Last updated

Taharqa, also spelled Taharka or Taharqo (Hebrew : תִּרְהָקָה, Modern: Tirhaqa, Tiberian: Tirehāqā, Manetho's Tarakos, Strabo's Tearco), was a pharaoh of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt and qore (king) of the Kingdom of Kush (present day Sudan).

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel. Modern Hebrew was spoken by over nine million people worldwide in 2013. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name "Hebrew" in the Tanakh itself. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only Canaanite language still spoken, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

Modern Hebrew language

Modern Hebrew or Israeli Hebrew, generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew, is the standard form of the Hebrew language spoken today. Spoken in ancient times, Hebrew, a member of the Canaanite branch of the Semitic language family, was supplanted as the Jewish vernacular by the western dialect of Aramaic beginning in the third century BCE, though it continued to be used as a liturgical and literary language. It was revived as a spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries and is the official language of Israel.

Tiberian vocalization System of diacritics

The Tiberian vocalization, Tiberian pointing, or Tiberian niqqud is a system of diacritics (niqqud) devised by the Masoretes of Tiberias to add to the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible to produce the Masoretic Text. The system soon became used to vocalize other Hebrew texts, as well.


Early life

Taharqa was the son of Piye, the Nubian king of Napata who had first conquered Egypt. Taharqa was also the cousin and successor of Shebitku. [3] The successful campaigns of Piye and Shabaka paved the way for a prosperous reign by Taharqa.

Piye ancient Kushite king and Egyptian pharaoh

Piye was an ancient Kushite king and founder of the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt who ruled Egypt from 744–714 BC. He ruled from the city of Napata, located deep in Nubia, modern-day Sudan.

Napata city

Napata was a city-state of ancient Nubia on the west bank of the Nile at the site of modern Karima, Sudan.

Shebitku Egyptian pharaoh

Shebitku was the second king of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt who ruled from 714 BC-705 BC, according to the most recent academic research. He was a son of Piye, the founder of this dynasty. Shebitku's prenomen or throne name, Djedkare, means "Enduring is the Soul of Re." Shebitku's queen was Arty, who was a daughter of king Piye, according to a fragment of statue JE 49157 of the High Priest of Amun Haremakhet, son of Shabaka, found in the temple of the Goddess Mut in Karnak.

Ruling period

Taharqa's reign can be dated from 690 BC to 664 BC. [4] Evidence for the dates of his reign is derived from the Serapeum stele, catalog number 192. This stela records that an Apis bull born and installed (fourth month of Season of the Emergence, day 9) in year 26 of Taharqa died in Year 20 of Psamtik I (4th month of Shomu, day 20), having lived 21 years. This would give Taharqa a reign of 26 years and a fraction, in 690–664 BC. [5]

Serapeum temple dedicated to the Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis

A serapeum is a temple or other religious institution dedicated to the syncretic Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis, who combined aspects of Osiris and Apis in a humanized form that was accepted by the Ptolemaic Greeks of Alexandria. There were several such religious centers, each of which was a serapeion or, in its Latinized form, a serapeum. A Egyptian name for the temple of Osiris-Apis was Pr-Wsỉr-Ḥp "House of Osiris-Apis".

Stele Stone or wooden slab erected for funerals or commemorative purposes

A stele, or occasionally stela, when derived from Latin, is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected in the ancient world as a monument. Grave stelae were often used for funerary or commemorative purposes. Stelae as slabs of stone would also be used as ancient Greek and Roman government notices or as boundary markers to mark borders or property lines.

Apis (deity) sacred bull in Egyptian mythology

In ancient Egyptian religion, Apis or Hapis, alternatively spelled Hapi-ankh, was a sacred bull worshiped in the Memphis region, identified as the son of Hathor, a primary deity in the pantheon of Ancient Egypt. Initially, he was assigned a significant role in her worship, being sacrificed and reborn. Later, Apis also served as an intermediary between humans and other powerful deities.

