Egyptian history is clouded in doubt and mystery. We do recognize however that the contributions from this great and ancient culture to Western Civilization are numerous and profound. The purpose of this essay is to explore one of the greatest and perhaps least knows rules of Ancient Ruler, Taharka. The purpose of this essay is to explore Taharka's life in an attempt to become more familiarized with his accomplishments in influencing today's world. By examining his life, we may be able to understand more about today's current situation, not only in the Near and Middle East but all around the world.
Silverman (1997) described the region before Taharka's birth around 880 BC, as a "fragmented condition where Egypt began to fall under the influence of a state that had once been its colony, " the Nubian kingdom of Kush. Taharka's father Piye. Kush had become a great power and when it was time for Taharka to rule a great superpower to Egypt's east, Assyria challenged Egypt for local dominance.
Taharka is probably one of the most accomplished yet underrated rulers of Napatan Kush. He was crowned at the young age of 32 when he became king and became the sole heir to a kingdom that included not only Kush but Kemet as well. Taharka was a great and prosperous military leader as he successfully commanded military campaigns in Western Asia and as far away as Palestine and led expeditions all the way to Northern Spain. Mention of his great campaigns can be found in the Bible (Isaiah 37:9, 2 Kings 19:9).
During his reign, Taharka controlled the largest empire in Ancient Africa. In his great wisdom he began a program that took effect all throughout his empire which was overwhelming in scope. The number and grand elegance of his building projects were immense and of historic proportion. Most believe the greatest of these buildings being the temple at Gebel Barkal in the Sudan. As magnificent and beautiful as anything ever created, this temple was carved from hard rock and decorated with images of Taharka that stood over 100 feet high.
Taharka, was considered the fifth King of the 25th Dynasty. This region encompassed what was Sudan and Upper Egypt. Taharka was crowned, as being the third Pharaoh of that same Dynasty, consisting of the aforementioned Sudan, Upper Egypt and the whole of Lower Egypt. Most if not all of this area was incorporated during the reign of Taharka's father, King Piye, but did not completely fall under the reign of Shabaqa, who according to Akntola (2010)," was either the uncle or brother of the eventual King Taharka. Ruling from 690-664 BC, Taharka is remembered best for his building exploits in Memphis and Thebes, as well as his military interactions with, and eventual defeat at the hands of, the Assyrians."
Taharka was still only a prince before earning his prominence. He had not earned the title of King, and one year prior to his marching on Sennecherib, Taharka and his Nubian-Egyptian army was brutally and violently beaten by the Assyrians at the Battle of Eltekh. This did not dismay Taharka, and the leader began a new campaign to be what was considered by many historians a very minor and unthreatening Assyrian forces looking to conquer Jerusalem. A common enemy was being shared by Egypt and the Judaic forces.
When Taharka's armies began their assault and started their march, the Assyrians retreated and decided to forgo their attack and return home. The Bible records that the Assyrians may possibly have left because of angelic assistance or divine intervention (Aubin, p.117). More historic sources reference that the event in reality was that the Assyrian army was anything but full strength or posing any real threat while they had quickly depleted their provisions. The idea of facing Taharka on one side, and a militia from Jerusalem on the other, made a tactical withdrawal seem the most prudent and expedient move.
Here we begin to see the impact of Taharka on Western Culture. Some scholars believed that he was Tirhakah in the Bible, it is said that as the King of the Ethiopians, he led an army against Sennecherib the Assyrian, causing him to break his siege of Jerusalem during the time of Hezekiah. Jerusalem, and Taharka's defense of this holy land, therefore puts him in heroic light to the followers of these religions. Perhaps if Taharka did not take to its defense, the story of Judaic-Christian-Islamic development would be quite different. The influence of these acts cannot be underestimated as the pivotal role Egypt continued to play with Ancient Judaism's development and history further demonstrates the strong and sometimes paradoxical relationship each party played with one another.
Draper (2008) helped explained this concept: "the deliverance of Jerusalem is not just another of ancient history's sidelights, one might assert, but one of its pivotal events. It allowed Hebrew society and Judaism to strengthen for another crucial century -- by which time the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar could banish the Hebrew people but not obliterate them or their faith. From Judaism, of course, would spring Christianity and Islam. Jerusalem would come to be recast, in all three major monotheistic religions, as a city of a godly significance."
Nearly a decade later, Pharaoh Shebitiku lay dead, some say on the orders of Taharka himself, but either way, Taharka had now taken the crown and became Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, as well as the King of Kush, his native lands. With Taharka still maintaining rigid control over his land and people a new side of this ruler began to show itself. His views shifted from military conquests to creative challenges. During this creative period, Taharka proved himself to be the architect and purveyor of many building projects throughout the lands of Egypt.
For some time, peace was ruling and all seemed well for thirteen years while the son of Taharka's one time Assyrian enemy Sennecherib, Esarhaddon, began to consolidate his kingdom and waged war against rebellious outlying bands of culture consisting of the Cimmerians, Scythians, and the Kingdom of Van. Khan (2004) described the situation: "with Esarhaddon's control of his territory well in hand, a preliminary strike against the borders of Egypt near the Red Sea was launched. With the Egyptian forcing easily pushing aside the Assyrians. " Taharka was confident in his position but unfortunately for him, fully unprepared for what was to come. This was a deadly combination.
Within five years, the main Assyrian army massed on the borders of Egypt and with incredible and vigilant speed, pushed their way to Memphis, conquering many square miles of Lower Egypt and at the same time capturing the Pharaoh's wife and son. With his victory in the North, Esarhaddon took control of the territory, and placed a puppet ruler in place and left back home for Assyrian territory.
Free of the Assyrian King, Taharka fought many skirmishes and minor battles, while simultaneously funding and inspiring insurrections from the territory he still held south of Memphis. In 669 BC, Taharka had a minor comeback in a quest to regain some glory. He recaptured Memphis, even though it was not quite as great as it was before. As a result of this conquest, a greatly displeased Esarhaddon massed his troops in order to push back into Egypt with the intention of defeating Taharka once and for all.
As he began his travel there however, the King of Assyria died while leaving his son Ashurbanipal to challenge Taharka and complete the eradication of the Nubian dynasty. Ashurbanipal's army, amassed with the troops of armies his father had destroyed once before, were more than a match for Taharka and his depleted and overmatched army. The consequences of Esarhaddon's campaign were as follows: Esarhaddon re-affirmed Assyrian control over the whole Levant…