Thutmose III

The Egyptian king Thutmose III (1504-1450 B.C.) reestablished Egyptian rule in Palestine and Syria and set the empire on a firm foundation for almost a century.

The son of Thutmose II by a concubine named Ese (Isis), Thutmose III succeeded to the throne on the death of his father but was for many years kept in the background by his aunt Queen Hatshepsut. However, he later counted his reign from the beginning of his partnership with Hatshepsut and by Year Twenty he was depicted as on a level of equality with his aunt, whom he presumably supplanted in that year or very soon after.

During the period of Hatshepsut's dominance the petty rulers of Palestine and Syria had taken the opportunity to cast off the Egyptian yoke imposed upon them by Thutmose I. In a series of brilliant campaigns extending from his twenty-second year onward, Thutmose III reestablished Egyptian control in these areas. Almost every year for 20 years, he led campaigns into western Asia.

The records of these expeditions were inscribed on the walls of the temple of Karnak in recognition of the fact that the victories had been granted by the god Amon Ra. The first campaign, in which the city of Megiddo, the focal point of Asiatic resistance in Palestine, was captured, is related in considerable detail. Although records of subsequent campaigns may have been equally fully recorded, the details in the texts have been greatly condensed, and the accounts show more interest in the booty or tribute acquired. They do, however, shed occasional light on the conduct of the operations and the policy adopted by Thutmose in administering the subjugated territories. Of particular interest is his practice not only of installing rulers on whose loyalty he could depend, but also of ensuring their continued loyalty by taking to Egypt as hostages their children or brothers.

In addition to the "Annals" at Karnak, references to Thutmose's Asiatic campaigns also occur in the texts of steles from Armant in Upper Egypt and Jebel Barkal near the Fourth Cataract, as well as in the autobiography of a military officer named Amenemhab, which is painted on the walls of his tomb (No. 85) at Thebes.

Among Thutmose's numerous building enterprises may be mentioned the Festival Hall at Karnak and the Seventh Pylon there. His funerary temple built on the edge of the western desert at Thebes is almost completely destroyed. Like his predecessors, he had a large tomb excavated for himself in the Valley of the Kings. His coffin and mummy, which are now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, were discovered in a cache at Deir el Bahari in 1881.

Further Reading on Thutmose III

Translations of Thutmose's expedition records are in James Henry Breasted, ed. and trans., Ancient Records of Egypt (5 vols., 1906-1907), and in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (1950; 2d ed. 1955). An account of Thutmose is in Alan H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction (1961). For the political and historical background see W. C. Hayes's "Egypt: Internal Affairs from Tuthmosis I to the Death of Amenophis III" in The Cambridge Ancient History, vols. 1-2 (1962).