Irregular accession to power

Taharqa explicitly states in Kawa Stela V, line 15, that he succeeded his predecessor (generally assumed to be Shebitku but now established to be Shabaka instead) after the latter's death with this statement: "I received the Crown in Memphis after the Falcon flew to heaven." [6] The reference to Shebitku was an attempt by Taharqa to legitimise his accession to power. [7] However, Taharqa never mentions the identity of the royal falcon and completely omits any mention of Shabaka's intervening reign between Shebitku and Taharqa possibly because he ousted Shabaka from power. [8]

Shabaka Egyptian pharaoh

Neferkare Shabaka was the third Kushite pharaoh of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt, who reigned from 705–690 BC.

In Kawa IV, line 7-13, Taharqa states:

He (Taharqa) sailed northward to Thebes amongst the beautiful young people that His Majesty, the late King Shabataqo/Shebitku, had sent from Nubia. He was there (in Thebes) with him. He appreciated him more than any of his brothers. (There here follows a description of the [poor] state of the temple of Kawa as observed by the prince). The heart of his Majesty was in sadness about it until his Majesty became king, crowned as King of Upper and Lower Egypt (...). It was during the first year of his reign he remembered what he had seen of the temple when he was young. [9]

In Kawa V: line 15, Taharqa states “I was brought from Nubia amongst the royal brothers that his Majesty had brought. As I was with him, he liked me more than all his brothers and all his children, so that he distinguished me. I won the heart of the nobles and was loved by all. It was only after the hawk had flown to heaven that I received the crown in Memphis.” [10]

Therefore, Taharqa says that King Shebitku, who was very fond of him, brought him with him to Egypt and during that trip he had the opportunity to see the deplorable state of the temple of Amun at Kawa, an event he remembered after becoming king. But on Kawa V Taharqa says that sometime after his arrival in Egypt under a different king whom this time he chose not to name, there occurred the death of this monarch (Shabaka here) and then his own accession to the throne occurred. Taharqa's evasiveness on the identity of his predecessor suggests that he assumed power in an irregular fashion and chose to legitimise his kingship by conveniently stating the possible fact or propaganda that Shebitku favoured him "more than all his brothers and all his children." [7]

Moreover, in lines 13 – 14 of Kawa stela V, His Majesty (who can be none other but Shebitku), is mentioned twice, and at first sight the falcon or hawk that flew to heaven, mentioned in the very next line 15, seems to be identical with His Majesty referred to directly before (i.e. Shebitku). [11] However, in the critical line 15 which recorded Taharqa's accession to power, a new stage of the narrative begins, separated from the previous one by a period of many years, and the king or hawk/falcon that flew to heaven is conspicuously left unnamed in order to distinguish him from His Majesty, Shebitku. Moreover, the purpose of Kawa V, was to describe several separate events that occurred at distinct stages of Taharqa's life, instead of telling a continuous story about it. [11] Therefore, the Kawa V text began with the 6th year of Taharqa and referred to the High Nile flood of that year before abruptly jumping back to Taharqa's youth at the end of line 13. [11] In the beginning of line 15, Taharqa's coronation is mentioned (with the identity of the hawk/falcon—now known to be Shabaka—left unnamed but if it was Shebitku, Taharqa's favourite king, Taharqa would clearly have identified him) and there is a description given of the extent of the lands and foreign countries under Egypt's control but then (in the middle of line 16) the narrative switches abruptly back again to Taharqa's youth: "My mother was in Ta-Sety …. Now I was far from her as a twenty year old recruit, as I went with His Majesty to the North Land". [11] However, immediately afterwards (around the middle of line 17) the text jumps forward again to the time of Taharqa's accession: "Then she came sailing downstream to see me after a long period of years. She found me after I had appeared on the throne of Horus...". [11] Hence, the Kawa V narrative switches from one event to another, and has little to no chronological coherence or value.


Although Taharqa's reign was filled with conflict with the Assyrians, it was also a prosperous renaissance period in Egypt and Kush. When Taharqa was about 20 years old, he participated in a historic battle with the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib at Eltekeh. According to the Hebrew Bible, at Hezekiah's request, Taharqa and the Egyptian/Kushite army managed to stall the Assyrian advance on Jerusalem, with Sennacherib eventually abandoning the siege due to the loss of 185,000 soldiers at the hand of the Lord according to the Biblical account.

