According to Manetho, the 15th Dynasty counted 6 kings, who came from "Phoenicia", ruling for a total of 284 years. He also states that these kings seized control of Memphis and that they founded their own capital in the Sethroïte nome. The kings of this dynasty are also known as Hyksos, the Greek rendering of the Ancient Egyptian HqA-xAs.wt, which means 'rulers of the foreign lands', a clear indication that these kings were foreigners.
The Hyksos invasion started somewhere around 1640 BC, when the autorithy of the 14th Dynasty in the Nile Delta and of the 13th Dynasty in Upper Egypt had been weakened, most likely by years of famine and disease. The capitals of both Dynasties, Avaris and Memphis respectively, were easily conquered, Avaris becoming the capital of the new dynasty.
As a result of the collapse of the 13th Dynasty, which, until then had still controlled all of Upper Egypt, two local dynasties arose in the South, one in Abydos and the second stretching from Thebes to Aswan, with Thebes as its capital.
The Hyksos pushed further South and within 20 years, the Abydene Dynasty was overthrown and their territory added to that of the Hyksos. For the next decades, the Hyksos would continue their war in Egypt against the Theban dynasty, with varying succes, until, somewhere after 1580, the Hyksos king Khiyan was able to break the Theban resistance and add the last remaining parts of Egypt to his own territory.
The end of the reign of Khiyan also marked the end of the long list of military successes of the Hyksos against the Egyptians. The succession of Khiyan does not appear to have gone without problems, as the next Hyksos king, Apophis, was not a member of Khiyan's family. It is also possible that, for reasons unknown, the Hyksos were forced to divert their attention and their armies back North, away from the territory that Khiyan had conquered only a few years before.
In any case, Apophis was not able to prevent the Thebans from reclaiming their independance and establishing their control over a territory that stretched from the Abydene region in Middle Egypt to Aswan in the South. After some initial confrontations, the relationships between the Hyksos and the newly established 17th Dynasty which ruled from Thebes, appear to have stabilised. There may even have been trade agreements between the two dynasties.
The peaceful relationship between the Hyksos and the Thebans appears to have come to an end towards the end of the 17th Dynasty. A story written down in the Ramesside era, several centuries later, seems to remember that Seqenenre, the penultimate king of the 17th Dynasty, and the Hyksos king Apophis, were not on the best terms. Seqenenre's mummy clearly shows that this king died a violent death. The wounds found on this mummy are so consistent with the weaponry that was used by the Hyksos that Seqenenre most likely died on the battlefield against his foreign foes.
Seqenenre's successor, Kamose, either started or continued the war against the Hyksos and was able to push the boundaries of his realm further North.
It would, however, be Ahmose, a brother or son of Kamose, who would finally succeed in overthrowing the Hyksos, thus ending the 15th Dynasty.
The table below shows the list of Hyksos kings.
(*) Note that all dates are approximations only and that even the length of each king's tenure of power is subject to debate.
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Last update: 25 July, 2009