Episode 2 Pharaohs of the Sun


In 1570 BCRome was no more than a soggy marsh and the Acropolis was just an empty rock, but Egypt was already 1,000 years old, awaiting its New Kingdom, an empire forged by conquest and remembered for eons. The sophisticated, civilized society that we call the New Kingdom was led by a remarkable succession of kings. Between them, they liberated their country, conquered their neighbors and built an empire that stretched from Syria to the Sudan. The empire brought Egypt unimaginable wealth and power and left a legacy that is still with us today, 3000 years later.
Episode 1 The Warrior Pharaohs – In 1560 BC, Egypt was divided into two. Its very existence was threatened from both north and south. But one family was determined to restore Egypt to its former glory. One by one, the King of Thebes and his two sons, Kamose and Ahmose, fought the Hyksos, who occupied northern Egypt. In 1479 BC, around 50 years after Ahmose’s death, Egypt was again in turmoil. Against all Egyptian traditions and beliefs, the pharaoh was a woman. After waiting more than 20 years, Tuthmosis III finally gained the throne. He was keen to expand Egypt’s borders and build an empire. A daring victory at Megiddo brought him fame and enormous riches. These were increased greatly by control of the Nubian gold mines. By the end of his reign, Egypt controlled a vast empire of enormous wealth.
Episode 2 Pharaohs of the Sun – When Amenhotep III became pharaoh in 1390 BC, Egypt controlled a vast empire and was rich, respected and free. But it faced the challenge of powerful new rivals. Rather than fighting these rivals, as his predecessors had done, Amenhotep III talked to them. The Amarna letters were small stone tablets – correspondence between the pharaoh and the leaders of rival nations. Instead of war, Egypt was now using diplomacy. Amenhotep was also growing tired of the power of the priests, particularly those of the chief god, Amen-Re. To keep the priests in their place, he began to pay attention to a minor god, Aten. When he died, his son became pharaoh and took this religious change to extremes. He declared that Egypt would worship only one god, Aten. When Akenhaten died, his heir inherited an empire on the brink of disaster. Tutankhamen, the new pharaoh, was just nine years old, so priests and courtiers ruled behind the scenes. He suddenly died in mysterious circumstances and was buried with the heretical remains of his father’s reign.
Episode 3 The Last Great Pharaoh – The reign of Ramesses II , known also as Ramesses the Great, marked the high point of the New Kingdom and the high point of Egyptian culture. But like any highpoint, it was all downhill as the New Kingdom gradually fell into ruin. Throughout his reign he would use propaganda to build up his reputation. Ramesses also used Egypt’s wealth to expand or rebuild its temples, including two enormous temples, carved out of the mountains of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt. He outlived almost all of his children, reigning for a remarkable 67 years and only dying at the grand old age of 93. As most subjects had been born within the lifetime of this worshipped pharaoh many thought his death marked the end of Egypt. In some ways, they were right. The New Kingdom would never again see the glory days of Ramesses the Great.