The Hyksos: Conquerors of Middle Kingdom Egypt

The Hyksos: Conqueros of foreign lands | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists have discovered that, at the beginning of the MB II B period (Bronze Age between 1750-1650 B.C.E.), a new form of warrior enter Palestine from the East and went all the way south into Egypt. The Egyptians gave these people the name of Hyksos, meaning conquerors of foreign lands or Shepherd Kings. They ruled an empire that contained Egypt and the territories that surrounded it. When the Hyksos took control over the territory, they tried to destroy all the monuments, kill every native person, and erase Egyptian beliefs into theirs, starting a new era in Egypt.1

The Hyksos modified warfare by riding horses and using bows | Courtesy of Pinterest |
The Hyksos modified warfare by riding horses and using bows | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists describe the Hyksos as a group identified as multi-ethnic that come from West Asia. The Hyksos conquered the Nile Delta and the rest of Egypt. At that time, Egypt was divided into two major regions, Lower Egypt, which was North Egypt, and Upper Egypt which was South Egypt.2 The Hyksos took control over Egypt with a massive army made up of foreign warriors that had no mercy for their enemies. They destroyed everything that got in their way: cities, temples, and houses; and they overran the lands as well. The Hyksos were successful with their attacks. They revolutionized methods of warfare. The Hyksos modified their bows to be more precise and deadly, as well as modifying arrowheads, daggers, swords, and shields. Most importantly, they used the horse war chariot, which made them famous and caused fear among the Egyptians.3 The Hyksos used several cities for different purposes, and all of them equally important. Memphis was the actual capital of the Hyksos. The city of Avaris was a camp located in Lower Egypt, where the government was located. Immense walls were built around the city to fortify it. These walls were forty-five feet high and six feet wide; these walls still exist today. Heliopolis was a city built dedicated for religious purposes only.4

Salatis was the name of the first Hyksos king to rule Upper and Lower Egypt. After conquering both parts of Egypt, he fortified the eastern frontier. Salatis was scared of the Assyrians. They were a group of people who were growing in power and were causing some fear to the kingdom of Salatis. After Salatis died, three dynasties of Hyksos followed him. The last to ruled the Hyksos was a man named Joseph. At the end of Joseph’s reign, the Thebans declared their independence from the Hyksos kingdom. The Thebans were a group of people that had some control over Upper Egypt and who did not like the way the Hyksos ruled. After the Thebans won the war, they decided to expel all the Hyksos from the lands of Egypt, making the Hyksos just another falling kingdom.5

It is hard to find further information about the Hyksos. Almost all the information we know about them was written by an Egyptian historian named Manetho, who lived during the third century B.C.E. There are only a few pieces of his work left that have been recovered. Archaeologists are still exploring the lands of Egypt to find out more about the Hyksos and their history.
  1. William Stevenson Smith, “Review of The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes,” American Journal of Archaeology vol. 52 no. 2 (1948): 305.
  2. Carol A. Redmount, “Ethnicity, pottery, and the Hyksos at Tell El-Maskhuta in the Egyptian Delta,” Biblical Archaeologist 58, no. 4 (1995): 182.
  3. William J. Murnane, “The Second Stela of Kamose and His Struggle against the Hyksos Ruler and His Capital Labib Habachi,” Journal Of Near Eastern Studies 37, no. 3 (1978): 277.
  4. William H. Stiebing, “Hyksos burials in Palestine: a review of the evidence,” Journal Of Near Eastern Studies no. 2 (1971): 110-13.
  5. William Stevenson Smith, “Review of The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes,” American Journal of Archaeology vol. 52 no. 2 (1948): 306.
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21 Comments

  • The Hyksos followed a script typical of conqueror warriors; invading, killing, and erasing the previous belief system. What stepped beyond this routine was their revolutionary modifications of their weapons and how that shaped warfare as a whole. The occupation lasted three dynasties until eventually the Hyksos overthrown and expelled back out of Egypt. However, they left a last mark in the form of a fortified city wall that is still visible today.

  • Great job! I never even heard of the Hyksos so this article was very insightful. I wonder if it was another empire from the Middle East or East Asia that was responsible for the invasion. It’s hard to imagine that an army big enough to overthrow and conquer the Egyptian peoples was completely unorganized and not a part of any empire. It’s a shame that much is known of them since they completely changed how wars were fought back then, especially with how they used horse drawn war chariots and changes to the bows, arrows, and knives.

  • Very interesting article! The Hyksos seemed to be a very innovative army, with their modifications and strong weapons. I liked the way that the Hyksos had set themselves up in multiple cities and used their strategy to maintaining power. The end of their kingdom was a tragic ending and unfortunate to their legacy. It is nice to know that archeologists are still looking for more evidence of the Hyksos.

  • Great article, I always forget that Ancient Egypt wasn’t always unified and while I remember the Upper and Lower Kingdoms the Middle Kingdom seems to slip my mind. But up until reading your article I didn’t know about the Hyksos or that they were among the first to use horses for warfare. For a foreign power to be able to conquer Egypt using their ruthlessness that the Egyptians were not prepared for.

  • Thank you for this article! First of all, I loved the first picture that the author used in the article. I had never heard of the Hyksos before reading this article, and I really enjoyed learning about their story. I find it really interesting that they were the first civilization to use horses during battles. This article was very informative, and I honestly enjoyed reading it!

  • Very informative article. I had never heard of the Hyksos before reading this article and certainly did not know they had brought down the Egyptians. As you stated, they appear to be great conquerors that were able to conquer and destroy Egypt and other places in that region and rule for so long. It is terrible that we know so little about them from an archaeological point and that most of what we know comes from a historian of that era.

  • Interesting article. Before reading this, I never heard of Egyptian civilization being conquered. The Hyksos seem to be the dominant super power of the time. Interesting enough there isn’t much background information on the Hyksos; there were four dynasties but not much to show for it. The Hyksos military advancement greatly helped them conquered Egypt. I can’t wait for your next article!

  • This was a very interesting article on the Hyksos. I did not know who they were or their relevance to Egyptian history until now. What was even more captivating about this article was the notion that the Hyksos made popular the art of going into war/battle in chariots pulled by horses, made even more interesting by shooting arrows while riding them. This was fascinating to hear. Additionally, it also highlighted the type of conquerers the Hyksos really were, which makes it easier to compare to the other conquerers that have made their mark on history. Excellent Work!

  • Great job Rafael. I had never herd of the Hyksos before, I always assumed the Egyptians were always in charge of the land, and had no idea a foreign army had taken control of so much of their land. They truly sounded like a formidable force, and I am surprised that they lost their foothold the way that they did.

  • What an amazing article. I had no idea what the Hyksos were before reading your article. It is quite interesting to read that they were the ones that modified warfare. I would always wonder who started to bring horses into battle. The Hyksos were ruthless warriors that only wanted to inflict destruction. Overall, very good job on your article Rafael.

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