Egypt in the Middle Kingdom

(For information only. Not required reading for the setting)

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt between circa 2050 BCE and 1800 BCE, stretching from the reunification of Egypt in the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty.

During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris and Amun vied for position as the most important deity in popular religion.

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Mentuhotep II (2061 BCE – 2010 BCE) of the 11th Dynasty is regarded as the founder of the Middle Kingdom, expanding Egyptian rule into Nubia and the Sinai.  He restored the cult of the ruler, depicting himself as a god in his own lifetime, and is often depicted wearing the headdress of Amun.

Amenemhet I usurped the throne of the 11th Dynasty Pharoah Mentuhotep IV in 1991 BCE and established the 12th Dynasty,  considered to be the golden-age of the Middle Kingdom. Amenemhat I was  assassinated by his own guards in 1962 BCE, when his son and co-regent Senusret I was away  leading a campaign in Libya. Like Mentuhotep II, Amenemhet bolstered his claim to authority by depicting himself as Osiris. His funerary complex has not yet been discovered.

Senruset I Continued his father’s expansionist policies and was one of the more powerful kings of this Dynasty. He built numerous shrines and temples throughout Egypt and Nubia during his long reign, and is depicted frequently wearing accouterments of Osiris, Amun, Re and Ptah.

The reign of Senruset I’s son Amenemhat II is often characterized as a largely peaceful maintenance of Egyptian territories; and evidence for military activity of any kind during the reign of his son, Senusret II is non-existent, as he appears to have focused on domestic issues.

Senruset III ascended the throne in 1878 BCE as warrior-king and became the most powerful Egyptian ruler of the 12th Dynasty. His reign is considered the height of the Middle Kingdom, with further military campaigns into Nubia, often taking to the field himself. Such was his forceful nature and immense influence that, unlike his predecessors, who took on the mantles of the God-Kings Osiris and Amun; he was deified and honored with a cult under his own name during his lifetime. Senusret III had a lasting legacy as a warrior Pharaoh. His name was Hellenized by later Greek historians as Sesostris, a name which was then given to a conflation of Senusret and several New Kingdom warrior pharaohs. In Nubia, Senusret III was worshiped as a patron God by Egyptian settlers. Whilst his pyramid complex far surpassed in grandeur those from the early 12th dynasty in size and underlying religious conceptions, there is no evidence that it was ever actually used.

Sobekneferu, grand daughter of Senruset III, is the first historically attested female king of Egypt evidenced by a fine cylinder seal bearing her name and royal titulary that is today located in the British Museum. Her reign was seemingly peaceful, and she undertook expeditions in the Sinai, Upper Egypt, and to the Land of Punt. She also maintained trade relations with Byblos as well as the Egyptian presence in Nubia. Most notable were her prolific temple construction projects around the cult of Senusret III and Amun-Ra. Although her tomb has not been identified positively, it is attested that she died without heirs and the end of her reign concluded Egypt’s brilliant Twelfth Dynasty and brought an end to the Middle Kingdom.

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