The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Middle Kingdom of Egypt

The Middle Kingdom is a period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth dynasty , roughly between 1986 BC and 1633 BC.

The Beginning

The Middle Kingdom is usually dated to when Pharaoh Mentuhotep II from Thebes defeated the last king of the Tenth dynasty in the 14th year of his reign to reunite Egypt, bringing an end to the First Intermediate Period. Some authorities point to cultural differences between the Eleventh and Twelfth dynasties, and date the Middle Kingdom to the beginning of that dynasty.

The Twelfth dynasty

After the reigns of his successors (Mentuhotep III) and (Mentuhotep IV ) of the Eleventh dynasty ended, there was a smooth transition into the illusturous Twelfth dynasty. The first Pharaoh of the Twelfth dynasty (Amenemhat I), is according to some sources the same man as Amenemhat, the (Vizier) of (Upper Egypt), under the reign of Mentuhotep IV. This explains the smooth transition of power as a palace coup by Amenemhat that resulted in the death of Mentuhotep IV.

Amenemhat I built a new capital for Egypt, (Iljtawy), the location of this capital is unknown but presumably the present-day el-Lisht , although Manetho claims that their capital remained at Thebes. Amenemhet pacified any unrest in Egypt by force and curtailed the rights of the nomarchs. He is known to have at least launched one campaign into Nubia. In 1917 BC Amenemhat created his son Senuseret I co-regent. In 1908 BC he was presumably murdered by his bodyguard and Senuseret, campaigning against Lybian invaders, returned to Iljtawy with haste to prevent a takeover of the government. This proved the worth of the co-rulership as the new king would have acquired useful experienced by the time he would start his sole reign. The co-regencies lasted throughout the Twelfth dynasty and provided great stability.

Senusret I (1917 BC - 1872 BC) continued the policy of his father to recapture Nubia and other territories lost during the First Intermediate Period. The Lybians were subdued.

Senusret's successor Amenemhat II (1875 BC - 1840 BC) made the position of the nomarchs hereditary again (weakening the centralized government though) and established trade connections with Nubia and a war seems to be conducted in the Levant.

Senusret II (1842 BC - 1836 BC) improved the trade connections with Nubia en Palestine and the Levant.

His successor Senusret III (1836 BC - 1817 BC) was a warrior-king, often taking the field himself. He led his troops deep into Nubia, making that kingdom even more dependent on Egypt. He was deified at the end of the Middle Kingdom and worshipped by the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom.

Amenemhat III (1817 BC - 1772 BC) was the last great Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom. Egypt's population began to exceed the food production levels and Amenemhat III ordered the exploitation of the Fayyum and increased mining operations in the Sinaļ desert. He made sure that nomarchs could no longer inherit their nomes as Amenemhat II had allowed. He also invited Asiatic settlers to Egypt to labor on Egypt's monuments. But late in his reign the annual floods began to fail and his son Amenemhat IV ruled 10 years (1773 BC - 1763 BC) before dying prematurely.

The sister of Amenemhat IV briefly reigned as Queen Sobekneferu (1763 BC - 1759 BC). As she apparently had no heirs, the Twelfth dynasty came to an end as did the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom.

Later dynasties and the end of the Middle Kingdom

Two other mysterious dynasties ruled Egypt. The Thirteenth dynasty ruled for approximately 63 years. A few of the kings and their possible dates include:

  • Neferhotep 1696-1685
  • Sihathor 1685-1685
  • Sobekhotep IV 1685-1678
  • Sobekhotep V 1678-1674
  • Iaib 1674-1664
  • Merneferre Ai 1664-1641 (not to be confused with Pharaoh Ay of the Eighteenth dynasty)

These kings appear to gradually lose their grasp over Egypt, and a Fourteenth dynasty appeared in the Delta region, but the Pharaohs of this dynasty seem to be minor nomarchs in the Delta region

The Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties witnessed the slow decline of Egypt into the Second Intermediate Period in which some of the Asiatic settlers of Amenemhat III would grasp power over Egypt as the Hyksos.

Last updated: 06-01-2005 23:15:33
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13