17th Dynasty (1571-1540)


Only a few years after the Hyksos finally defeated the Theban 16th Dynasty and annexed the south of Egypt to the territory over which they ruled, the Thebans were able to reclaim their lost independence and establish a kingdom that stretched as far north as Abydos, thus founding the 17th Dynasty.
The circumstances that allowed the Thebans to rid themselves of the Hyksos yoke are not known. Perhaps there was some internal struggle among the Hyksos themselves, which sufficiently weakened their position for the Thebans to rise against them, as is suggested by the fact that the new Hyksos king, Apophis, does not appear to have been a member of the family of his predecessor, Khiyan. It is also possible that the Hyksos were forced to divert their military efforts from the south of Egypt to the northern part of their territory.
Whatever the reason, the Hyksos were forced to accept the new dynasty that ruled the south of Egypt from Thebes, while the Hyksos ruled from their capital, Avaris, over Middle and North Egypt.

Head of a colossus of Sobekemsaf I, one of the better attested kings of the early 17th Dynasty.

Once the Thebans had extended their realm to Abydos, the relationship with the Hyksos appears to have been relatively peaceful for about 20 years.
During this time, it appears that 4 Theban families succeeded each other on the throne. Rahotep seems to have died without a male heir, allowing the kingship to pass to the family of Sobekemsaf I, who was succeeded by two of his sons, Antef V and Antef VI. Antef VII, a brother-in-law of his two namesakes, only seems to have ruled for a short time as a co-regent of Antef VI.
The current sources do not allow to find a family relationship between Sobekemsaf II and his predecessors, nor does he seem to have been related to the last family of Theban kings that are grouped in the 17th Dynasty: Senakhtenre, Seqenenre and Kamose. With Ahmose, who is considered the first king of the 18th Dynasty, as a brother or son of Kamose, it could be argued that the 18th Dynasty should start with Senakhtenre.

The relative calm between the rivaling Hyksos and Theban dynasties came to an end at the latest during the reign of Kamose, the last king who is grouped in the 17th Dynasty. It is, however, quite likely that hostilities already started during the reign of Kamose’s predecessor, Seqenenre.
A Ramesside papyrus tells the story of a quarrel between Seqenenre and his Hyksos counterpart, Apophis. Although indeed but a story, it is quite possible that it was actually based on some historic fact. Seqenenre's mummy, actually shows that this king died a violent death and shows lethal wounds that are consistent with the type of weaponry that the Hyksos used. It is therefor tempting to place Seqenenre’s death on the battlefield, perhaps in what would be the first in a long series of battles that would rid Egypt of the Hyksos.

The mummy of Seqenenre shows that this king died a violent death, perhaps on the battlefield.

The mummy of Seqenenre shows that this king died a violent death, perhaps on the battlefield.

The first historically recorded traces of a war against the Hyksos are dated to the reign of Seqenenre's successor, Kamose. Two stelae commemorate Kamose's struggle against the Hyksos and their vassals. Against the advice of his council, Kamose started or continued the war, punishing all those who had collaborated with the foreigners.

It would, however, be Kamose's successor, Ahmose, who would finally succeed in overthrowing the Hyksos. With his reign, a new period of prosperity and wealth would begin: the New Kingdom.

Click on the thumbnails below to learn more about the kings of the 17th Dynasty.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2015