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Dynasties of Ancient Egypt
Predynastic Period
Protodynastic Period
Early Dynastic Period
1st 2nd
Old Kingdom
3rd 4th 5th 6th
First Intermediate Period
7th 8th 9th 10th 11th
Middle Kingdom
11th 12th
Second Intermediate Period
13th 14th 15th 16th 17th
Abydos Dynasty
New Kingdom
18th 19th 20th
Third Intermediate Period
21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Late Period
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29th 30th 31st
Hellenistic Period
Argead Dynasty
Ptolemaic Dynasty

The Third Intermediate Period refers to the time in ancient Egypt from the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in 1076 BC to the expulsion of the Nubian rulers of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty by Psamtik I of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty in 656 BC.

Political developments[]

This period is characterized by the country's fracturing kingship. Even in Ramesses's day, his dynasty (the Twentieth) was losing its grip on power in the city of Thebes, whose priests were becoming increasingly powerful. After his death, his successor Smendes I founded the Twenty-first Dynasty and ruled from the city of Tanis, and High Priests of Amun at Thebes ruling the south of the country. In fact this division is less significant than it seems since both priests and pharaohs came from the same family.

The country was firmly reunited by the Libyan Twenty-second Dynasty founded by Shoshenq I in 945 BC (or 943 BC), whom many, especially those adhering to the vaidity of the Bible, think was descended from Meshwesh immigrants, while others, particularly Nubiologists (those researching Nubia), have proposed that he was a Nubian. This brought stability to the country for well over a century, but after the reign of Osorkon II, particularly, the country had effectively splintered into two states with Shoshenq III of the Twenty-second Dynasty controlling Lower Egypt by 818 BC while Takelot II and his son Osorkon B (the future Osorkon III) ruled Middle and Upper Egypt. In Thebes, a civil war engulfed the city between the forces of Padibastet I, who had proclaimed himself Pharaoh versus the existing line of Takelot II/Osorkon B. These two factions squabbled consistently and the conflict was only resolved in Year 39 of Shoshenq III when Osorkon B comprehensively defeated his enemies. He proceeded to found the Upper Egyptian Libyan Dynasty of Osorkon IIITakelot IIIRudamun, but this kingdom quickly fragmented after Rudamun's death with the rise of local city states under kinglets such Peftjauawybastet of Heracleopolis, Nimlot of Hermopolis, and Ini at Thebes.

The Kushite kingdom to the south took full advantage of this division and political instability. Prior to Piye's Year 20 campaign into Egypt, the previous Nubian ruler – Kashta – had already extended his kingdom's influence over into Thebes when he compelled Shepenupet I, the serving God's Wife of Amun and Takelot III's sister, to adopt his own daughter Amenirdis I, to be her successor. Then, 20 years later, around 732 BC his successor, Piye, marched North and defeated the combined might of several native Egyptian rulers such as Peftjauawybastet, Osorkon IV of Tanis, and Tefnakhte of Sais. Piye established the Twenty-fifth Dynasty and appointed the defeated rulers as his provincial governors. He was succeeded first by his first son and grandson; Shabataka and Shabaka, and then by his second son Taharqa.

The international prestige of Egypt had declined considerably by this time. The country's international allies had fallen firmly into the sphere of influence of Assyria and from about 700 BC the question became when, not if, there would be war between the two states. Taharqa's reign and that of his successor, (his cousin) Tanutamun, were filled with constant conflict with the Assyrians against whom there were numerous victories, but ultimately Thebes was occupied and Memphis sacked. The dynasty ended with its rulers stuck in the relative backwater of the city of Napata.

Instead Egypt was ruled (from 664 BC, a full eight years prior to Tanutamun's death) by the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, client kings established by the Assyrians. Psamtik I was the first to be recognised by them as the King of the whole of Egypt, and he brought increased stability to the country in a 54 year reign from the city of Sais. Four successive Saite kings continued guiding Egypt into another period of unparalled peace and prosperity from 610-526 BC. Unfortunately for his dynasty, a new power was growing in the Near East – Persia. Pharaoh Psamtik III had succeeded his father Ahmose III scarcely a year in 526 BC before he had to face the might of Persia at Pelusium. The Persians had already taken Babylon and Egypt was no match. Psamtik was defeated and briefly escaped to Memphis, but ultimately he was imprisoned and executed at Susa, capital of the Persian king Cambyses, who now assumed the formal title of Pharaoh.


The historiography of this period is disputed for a variety of reasons. Firstly there is a dispute about the utility of a very artificial term that covers an extremely long and complicated period of Egyptian history. The Third Intermediate period includes long periods of stability as well as chronic instability and civil conflict: its very name rather clouds this fact. Secondly there are significant problems of chronology stemming from several areas: first, there are the difficulties in dating common to all of Egyptian chronology but these are compounded due to synchronsyms with Biblical Archaeology that also contain heavily disputed dates. Finally, some Egyptologists and biblical scholars, such as Kenneth Kitchen, or David Rohl have novel or controversial theories about the family relationships of the dynasties comprising the period.


TanutamunTaharqaShabakaShabatakaPiyeKashtaBakenrenefTefnakhte IShoshenq VIIRudamunTakelot IIIOsorkon IIIShoshenq VIPadibastet ITakelot IIHorsaiset (pharaoh)Osorkon IVShoshenq VPamiShoshenq IVPadibastet IIIuput IShoshenq IIIOsorkon IITakelot IShoshenq IIcShoshenq IIbShoshenq IIaOsorkon IShoshenq IPsusennes IISiamun (pharaoh)Osorkon the ElderAmenemopet (pharaoh)Psusennes IAmenemnisutSmendes IPsusennes IIPinedjem IISmendes IIMenkheperre ADjedkhonsiuefankh AMasaharta APinedjem IHerihor25th Dynasty24th Dynasty23rd Dynasty22nd Dynasty21st Dynasty


  • Dodson, A.M., 2001: Third Intermediate Period. In: Redford, D.B. (ed): The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Vol. 3 of 3 vols. Oxford University Press and The American University in Cairo Press, Oxford, New York, and Cairo, p. 388-394.
  • Kitchen, K.A. 1996: The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC). 3rd ed. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Limited.
  • Myśliwiec, K., 2000: The Twighlight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E.. Translated by David Lorton. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.
  • Taylor, J.H., 2000: The Third Intermediate Period (1069–664 BC). In: Shaw, I. (ed): The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, p. 330-368.
Preceded by:
New Kingdom
Third Intermediate Period
Succeeded by:
Late Period