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Battle of Leuctra › Origins

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 26 June 2013

Battle of Leuctra, 371 BCE (Dept. of History, U.S. Military Academy)
The Battle of Leuctra in 371 BCE gave Thebes a decisive victory over Sparta and established Thebes as the most powerful city-state in Greece. The victory was achieved through the daring and brilliant pre-meditated tactics of the Theban general Epaminondas who smashed the Spartan hoplites and put to rest the myth of invincibility that Sparta had enjoyed for centuries.
The exact details of the battle, which took place on the plain of Leuctra near Thebes, and even its full consequences are debated amongst scholars, notwithstanding the fact that the earliest source is Xenophon who could draw on eyewitnesses for his account of the battle in his Hellenika.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In the early 4th century BCE the Greek poleis or city -states, following a century of mutually damaging on-off conflicts, had established an uneasy peace but as Sparta called for the Boeotian Confederacy led by Thebes to be abolished, war seemed once again on the horizon. Thebes quite naturally rejected the Spartan demands, a reaction not unexpected as is evidenced by the fact that Sparta had already mobilised their army and taken a position on the western border of Boeotia before the Thebans gave their answer.

THE ASSEMBLED ARMIES

Sparta and her allies were led by King Cleombrotus. The army consisted of four divisions ( morai ) numbering 2,048 men of which 700 were full Spartan citizen hoplites. Added to these were some 9,000 men provided by Sparta's allies. Of this 11,000 total, 1,000 were cavalry. It might also be noted that after more than a decade of fighting, the Spartan's allies probably lacked enthusiasm for further conflicts.
Thebes had at its disposal some 7,000 hoplites which included the 300 members of the elite Sacred Band, a unit of homoerotic pairs who swore to defend their lovers to the death and who at Leuctra were led by the gifted and charismatic Pelopidas. The Thebans also had 600 cavalry who were probably the best in Greece at that time. In addition, there was a small force of light-infantry ( hamippoi ) who were armed with javelins and supported the cavalry. The entire force was led by the brilliant general Epaminondas. The austere military commander, a student of Pythagorean theory, would prove to be the most innovative and successful commander Thebes had ever had and one of Greece's finest ever generals.

PRELIMINARIES


EPAMINONDAS EMPLOYED THE MOST INNOVATIVE AND DEVASTATING PRE-MEDITATED STRATEGY EVER SEEN IN GREEK WARFARE.
Some of the Theban commanders at first thought it prudent to retreat behind the walls of Thebes and invite a siege rather than face the fearsome Spartans on the open battlefield. However, Epaminondas persuaded them otherwise. Always able to use propaganda and imagery to boost morale, Epaminondas recalled the notorious rape of two local virgins by two Spartans at Leuctra. The two victims had committed suicide in shame, and a monument in their memory had been set up. Epaminondas made sure suitable homage was paid to this monument before the battle and another symbolic gesture he was credited with was the brandishing of a snake and his statement that by striking the head of the snake - the Spartan army - the whole snake would die - Spartan dominance of Greece.
The first real action of the battle was when the Spartans attacked the Theban non-combatants (baggage porters, merchants etc.) who were retreating back to Thebes. However, in the attack, Hieron, the Spartan leader was killed and the Thebans were forced to rejoin the main force.

BATTLE

Cleombrotus positioned his troops in the traditional phalanx formation of heavily armoured hoplites 12 men deep with two wings. Cleombrotus himself, surrounded by his elite hippeis (300-man bodyguard), took up position on the left side of the right wing.
Epaminondas was much more innovative and put his cavalry and light-infantry in front of his own phalanx formation. Rejecting the convention of making one's right wing the strongest, he made his left wing extraordinarily deep - 50 ranks of men - and made his lines narrower than the Spartans. The Sacred Band was also positioned on the left wing with the Boeotian allies being stationed on the right wing, 8-12 men deep.

