|3.3 The Middle Kingdom
At the end of the Old Kingdom, the wealth power of the pharaohs declined. Building and maintaining pyramids cost a lot of money. Pharaohs could not collect enough taxes to keep up with the expenses. At the same time, ambitious nobles used their government positions to take power away from the pharaohs. In time, nobles gained enough power to challenge the pharaohs. By about 2200 B.C., the Old Kingdom had fallen. For the next 160 years, local nobles battled each other for power in Egypt. The kingdom had no central ruler. Chaos within Egypt disrupted trade with foreign lands and caused farming to decline. The people faced economic hardships and famine.
Finally, a new dynasty of pharaohs came to power. They moved their capital from Memphis to Thebes (THEEBZ). There they restored order and stability, ushering in a new period called the Middle Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom lasted from about 2050 B.C. to 1670 B.C. During this time, Egyptians enjoyed a golden age of stability, prosperity, and achievement. However the pharaohs had much less power in the Middle Kingdom.
The Drive for More Land:
During the Middle Kingdom, Egypt took control of new lands. Soldiers captured Nubia. The conquered people sent tribute (TRIH-byoot), or forced payments, to the Egyptian pharaoh, enriching the kingdom. Within Egypt, the pharaohs added more waterways and dams. They increased the amount of land being farmed and built a canal between the Nile River and the Red Sea.
The Arts Blossom:
During the Middle Kingdom, art, literature, and architecture thrived. Painters covered the walls of tombs and temples with colorful scenes of deities, or gods, and daily life. Sculptors created large wall carvings and statues of the pharaohs, showing them as ordinary people rather than godlike figures. Poets wrote love songs and tributes to the pharaohs. A new form of architecture was also created. Instead of building pyramids, pharaohs had their tombs cut into cliffs west of the Nile River. This area became known as the Valley of the Kings,
Toward the end of the Middle Kingdom, however, Egypt again experienced internal disorder. Its pharaohs could not hold the kingdom together. There were other problems in Egypt as well. Nobles were again plotting to take power from the pharaohs. This time, however, Egypt also faced a serious threat from the outside. A people known as the Hyksos (HIHK-sahs), from western Asia, attacked Egypt, during this time of weakness. The Hyksos were mighty warriors. They crossed the desert in horse-drawn chariots and used weapons made of bronze and iron. Egyptians had always fought on foot with copper and stone weapons. They were no match for the invaders. Thus, the Middle Kingdom came to an end in 1670 B.C.
The Hyksos ruled Egypt for about 150 years. They copied some Egyptian customs but most Egyptians hated them. The people of Egypt resented having to pay taxes to foreign rulers and eventually the people of Egypt fought back. Around 1550 B.C., an Egyptian prince named Ahmose (ah-mo’-suh), using Hyksos weapons, led an uprising and drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. Once the Hyksos were gone, Ahmose declared himself king of all Egypt.