The Hyksos awed the Egyptians with their horse-drawn war chariots. In time, the Egyptians mastered this new military technology. The Hyksos, in turn, were so impressed by Egyptian civilization that they soon adopted Egyptian customs, beliefs, and even names. Finally, after more than 100 years of Hyksos rule, new Egyptian leaders arose, drove out the foreigners, and set up the New Kingdom.
During the New Kingdom, Egypt extended its trade routes and made peace with the Hittites to the north. How do you think the alliance with the Hittites helped Egypt reach its greatest extent?
During the New Kingdom, powerful and ambitious pharaohs created a large empire, and Egyptian civilization flourished. At its height around 1450 B.C., the Egyptian empire reached as far north as Syria near the Euphrates River. This age of conquest brought Egyptians into greater contact with the people of the Middle East as well as other parts of Africa.
Under the strong leadership of New Kingdom pharaohs, Egypt prospered. Rulers undertook huge building projects while Egyptians made advances in medicine, hygiene, dentistry, and the arts.
Among the outstanding rulers of the New Kingdom was Hatshepsut (haht SHEP soot), who reigned from about 1472 B.C. to about 1457 B.C. Like some earlier Egyptian queens, Hatshepsut began by ruling in the name of a male heir too young to take the throne. However, she then took the bold step of declaring herself pharaoh and won the support of key officials. Because Egyptians saw kingship as a male privilege, she donned a false beard as a sign of authority. She encouraged trade with eastern Mediterranean lands and along the Red Sea coast of Africa. Her stepson, Thutmose III (thoot MOH suh), took over as pharaoh once he reached adulthood. A great military general, Thutmose III stretched Egypt's borders to their greatest extent ever.
The later pharaoh Ramses II (RAM seez) won fame for his military victories. For much of his long reign from 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C., he pushed Egyptian control northward, again bringing Syria under Egyptian rule. On temples and monuments, he boasted of his conquests, although his greatest reported victory may not actually have taken place. In a battle against the Hittites of Asia Minor, only the desperate bravery of Ramses himself prevented a crushing defeat. Back home, however, Ramses had inscriptions carved on a monument that made the near defeat sound like a stunning victory.
After years of fighting, the Egyptians and the Hittites signed a peace treaty, the first such document in history known to have survived. The treaty declared that Egypt and the Hittites “shall be at peace and in brotherhood forever.”