From the 18th dynasty 1550-1295 BC
Egyptian dating is expressed by ruling families - dynasties. The historian Manetho (270 BC) wrote a history of Egypt giving the number of dynasties, the number of kings, their names and the length of each reign.
This family began a period of unprecedented success in international affairs for Egypt. There was a succession of extraordinary and able kings and queens who laid the foundations of a strong Egypt and bequeathed a prosperous economy to the kings of the 19th dynasty.
There was Ahmose who expelled the Hyksos, followed by Thutmose I's conquest in the Near East and Africa. Queen Hatshepsut
and Thutmose III
who made Egypt into an ancient super power.
The magnificent Amenhotep III
, who began an artistic revolution. Akhenaton and Nefertiti
who began a religious revolution - the concept of one god. Finally there was Tutankhamen who is so famous in our modern age.
Seti I's reign looked for its model to the mid-18th dynasty and was a time of considerable prosperity. He restored countless monuments. His temple at Abydos exhibits some of the finest carved wall reliefs.
His son Rameses II
is the major figure of the dynasty.
Around this time the Hittites had become a dominant Asiatic power. An uneasy balance of power developed between the two kingdoms, which was punctuated by wars and treaties
By now Egypt was an ethnically pluralistic society and this is reflected in a diversity of artistic expression. Unfortunately the tide of history was turning and Rameses son, Merenptah
had to struggle to maintain Egypt's prestige.
Setnakht ruled for only a few years but restored order after a period of chaos.
His son Rameses III
was the last great king. He gave Egypt a final moment of glory by defeating Sea Peoples who had utterly destroyed Hittite Empire and swept all before them on their march south.
After Rameses III, Egypt began to suffer economic problems and a break down in the fabric of society. She was unable to exploit the revolution of the Iron Age and there followed a succession of kings all called Rameses. Perhaps this was a vain attempt to recapture past glories.