Taharqa

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Taharqa

Taharqa (reigned ca. 688-ca. 663 B.C.) was a Nubian pharaoh of Egypt. He was the last ruler of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, the so-called Ethiopian Dynasty, and was driven out of Lower Egypt by the Assyrians as they began to conquer Egypt.

When Shabaka conquered Lower Egypt and thus asserted Nubian rule, he was accompanied by his nephew Taharqa, who was about age 20. Later, during Shabaka's reign as pharaoh, Egypt confronted the growing might of Assyria on the battlefield. Taharqa was at the head of the Egyptian army, but it is not clear whether the two forces actually fought. Taharqa's brother Shabataka succeeded Shabaka, and he made Taharqa his coregent in order to assure his succession. About 688 B.C., approximately 23 years after Nubian rule had been imposed over Egypt, Taharqa assumed the throne in his own right.

The next few years were peaceful, and Taharqa moved his capital to Tanis in the Delta so that he could stay well informed about events in the neighboring Asian countries. By 671 B.C. Egypt and Assyria again approached a confrontation, so Taharqa prepared to fight for the continued survival of Egypt. But the Assyrian king, Esarhaddon, crossed the Sinai Desert and defeated Taharqa's army on the frontier. In 2 weeks he was besieging Memphis. The Egyptian army crumbled under the attack of the better-disciplined Assyrian army, which was armed with iron weapons.

Taharqa fled to Upper Egypt, leaving Esarhaddon to take control of Lower Egypt. Two years later Taharqa returned with a fresh army and managed to recover control of the Delta, but this success was short-lived, and Esar-haddon's successor, Ashurbanipal, drove Taharqa south again. After this final defeat he never again tried to campaign in the north. Egypt then entered into a long era of successive foreign rulers.

During his period of Egyptian rule Taharqa had encouraged many architectural projects, as had his Nubian predecessors. He erected monuments at Karnak, Thebes, and Tanis in Lower Egypt, and he built a number of important temples in Cush, as the Upper Egyptian Nubian state was then known. During the last 8 years of his life in Cush, he continued to foster his architectural interests.

In 663 B.C. Taharqa accepted as a coregent Tanutamon, whose precise relationship to him is not clear. The next year Taharqa died and was buried in a pyramid in Nuri. Tanutamon had immediately invaded Lower Egypt himself when he was named coregent, and he managed to gain control of it for almost a decade, only to be driven out by the Assyrians, as Taharqa had been. Although the Nubians had managed to rule Egypt for only about 75 years, their kingdom of Cush in the northern Sudan survived for almost a millennium.

Further Reading

Some of the inscriptions pertaining to Taharqa's career are translated and commented upon in Egyptian Literature, edited with translation by E. A. Wallis Budge (2 vols., 1912). Since there is no biography of him, the reader must turn to the general histories of Egypt and the Sudan. Useful sources include the classic work by James Henry Breasted, A History of Egypt (1905; 2d rev. ed. 1909), and Anthony J. Arkell, A History of the Sudan (1955; 2d rev. ed. 1961). □