The might of Taharqa's military forces was established at Eltekeh, leading to a period of peace in Egypt. During this period of peace and prosperity, the empire flourished. In the sixth year of Taharqa's reign, prosperity was also aided by abundant rainfall and a large harvest. Taharqa took full advantage of the lull in fighting and abundant harvest. He restored existing temples, built new ones, and built the largest pyramid in the Napatan region. Particularly impressive were his additions to the Temple at Karnak, new temple at Kawa, and temples at Jebel Barkal. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

Biblical references

Taharqa has been suggested to be Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia (Kush), who waged war against Sennacherib during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (2 Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9). [17]

The events in the biblical account are believed to have taken place in 701 BC, whereas Taharqa came to the throne some ten years later. If the title of king in the biblical text refers to his future royal title, he still may have been too young to be a military commander. [18]

Herodotus, the Greek historian who wrote his Histories c. 450 BC, speaks of a divinely-appointed disaster destroying an army of Sennacherib, which was defeated by Sethos (probably Shebitku) after praying to the gods. The gods sent "a multitude of field-mice, which devoured all the quivers and bowstrings of the enemy, and ate the thongs by which they managed their shields." [19] This is commemorated in "a stone statue of Sethos, with a mouse in his hand, and an inscription to this effect 'Look on me, and learn to reverence the gods'."

According to Francis Llewellyn Griffith, an attractive hypothesis is to identify the pharaoh as Taharqa before his succession, and Sethos as his Memphitic priestly title, "supposing that he was then governor of Lower Egypt and high-priest of Ptah, and that in his office of governor he prepared to move on the defensive against a threatened attack by Sennacherib. While Taharqa was still in the neighbourhood of Pelusium, some unexpected disaster may have befallen the Assyrian host on the borders of Palestine and arrested their march on Egypt." [20]

The two snakes in the crown of pharaoh Taharqa show that he was the king of both the lands of Egypt and Nubia.

Assyrian invasion of Egypt

It was during his reign that Egypt's enemy Assyria at last invaded Egypt. Esarhaddon led several campaigns against Taharqa, which he recorded on several monuments. His first attack in 677 BC, aimed at pacifying Arab tribes around the Dead Sea, led him as far as the Brook of Egypt. Esarhaddon then proceeded to invade Egypt proper in Taharqa's 17th regnal year, after Esarhaddon had settled a revolt at Ashkelon. Taharqa defeated the Assyrians on that occasion. Three years later in 671 BC the Assyrian king captured and sacked Memphis, where he captured numerous members of the royal family. Taharqa fled to the south, and Esarhaddon reorganized the political structure in the north, establishing Necho I as king at Sais. Upon Esarhaddon's return to Assyria he erected a stele alongside the previous Egyptian and Assyrian Commemorative stela of Nahr el-Kalb, as well as a victory stele at Zincirli Höyük, showing Taharqa's young son Ushankhuru in bondage.

Upon the Assyrian king's departure, however, Taharqa intrigued in the affairs of Lower Egypt, and fanned numerous revolts. Esarhaddon died en route to Egypt, and it was left to his son and heir Ashurbanipal to once again invade Egypt. Ashurbanipal defeated Taharqa, who afterwards fled to Thebes.


Taharqa died in the city of Thebes [21] in 664 BC around the time of the sack of the city by the Assyrians. He was followed by his appointed successor Tantamani, a son of Shabaka, himself succeeded by a son of Taharqa, Atlanersa. Taharqa was buried at Nuri, in North Sudan. [22]


Taharqa was described by the Ancient Greek historian Strabo as having "Advanced as far as Europe", [23] and (citing Megasthenes), even as far as the Pillars of Hercules in Spain. [24]

In biblical depictions, he is the saviour of the Hebrew people, as they are being besieged by Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:8-9, & 2 Kings 19:8-9).

