Egyptian Dynasties > Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt

Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt

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The Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, often regarded as one of the most illustrious periods in ancient Egyptian history, spanned from around 1550 BCE to 1292 BCE. This dynasty is renowned for its powerful pharaohs, significant military conquests, monumental construction projects, and cultural achievements. Here are some key aspects of the Eighteenth Dynasty:

  1. Founding: The Eighteenth Dynasty was founded by Ahmose I, who rose to power after the expulsion of the Hyksos, a foreign group that had ruled over northern Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period. Ahmose I initiated the New Kingdom era, marking the beginning of a period of renewed prosperity and imperial expansion.

  2. Military Expansion: The pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty, particularly Thutmose I, Thutmose III, and Amenhotep II, conducted ambitious military campaigns that expanded Egypt's borders to their greatest extent. Thutmose III, often referred to as the "Napoleon of Ancient Egypt," is especially renowned for his numerous successful military campaigns in Syria, Nubia, and the Levant, which brought vast territories under Egyptian control.

  3. Cultural and Architectural Achievements: The Eighteenth Dynasty witnessed remarkable cultural and architectural achievements. Pharaohs such as Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, and Tutankhamun left a significant mark on Egyptian history. Hatshepsut, one of the most famous female pharaohs, initiated ambitious building projects, including the construction of her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari. Akhenaten, known for his religious reforms and the establishment of a monotheistic cult centered around the sun god Aten, built a new capital city called Akhetaten (modern-day Amarna). Tutankhamun, though his reign was relatively short, is famous for the discovery of his intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings, which provided an extraordinary glimpse into the wealth and artistry of the period.

  4. Religious Developments: The Eighteenth Dynasty witnessed significant religious developments, particularly during the reign of Akhenaten, who attempted to shift Egypt's religious focus from the traditional pantheon of gods to the worship of Aten, the sun disk. This period of religious upheaval, known as the Amarna Period, had a profound impact on Egyptian art, architecture, and society.

  5. Decline: The Eighteenth Dynasty began to decline in its later years due to internal strife, political instability, and external threats. The reign of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and his successors saw challenges to traditional religious practices and a weakening of central authority. The dynasty eventually gave way to the Nineteenth Dynasty after the reign of Horemheb, who restored stability to Egypt.

Overall, the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt represents a period of immense power, cultural flourishing, and military conquests, leaving a lasting legacy on Egyptian history and civilization.

Amenhotep I

Amenhotep I probably left no male heir and the next Pharaoh, Thutmose I, seems to have been related to the royal family through marriage. During his reign the borders of Egypt's empire reached their greatest expanse, extending in the north to Carchemish on the Euphrates and up to Kurgus beyond the fourth cataract in the south. Thutmose I was succeeded by Thutmose II and his queen, Hatshepsut. She was the daughter of Thutmose I and soon after her husband's death, ruled for over twenty years after becoming pharaoh during the minority of her stepson, who later would become pharaoh as Thutmose III.

Thutmose III

Thutmose III who later became known as the greatest military pharaoh ever, also had a lengthy reign after becoming pharaoh. He had a second co-regency in his old age with his son Amenhotep II. Amenhotep II was succeeded by Thutmose IV, who in his turn was followed by his son Amenhotep III. The reign of Amenhotep III is seen as a high point in this dynasty. Amenhotep III undertook large scale building programmes, the extent of which can only be compared with those of the much longer reign of Ramesses II during Dynasty XIX.


Amenhotep III may have shared the throne for up to 12 years with his son Amenhotep IV, who would change his name to Akhenaten. There is much debate about this proposed co-regency. Some experts believe there was a lengthy co-regency, while others prefer to see a short one. There are also many experts who believe no such co-regency existed at all.

In the fifth year of his reign Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten and moved his capital to Amarna. During the reign of Akhenaten the Aten—the sundisk—first became the most prominent deity, and eventually the Aten was considered the only god.[8] Whether this amounted to true monotheism continues to be the subject of debate within the academic community. Some state that Akhenaten created a monotheism while others point out that he merely suppressed a dominant solar cult by the assertion of another, while he never completely abandoned several other traditional deities. Later Egyptians considered the so-called Amarna Period an unfortunate aberration. The events following Akhenaten's death are unclear. Individuals named Smenkhare and Neferneferuaten are known but their relative placement and role in history is still much debated.


Tutankhamun eventually took the throne and died young.

Ay & Horemheb

The last two members of the eighteenth dynasty—Ay and Horemheb—became rulers from the ranks of officials in the royal court, although Ay may have married the widow of Tutankhamun in order to obtain power and she did not live long afterward. Ay's reign was short. His successor was Horemheb, a general during the reign of Tutankhamun whom the childless pharaoh may have intended as his successor.[9] Horemheb may have taken the throne away from Ay in a coup. He died childless and appointed his successor, Ramesses I, who ascended the throne in 1292 BC and was the first pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty.

This example to the right depicts a man named Ay who achieved the exalted religious positions of Second Prophet of Amun and High Priest of the Goddess Mut at Thebes. His career flourished during the reign of Tutankhamun, when the statue was made. The cartouches of King Ay, Tutankhamun's successor appearing on the statue, were an attempt by an artisan to "update" the sculpture.

New Kingdom of Egypt



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