Kingdom of Kush and Egypt

Next to the temple of Ramses II sits the Temple of his wife, the Queen Nefertari. This temple is also known as the Hathor Temple or the Small Temple of Abu Simbel.
This temple was carved on the rock to honor the wife of the Sun God, the goddess Hathor. Ramses II, probably, wanted to draw a parallelism between he and his wife, and Ra and his wife, Hathor.

THE 1st NUBIAN AGE: 3100 -1000 BC

Kush began just north of the first cataract of the Nile River and extended beyond the sixth cataract to present day Khartoum. Early culture centered around a settlement at Kerma. In this first Bronze Age era, three people are identified as the beginning Nubian people. They are called the "A-Group", the "C-Group", and the "Kerma Culture". The "A" & "C" groups were largely dominated by Egypt and centered in the Lower Nile, while the Kerma Culture centered in the Upper Nile and traded extensively with Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. Kerma itself was a trading center established as an Egyptian trading post with Egyptian administrators, soldiers, and artisans, but also seems to have been the residence of the Nubian chief and the center of Nubian government.


Egypt, during its Eighteenth Dynasty, took control of the Nubian territories and named Lower Nubia "Wawat", and Upper Nubia "Kush". During this time the Nubian culture was gradually "Egyptianized", but retained much of its special Sudanese/Nubian character. Shortly after the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, Egypt lost control of Nubia and the area declined until around 900 BC when a Nubian monarchy began to emerge with its capital at Napata. By 770 BC, the Kingdom of Kush had extended its borders north to the boundaries of the Upper Nile and began to take a leading role in African affairs that was to last 1000 years. From 750 to 730 BC, Kush pushed northward, captured Egypt from Libyan control and moved their capital to Thebes. Kushite rulers adopted a crown which has a double cobra signifying Nubia and Egypt as their domain. Some of the Egyptian people welcome Kushite rule, seeing them as civilized people and not barbarians (likely due to cultural similarities). Then in 666 BC, the Assyrians invaded Egypt and drove Kush back up the Nile (apparently in response to aid given to Palestine, Jerusalem and Syria against Assyria). As Kush retreated, they took with them the Egyptian religious traditions of Amon, performed worship ceremonies in the temple in Napata, supplanting the Kushite god Apedemak.


In 591 BC, Egypt invaded Kush and Napata was captured and the Kushite king transferred the capital to Meroe, near the sixth cataract creating greater distance between Kush and Egypt. When Persia invaded Egypt at about 525 BC, they stopped at Kush's northern border. Owing to the distance of Meroe to the Northern border, and that Kush posed little threat to the Persians, Kush remained relatively peaceful during this time. However, Napata remained the religious center and royal cemetery of Kush until about 300 when the royal burial site was moved to Meroe, as well, bringing an end to the Napatan Period. 


While the rulers of Kush were no longer buried at Napata, they still kept allegiance to the Temple of Amon, gradually making the transition to Meroe and the worship of the Kushite god Apedemak.


The move to Meroe weakened the Egyptian influence and enlivened the Sudanese character of Kush. Trade with Egypt (Now under the rule of the Ptolomies) and with Asia (India especially) was growing, and Kush even entered into joint building projects with Egypt at their common border.


Trade routes from the interior of Africa passed through Kush and up the Nile to the Mediterranean and apparently through Kush to Asia as well. Images of the Kushite god Apedemak from this era show strong Indian influence as they were rendered in a classic Indian style. Kush enjoyed an economically strategic position, bolstering its power and importance in the Classical World.
This time marks the height of Meroitic Civilization. Kush is ruled by both kings and queens equally, with the queen, or Kandake (from which we get the present day female name of Candice) often taking the leading role in civil and international affairs.
Rome gained control of Egypt and all of the north African coastline and exacted tribute from Kush. Kush, called "Aethiopia" by the Romans (not to be confused with the present Ethiopia which was called Abyssinia by the Romans - see Axum), seeing Rome edge into lower Nubia, attacked and sacked the Roman outposts at Elephantine and Syene. the Romans retaliated and conquered the Kushite towns of Dakka and Premnis. Then Rome marched on Napata where the queen was in residence. She sued for peace and was refused. Rome then attacked Napata and razed it to the ground, making slaves of their captives. After that Rome fortified Premnis and kept it as their southernmost border while waging a three year war with Kush. 
Finally, the Kandake marched upon Premnis and sued for peace, appealing to August Caesar. Impressed with the Kandake's appeal, and probably being aware that Rome had overextended itself at so distant a border, He accepted at about 20 BC. Kush was freed from further tribute, the borders were established at their Ptolemaic location, and Premnis was returned to Kushite control.


While the Kushite kingdom was economically and politically strong at the beginning of the Late Meroitic period, it was soon to enter a cycle of decline. With the rise of Axum, trade routes shifted, and Kushite commercial interests faded. Decline was further complicated with an ecological decline of the area causing less agricultural production and the gradual migration of the population from the area. Border skirmishes with tribal factions and internal struggles also added to the decline.
With Rome trading with Axum and shifting its interests from Kush, the Kushite Kingdom became more and more isolated. In 298 AD, Rome finally evacuated the northern borders of Kush. In an apparent bid to regain some economic parody, Kush seems to have attacked Axum, in retaliation for which Axum over-ran Kush, occupied Meroe, and brought about the total collapse of Kush as a civilization in 350 AD.

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