We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

From Slave to Pharaoh

The Black Experience of Ancient Egypt

Donald B. Redford

Publication Year: 2004

In From Slave to Pharaoh, noted Egyptologist Donald B. Redford examines over two millennia of complex social and cultural interactions between Egypt and the Nubian and Sudanese civilizations that lay to the south of Egypt. These interactions resulted in the expulsion of the black Kushite pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty in 671 B.C. by an invading Assyrian army. Redford traces the development of Egyptian perceptions of race as their dominance over the darker-skinned peoples of Nubia and the Sudan grew, exploring the cultural construction of spatial and spiritual boundaries between Egypt and other African peoples. Redford focuses on the role of racial identity in the formulation of imperial power in Egypt and the legitimization of its sphere of influence, and he highlights the dichotomy between the Egyptians' treatment of the black Africans it deemed enemies and of those living within Egyptian society. He also describes the range of responses—from resistance to assimilation—of subjugated Nubians and Sudanese to their loss of self-determination. Indeed, by the time of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, the culture of the Kushite kings who conquered Egypt in the late eighth century B.C. was thoroughly Egyptian itself. Moving beyond recent debates between Afrocentrists and their critics over the racial characteristics of Egyptian civilization, From Slave to Pharaoh reveals the true complexity of race, identity, and power in Egypt as documented through surviving texts and artifacts, while at the same time providing a compelling account of war, conquest, and culture in the ancient world.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (40.7 KB)
pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (39.3 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.0 KB)
pp. ix-x

The present work is not a history of Nubia and the Sudan in antiquity, still less a history of Egypto-Nubian relations up to the seventh century B.C. The advent of complex society in the Nile Valley and the possible role and interaction of Nubia in the process of the development of the state are, similarly, not the burden...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (186.6 KB)
pp. 1-4

Despite its course through inimical terrain and its periodic interruption by cataracts (see map 1), the Nile constitutes one of the truly great and most easily negotiated transit corridors in the world. It also provides security and a guarantee of life. A community living along its banks is sheltered from hostile incursions from almost any point of the compass. Although it is a simple matter to keep in touch with people...

read more

1. Egyptians and Nubians

pdf iconDownload PDF (302.5 KB)
pp. 5-10

Human interaction between communities operates on many levels. Although conventional attitudes and propaganda do not necessarily characterize each one, at root lies an intensely personal identification of the individual which thrives on hostility, for one must not only, for purposes of safety and power, define and belong to the “kin” group, the “us,” but must...

read more

2. The Problem of Frontiers

pdf iconDownload PDF (336.3 KB)
pp. 11-18

Egypt enjoys the protection of a series of well-defined natural frontiers that enhance the meaning of boundary in the consciousness of anyone resident in the land.1 Rugged deserts east and west demarcate the limits of life with the sureness and abruptness of a single line, and the treacherous Mediterranean and the shelving beaches of the Delta prevent passage as effectively as a physical wall...

read more

3. Nubia: Egypt's Primary Sphere of Influence

pdf iconDownload PDF (165.8 KB)
pp. 19-23

Throughout all its ancient history Egypt oriented itself upriver: south would have been “up” on any pharaonic map large enough to include northeastern Africa. The word for “west,” imntt, was derived from the Afro-Asiatic root for “right hand,” and the verb “to go forward (by ship)” meant “to sail south.”...

read more

4. "Plotting in Their Valleys": The Unruly Tribesmen

pdf iconDownload PDF (187.1 KB)
pp. 24-30

By the last quarter of the third millennium B.C., northeastern Africa and the Levant were experiencing major changes on all fronts. The prosperous period of large towns in Palestine, labeled EB III in archaeological nomenclature, ended in the abandonment or destruction of these settlements and the absence of sedentary society thenceforth for several centuries.1 At the same time,...

read more

5. From Chiefdom to State and Back Again: The Final Conquest of Kush

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.2 KB)
pp. 31-37

The extraordinary effort expended by the pharaonic government of the Twelfth Dynasty to occupy and hold Nubia cannot be entirely explained by the attraction of natural resources: a certain degree of apprehension is attested in the preoccupation with military concerns. It has been noted that many of the forts at the Second Cataract are so sited as to maximize their potential...

read more

6. The Egyptian Empire in Kush

pdf iconDownload PDF (552.9 KB)
pp. 38-57

Although Thutmose I’s reign may be construed as a watershed in the history of the Sudan, his crushing victory did not mean that Egypt was automatically accepted by the autochthonous inhabitants. For more than a century it had to battle against increasingly isolated and weakened communities that saw no reason why they should relinquish their autonomy....