Actor Will Smith was developing a film entitled The Last Pharaoh, which he planned to produce and star as Taharqa. Carl Franklin contributed to the script. [25] Randall Wallace was hired to rewrite in September 2008. [26]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sennacherib King of Assyria

Sennacherib was the king of Assyria from 705 BC to 681 BC. He is principally remembered for his military campaigns against Babylon and Judah, and for his building programs – most notably at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. He was assassinated in obscure circumstances in 681 BC, apparently by his eldest son.

The 7th century BC began the first day of 700 BC and ended the last day of 601 BC.

The 8th century BC started the first day of 800 BC and ended the last day of 701 BC. The 8th century BC is a period of great change for several historically significant civilizations. In Egypt, the 23rd and 24th dynasties lead to rule from Nubia in the 25th Dynasty. The Neo-Assyrian Empire reaches the peak of its power, conquering the Kingdom of Israel as well as nearby countries.

Esarhaddon King of Assyria

Esarhaddon was a king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire who reigned 681 – 669 BC. He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and the West Semitic queen Naqi'a (Zakitu), Sennacherib's second wife.

Ashurbanipal Assyrian ruler

Ashurbanipal, also spelled Assurbanipal or Ashshurbanipal, was King of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from 668 BC to c. 627 BC, the son of Esarhaddon and the last strong ruler of the empire, which is usually dated between 934 and 609 BC. He is famed for amassing a significant collection of cuneiform documents for his royal palace at Nineveh. This collection, known as the Library of Ashurbanipal, is now in the British Museum, which also holds the famous Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal set of Assyrian palace reliefs.

Tantamani Kushite King of Napata

Tantamani, Tanutamun or Tanwetamani (Egyptian) or Tementhes (Greek) was a Pharaoh of Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush located in Northern Sudan and a member of the Nubian or Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt. His prenomen or royal name was Bakare which means "Glorious is the Soul of Re."

Third Intermediate Period of Egypt period of Ancient Egypt (1069-664 BCE)

The Third Intermediate Period of Ancient Egypt began with the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in 1070 BC, which ended the New Kingdom, and was eventually followed by the Late Period. Various points are offered as the beginning for the latter era, though it is most often regarded as dating from the foundation of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty by Psamtik I in 664 BC, following the expulsion of the Nubian Kushite rulers of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty by the Assyrians under King Assurbanipal.

Tefnakht Egyptian Pharaoh

Shepsesre Tefnakht was a prince of Sais and founder of the relatively short Twenty-fourth dynasty of Egypt; he rose to become a Chief of the Ma in his home city. He is thought to have reigned roughly 732 BCE to 725 BCE, or 7 years. Tefnakht I first began his career as the "Great Chief of the West" and Prince of Sais and was a late contemporary of the last ruler of the 22nd dynasty: Shoshenq V. Tefnakht I was actually the second ruler of Sais; he was preceded by Osorkon C, who is attested by several documents mentioning him as this city's Chief of the Ma and Army Leader, according to Kenneth Kitchen, while his predecessor as Great Chief of the West was a man named Ankhhor. A recently discovered statue, dedicated by Tefnakht I to Amun-Re, reveals important details about his personal origins. The statue's text states that Tefnakht was the son of a certain Gemnefsutkapu and the grandson of Basa, a priest of Amun near Sais. Consequently, Tefnakht was not actually descended from either lines of Chiefs of the Ma and of the Libu as traditionally believed but rather came from a family of priests, and his ancestors being more likely Egyptians rather than Libyans.

Takelot III Egyptian pharaoh

Usimare Setepenamun Takelot III Si-Ese was Osorkon III's eldest son and successor. Takelot III ruled the first five years of his reign in a coregency with his father, according to the evidence from Nile Quay Text No.14, and succeeded his father as king the following year. He served previously as the High Priest of Amun at Thebes. He was previously thought to have ruled Egypt for only 7 years until his 13th Year was found on a stela from Ahmeida in the Dakhla Oasis in 2005.

Shepenupet II Ancient Egyptian princess and priestess, Gods Wife of Amun

Shepenupet II was an Ancient Egyptian princess of the 25th Dynasty who served as the high priestess, the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, from around 700 BC to 650 BC. She was the daughter of the first Kushite pharaoh Piye and sister of Piye's successors, Shabaka and Taharqa.

