Cultures > Meshwesh


Egypt History - Egyptian Chapter Decoration


The Meshwesh, also known as the Ma, Ma-sha, or Ma-shu, were an ancient Libyan tribal confederation that played a significant role in the political and military history of ancient Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period and later periods. Here's an overview of the Meshwesh and their interactions with ancient Egypt:

  1. Origins and Identity:

    • The Meshwesh were a Berber-speaking people who originated from the western Libyan Desert and the region of Cyrenaica (modern-day eastern Libya).
    • They were one of several Libyan tribal groups collectively referred to as the Libu by ancient Egyptian sources.
  2. Military Service:

    • The Meshwesh first appear in ancient Egyptian records during the late New Kingdom period (around the 12th century BCE) as mercenaries serving in the Egyptian army.
    • They were valued for their skills as archers and light infantry and were often employed as mercenaries or auxiliaries in Egyptian military campaigns.
  3. Political Influence:

    • Over time, the Meshwesh became increasingly influential in Egyptian politics, particularly during the Third Intermediate Period (circa 1070–712 BCE).
    • Meshwesh chieftains and leaders rose to prominent positions within the Egyptian state, serving as provincial governors, military commanders, and even kings.
  4. Dynastic Period:

    • The Meshwesh played a key role in the collapse of the New Kingdom and the subsequent political fragmentation of Egypt.
    • They were involved in the power struggles that ensued during the Third Intermediate Period, often competing with other Libyan and Nubian groups for control over various regions of Egypt.
  5. Twenty-Second Dynasty:

    • The Meshwesh are best known for establishing the Twenty-Second Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the Libyan Dynasty, which ruled from around 945 to 745 BCE.
    • Shoshenq I, a Meshwesh king, founded the Twenty-Second Dynasty after seizing power in Lower Egypt and eventually reunifying the country under his rule.
  6. Cultural Impact:

    • The Meshwesh brought aspects of their own culture and traditions to Egypt, influencing Egyptian art, architecture, and religious practices.
    • They also adopted elements of Egyptian culture and religion, incorporating them into their own customs and belief systems.
  7. Decline:

    • The power and influence of the Meshwesh declined after the end of the Twenty-Second Dynasty, although they continued to play a role in Egyptian politics as subordinate rulers or military leaders.
    • Eventually, they were absorbed into the broader Egyptian society and lost their distinct identity as a separate tribal group.

In summary, the Meshwesh were a Berber tribal confederation from Libya who played a significant role in ancient Egyptian history, particularly during the Third Intermediate Period and the Twenty-Second Dynasty. Through their military service, political influence, and eventual establishment of a ruling dynasty, the Meshwesh left a lasting impact on the culture and politics of ancient Egypt.


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