read more

7. The Silent Years: The Abandonment of Lower Nubia and the Rise of Napata

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.8 KB)
pp. 58-64

By the time of the first millennium B.C. the southland had entered a “dark age.” Herihor and his successors might well have displayed the old title “viceroy of Kush” as an expression of their claim to jurisdiction over the old Sudanese province,1 but it became increasingly a hollow claim. By the close of the Twentieth Dynasty, if not before, the inscriptions...

read more

8. The Sudan Invades Egypt

pdf iconDownload PDF (143.3 KB)
pp. 65-71

In the eyes of the youthful Nubian kingdom the vista that now opened to view in the old mother country to the north was anything but comforting. Frankly it was appalling. Gone were the piety and reverence and fear of god that had characterized the traditional Egypt of the New Kingdom. Egyptians were now a bastard race, shot through with the barbarity of godless foreigners....

read more

9. The Invasion of Piankhy

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.4 KB)
pp. 72-79

It must be remembered, when attempting to write a history of Egypt’s foreign involvement from about 900 to 525 B.C., that for most of our textual material we are reliant on non-Egyptian sources. The battle of Raphia points up the difficulties for the historian inherent in such a situation. If Sargon’s victory had been so complete, why had he not pursued—...

read more

10. The Twenty-fourth Dynasty

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.3 KB)
pp. 80-85

Tefnakhte died very shortly after Piankhy retired, but not before dedicating a parcel of land within his domains to Neit of Sa

read more

11. The Resistance to Assyrian Expansion

pdf iconDownload PDF (203.0 KB)
pp. 86-92

Unlike his deceased older brother, Sabaco did not retire to Napata after his victory over the north.1 Thebes became a focal point for the new regime, enhanced by the presence of Amenirdis I, Sabaco’s sister, as Divine Adoratress of Amun, but whether Sabaco himself established the city as his residence is uncertain. Though they wore upon occasion the expected crowns of the pharaohs, Sabaco and his successors...

read more

12. "Taharqa the Conqueror"

pdf iconDownload PDF (423.4 KB)
pp. 93-100

The date of Sabaco’s death is unknown at present. His latest dated inscription records a fifteenth year with a calendric of the eleventh day of the month Payni (= the tenth month),1 so that, if this text is accepted as genuine, he must have survived into the summer of 698 B.C. In accordance with Kushite custom, the throne passed...

read more

13. Egypt of the "Black Pharaohs"

pdf iconDownload PDF (612.6 KB)
pp. 101-116

The kings of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty had thus reinvigorated Egypt. Success had been enjoyed on the battlefield, and at home the extensive building program had signaled a revived economy. In the administration and state ideology, also, the Kushite regime had awakened Egypt and brought an end to the disastrous decline of the previous four centuries....

read more

14. Thebes under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 117-138

The city that benefited most from the Sudanese occupation of the lower Nile was understandably the city of Amun himself, Thebes.1 The “southern city,” as it was known in a jargon fashioned in the Memphite-dominated north, had suffered a dramatic and damaging drop in population and diminution in spacial extent at the close of the Twentieth Dynasty,...

read more

15. The End of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty in Egypt

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.3 KB)
pp. 139-144

From Dynasties 22 through 26 Egypt’s desert frontiers, both east and west, remained reasonably secure. On the east the Wady Hammamat quarries were extensively worked, at least under the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, and the Red Sea offered, as it always had, an easily negotiated transit corridor to the south.1 If bedu continued to filter into the valley...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.5 KB)
pp. 145-148

Although no one realized it at the time, the disaster of 671 effectually terminated Kushite aspirations to control the entire Nile Valley to the Mediterranean. Two further Assyrian invasions in 666 and 663 B.C. drove home the point that Kushite arms could not sustain the claim to hegemony over Egypt which the kings of Napata asserted. And even in the face of the Assyrians’ brutality...

List of Abbreviations

pdf iconDownload PDF (66.8 KB)
pp. 149-152


pdf iconDownload PDF (280.4 KB)
pp. 153-208


pdf iconDownload PDF (689.8 KB)
pp. 209

E-ISBN-13: 9781421404097
E-ISBN-10: 1421404095
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885440
Print-ISBN-10: 0801885442

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 38 halftones, 16 line drawings
Publication Year: 2004