Kingdom of Kush ancient African kingdom

The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient kingdom in Nubia, located at the Sudanese and southern Egyptian Nile Valley.

Sphinx of Taharqo

The Sphinx of Taharqo is a granite gneiss statue of a sphinx with the face of Taharqo. He was a Nubian king, who was one of the 25th Egyptian Dynasty rulers of the Kingdom of Kush. It is now in the British Museum in London.

Abar (Queen) Queen consort of Nubia and Egypt

Abar was a Nubian queen of the Kingdom of Kush dated to the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt. She is known from a series of stela found in Sudan and Egypt. Her appearances mark her as the niece of King Alara of Nubia, the wife of King Piye and the mother of King Taharqa.

Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt Ethiopian period of Ancient Egypt

The Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the Nubian Dynasty or the Kushite Empire, was the last dynasty of the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt that occurred after the Nubian invasion.

Haremakhet High Priest of Amun

Haremakhet, also Horemakhet or Harmakhis, was an ancient Egyptian prince and High Priest of Amun during the 25th Dynasty.

The Sack of Thebes took place in 663 BC in the city of Thebes at the hands of the Neo-Assyrian Empire under king Ashurbanipal, then at war with the Kushite Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt under Tantamani. After a long stuggle for the control of the Levant which had started in 705 BC, the Kushites had gradually lost control of Lower Egypt and, by 665 BC, their territory was reduced to Upper Egypt and Nubia. Helped by the unreliable vassals of the Assyrians in the Nile Delta region, Tantamani briefly regained Memphis in 663 BC, killing Necho I of Sais in the process.


  1. Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p.190. 2006. ISBN   0-500-28628-0
  2. Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2004) ISBN   0-500-05128-3, pp.234-6
  3. Toby Wilkinson, The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, 2005. p.237
  4. Kitchen 1996, p. 380-391.
  5. Kitchen 1996, p. 161.
  6. Kitchen 1996, p. 167.
  7. 1 2 Payraudeau 2014, p. 115-127.
  8. Payraudeau 2014, p. 122-3.
  9. [52 – JWIS III 132-135; FHN I, number 21, 135-144.]
  10. [53 – JWIS III 135-138; FHN I, number 22, 145-158.]
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Broekman, G.P.F. (2015). The order of succession between Shabaka and Shabataka. A different view on the chronology of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. GM 245. p. 29.
  12. Diop, Cheikh Anta (1974). The African Origin of Civilization. Chicago, Illinois: Lawrence Hill Books. pp. 219–221. ISBN   1-55652-072-7.
  13. Bonnet, Charles (2006). The Nubian Pharaohs. New York: The American University in Cairo Press. pp. 142–154. ISBN   978-977-416-010-3.
  14. Mokhtar, G. (1990). General History of Africa. California, USA: University of California Press. pp. 161–163. ISBN   0-520-06697-9.
  15. Emberling, Geoff (2011). Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa. New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. pp. 9–11. ISBN   978-0-615-48102-9.
  16. Silverman, David (1997). Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN   0-19-521270-3.
  17. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14403-tirhakah
  18. Stiebing Jr, William H. (2016). Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture. Routledge. p. 279. ISBN   9781315511160 . Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  19. Herodotus (2003). The HIstories. London, England: Penguin Books. p. 153. ISBN   978-0-14-044908-2.
  20. F.L. Griffith, Stories of the High Priests of Memphis: The Sethon of Herodotus and the Demotic Tales of Khamuas (1900), p. 11
  21. Historical Prism inscription of Ashurbanipal I by Arthur Carl Piepkorn page 36. Published by University of Chicago Press
  22. Why did Taharqa build his tomb at Nuri? Conference of Nubian Studies
  23. Strabo (2006). Geography. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 7. ISBN   0-674-99266-0.
  24. Snowden, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983, p.52
  25. Jim Slotek, Kevin Williamson (2008-03-23). "Will Smith set to conquer Egypt?". Jam Showbiz. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  26. Michael Fleming (2008-09-08). "Will Smith puts on 'Pharaoh' hat". Variety . Retrieved 2008-09-08.

Further reading