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Taharqa: the King of Sudan who conquered Egypt


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Taharqa also called Tirhaka was the King of Sudan who conquered Egypt. He then ruled both kingdoms from 690 BC to 664 BC. He was the son of Piye. Piye was the Nubian king of Napata who had first conquered Egypt. Taharqa was also the cousin and successor of Shebitku.

Taharqa: the King of Sudan who conquered Egypt
Taharqa (690 – 664 B.C)
Source: blackpast.org

He was a ruler of the twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt and core of the kingdom of Kush. This was from 690 to 664 BC. He was one of the “Kushite pharaohs” who ruled over Egypt for nearly a century.

Taharqa was both a pharaoh of Egypt and a king of Kush. Kush is the present-day country of Sudan. Taharqa as a name means “young man” or “young warrior”. He was the son of Piankhi.

Who was Piankhi?

Piankhi was at times called Piye was a king of the Kushites who conquered Egypt in 744. He founded the Egyptian twenty-fifth dynasty. This dynasty lasted for 88 years from 744 to 656 BC.

As a prince, Taharqa was put in command of the combined Kushite-Egyptian army. This was done by the then-pharaoh Shebitku. Shebitku was Piankhi’s successor.

Pharaoh Shebitku and the Assyrians

In 701 B.C, King Hezekiah of Judah (not part of Israel) paid tribute to Assyria (now part of Syria and Iraq). Assyria was by then ruled by King Sennacherib. Shebitku, in response, encouraged Judah to resist being a vassal nation to the Assyrians. He also secretly promised to defend the small Jewish state.

This was because he needed cushion and feared competition from Assyria. Assyria was the other major military power which could control the Levant. Levant is the present day Jordan, Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Palestine.

Assyria reacted by sending an army to reaffirm its control over Judah. Shebitku then sent a 20 year old Taharqa to intercept the Assyrian army. The Army had overwhelmed Jerusalem and threatened to crush the rebellious Judah.

The famous battle of Eltekeh

Taharqa’s combined Egyptian-Kushite army defeated the Assyrians. This was at the battle of Eltekeh. The battle took place in 701 B.C in what is now the country of Israel. Taharqa’s army freed Judah and much of the Levant from Assyrian control.

The Assyrians eventually withdrew from Judah. They did this after receiving one final ransom payment. This was from King Hezekiah.

Sudan and Egypt under the leadership of Taharqa

Eleven years later, Taharqa ascended to the throne of Kush and Egypt. Taharqa was the fourth of the Kushite pharaohs of Egypt. He ascended to the throne at the age of thirty two in 690 B.C. He ruled for thirteen years. During that period, he expanded the buying and selling of goods in the Levant.

He also organized massive construction projects in Egypt. Pharaohs before Taharqa had also started construction projects in Egypt.

King Esarhaddon and The invasion of Egypt

Peace ended in the region in 677 B.C when the Assyrian ruler, King Esarhaddon declared war on Egypt (Africanhistory.com). This he did by invading the Egyptian territory. The conflict lasted for four years.

Eventually, Taharqa and his Egyptian-Kushite army emerged triumphant. However, the Assyrian retreat was temporal.

The Assyrians regrouped and later captured Memphis together with its royal harem. They took a great amount of spoils. Memphis was the capital of Lower Egypt. Taharqa was therefore defeated by Sennacherib’s son, Esarhaddon.

How did Taharqa lose Egypt?

The Assyrians also successfully invaded Upper Egypt. By 656, the Assyrians forced Taharqa and the Kushites to withdraw south to his ancestral base in Kush (Africanhistory.com). Kush is the present day Sudan. Taharqa also went back to his palace in the city-state of Napata. After sometime, he settled in Upper Egypt as a refugee.

Taharqa’s efforts to reverse Assyrian gains in Upper Egypt in the long run failed. This was because Taharqa and the Kushites were driven from Egypt by the Assyrians. Esarhaddon set up a new Assyrian administration, entrusting the government and collection of tribute to the native chiefs. The Assyrians effectively ended the rule of the 25th dynasty over Egypt.

However, after a number of years, King Essarhaddon withdrew from Egypt.

The return of Taharqa

On Esarhaddon’s withdrawal from Egypt, Taharqa returned from his refuge in Upper Egypt and massacred the Assyrian garrisons. He held control over Egypt until he was completely routed by Esarhaddon’s Son Ashurbanipal. After his defeat, Taharqa fled south to Nubia, where he eventually died.

Taharqa in Sudan

Upon his death in 644 B.C, Taharqa was buried in a large pyramid in Nuri. This is southeast of Napata in what is now northern Sudan.

Renewed interest in Taharqa was generated in 2010. This was when a one ton granite statue of him was found buried. It was buried two hundred and seventeen miles northeast of Khartoum. Khartoum is the capital city of Sudan.


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