The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Second Intermediate Period

The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when Ancient Egypt once again fell into disarray between the end of the Middle Kingdom, and the start of the New Kingdom. It is best known as when the Hyksos made their appearance in Egypt, whose reign comprised the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties .

The brilliant Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty came to an end around 1786 BC, and was succeeded by the much weaker Thirteenth . Both ruled from Itjtaway ("Seizer-of-the-Two-Lands") near Memphis and el-Lisht , just south of the apex of the Nile Delta. The Thirteenth Dynasty proved unable to hold onto the long land of Egypt, and the provincial ruling family in Xois , located in the marshes of the western Delta, broke away from the central authority to form the Fourteenth Dynasty . The splintering of the land accelerated after the reign of the Thirteenth Dynasty king Neferhotep I .

It was during the reign of his brother and successor, Sobekhotep IV , that the Hyksos made their first appearance, and around 1720 BC took control of the town of Avaris (the modern Tell ed-Dab'a /Khata'na), a few miles from Qantir. The outlines of the traditional account of the "invasion" of the land by the Hyksos is preserved in the Aegyptiaca of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who wrote in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Manetho recorded that it was during the reign of one "Tutimaios" (who has been identified with Dudimose I of the Fourteenth Dynasty) that the Hyksos overran Egypt, led by Salitis , the founder of the Fifteenth Dynasty. This dynasty was succeeded by a group of Hyksos princes and chieftains, who ruled in the eastern Delta with their local Egyptian vassals, and are known primarily by scarabs inscribed with their names, called by modern Egyptologists the Sixteenth Dynasty.

The later kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty appear to be only ephemeral monarchs under the control of a powerful line of viziers, and indeed it has been suggested that the kingship in this period might have been elective if not actually appointive. One monarch late in the dynasty, Wahibra Yayebi , may have even been a former vizier. Beginning with the reign of Sobekhotep IV, the power of this dynasty, weak to begin with, deteriorated. The later king Merneferre Ai (ruled c.1700 BC) appears to have been a mere vassal of the Hyksos princes ruling there; his successors held onto their diminished office until c.1633 BC.

Around the time Memphis and It-tawy fell to the Hyksos, the native Egyptian ruling house in Thebes declared its independence from the vassal dynasty in It-tawy and set itself up as the Seventeenth Dynasty . This dynasty was to prove the salvation of Egypt and would eventually lead the war of liberation that drove the Hyksos back into Asia. The two last kings of this dynasty were Tao II the Brave and Kamose, whom tradition credited with the final defeat of the Hyksos. With the Eighteenth Dynasty, the New Kingdom begins.


  • von Beckerath, Jurgen. "Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit in Ägypten," Ägyptologische Forschungen, Heft 23. Glückstadt, 1965.
  • Hayes, William C. "Egypt: From the Death of Ammenemes III to Seqenenre II." Chapter 2, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • James, T.G.H. "Egypt: From the Expulsion of the Hyksos to Amenophis I." Chapter 8, Volume II of The Cambridge Ancient History. Revised Edition, 1965.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A., "Further Notes on New Kingdom Chronology and History," Chronique d'Egypte, 63 (1968), pp. 313-324.
  • Pritchard, James B. (Editor). Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Third Edition with Supplement. Princeton, 1969.
  • Van Seters, John. The Hyksos: A New Investigation. New Haven, 1966.
Last updated: 05-21-2005 02:05:30