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JSSEA 30 (2003) 15

FOREIGN PHARAOHS:
SELF-LEGITIMIZATION AND INDIGENOUS REACTION

IN ART AND LITERATURE

Corey J. Chimko

Abstract
The author takes a new and integrated look at the treatment of the royal foreigner and the politics of
race. Specifically examined is the inherent tension between the normally scathing view of the
foreigner in Egyptian ideology and the necessity of deferring to him in times of foreign domination
by the Hyksos, the Nubians and the Persians. Examined are both the image the foreign pharaohs
wished to portray themselves, as well as the indigenous Egyptian reaction during and after periods
of foreign domination. What emerges is a perhaps unexpected conclusion that foreigners were not
hated as adamantly as is commonly held.

Keywords
foreigners, Hyksos, Nubians, Persians, Intermediate Periods, race, domination, legitimization,
customs, art, literature

One of the most salient features of the depiction of foreigners in Egyptian art is the invariable
subordination of the alien to the ideologically superior native Egyptian. Bestialization, feminization,
infantilization and the spatial placement of foreigners on the lowest levels of stelae, monuments,
temples and other structures are some ways in which the god-granted dominion over foreign lands
and their inhabitants by the pharaoh are conveyed to the observer. History shows, however, that this
domination was only a symbolic and ideal one in terms of Egypt’s real world international relations.
Egypt in fact found itself under foreign domination on several occasions throughout its history;
indeed, increasingly so as time wore on and contacts with other ancient civilizations increased. One
wonders, then, how the art of these periods could cope with the paradoxical situation of having
persons traditionally regarded as sub-human occupy the highest positions of honor in Egyptian
religion and government. This study aims to examine the art of some of these periods of foreign
domination to determine just that. It will also determine what reaction, if any, is discernible in the
art of the periods that follow each foreign domination, in which Egypt was able to restore indigenous
rule. Subsequently, a comparison will be undertaken in order to determine whether any consistency
or variation occurs in the ways in which foreign dynasties have themselves depicted and the Egyptian
reaction to them, and to suggest possible reasons for similarities and/or differences.1

I will be focusing on 1) the period of Hyksos rule (XIV-XVth dynasties) during the Second
Intermediate Period (2IP); 2) the period of Nubian rule (the XXVth dynasty) during the Third
Intermediate Period (3IP); and 3) the first Persian dynasty (dynasty XXVII) in the Late Period. After2

each of these three periods Egypt was able to restore native rule. Beginning with the second Persian
occupation, Egypt was unable to do so again until modern times.

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Chimko16

I. THE HYKSOS IN EGYPT

1) A Survey of Hyksos Royal Art
One of the problems encountered in a study of this kind is that foreign rule tends to occur in

Egypt during periods of internal stress, when the indigenous government is weak, and the traditional
administrative and religious infrastructure responsible for artistic production may not be at its most
fertile. Coupled with the assumptions that foreign rulers would have found it more difficult to
engender support, and that hate-motivated post-occupational destruction of monuments was likely
a frequent occurrence, there exist less than favorable conditions for the survival of art from these
periods. Nevertheless, it is surprising how much what little survives can tell us.

The Hyksos, being the first (and perhaps therefore the most violently hated afterwards)3

foreigners to claim the Egyptian throne, have left us the fewest and most fragmentary remains of any
of our periods. Indeed, the number and names of the kings of the period is still a matter of
considerable debate. This situation will hopefully ameliorate with the continuing excavations of4

M. Bietak at Tell el-Dabaa, but for now the gamut of Hyksos royal art may be listed and discussed5

without concern of taking up too much space.
Previously accepted reconstructions of the Hyksos royal dynasty have recently been6

overhauled by K. Ryholt, who has placed Ma-jb-ra Sheshy and Mr-wsr-ra Yaakob-har within the
XIV rather than the XV Dynasty. Perhaps the two most important Hyksos pharaohs, %wsr.n-rath th 7

Khayan and Nb-xpS-ra/ aA-qnn-ra/ aA-wsr-ra Apophis remain within the 15 Dynasty, and it is they,th

together with Iannasi, that are the only kings to date for which we have any royal art save scarabs:8