Greek Phalanx

Greek Phalanx

Cleombrotus responded to this surprising development by re-organising his own lines, moving his cavalry out front and extending his line in an effort to outflank Epaminondas' left wing. This relatively complex series of battle manoeuvres exposed Cleombrotus' immediate left side, and as the Spartan cavalry were no match for the Thebans who soon routed them, the Spartan horsemen were forced back onto their own lines and through the gap which had opened on Cleombrotus' left. The Thebans followed them through this gap and proceeded to create chaos in the Spartan formation. Epaminondas, meanwhile, attacked at an angle towards the left so that, in effect, Cleombrotus was being pushed away from his own line. Epaminondas' attack was also conducted with his own right wing slightly in arrears in an echelon formation to protect his own exposed flank as he attacked the Spartan hippeis. At this point Pelopidas and the Sacred Band also attacked Cleombrotus' position resulting in the fatal wounding of the Spartan king and the complete defeat of the Spartan right.
In all, 1000 Lacedaemonians fell, including 400 Spartan hoplites. Thebes was now the most powerful polis in Greece and, after 200 years of victories on land, the myth of Sparta's military invincibility was finally smashed.
The strategies that Epaminondas had employed in the battle were not entirely new, but in the past they had been used more out of necessity rather than planning, and no one had ever combined them to create such a winning formula. The massively strengthened left wing, the use of cavalry in front of the hoplite lines, attacking at an angle, employing an echelon formation, and going for a direct frontal attack on the opposing commander's position were, collectively, the most innovative and devastating pre-meditated military strategy ever seen in Greek warfare and the defeat of mighty Sparta shocked the Greek world.

Greek Hoplite

Greek Hoplite

AFTERMATH

Sparta's defeat led to the disintegration of the Peloponnesian League, as many of her allies became independent or switched allegiance to Thebes. The Messenian helots were freed, a new polis of Messene was established, Mantineia, which had suffered a demise under Spartan control, was revitalised into a thriving polis once again, and another new polis - Megale Polis (Megalopolis) - was founded in Arcadia to keep Sparta in check.
Following the battle and the complete upheaval of the status quo in Greece, Athens called for a peace conference in 371 BCE but Thebes refused, perpetuating the power struggle between various Greek poleis which had bedevilled Greece for the last century or more. Athens even sided with her old enemy Sparta, but Thebes, with Persian backing, continued her expansionist policies and, once again led by Epaminondas, went on to defeat the Spartan and Athenian alliance at the battle of Mantineia in 362 BCE. However, Epaminondas himself was killed in the battle and following a damaging struggle amongst his successors and the continued weakness of Athens and Sparta, the short-lived Theban dominance of Greece came to an end, and the Greek cities were now ripe for conquest, a situation Philip II of Macedonia took full advantage of in 338 BCE.

Battle of Pydna › Origins

Definition and Origins

by Donald L. Wasson
published on 19 February 2015

The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus (Fotopedia)
The Roman Republic was expanding, enlarging its sphere of influence along the Adriatic, so when several of the southern Greek city -states appealed to them to ward off the advances of Philip V of Macedon, they entered into the fray, commencing a series of what became known to history as the Macedonian Wars. In June of 168 BCE, the Roman general Lucius Aemilius Paullus entered into battle against Philip's successor and son Perseus near Pydna, a city in northeastern Greece. The resulting fight would spell the end of an empire established by Philip II and his son Alexander the Great and enable Rome to secure its place as the dominant power on the Mediterranean Sea.

