Who Were the Hyksos?

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Who Were the Hyksos?

During the 19th century BCE, Egypt was the strongest country in the ancient Middle East – she ruled the Nubians in the south and had trading links and factories in the Sudan. Hers was a golden age ruled with divine pharaohs who worshipped him and a vast array of deities. However, in the Second Intermediate period, for 200 years there was an invasion of foreigners who were able to rule northern Egypt. These were the Hyksos.

The Hyksos were an ancient Semitic or Asiatic people; scholars are unclear as to where they originate from and there are theories from all over the Middle East and Asia Minor, but there is no conclusive evidence for any of these. The only literary source from ancient times that mentions the Hyksos is from the second century BCE written by Manetho 1,500 years after the event. Although it is a very late source, there is no doubt that it derived from earlier sources.

Hyksos can be traced to the Egyptian term “heka khasewet” which translates as rulers of foreign countries. This term seems to have been a usual designation of the sheikhs in Palestine and Syria as early as the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty. It is only when the Hyksos rulers of Egypt had come to use it as a sort of royal title does it begin to refer to the group of Asiatics who ruled Egypt.

It has long been questioned as to whether the Hyksos actually invaded Egypt or not; although a large number of tombs belonging to the Hyksos have been found, there is no clear evidence of an invasion by northern foreigners. According to Manetho’s theory, “it also seems as if the Hyksos rule only meant a change of political leaders in Egypt, and not a mass-invasion of a numerically important foreign ethnic element”. This view is support by contemporary evidence.

For roughly 200 years, the Hyksos, whether invaders or not, ruled over north Egypt. They used their advantage of iron-fitted chariots to establish themselves in the Nile Delta as the overlords to the Theban dynasties who offered them tribute. Even now, we do not know much about them but in the 18th Dynasty, they were expelled by the Egyptians.

However, the Hyksos contributed much to ancient Egypt; the Egyptians adopted many of their superior weaponry for their own, which allowed them to expand their territory. Not only this, but the Hyksos were able to change the Egyptians internal political system from within.


Save-Soderbergh, t. (1951) The Hyksos rule in Egypt, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Egypt Exploration Society.


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