The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E

The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E

The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E

The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E


Karol Mysliwiec surveys a turbulent time in Ancient Egyptian culture and history -- the eight hundred years between the eleventh century B.C.E. and the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E., after which Egypt became part of the Hellenistic world. It was a time when Libyans, Kushites, Persians, and Greeks ascended to the throne more frequently than did indigenous kings. The history of this phase of pharaonic Egypt, marked by rapid changes in rule, has been relatively neglected until now.

Egypt had become increasingly involved in the affairs of its Near Eastern neighbors (Assyria, Babylon, and Persia) and of the Mediterranean world. These many cultures greatly enriched and influenced pharaonic traditions. At the same time, Egyptian civilization extended far beyond the borders of Egypt itself. One of the most important cultural products of this period is the Old Testament, called here "an inestimable source of information on daily life in pharaonic Egypt". Mysliwiec perceives in recent archaeological discoveries clear evidence that the First Millennium B.C.E. was witness to more than a slow, progressive dying out of the pharaonic past; new and creative elements profoundly altered the culture of Ancient Egypt.

Originally published in Polish, The Twilight of Ancient Egypt appeared in 1998 in a German edition. The Cornell edition has been updated by the author and also contains previously unpublished photographs of recently discovered treasures.


Scholars and laypeople alike typically connect the idea of pharaonic Egypt with three great periods in its history: the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. The first of these epochs saw the construction of huge stone pyramids, which the Greeks would later view as one of the wonders of the world. The most famous monuments of this era are the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, which dates to the beginning of Dynasty 3, and the three pyramids of Dynasty 4 at Giza, which were built for Khufu, Khephren, and Menkaure.

The Middle Kingdom, the pharaonic state's second epoch of imperial grandeur, is viewed by Egyptologists as its “classical” period. The finest works of Egyptian literature, works that would be copied and emulated for centuries to come, were composed at this time, under the rule of kings with the oft-repeated names Amenemhet, Senwosret, and Mentuhotpe. Among them was the well-known Story of Sinuhe, which served the ancients as a model of good style.

The last of these three great periods, the New Kingdom, saw the reigns of pharaohs named Amenophis, Tuthmosis, and Ramesses. These names are most often associated with the famed Valley of the Kings, the burial place of these rulers at Thebes (modern Luxor) on the west bank of the Nile. The world was stunned when the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered there, the only one that still contained its burial treasure, including hundreds of gold or gilded objects.

The era that included the three major periods just mentioned and the so- called Intermediate Periods that separated them lasted from c. 2700 to 1070 B.C.E., that is, more than sixteen centuries. The pharaonic era, however, continued down to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E. The Ptolemies and the Roman emperors also ruled as pharaohs and were . . .

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