THE FIRST MACEDONIAN WAR ENDS & THE SECOND BEGINS

This final meeting between the Macedonians and Romans came after a long period of conflict beginning around 215 BCE. It would be the last opportunity to answer the question of which was better: the phalanx of Macedon or the legions of Rome. The Romans had first become involved in Greece when Hannibal Barca of Carthage, already at war with Rome in the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE), entered into an alliance with Philip V of Macedon. Fearing the consequences of this union, the Greek city-states appealed to Rome -- an ally of Illyria -- and together they prevented Philip from conquering the peninsula.While the alliance with Hannibal had initially proven to be a distraction to Rome, it did not deter them from the conflict in Greece. An uneasy peace was reached, bringing an end to the First Macedonian War. Unfortunately for both Rome and Greece, Philip could not stay idle for long and rekindled his desire to conquer all Greece, initiating the Second Macedonian War. In 200 BCE, he made another alliance, this time with Antiochus III, the king of the Seleucid Empire ( Syria ), which was a part of Alexander ’s old empire.

THE BATTLE OF PYDNA ENABLED ROME TO SECURE ITS PLACE AS THE DOMINANT POWER ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA.
In 197 BCE the Romans proved victorious over Philip's forces at Cynoscephalae where he lost over 13,000 men. Philip realized he could not win against a superior army and abandoned his plans. In 194 BCE the Romans returned home, and for a short time, Greece was declared free. In 190 BCE King Antiochus, who had expanded his empire into Asia Minor and the Balkans, finally ended his fight with Rome after a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Magnesia at the hands of Scipio Africanus(the same man who had defeated Hannibal at Zama in the Second Punic War). His conquered lands were returned. Ironically, Philip, despite his earlier alliance, actually aided Rome against Antiochus. Although Rome had never entered the wars to gain land, many of the Greek city-states became obligated to Rome.

THE LEGION OR THE PHALANX?

Throughout these battles in Greece, the Romans remained confident, believing that their superior training, coupled with flexibility and speed, would bring them success. To the Romans, the victories against Philip and Antiochus were primarily due to the superiority of their army -- an army that demonstrated itself to be far more adaptable than that of their enemy. These were victories of the legion over the phalanx -- victories of the double-edged gladius (Roman sword) over the 18 foot sarissa (Macedonian spear).
History had long shown the strength of the phalanx, a formation that had led to the conquest of Persia decades before, and a formation advanced by Phillip II and his son Alexander. In the 4th century BCE the Macedonians possessed an army with vastly improved weaponry and over-all tactical ability that forged an empire that encompassed much of the known world, but it was also a formation dependent primarily on cohesion; it could be ineffective if otherwise. While the phalanx had proved valuable to the Macedonian army earlier, the victories at Issus and Gaugamela were in the past. The Romans had recognized one the few faults with the phalanx: it was vulnerable to both flank and rear attacks. This fault would eventually bring about the defeat of the Macedonians and their supremacy over Greece.
Although the phalanx had been successful against Darius III and the Persians, the Romans proved to be a different matter, but this final battle at Pydna was not the first meeting between the legion and phalanx. Initially, the phalanx proved to be a worthy and effective opponent. In 280 BCE as Rome expanded its domain on the Italian boot, the city of Tarentum appealed to Pyrrhus, the King of Molossis (cousin of Alexander), for help. The Romans were quickly defeated by Pyrrhus, his army, and his elephants at the Battle of Heraclea. The following year the two armies met again at Asculum, and again, Pyrrhus and his army of over 40,000 routed the Romans, despite significant losses, which was a Pyrrhic victory. In 276 BCE, the third and final meeting between the two forces (Carthage also joined the battle on the side of Rome) at Beneventum (a city near Naples) saw the Romans victorious.

Philip V of Macedon

Philip V of Macedon

Under the leadership of Philip V and his son Perseus, Macedon was in decline; it was no longer the dominant force it had been under Alexander and his successors. The army had changed little. The Macedonian soldier still carried the traditional sarissa, the xiphos, a shorter sword for close-in-hand fighting, and a shield hanging from his left shoulder; his two hands remained free to carry the long 18 foot pike. As in the past, the phalanx functioned well on clear, even ground, but it could only fight in one direction, as it needed lighter troops on the flanks to protect the sides. To be fair, there are those who dispute this idea, pointing to Alexander's victory at Gaugamela. On the other hand, the Roman legions proved to be far more flexible, relying on tactical maneuvers to defeat their enemies, and as demonstrated at Pydna, could function on any terrain. Like the phalanx, the Roman legion was well-organized. Generally numbering about 5,000 men, it was divided into maniples: each maniple was composed of two centuries (about 80-100 men). Besides the short sword or gladius, the Roman solder carried a javelin or pilum and shield or scutum.

