukes hold real power. Mameluke Sultan Babyars seizes Syria, expelling both Mongols and last of the Crusaders in confused three-way war. Centralized rule weakened, fuedalism spreads. Mameluke dynasty will be marked by nearly incessant bloody factional struggles.

1300: Mameluke campaigns in Nubia fail to impose direct rule, but oust Christian dynasty of King Dawud; 1317, Abdullah Barshambu becomes first Muslim king of Nubia.

1382: Circassians (Burji) succeed Turks (Bahri) as dominant Mameluke faction.

1400: New Mongol-Turkic incursion of Timur Leng defeats Mameluke defenders of Damascus under Sultan Faraj, but invaders are again turned back before they reach Egypt proper.

1517: Ottoman Turks under Selim the Grim take Cairo, establish Mameluke Egypt as a vassal state ruled from Constantinople. With claim to new caliphate, Ottomans establish dominance over most of Arab world and expand into Europe from the Balkan Peninsula.

1798: Napoleonic occupation followed by British intervention.

Ottoman Rule, British Protectorate

1805: Ottomans send army under Albanian Mehmet (Mohammed) Ali to oust French and British. He overthrows Mamelukes, establishes himself as Pasha of Egypt. 1813, he campaigns in Arabia to put down Wahhabi fundamentalist revolt against Ottomans. In 1820s, he conquers Nubia and Sudan, sends force across Mediterranean to put down Greek uprising against Ottomans. Rapidly modernizes Egypt, brings prosperity.

1839: Mohammed Ali declares independence from Ottomans, seizes Syria and invades Turkey. Britain, France and other European powers intervene on behalf of Constantinople; Mohammed Ali is forced to cede Syria and accept Ottoman rule, but is allowed to establish hereditary office of Pasha in his line. He is succeeded by his grandson in 1849.

1860s: Mohammed Ali's successors establish Khedive (Ottoman viceroyalty), become increasingly westernized, looking to Britain and France for investment and technical aid.

1870s: Pan-Islamic and nationalist opposition emerges under influence of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, a spiritual reformer from Afghanistan who is expelled from the country for his agitation. Meanwhile, opening of Suez Canal makes Egypt more strategic to European powers.

1882: British and French warships bomb Alexandria following attempted nationalist coup against Khedive by Col. Ahmed Arabi. British occupation established (with nominal Ottoman sovereignty), resistance movement led by Arabi put down. War follows in Sudan against "Mahdist" army of Mohammed Ahmed, a Sufi dervish who styles himself the Mahdi (descendant of the Prophet who returns to establish justice in Islamic eschatology). 1888, Mahdist invasion of Egypt turned back by Anglo-Egyptain forces. 1898, Mahdist army (now under the Khalifa, the Mahdi's successor) decisively defeated at Battle of Omdurman, where waves of horsemen are cut down with machine-gun fire; Sudan pacified. 1899, British begin consutruction of first dam on Nile at Aswan.

1914: British Protectorate established with outbreak of World War I.

Independent Kingdom, Republic

1922: Independent kingdom established, with Ahmed Faud, descendant of Mohammed Ali, installed on throne by departing British.

1942: British return to defend Egypt from Axis invasion. German Gen. Erwin "Desert Fox" Rommel, advancing from Italian Libya, turned back at El Alamein, just west of Alexandria.

1948: Egypt-led Arab League intervenes against Zionist seizure of Palestine.

1952: Republic established as King Farouk (son of Faud) is overthrown in nationalist military coup. Gen. Gamal Abdel Nasser takes power in 1954, seizes Suez Canal from British/French-controlled company in 1956, precipitating war with Israel. British/French military intervention aborted by pressure from both USA and USSR; Canal passes to Egyptian control. Sudan, under lingering joint Anglo-Egyptian rule, granted independence that same year. Nasser turns to USSR for aid following break with the West, becomes leader of world non-aligned movement. In 1958, briefly unites with Syria to form United Arab Republic.

1960s: Nasser's rule periodically confirmed by election, but he consolidates an authoritarian political machine. Islamist opposition emerges, now influenced by Wahhabi/Salafist fundamentalism; Sayyid Qutb, leader of Muslim Brotherhood, executed in alleged plot on Nasser's life in 1966. War with Israel results in loss of Sinai Peninsula in 1967. Nasser sponsors Palestinian guerilla raids on Israel, but continues to deny Nubian national aspirations, claims Nubian lands for expanded Aswan High Dam. Golden Age temple of Abu Simbel, built by Rameses the Great, also relocated as floodplains of Lake Nasser rise upon dam's completion in 1970.

1970s: Anwar Sadat succeeds Nasser upon his death in 1970. New Egypt-led war on Israel in 1973 fails to win back Sinai, but US-brokered talks following war lead to Israeli withdrawal. 1978 Camp David Agreement makes formal peace with Israel. Sadat shares Nobel Peace Prize with Israel's Menachem Begin, but Egypt is expelled from Arab League, which moves headquarters from Cairo.

1980s: Sadat assassinated 1981, succeeded by Hosni Mubarak, who tilts strongly towards US. Islamist opposition gains strength in reaction. Egypt restored to now-moderated Arab League in 1989. That same year, coup d'etat brings Islamist movement to power in Sudan.

1990s: Egypt participates in Operation Desert Storm against Iraq in 1991. A "dirty war" against increasingly violent Islamist movement follows. Terrorist attack at ruins of Luxor in 1997 leaves over 50 Egyptians and tourists dead. Islamists say they seek destruction of all pre-Islamic relics as remnants of "idolatry." In subsequent harsh crackdown (indefinite detention, military tribunals, use of torture, hundreds imprisoned, over 50 executed), Islamist movement is largely crushed in Egypt, even as it re-emerges strongly in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Post-2001 events chronicled at: World War 4 Report

For more on Ancient Egyptian Religion, Ritual and Philosophy, see:

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