The Black Pharaohs: 8 Events That Led To the Rise and Fall of the Kush Empire

The Black Pharaohs: 8 Events That Led To the Rise and Fall of the Kush Empire

By Patrick Lynch

The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient Nubian kingdom located in modern-day Sudan and South Sudan. The first developed societies had settled in the region before the First Dynasty of Egypt which was founded sometime around 3100 BC. However, we don’t learn a great deal more about the Kushites until the Egyptian Middle Kingdom period when Mentuhotep II underwent campaigns against the Kush during the 21st Century BC.

When Egyptian expansion resumed during the Old Kingdom period, beginning in the 16th Century BC, the Kushites resisted, but the region became a colony of Egypt during the reign of Thutmose I who was Pharaoh from approximately 1503 – 1493 BC. For almost 500 years, the Kushites had to pay tribute to the Pharaoh, but Egyptian control of the region ultimately collapsed during the New Kingdom period. Eventually, the Kush Kingdom became independent and flourished for centuries. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating and relatively unknown empire.

1 – The Formation of the Kingdom of Kush (2100 BC? – 1500 BC)

The Nubian region was known by different names before the formation of the Middle Kingdom by Mentuhotep II in around 2051 BC. The Kush Kingdom gained its independence at some stage during the First Intermediate Period of Egypt which began in 2181 BC. The earliest Egyptian reference to the kingdom occurred during the 29th year of Mentuhotep’s reign which means he probably faced them in the late 2020s BC.

The Kushites of Nubia. Ancient Origins


The Kush Kingdom flourished during Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period (1730 – 1580 BC), and its capital was called Kerma. The leader of the kingdom was known as the Prince of Kush. There is further mention of Kushites in the first stele of the Pharaoh Kamose, the last ruler of Upper Egypt during the Egyptian Seventeenth Dynasty. The stele outlines that the Kush Kingdom’s northern frontier was based at Elephantine in the south and Casae in the north.

While Kamose’s first stele showed an element of satisfaction with the political situation, the second stele suggests that the Pharaoh declared war on the Nubians before Egypt attacked the Hyksos.  Ahmose I (1549 – 1524 BC) completed the occupation of Nubia according to the autobiography of Admiral Ahmose who was involved in the mission. The Pharaoh went to a region of Nubia to overthrow the inhabitants after he had dealt with the Asiatics.

However, the total conquest of southern Sudan wasn’t completed until the reign of Thutmose I (1503 – 1493 BC). The result was the end of the Kingdom of Kush’s independence. The Pharaoh arrived in Tumbus in the south and advanced 50 miles south of Abu Hamed where he left an inscription. There is also a suggestion that he also built a fort. Nubia would be under Egytian control for almost five centuries; a period that left an indelible mark on its culture.