PERSEUS SUCCEEDS PHILIP V

In 179 BCE Philip V died, succeeded by his son Perseus, who, like Alexander before him, chose to continue his father's dream. Some claim the new king quickly disposed of his pro-Roman brother. In 172 BCE war erupted between Eumenes of Pergamum and Perseus; Eumenes had begun acquiring territory in both Asia Minor and the Balkans. This expansion caused considerable concern for both Rome and Macedon. Perseus further angered the Romans when he made an alliance with a number of Germanic tribes, Rome's enemies to the north. Deciding that Perseus posed the bigger threat, the Romans entered the fray on the side of Eumenes. Unfortunately for the Romans, Perseus defeated them in three separate battles (171 -170 BCE). Perseus, however, failed to follow his victories with any further assault on Roman forces. Instead, he positioned himself in a more defensive measure, possibly giving Rome more respect than they deserved at that time. In 168 BCE the Senate took the initiative to appoint someone new to lead the Roman forces against Perseus. He was the recently-named consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus, a 60-year-old veteran of battles in Spain and Liguria and the brother-in-law of Scipio Africanus.

Perseus of Macedon

Perseus of Macedon

PERSEUS & PAULLUS MEET

In June of 168 BCE Paullus finally met Perseus in battle. After arriving in Greece, Paullus had taken the time to retrain his exhausted army well, an army that was in serious need of discipline. With the Roman fleet stationed in the Gulf of Thessalonika, serving as a decoy, possibly to cut off the Macedonian supply line, the Roman army reached the Elpeus River where Paullus planned to attack Perseus's camp. Using locals as guides, he sent a small force along a path at the base of Mt.Olympus, hoping to flank Perseus from the northwest. Learning of this plan, Perseus chose not to fight and quickly broke camp, fleeing southward.
Paullus had no intention of letting the Macedonian king escape; he regrouped his men at Diem, and followed Perseus, catching up with him outside Pydna, a city located on the Leucus River. Paullus set up his camp at the foothills of Mt. Olocrus, overlooking the Macedonian encampment. He had 25,000 thousand infantry (together with 34 elephants), while Perseus had 40,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry (no elephants). At this time Perseus could have defeated the Romans without a battle; he could have easily prevented the Roman supply lines from reaching them, thereby starving them out. Instead, both sides prepared to do battle.

The Battle of Pydna

The Battle of Pydna

On the night of June 21, 168 BCE there was a lunar eclipse that had been predicted by one of the Roman soldiers. It was a sign that the gods favored the Romans. To honor the gods, Paullus made a sacrifice of oxen and heifers. The Macedonians interpreted the eclipse quite differently; they shouted at the moon to return -- to them it was a sign of evil which foretold their defeat. Early the next day, a short truce was declared, enabling both sides to get water from a short stream that ran between the two armies; shortly, however, it came time for battle. One story tells of a bolting horse (some say mule) initiating the fight.Perseus and his men immediately went on the offensive, crossing the river. He had two phalanxes in the center, mercenaries on the left, and cavalry on the right. Paullus positioned his men at the foot of the mountain, with his elephants in the rear and cavalry on the left, Latium allies on the right, and two legions in the center.

