Archive for June 7th, 2009

The Top 173 Things in World History: 136. The Hyksos

The Top 173 Things in World History will examine the events and peoples that established and helped evolve the world we live in today. They are mainly things I remember vaguely from high school and re-learn with the help of Wikipedia. Historical inaccuracy is, of course, a possibility. The chronology of the posts is arbitrary; the ordering less so. We will start, however, with one of the first things we learn in History.

The Hyksos were the foreign people that attacked the Egyptians around the Second Intermediate Period—the period, of course, earning its intermediacy because the Hyksos, and not the Egyptians, were in control of the land. No one is quite sure who constituted the Hyksos, where they were from, and whether or not the attack on Egypt was premeditated or simply for kicks on a Saturday afternoon.

None of these “details” really matter, however, to the Hyksos’ legacy—a legacy as the inventors of war.

You see, when we learn history, we start in Egypt (or, in some places, Eden). Egypt boasts the remaining monuments to its success as a civilization, a decipherable method of communication, and a rich tapestry of characters that obfuscate the line between myth and history. And Egypt remains an unchallenged power until the Second Intermediate Period, when the Hyksos came, saw, and conquered—at least we think they conquered. (Inquisitive types will wonder what the First Intermediate Period was all about: It seems as if it was just some internal strife, but again, we’re not really sure.)

The Hyksos are thus the first group of people to war with another in modern civilization. Sure, there were skirmishes over land and unclaimed territory, but the Egyptians were pretty established on the delta of the Nile. Those pyramids had already been there for approximately a millennium when the Hyksos invaded. The Hyksos also introduced the chariot, which dominated warfare for close to another millennium. That’s kind of like saying the atomic bomb is going to be the dominant weapon in the 30th century. In fact, it wasn’t until the Egyptians employed chariots themselves that they were able to defeat the Hyksos and usher in the New Kingdom and a more imperialistic age of their society.

So, the Hyksos–more than just a cool name.