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The Libyan Anarchy

Shoshenq I, Shoshenq II, Osorkon II, Takelot II and Sheshonq V, Pharaohs of the Libyan dynasties by DULUM for Tamazgha History.

The Libyan warriors were fierce enemies of Egypt, especially when a Libyan army coalesced with the Sea Peoples (ancient Greeks), as in the 13th century B.C., when they were led by the chief Mâ Meryey (great chief of the Meshwesh tribe) to invade Egypt. They were repelled by Pharaoh Merneptah, (19th Dynasty) and his troops. (See Libyan warrior)

A second and more important invasion of the Libyans and their allies, the Sea People and the Philistines, was stopped by the forces of Rameses III in 1181 B.C. (20th Dynasty), as a result of which the pharaoh incorporated enemy Libyan contingents in his army.

The presence of Libyans in large numbers in the Egyptian army is a phenomenon observed as early as the 18th Dynasty (1549/1292 B.C.) in the armies of Hatshepsut. Libyan warriors took part in the famous battle of Qadesh led by Ramesses II in 1274 B.C. against the Hittites. The phenomenon grew at the end of the 21st Dynasty (1069/945 B.C.) because of political instabilities, which allowed the Libyans to reach the highest functions of the army, thus forming a dominant military aristocracy.

Engraving of a relief of Sheshonq I found at Karnak (Wikipedia Fr).

As mentioned, following the two unsuccessful Libyan invasions, allied to the sea people, by the Ramessides during the 20th dynasty, the defeated Libyan tribes were incorporated in the Egyptian army. They settled in the Nile delta and formed chiefdoms whose chiefs acquired the title of Great Mâ. These Libyan tribes, including the Meshwesh, served the 20th and 21st dynasties, gaining notoriety in the Egyptian politic circle until they formed a military aristocracy holding key positions.
One of them, Shoshenq I, took advantage of the weakening of the 21st dynasty to gain the favors of Pharaoh Psusennes II.

The Osorkon Bust, inscribed with the pharaoh’s praenomen, discovered at Byblos (today’s Lebanon) (Wikipedia).

22nd Dynasty

Shoshenq I married his son Osorkon I to Psusennes II’s daughter, Princess Maatkare, thus creating a blood tie to the royal power. Upon the death of Psusennes II, Shoshenq I quickly established himself as his successor, and was crowned in 945 BC, thus founding the 22nd dynasty. The new pharaoh placed his family in key positions of power and clergy.

Gold funerary mask of Shoshenq II in the Cairo Museum, found in Tanis (Wikipedia).

In 925 BC, Shoshenq I undertook a successful military campaign in Canaan, and extended the southern and western borders of Egypt. Throughout his reign, he undertook a policy of building and renovating temples throughout Egypt, following the Ramessides tradition. When he died in 924 BC, his eldest son, Osorkon I, became his successor, following the same policy as his father by also undertaking extensive construction works. His son, Shoshenq II, affiliated with the 21st dynasty by his mother, became his successor in 887 BC, but having had a short reign, his brother Takelot I took his place in 885 BC, also following the policy of his family.

Osorkon II and queen Karomama I. From a gateway in the temple at Bubastis, Egypt. 22nd Dynasty, c. 850 BCE. British Museum (Wikipedia).

On the latter’s death, his son, Osorkon II, ascended the throne in 872 BC instead of his cousin Harsiese A (son of Sheshonq II), who considered himself more legitimate because he was descending from the 21st dynasty through his grandmother. As a compensation, Osorkon II appointed him king of Thebes which gave the city an autonomous status, a decision that would begin the long fall of the dynasty because none of his predecessors conceded such power to another member of the dynasty.

Takelot II (left) and Amun-Ra at Karnak (Wikipedia).

Harsiese A reigned over Thebes for ten years. Upon his death, Osorkon II placed his son, Nimlot C, as High Priest of Amun and governor of Thebes, and ruled over a united Egypt. Osorkon II sent troops to Judea, as well as to the Byblos and Syrian kingdoms to counter the threat of Assyrian expansion, but the rest of his reign was peaceful.

The grandson of Osorkon II became his successor in 850 BC under the name of Takelot II. Following Osorkon II’s decision to recognize his cousin Harsiese A as the ruler of Thebes, he provided an opportunity for members of his family, as well as other members of the Libyan elite, to challenge the authority of Takelot II.

Shoshenq III, standing on the boat “msktt”, the boat of the night, with the god Atum. From his tomb in Tanis (Wikipedia).

23rd Dynasty

Thebes, having previously an autonomous status, rebelled under the leader Mâ Padibastet I who proclaimed himself pharaoh, thus founding the 23rd Libyan dynasty, which turned into a 30-year civil war where the son of Takelot II, Osorkon III , winned. In the meantime, Takelot II’s other son was enthroned in Tanis, the dynasty’s capital, as Shoshenq III. Osorkon III, feeling ousted from the throne, proclaimed himself pharaoh in Thebes under the name of Osorkon III, but placed his capital in Leontopolis, thus creating a dissident branch of the 22nd dynasty.