THE END OF THE BATTLE OF PYDNA

The battle only lasted about an hour. There was some early Macedonian success; the Romans began pulling back, but this initial success soon waned as Perseus's army marched onto broken ground and slowed, creating a gap. Paullus went on the offensive. He sent his elephants to attack Perseus's left flank, which immediately collapsed, and ordered his legions to enter the gap and, as with Darius at Gaugamela, this proved to be advantageous for the Romans and their short swords; it became an attack from within. The Macedonians were forced to throw down their sarissas and use their xiphos, and a one-on-one, hand-to-hand, fight began. Seeing that defeat was imminent, Perseus fled, taking his cavalry with him, first to his capital of Pella and then to the island of Samothrace (losing much of their treasure to an unscrupulous sea captain).
The Romans slaughtered the remaining Macedonians: over 20,000 were dead and 6,000 taken prisoner (5,000 more were on the run). Rome lost only 100 with 400 wounded. Perseus was pursued and captured after the Romans circled the island. He was taken to Rome where he was paraded through the streets; a total humiliation for him but a symbol of victory for the Romans. Pydna was plundered and looted and the countryside ravaged. The rest of Greece was not safe as the Romans then overran both Athens and Corinth.
Thus ended the Third Macedonian War. Macedon was, at last, defeated. Throughout the previous wars, Rome had made no territorial gains, but after the Battle of Pydna their luck and policy both changed. The Roman Senate chose to occupy Greece and Macedon. Rome now controlled the Adriatic. The Macedonians were no longer a threat. While Greek culture may have conquered Rome, the Roman Republic and, later, the Roman Empire, conquered the Greeks and dominated the Mediterranean Sea for the next few centuries.

Conflict Between the Temple and the Crown in Ancient Egypt › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 03 March 2017
The gods of ancient Egypt were worshipped as the creators and sustainers of all life. People acknowledged their supremacy and intimacy daily through rituals, amulets, and their labor for the king. Everyone, from farmers to craftsmen to merchants, nobility, scribes, and the king, observed their own specific acts in their own ways to honor the gods but the basic structure, the understanding, of these rituals came from the priesthood.
Priests in ancient Egypt were thought to have a special relationship with the gods. Their primary function was to care for the god they served. Priests did not preside over worship services, read from scripture, or proselytize; their purpose was to tend to the needs of the gods, not the people.
This is not to say they were not involved in the lives of the community, however. Their work was thought to please the gods and the gods would then show their pleasure through the inundation of the Nile River which fertilized the fields and through the abundant harvest which resulted. Health and prosperity were signs that the gods were content with the sacrifices and offerings made to them and, conversely, sickness and famine and poverty were clear indications something had gone wrong.

Amun, Ramesses II, & Mut

Amun, Ramesses II, & Mut

When times were good for the Egyptians, the gods were praised and offerings made by the priests in thanks; when life was difficult the priests were expected to determine what had gone wrong and mend the relationship between the people and their gods. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson comments on this:
From the earliest eras, the spiritual aspirations of the Egyptian people were given expression by the priests, who maintained their cults and generally performed their religious obligations with loyalty and scrupulous dedication.(209)

THE POWER OF THE PRIESTS

The king was considered the First Priest since he was the mediator between the gods and the people and it was the king's office which would appoint the high priest to a temple. Obviously, however, the king had many other duties and so the high priest oversaw the obligations due the gods and also the day-to-day operations and staff of the temple complex.

OLD KINGDOM MONARCHS REWARDED THE PRIESTS BY MAKING THEIR OFFICE TAX EXEMPT WHICH EMPOWERED THE PRIESTHOOD TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT THEY WOULD OFTEN RIVAL THE KING IN WEALTH.
Among the most important duties of these priests were mortuary rituals performed for the continued existence of the soul in the afterlife. Everyday, after the morning rituals of Lighting the Fire and Drawing the Bolt (encouraging the sun to rise by lighting the temple fire and opening the shrine of the god) priests would occupy themselves with prayers and offerings to the souls of the dead, especially prior kings, queens, and nobles.
During the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) the kings built their now-famous mortuary site at Giza and developed others elsewhere. All of these sites required priests to perform the same rituals they did at the temples to ensure the continuance of the souls in the afterlife. The Old Kingdom monarchs rewarded the priests by making their office, and so whatever goods their lands produced, tax exempt. This policy empowered the priesthood to such an extent that, throughout Egypt's history, they would often rival the king in wealth and, eventually, effectively replace him.

