Ancient Egypt, Thutmose I and Thutmose II
Lacking a surviving heir, Amenhotep I was succeeded by one of his generals, Thutmose I (ruled 1493-c. 1482 BC), who married his own full sister Ahmose. In the south Thutmose destroyed the Karmah state. He inscribed a rock as a boundary marker, later confirmed by Thutmose III, near Kanisa-Kurgus, north of the Fifth Cataract. He then executed a brilliant campaign into Syria and across the Euphrates, where he erected a victory stela near Carchemish.
Thus in the reign of Thutmose I, Egyptian conquests in the Near East and Africa reached their greatest extent, but they may not yet have been firmly held. His little-known successor, Thutmose II (c. 1482-79 BC), continued his policies.
Hatshepsut and Thutmose III
At Thutmose II's death his queen and sister, Hatshepsut, had only a young daughter; but a minor wife had borne him a boy, who served as a priest in the Temple of Amon. This son, Thutmose III (ruled 1479-26 BC), later reconquered Egypt's Asiatic empire and became an outstanding ruler. During his first few regnal years Thutmose III theoretically controlled the land, but Hatshepsut governed as regent. Sometime between Thutmose III's second and seventh regnal years she assumed the kingship herself. According to one version of the event, the oracle of Amon proclaimed her king at Karnack, where she was crowned. A more propagandistic account, preserved in texts and reliefs of her splendid mortuary temple at Dayr al-Bahri, ignores the reign of Thutmose II and asserts that her father, Thutmose I, proclaimed her as his successor. Upon becoming king, Hatshepsut became the dominant partner in a joint rule that lasted until her death in about 1458 BC; there are monuments dedicated by Hatshepsut that depict both kings. She had the support of various powerful personalities, who did not, however, form a homogeneous faction; the most notable among them was Senenmut, the steward and tutor of her daughter Neferure. In styling herself king, Hatshepsut adopted the royal titulary but avoided the epithet "mighty bull," regularly employed by other kings. Although in her reliefs she was depicted as a male, pronominal references in the texts generally reflect her womanhood. Similarly, much of her statuary shows her in male form, but there are rarer examples that render her as a woman. In less formal documents she was referred to as "King's Great Wife," that is, "Queen," while Thutmose III was "King." There is thus a certain ambiguity in the treatment of Hatshepsut as king.
Her temple reliefs depict pacific enterprises, such as the transporting of obelisks for Amon's temple and a commercial expedition to Punt; her art style looked back to Middle Kingdom ideals. Some warlike scenes are depicted, however, and she may have waged a campaign in Nubia. In one inscription she blamed the Hyksos for the supposedly poor state of the land before her rule, even though they had been expelled from the region more than a generation earlier.
During Hatshepsut's ascendancy Egypt's position in Asia deteriorated because of the expansion of Mitannian power in Syria. Shortly after her death, the Prince of Kadesh, a Syrian city, stood with troops of 330 princes of a Syro-Palestinian coalition at Megiddo; such a force was more than merely defensive and the intention may have been to advance against Egypt. The 330 must have represented all the places of any size in the region that were not subject to Egyptian rule and may be a schematic figure derived from a list of place-names. It is noteworthy that Mitanni itself was not directly involved.
Thutmose III proceeded to Gaza with his army and then to Yehem, subjugating rebellious Palestinian towns along the way. His annals relate how, at a consultation concerning the best route over the Mount Carmel ridge, the King overruled his officers and selected a shorter but more dangerous route through the 'Arunah Pass and then led the troops himself. The march went smoothly, and when the Egyptians attacked at dawn they prevailed over the enemy troops and besieged Megiddo.
Thutmose III meanwhile coordinated the landing of other army divisions on the Syro-Palestinian littoral, whence they proceeded inland, so that the strategy resembled a pincer technique. The siege ended in a treaty by which Syrian princes swore an oath of submission to the King. As was normal in ancient diplomacy and in Egyptian practice, the oath was binding only upon those who swore it, not upon future generations.
By the end of the first campaign Egyptian domination extended northward to a line linking Byblos and Damascus. Although the Prince of Kadesh remained to be vanquished, Assyria sent lapis lazuli as tribute; Asiatic princes surrendered their weapons, including a large number of horses and chariots. Thutmose III took only a limited number of captives. He appointed Asiatic princes to govern the towns and took their brothers and sons to Egypt, where they were educated at the court. Most eventually returned home to serve as loyal vassals, though some remained in Egypt at court. In order to ensure the loyalty of Asiatic city-states, Egypt maintained garrisons that could quell insurrection and supervise the delivery of tribute. There never was an elaborate Egyptian imperial administration in Asia.
Thutmose III conducted numerous subsequent campaigns in Asia. The submission of Kadesh was finally achieved, but Thutmose III's ultimate aim was the defeat of Mitanni. He used the navy to transport troops to Asiatic coastal towns, avoiding arduous overland marches from Egypt. His great eighth campaign led him across the Euphrates; although the countryside around Carchemish was ravaged, the city was not taken, and the Mitannian prince was able to flee. The psychological gain of this campaign was perhaps greater than its military success, for Babylonia, Assyria, and the Hittites all sent tribute in recognition of Egyptian dominance. Although Thutmose III never subjugated Mitanni, he placed Egypt's conquests on a firm footing by constant campaigning that contrasts with the forays of his predecessors. His annals inscribed in the temple of Karnak are remarkably succinct and accurate, but his other texts, notably one set up in his newly founded Nubian capital of Napata, are more conventional in their rhetoric.
Thutmose III initiated a truly imperial Egyptian rule in Nubia. Much of the land became estates of institutions in Egypt, while local cultural traits disappear from the archaeological record. Sons of chiefs were educated at the Egyptian court; a few returned to Nubia to serve as administrators--and some were buried there in Egyptian fashion. Nubian fortresses lost their strategic value and became administrative centers. Open towns developed around them, and in several temples outside their walls the cult of the divine king was established. Lower Nubia supplied gold from the desert and hard and semiprecious stones. From farther south came African woods, perfumes, oil, ivory, panther skins, and ostrich plumes. There is scarcely any trace of local population from the later New Kingdom, when many more temples were built in Nubia; by the end of the 20th dynasty the region had almost no prosperous settled population.
Under Thutmose III the wealth of empire became apparent in Egypt. Many temples were built and vast sums were donated to the estate of Amon-Re. There are many tombs of his high officials at Thebes. The capital had been moved to Memphis, but Thebes remained the religious center.
The campaigns of kings like Thutmose III required a large military establishment, including a hierarchy of officers and a very expensive chariotry. The king grew up with military companions whose close connection with him enabled them to participate increasingly in government. Military officers were appointed to high civil and religious positions, and by the Ramesside period the influence of such people came to outweigh that of the traditional bureaucracy.