1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hyksos

HYKSOS, or “Shepherd Kings,” the name of the earliest invaders of Egypt of whom we have definite evidence in tradition. Josephus (c. Apion. i. 14), who identifies the Hyksos with the Israelites, preserves a passage from the second book of Manetho giving an account of them. (It may be that Josephus had it, not direct from Manetho’s writings, but through the garbled version of some Alexandrine compiler.) In outline it is as follows. In the days of a king of Egypt named Timaeus the land was suddenly invaded from the east by men of ignoble race, who conquered it without a struggle, destroyed cities and temples, and slew or enslaved the inhabitants. At length they elected a king named Salatis, who, residing at Memphis, made all Egypt tributary, and established garrisons in different parts, especially eastwards, fearing the Assyrians. He built also a great fortress at Avaris, in the Sethroite nome, east of the Bubastite branch of the Nile. Salatis was followed in succession by Beon, Apachnas, Apophis, Jannas and Asses. These six kings reigned 198 years and 10 months, and all aimed at extirpating the Egyptians. Their whole race was named Hyksos, i.e. “shepherd kings,” and some say they were Arabs (another explanation found by Josephus is “captive shepherds”). When they and their successors had held Egypt for 511 years, the kings of the Thebais and other parts of Egypt rebelled, and a long and mighty war began. Misphragmuthosis worsted the “Shepherds” and shut them up in Avaris; and his son Thutmosis, failing to capture the stronghold, allowed them to depart; whereupon they went forth, 240,000 in number, established themselves in Judea and built Jerusalem.

In Manetho’s list of kings, the six above named (with many variations in detail) form the XVth dynasty, and are called “six foreign Phoenician kings.” The XVIth dynasty is of thirty-two “Hellenic (sic?) shepherd kings,” the seventeenth is of “shepherds and Theban kings” (reigning simultaneously). The lists vary greatly in different versions, but the above seems the most reasonable selection of readings to be made. For “Hellenic” see below. The supposed connexion with the Israelites has made the problem of the Hyksos attractive, but light is coming upon it very slowly. In 1847 E. de Rougé proved from a fragment of a story in the papyri of the British Museum, that Apopi was one of the latest of the Hyksos kings, corresponding to Aphobis; he was king of the “pest” and suppressed the worship of the Egyptian gods, and endeavoured to make the Egyptians worship his god Setekh or Seti; at the same time an Egyptian named Seqenenrē reigned in Thebes, more or less subject to Aphobis. The city of Hawari (Avaris) was also mentioned in the fragment.

In 1850 a record of the capture of this city from the Hyksos by Ahmosi, the founder of the eighteenth dynasty, was discovered by the same scholar. A large class of monuments was afterwards attributed to the Hyksos, probably in error. Some statues and sphinxes, found in 1861 by Mariette at Tanis (in the north-east of the Delta), which had been usurped by later kings, had peculiar “un-Egyptian” features. One of these bore the name of Apopi engraved lightly on the shoulder; this was evidently a usurper’s mark, but from the whole circumstances it was concluded that these, and others of the same type of features found elsewhere, must have belonged to the Hyksos. This view held the field until 1893, when Golénischeff produced an inferior example bearing its original name, which showed that in this case it represented Amenemhe III. In consequence it is now generally believed that they all belong to the twelfth dynasty. Meanwhile a headless statue of a king named Khyan, found at Bubastis, was attributed on various grounds to the Hyksos, the soundest arguments being his foreign name and the boastful un-Egyptian epithet “beloved of his ka,” where “beloved of Ptah” or some other god was to be expected. His name was immediately afterwards recognized on a lion found as far away from Egypt as Bagdad. Flinders Petrie then pointed out a group of kings named on scarabs of peculiar type, which, including Khyan, he attributed to the period between the Old Kingdom and the New, while others were in favour of assigning them all to the Hyksos, whose appellation seemed to be recognizable in the title Hek-khos, “ruler of the barbarians,” borne by Khyan. The extraordinary importance of Khyan was further shown by the discovery of his name on a jar-lid at Cnossus in Crete. Semitic features were pointed out in the supposed Hyksos names, and Petrie was convinced of their date by his excavations of 1905–1906 in the eastern Delta. Avaris is generally assigned to the region towards Pelusium on the strength of its being located in the Sethroite nome by Josephus, but Petrie thinks it was at Tell el-Yahudiyeh (Yehudia), where Hyksos scarabs are common. From the remains of fortifications there he argues that the Hyksos were uncivilized desert people, skilled in the use of the bow, and must thus have destroyed by their archery the Egyptian armies trained to fight hand-to-hand; further, that their hordes were centered in Syria, but were driven thence by a superior force in the East to take refuge in the islands and became a sea-power—whence the strange description “Hellenic” in Manetho, which most editors have corrected to ἀλλοί, “others.” Besides the statue of Khyan, blocks of granite with the name of Apopi have been found in Upper Egypt at Gebelen and in Lower Egypt at Bubastis. The celebrated Rhind mathematical papyrus was copied in the reign of an Apopi from an original of the time of Amenemhe III. Large numbers of Hyksos scarabs are found in Upper and Lower Egypt, and they are not unknown in Palestine. Khyan’s monuments, inconspicuous as they are, actually extend over a wider area—from Bagdad to Cnossus—than those of any other Egyptian king.

It is certain that this mysterious people were Asiatic, for they are called so by the Egyptians. Though Seth was an Egyptian god, as god of the Hyksos he represents some Asiatic deity. The possibility of a connexion between the Hyksos and the Israelites is still admitted in some quarters. Hatred of these impious foreigners, of which there is some trace in more than one text, aroused amongst the Egyptians (as nothing ever did before or since) that martial spirit which carried the armies of Tethmosis to the Euphrates.

Besides the histories of Egypt, see J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt; Historical Documents ii. 4, 125; G. Maspero, Contes populaires, 3me éd. p. 236; W. M. F. Petrie, Hyksos and Israelite Cities, p. 67; Golénischeff in Recueil de travaux, xv. p. 131.  (F. Ll. G.)