THE CULT OF AMUN

The word 'cult' as applied to Egyptian religion does not have the same meaning it does in the present day. The cult of a god referred to that particular deity's worship, beliefs surrounding him or her, and rituals enacted, much like a sect in modern day religion. Every major god or goddess had a cult following and a temple (or temples) in which they were thought to reside.Among the most powerful of these, from the Old Kingdom onward, was the cult of the god Amun.

Amun

Amun

Amun began as a local god of the city of Thebes in the Old Kingdom but rose to prominence as the city became more central in Egyptian political affairs in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) and, especially, in the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE). During the New Kingdom a position was created which would eventually completely represent the power of Amun's cult: God's Wife of Amun.

GOD'S WIVES & THE RISE OF AMUN

There were a number of god's wives by the time of the Middle Kingdom and probably earlier. These were royal ladies, usually the mother, wife, or eldest daughter of the king, who were granted the honorary title and would assist in rituals and at festivals.There was a God's Wife of Ra and a God's Wife of Ptah as well as a God's Wife of Amun but none of these women had any more political power bestowed on them with the title than they had before.
During the Second Intermediate Period (c. 1782-c.1570 BCE) Egypt was divided between the rule of the foreign Hyksos in Lower Egypt, Thebes in Upper Egypt, and Nubia to the south. The Theban prince Ahmose I (c.1570-1544 BCE) drove the Hyksos from the country, defeated the Nubians, and united Egypt under Theban rule; he credited his victory to the god Amun.Amun now became, not only the god of Thebes, but the savior of Egypt through his servant Ahmose I.

Ring of Ahhotep

Ring of Ahhotep

Ahmose I's mother, Ahhotep I (c.1570-1530 BCE), held the title of God's Wife of Amun and may have used it, as well as her position as king's mother, to put down a rebellion when Ahmose I was campaigning against the Nubians. This is the first instance of a God's Wife wielding political power; but it would not be the last. Ahhotep I conferred the title on her daughter (and Ahmose I's wife), Ahmose-Nofretari, and the position suddenly now carried greater responsibility and prestige and, with it, greater wealth.

GOD'S WIFE OF AMUN

Whereas in the Middle Kingdom the God's Wife would have been simply one aspect of a ritual or festival, she was now central to both. Further, she was allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the temple, the presence of the god, an honor previously reserved only for the high priest. Egyptologist Betsy Bryan of Johns Hopkins University identifies the duties of the God's Wife of Amun beginning with Ahmose-Nofretari:
1. Participation in the procession of priests for the daily liturgies of Amun. She was shown accompanying the priests called "god's fathers", a general designation that could include the top four priests of the temple, known by numbered position, ie, "first priest", etc.
2. Bathing in the sacred lake with the pure priests before carrying out rituals.
3. Entering the most exclusive parts of the temple together with the high priest. This included the holy of holies.
4. With the high priest, "calling the god to his meal", reciting a menu of food offering being presented to Amun.
5. With the high priest, burning wax effigies of the enemies of the god to maintain the divine order.
6. Shaking the sistrum before the god to propitiate him.
7. Theoretically, as the "god's hand", assisting the deity in his self-creative masturbation. In this way and in her sistrum activity (a sexual allusion) she performed as the god's wife. (2)
These duties came with tax-exempt land, housing, food, clothing, gold, silver, and copper, male and female servants, wigs, ointment, cosmetics, livestock, and oil. While most of this payment was used in the performance of her duties, the lands would generate further revenue which would go directly to the God's Wife as her personal property, not to the temple.

Statuette of Queen AHMOSE-NEFERTARI

Statuette of Queen AHMOSE-NEFERTARI

Ahmose I could have elevated the position to diminish the power of the priesthood which, even during those eras of a weak central government, (the First and Second Intermediate periods), had continued to grow since the Old Kingdom. If this was his motivation, it served only to treat a symptom of the problem.

