Egypt: Historical Overview

Introduction

Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs had a long-lasting and important impact on all aspects of human civilization, and an exhaustive exploration of its history is not necessary here.

There are, however, two events that were of key importance to human history, though they are not generally know to modern historians. Those events were the coming of Esther the Hittite to Egypt, and the first known contact between humans and an alien race. Coincidentally, both of these events happened at the same time, in the 19th year of the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III of the 18th Dynasty, 1450 B.C.E.

Background

Tuthmosis was a child when his father died, and so the land was ruled by his aunt (and stepmother) Hatepshut. During her stewardship the Phoenicians and Hittites wiped out most of Egypt's eastern colonies.

Hatepshut is mainly remembered for the expedition to the fabulous Land of Punt, which took place during her reign. Although little is known of this expedition, it is significant as the first recorded encounter with the Land of Punt in our history.

When Tuthmosis reached adulthood and was crowned Pharaoh, he built an army and conducted campaigns to reclaim Egypt's colonies. While his attention was turned east, however, events of great significance were quietly unfolding in the south of his country, on the borders with Egypt's satellite state of Nubia.

Nubia

Nubia encompassed a vast tract of land, mostly desert, to the south of Egypt. Nubians had a reputation as fierce, proud warriors.

Nubia was an important province and a trade partner bound by oaths of loyalty to the Pharaohs of Egypt. The Nubians remained a self-governing people. In later years, Tuthmosis would campaign in Nubia and extend Egyptian dominance as far south as the Fourth Cataract, creating a provincial capital at Napata. But in 1450 B.C.E. Egyptian power extended no further south than the town of Hebenu on the Third Cataract. The lands beyond remained under the control of the Nubians and were considered dangerous territory for Egyptians to enter.

Hebenu

Hebenu was a trading town of some importance, being the nexus for the southern trade routes beyond the Third Cataract. The town administrator was Nekure, an old man and a generally wise and prudent governor, though prone to bouts of superstitious paranoia in his old age.

Head of the town's soldiers, and charged with protecting the trade routes, was Sabu, an experienced general recently returned from the Syrian war with a significant quantity of treasure after losing his left hand in battle. He returned a bitter and angry man.

Nekure's chief priest, astrologer, and trusted advisor was Meriptah, a priest of the town's patron deity, Hathor.

The Story

Our story began in the early summer, some weeks before the flooding of the Nile. The harvest had been gathered and was being shipped down the Nile, this task occupying almost every available boat and sailor in Hebenu.

On one particular summer night, a star was seen to fall in the southern sky. Nekure was troubled by this portent, and consulted his astrologer, Meriptah. The astrologer was unable to interpret the omen, and advised Nekure to seek advice from the priestesses of Nut in their temple at the Fourth Cataract, in the Nubian territory. Nekure concurred, and determined to send a trusted envoy to present gifts to the priestesses and return with the answer to the riddle.

Now all he had to do was pick someone foolish enough to agree to the journey...