Who Were the Nubians, Part 2
In Who Were the Nubians, an earlier post dated 05/19/2014, we briefly discussed the arrival of the Hebrew people into Egypt and their experience there which eventually led them into slavery. After many decades of forced labor under the ruling Hyksos, the Hebrew Moses led his people on an exodus out of Egypt, but the entire population could not accompany him. Many Hebrews lived in Goshen and were not part of that expedition. Over time, they intermarried with local African tribes and formed a rising nation. They called themselves Nubians.
The Libyans were one of the original ancient Egyptian tribes, and they challenged the Hyksos for power in 1570 B.C.E. Ahmose, a Libyan leader, pacified the Nubians and encouraged them into boycotting the shipment of cargo headed for Lower Egypt. His main manpower source came from Nubian mercenaries with their superior archery skills and the use of deadly poison arrows; this turned out to be a factor in his victory over the Hyksos.
When Ahmose became Pharaoh following his victory, his policy toward their southern neighbors, the Nubians who helped him come to power, returned to the manner the Hyksos had treated them. Soon the Libyan Pharaohs, Thutmose III and Ramses II, led armed campaigns into Nubia for gold and ivory.
Eventually the Nubian resistance grew stronger and after a period of time they built a capital city, Napata, and used their resources to assemble a massive army. Without the support of the south, Egypt was fractured and open for the taking. King Pianky led his Nubian forces north into Upper Egypt to create the largest Nile based empire to exist until the 19th century A.D. By 750 B.C.E., the Nile valley and some Asian Minor territories were under Nubian control. The Greeks came to trade with them and called them Kush, which means ‘men with burnt skin.’ Upon Pianky’s death, his son, Shabaka, became Pharaoh over Upper and Lower Egypt and Ethiopia. He moved his capital from Napata to Thebes in 716 B.C.E.
With wealth, power, and control over Egypt, the Kushites (or Nubians) established the 25th Egyptian dynasty. The Nubian expansion did not just spread to the north. Colonies of Nubians went south, west, and northwest, covering most of Northern Africa.
The Kushites who settled in these areas were mostly farmers who journeyed into vast unsettled regions with green vegetation and much wild life. Unlike their Nubian/Kush brothers who formed a strong community of cities and towns to the north and east, they did not have the luxury of nearby cities and towns. They had only limited physical contact with one another. However, they shared a common heritage and developed a drum system that allowed them continuous communication. They had little knowledge of the geographical changes taking place, but were certainly impacted by increasing drought conditions.
In our blog post of 04/09/2014 concerning the Saharan Desert, we discussed the earth’s rotation on its axle as the primary reason for the desert expansion, but the people who lived in the region did not understand why the rains lessened each year and crops started to fail in some areas. Were the gods angry with them for some unknown reason? What would a people with highly superstitious beliefs think as they bore witness to their world slowly beginning to collapse around them?
The problems experienced by the Kushites in the south and west of Nubia did not affect their growing empire to the north. In fact, they may not have even known of the endangered agricultural situation because most of the vegetation near them was totally unaffected at that time. The Kushite dynasty was focused on Egypt, especially their prolific upkeep of Egyptian culture and public works, until Pharaoh Shabaka was faced with an invasion from the mighty Assyrian army utilizing Iron Age technology.
This powerful nation, Nubia, was headed for a collision course with the then world-dominating Assyrians, but not because of any draught. It was a matter of who would control whom. The Assyrians conquered and crushed everything in their path. Nothing could stop them. By 701 B.C.E they had reached the threshold of conquering the entire Middle East with 185,000 of the world’s most advanced army of that day, but they did not accomplish their mission. They stopped their advance. Why? We can only surmise the answer for history provides conflicting results of Assyria’s military campaign of 701 B.C.E.
In later years the Assyrian forces proved too great for the Nubians of Egypt and they defeated the Nubians along with many other powers in the area that stood up in rebellion against Assyria.