Shoshenq III’s successor, his son Pimay, controlled only Lower Egypt, losing more and more influence to his cousin Takelot III (son of Osorkon III), to other Libyan leaders, as well as to members of the 23rd dynasty.

In the background, Shoshenq V standing in front of an Apis bull on a stela of his Year 37 (Wikipedia).

Shoshenq V became the successor of his father Pimay, and undertook construction works to assert his legitimacy by trying to register in the lineage of his ancestors in vain. His power diminished to such an extent that three more city states were formed, Heracleopolis, Hermopolis and Lycopolis. At the same time, a strong power arose in Nubia, the kingdom of Kush, which took advantage of the instability in Egypt to launch a campaign of conquests.

Colorized drawing of an ancient Egyptian relief thought to depict Osorkon IV, from Tanis (Wikipedia).

In 757 BC, Rudamun, son of Osorkon III, became the successor of his brother Takelot III, but failed to maintain the unity of his territory which fragmented into several minor city-states. On the side of the main branch of the Sheshonquids, Osorkon IV became the successor of his father Shoshenq V as pharaoh in Tanis.

A relief depicting Osorkon III in his early career, when he was the High Priest of Amun during the reign of his father Takelot II. The relief also bears his ancestry as a son of queen Karomama II, daughter of Nimlot C, son of Osorkon II (Wikipedia).

24th Dynasty

Faced with the rise in power of the 25th Nubian dynasty, which headed dangerously to Lower Egypt, Osorkon IV formed a coalition with his distant cousin (Iuput II son of Rudamun), and other Libyan rulers, who were freed from the wardship of his family, under the command of the great chief Mâ of the west Tefnakht (founder of the 24th dynasty at Sais in 732 BC), against the Nubian invasion. This ultimate alliance failed; Osorkon IV and his allies bowed their knees, recognizing the reunified pharaoh of Egypt Piye I of Kush, founder of the 25th Dynasty around 729 BC.

Note: According to some scholars, Osorkon the Elder was the first pharaoh of Libyan origin (a Meshwesh, fifth pharaoh of the 21th Dynasty), not Sheshonq I.

Relief of Takelot III from Karnak temple (Wikipedia). MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA.
Twenty second dynasty
Shoshenq Ica. 945-924 BC
Osorkon I (Shoshenq I’s son)ca. 924-889 BC
Shoshenq II (Osorkon I’s son)ca. 890-889 BC
Takelot I (Osorkon I’s son)ca. 889-874 BC
Osorkon II (Takelot I’s son)ca. 874-850 BC
Takelot II (Osorkon II’s grandson)ca. 850-825 BC
Shoshenq III (Takelot II’s son)ca. 825-773 BC
Pimay (Shoshenq III’S son)ca. 773-767 BC
Shoshenq V (Pimay’s son)ca. 767-730 BC
Osorkon IV (Shoshenq V’s son)ca. 730-715 BC
Twenty third dynasty
Padibastet I (Takelot II’s son?)ca. 818-793 BC
Shoshenq IV (father ?)ca. 793-787 BC
Osorkon III (Takelot II’s son)ca. 787-759
Takelot III (Osorkon III’s son)ca. 764-757 BC
Rudamun (Osorkon III’s son)ca. 757-754 BC
Twenty fourth dynasty
Tefnakhtca. 727-720 BC
Bakenranef (Tefnakht’s son)ca. 720-715 BC

Table: General list of Pharaohs of Libyan (ancient Libyan) origin.


Bates, Oric, “The Eastern Libyans, An Essay”, MacMillan and Co. Limited St. Martin’s Street, London 1914, pp.150, 210 – 229.

Desplancques, Sophie, « L’Égypte ancienne », Presses Universitaires de France, 2020, pp. 73 – 97, 99 – 117.

Kitchen, Kenneth A., “The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt”, Aris and Phillips Limited, 1972, p. 112.

Lepsius, Carl Richard, “Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien”, Germany: Hinrich, 1849-1859, 318 p.

Maystre, Charles, « Les Grands prêtres de Ptah de Memphis », Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992, pp. 98 – 99, 167 – 168.

Payraudeau, Frédéric, « L’Égypte et la vallée du Nil. Tome 3. Les époques tardives (1069-332 av. J.-C.) », Presses Universitaires de France, 2020, pp. 95 – 127, 129 – 165.

Ritner, Robert Kriech, “The Libyan Anarchy: Inscriptions from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period”, Edited by Edward Wente, Theodore J. Lewis General Editor, 1953, 634 p.

Winand, Jean, « Une histoire personnelle des pharaons », Universitaires de France, 2017, pp. 261 – 313.

COPYRIGHT © Tamazgha History


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