Ancient Ethiopia

Another foreign invader appeared, to ride in triumph over the helpless Egyptians. This new power was Ethiopia or Nubia, the state lying to the south of Egypt far up the course of the Nile. Most of the history of Ethiopia is lost. Vague glimpses that we catch of kings and temples there fill us with curiosity. They suggest an ancient civilization different from that of Egypt, an art and culture acquired only in part from the lower Nile, partly from Asiatic sources, and partly attained as the native development of an aboriginal negroid race. Thus the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia represents what was probably the highest civilization ever attained by a negro race, or rather by a mingling of negroes and Egyptians. After a while this mixed Ethiopian race seems to have lost its progressive vigor, perhaps under the influx of masses of the wild central African negroes, and sank back into decay. The Ethiopians became once more semi-barbarians, little better than savages.

About eight hundred years before Christ, the Ethiopian armies began invading Egypt. They were not powerful adversaries, but there was no united power to oppose them. Year after year they won their way further down the Nile, re-assimilating the Egyptian culture as they advanced. They became the chief rulers of upper Egypt. And at length we find the proud record of their king, Piankhi, stating that the princes of lower Egypt, who were at war among themselves, appealed to him as a protector. He assumed the title of Pharaoh, and marching from end to end of the land reduced it all to obedience (727 B.C.). Even the priesthood thankfully accepted him as the one man who could bring order out of all the turmoil. He was crowned at Thebes with all the ancient ceremonials. A Libyan captain had already sat upon the proud throne of the ancient gods; now it was held by an Ethiopian.

More than one of the Pharaohs of this Ethiopian dynasty are mentioned in Bible history. The most important of them after Piankhi was Taharqua, the Biblical Tirhakah. Neither he nor any other ruler succeeded in establishing much authority over the fighting princes, Libyan and Egyptian, who dwelt in the Nile delta, but Tirhakah did gather them all for an incursion into Palestine. There he made alliance with King Hezekiah of Judah and with King Luliya of Tyre, and defeated and plundered the cities which opposed him. He thus brought down upon himself the wrath of the conquering Assyrians, who had seized Syria and Israel, and who objected to having any one but themselves thus snatch the spoils of Asiatic war.

Of the Assyrian victory of Sennacherib over Tirhakah we have already told, and of the subsequent mysterious destruction of the Assyrian army before Jerusalem. As a result of this struggle came the invasion of Egypt by Esarhaddon, mightiest of the Assyrian monarchs. Tirhakah, unable to oppose him, was now defeated within the borders of Egypt itself, and fled up the Nile to safety in distant Ethiopia. The vassal princes transferred their easy allegiance to Esarhaddon, and he returned to Assyria. Then Tirhakah marched back with a fresh army from Ethiopia, and was again accepted as Pharaoh, in his turn.

Helpless Egypt had become a mere see-saw upon which Assyrian and Ethiopian rose in turn. The next Assyrian sovereign, Assurbanipal, sent his forces once more to the attack. Tirhakah was again defeated and again fled. Says Assurbanipal, "The might of the soldiers of Asshur, my Lord, overwhelmed him and he fled to his place of night." Such of the Egyptians as had been most active in supporting the Ethiopian were carried off to Assyria as prisoners.

Tirhakah died; but his son, Tanutamen, came back in his stead from that dark and mysterious Ethiopia, "the place of night." For a third time, he re-established his country's power over Egypt. Assurbanipal drove him away again. Thus the two foreign powers exhausted each other. Ethiopia sank back into feebleness; Assyria had to meet the invasion of Asia by the barbarian Scyths. Egypt was left once more to her own Egyptian and Libyan chieftains. Of these the one who ultimately seized the chief power was Psamtek, the Psammetichus of the Greeks.

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Read about Ancient Ethiopia in the The Story of the Greatest Nations and the Worlds Famous Events Vol 1

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