Items of Khayan
Monuments:
a. Block of granite from Gebelein9

b. Usurped MK statue from Bubastis10

c. Unprovenanced basalt lion from Baghdad11

Vessels:
d. Alabaster lid from Knossos12

e. Obsidian vase fragment from Bögazköy13

Items of Iannasi
f. Stela fragment from Tell el-Dabaa14

Items of Apophis
Monuments:
g. A granite architrave from Gebelein15

h. A piece of building inscription originally from Avaris, found at Bubastis16

i. A doorjamb of the Princess Tany and Apophis from Qantir (originally from Avaris)17

j. Usurped statue from Tanis (originally from Avaris) of one Mr-MSa (a pharaoh of the XIIIth

dynasty), and two other Middle Kingdom sphinxes18 19

Furniture:
k. A reused XII dynasty offering stand with the name of the princess Tany and Apophisth 20

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JSSEA 30 (2003) 35

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166. For an excellent summary of the sources and arguments for the various stages of construction
of the Red Sea Canal, cf. Redmount, 1995 and Tuplin, 1991. It is apparent that Darius completed
a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea, though various sources refer to similar efforts by Sesostris I,
Necho II, and Ptolemy II. In Redmount’s opinion, the canal was probably begun by Necho II and
completed up to Tell el-Maskhuta. Darius was likely responsible for its reexcavation and/or
completion to the Red Sea.

167. The traditional view of a changed version of Darius’ name later in his reign has been challenged
by Cruz-Uribe, 1992-3.

168. Tr. in Kent, 1942: 419.

169. Cf. Kervran, et.al., 1972; Root, 1979: 68ff.

170. Tuplin, 1991: 244.

171. Tr. in Kuhrt, 1995: 668, with refs.; cf. also Herodotus, II.110.

172. Cf. Cooney, 1954a; von Bothmer, 1960: 76-7.

173. For another example of this dress, and a discussion of the motif, cf. von Bothmer, 1960: 83-4.

174. An interesting parallel can be seen around Darius III’s neck on the famous Alexander mosaic.

175. Cooney, 1954a. For more discussion of Ptahhotep, cf. Bareš, 1999.

176. Cf. Tresson, 1930.

177. Presumably Nectanebo II.

178. Presumably a reference to the reconquest of Egypt by Artaxerxes III.

179. This word is followed by the same determinative used for the word “enemy” (1) in other parts
of the stela, cf. Devauchelle, 1995: 77.

180. Presumably a reference to the battle between Alexander and Darius III, tr. in Lichtheim, 1980:
42.

181. So Menu, 1994: 319: “La seconde domination perse a laissé de mauvais souvenirs en Égypte:
Ochos et Bagoas auraient pillé et profané les temples, cependant, il faut faire la part de la propagande
anti-perse développée par les Grecs.” See also Lefebvre, 1923-4: 11; Briant, 1989. The institution
of God’s Wife, honored by the Nubians, was also abolished at this time, Ankhnesneferibre being the
last God’s Wife to hold the office, cf. de Meulenaere, 1968: 187, Ayad, 1995: 1-3. Ayad has
convincingly described the fall of the God’s Wives of Amun as a direct result of the status of women
in Achaemenid society. An almost total absence of political power-wielding on the part of Persian
women in any capacity, royal or otherwise, resulted in a lack of training and expectation that women

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JSSEA 30 (2003) 57

hold such powerful positions. This thesis is especially convincing in light of the fact that the office
was so powerful before the Persians’ arrival, and especially pertinent since it represents what would
have been a marked deviation from a policy of customs adoption.

182. Cf. Lefebvre, 1923-4. On the dating esp. 10ff. For a more recent reexamination cf. Menu,
1994, 1995a, 1995b, 1996, 1998, and 1999.

183. Menu, 1994: 319, 326.

184. Cf. also references to “a man of a foreign country being the governor in Egypt” (rmT xAswt m
HqA Kmt [59, 2] and rmT xAswt m HqA BAkt [62, 3]).

185. Tr. in Lichtheim, 1980: 46.

186. There was, as is to be expected, a larger adoption of Persian motifs in the minor arts that had
to do more with trade than with political sympathy. For more on the influence of Persia on the minor
arts in Egypt, cf. Roes, 1952; Cooney, 1954b.

187. Redford, 1970: 10.

188. Redford, 1970: 32. One could still maintain that the Egyptian use of the term ‘foreign princes’
speaks volumes for a disdainful attitude towards the Hyksos. Let us not forget, however, that this
was the first time in Egypt’s history that a foreign occupation had occurred. I would suggest that the
term was employed initially, and possibly derisively, as a way to distinguish them from a native
Egyptian pharaoh, but that as they showed themselves to be respectful rulers, the derision subsided
while the designation stuck. The post occupational evidence, at any rate, argues for this
interpretation.

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