GOD'S WIFE & THE PHARAOH

Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) was honored with the position under her father Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) and later claimed she was actually the daughter of the god. After Hatshepsut came to power as queen, she conferred the title on her daughter Neferu-Ra in keeping with the tradition of the pharaoh selecting the new God's Wife. In doing so, she also kept the wealth of the position within the sphere of the crown and out of reach of the priests.
The God's Wives who follow Neferu-Ra throughout the New Kingdom and into the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1069-525 BCE) are almost all virgin daughters of the pharaoh but this did nothing to significantly curb the power of the cult of Amun.Akhenaten (1353-1336 BCE), famous as the religious reformer who introduced monotheism to Egypt and outlawed the old faith, may have been motivated by this problem of the priesthood's wealth and power far more than any mystical revelation concerning a one true god. Akhenaten abolished the position of God's Wife of Amun at the same time he disbanded the cult and closed all temples except those dedicated to his god, the Aten.

Akhenaten

Akhenaten

Following Akhenaten's death, however, the old traditions were resumed and the cult of Amun quickly regained their power.Egyptologist Helen Strudwick writes:
More than any other god in the Egyptian pantheon, Amun demonstrates the close link between religion and politics in ancient Egypt. During the New Kingdom, the Temple of Amun at Karnak was the largest in Egypt and its priests became so powerful economically as well as spiritually, that they threatened the supremacy of the pharaoh himself. (114)
This is most clearly seen in the Third Intermediate Period when Thebes was a theocracy ruled directly by Amun. This era was another in which the central government had weakened and rule was divided between Thebes in Upper Egypt and Tanis in Lower Egypt. The pharaoh at Tanis ruled directly but, at Thebes, the priests presided under the governance of Amun himself.Egyptologist Marc van de Mieroop explains:
The god made decisions of state in actual practice. A regular Festival of the Divine Audience took place at Karnak when the god's statue communicated through oracles, by nodding assent when he agreed. Divine oracles had become important in the 18th Dynasty; in the Third Intermediate Period they formed the basis of governmental practice. (266)
The priesthood had long become a hereditary position where fathers groomed their sons as successors in the same way a king did a prince. Each generation expanded the power and influence of the preceding one. The position of God's Wife had also become hereditary with the present woman choosing and grooming her successor.

POWER STRUGGLE & THE PERSIAN INVASION

The priests became so powerful that, when the Libyan king Shoshenq I (942-922 BCE) came to power he abolished the practice of priests succeeding their fathers and God's Wives choosing their successors and mandated that all priests and God's Wives were to be appointed by the pharaoh himself. He did not go so far as to ban the cult of Amun because the god had become far too popular and powerful by that time but he did what he could to check their power.

Temple of Amun, Karnak

Temple of Amun, Karnak

His example was followed by the Nubian pharaoh Kashta (c. 750 BCE) who appointed his daughter Amenirdis I as God's Wife of Amun, making her the most powerful woman in the country and the effective ruler of Upper Egypt from Thebes.
Kashta's son Piye (747-721 BCE) did the same when he appointed his daughter Shepenwepet II God's Wife and entrusted her with the rule of Upper Egypt when he led his campaign against Lower Egypt. This same paradigm was followed by the kings who succeeded Piye until the Persian invasion of 525 BCE crushed the power of the cult of Amun and ended the position of God's Wife.
The title would continue to be held in Nubia, however, where the cult flourished at Meroe. The exact same pattern seems to have repeated there as in the thousands of years of Egypt's history where the king had to struggle against the power of the priests for supremacy. Finally, in c. 285 BCE, King Ergamenes of Meroe had all the priests of Amun massacred to resolve the problem and abolished the position of God's Wife. The cult would continue, though, and exert influence in Meroe and elsewhere until it was finally replaced by the new religion of Christianity.

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