Libyan Sheshonks on the Egyptian throne

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

The Sheshonks seized the throne in Henen-Nesut (Herakleopolis Magna), which stayed free after the reign of featureless Tanis rulers and they founded the 22nd dynasty. In fact it was one family, who established a military dictatorship. Their dominion gradually expanded up to Thebes (Waset) and to the Nile delta.

The Libyans represented a strong colony of mercenaries living in the Nile delta under the 20th dynasty rule. In the course of time they became Egyptians, lost their identity and merged with new land. When the last Pharaoh of the 21st dynasty Psusennes II died, a member of Sheshonk dynasty - Sheshonk I captured the throne.

Sheshonk I and his successors

Sheshonk ISheshonk I. was the commanding general of the Pharaoh's army and he married the ruler's daughter Maatkare. So he took over the sceptre without trouble. Apart from the marriage with the princess he strenghthened and made his rule legitimate when he accepted the titulary, which associated him with the previous dynasty. Sheshonk I placed his residence and the central power seat in Tell Basta. He brought various dignitariesof Libyan origin with him to the court, who ruled over most of the large cities in the Nile delta.

Plundering of Jerusalem

Sheshonk I tried to return its former glory to the land. Sheshonk I. was a warrior in the first place, so he preferred the military way and didn't pay much attention to inhabitants indignation, who protested against soldiers' cruelty and high taxes.

Sheshonk I made a victorious campaign into Palestina around 925 BC. He renewed business connections with Byblos before this campaign, which was a strategical base for all assaults into Asia. King Solomon ruled in Israel then. Successorship arguments broke out after Solomon's death between Jeroboam (who came to the throne in the end) and Rehoboam, who was established for a successor by Solomon. Sheshonk I used their arguments perfectly, sent his soldieries into Jerusalem and plundered the local temple. Thus Egypt renewed its former borders in Asia and filled the temple treasuries.

The builder Sheshonk I.

Sheshonk I wanted to go down in history as a builder as well, so he started large building works in Karnak and charged his son Iuput to manage these works. He let build a ceremonial courtyard  with a colonnade in front of the second pylon - it is called Bubastite hall today. He also let engraved depiction of his victory over Judah and Israeli tribes into outside wall  of the southern gate.

Heirs and the decline

Sheshonk I established his son Osorkon for his successor after twenty years of the reign. This son went down in history under the name Osorkon I (924 - 889 BC) and continued with his father's politics. He appointed his son Sheshonk II an Amun high priest immediately after his coming to the throne and so he replaced his brother Iuput in this position.

Osorkon I Sheshonk II
Osorkon I Sheshonk II

Takelot IIf Sheshonk II got to the throne at all, it was for a very short period. So the next real ruler was Takelot I (889 - 874 BC) - son of Osorkon I and a concubine.


Osorkon IIA great builder Osorkon II ruled ca. in 874 - 850 BC. Osorkon II. aggrandized Tell Basta, let renovate the temple in Elephantine and began the building works in Thebes (Waset).

Except his building activities he also strenghtened his business connections with the Middle East and he tried timidly to fight with Asyria, which became a powerful neighbour meanwhile. That's why Osorkon II ensured an alliance with Palestinian fortresses, which were the last barrier in front of the egyptian borders.

A problem with successorship came to pass after his death. His younger son Takelot II came to the throne in Tanis and ruled in years 850 - 825 BC. Takelot's half-brother Nimlot gained a great influence in Thebes (Waset) at the same time, who married his daughter to Takelot II. Takelot II made a great political mistake after Nimlot's death, when he made one of his son (not one of the Nimlot's sons) a successor. A conflict bursted out between both branches, which was the beginning of the decline.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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