The Hyksos were foreign rulers of Egypt who seized power and ruled Lower (northern) Egypt. Contradictory dates and king lists, as well as gaps in the records, render their history elusive, but the Hyksos were most likely Palestinian. The combined efforts of Egyptian kings Seqenenre, Kamose, and Ahmose and their mothers forced out the last Hyksos ruler, Apepi, around 1530 b.c.e.
The Second Intermediate Period is the label given to the years of Hyksos power. At the end of the Middle Period of Egyptian history the breakdown of centralized authority and fragmentation of administrative control led to the neglect of Egypt’s borders. Areas may have fallen to the kingdom of Kush or to Nubia, and the eastern border also brought invaders.
Immigrants called Aamu (usually translated as Asiatic) may have been entering for years, settling in the Nile Valley and assimilating into local villages. About 1650 b.c.e. a group of foreign chieftains with Semitic names took control of Egypt’s Delta and ruled from Memphis.
Possibly, they simply took over existing posts and pushed out the local administrators. Egyptians referred to these kings as heka-kaswt (or hikkhase or hikau khausut), meaning "rulers of foreign lands". Greek historians shortened that phrase to Hyksos.
A major source of our knowledge of the Hyksos is the Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote in the first century c.e. Josephus quoted the Egyptian priest Manetho, whose book of Egyptian history—now lost—was composed around 270 b.c.e., 1,300 years after the Second Intermediate Period.
According to Josephus, the Hyksos came from the east and seized power without striking a blow, and then destroyed temples and cities and enslaved or killed the inhabitants. Their appointed king was Salitis; Bnon and then Apachman succeeded him. Josephus listed six Hyksos kings, and their reigns averaged 43 years each.
Sextus Julius Africanus, who wrote in the third century c.e., also quoted Manetho. He listed six Hyksos kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty, whose reigns totaled 284 years, followed by 518 years given to the Sixteenth Dynasty, also Hyksos.
The Seventeenth Dynasty combined Hyksos and Theban kings, who ruled a total of 151 years. Other king lists are equally confusing and the dates unreliable, but most scholars accept that during these dynasties, kings ruled simultaneously in different parts of Egypt.
The numbers are difficult to reconcile, but historians believe that the Hyksos rulers never tried to unseat the Egyptian kings in Upper Egypt. There, the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egyptian kings continued, probably paying taxes to the Hyksos.
The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Dynasties were Egyptian and centered in Thebes. Concurrently, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Dynasties of Hyksos kings ruled from either Memphis or Avaris in the northeast Nile Delta.
The Hyksos may have brought unique weapons with them and possibly introduced horses, chariots, the vertical loom, the lyre, and other innovations to Egypt, but overall they adopted Egyptian ways and culture.
The greatest Hyksos king, Apepi, employed many scribes during his long reign; their work indicated just how Egyptian the Hyksos had become. Apepi waged war with the Theban king Seqenenre Taa of the Seventeenth Dynasty. Seqenenre was killed in battle; his mummy has been identified and is riddled with brutal blows.
Seqenenre’s nephew, Kamose, continued the fight, though he did not live long. Kamose’s younger brother Ahmose is credited with finally removing the Hyksos and its last king Khamudi, and uniting Upper and Lower Egypt again.
Stele praise the mother of Kamose and Ahmose, Ahhotpe, who guarded Egypt and expelled the rebels, and Seqenenre’s mother Tetisheri is also given credit. The final conflict between Hyksos and Theban kings lasted for 30 years.