sixth king of the twenty-fifth or Kushite dynasty, Late period. Taharqa was the son of Piya (Piankhy) and was a younger brother of Shabtaqa, his immediate predecessor. Born late in Piya's reign, Taharqa was reared at Napata and came north to Egypt at age twenty, along with a party of royal siblings, at the behest of Shabtaqa early in the seventh century BCE. Controversy surrounds Taharqa's alleged participation in the Egyptian military intervention recorded in 2 Kings 19.9, since it has sometimes been doubted that, in 701 BCE, he would have been old enough to go on campaign, even if the title “king” in the biblical passage is viewed as an anachronism. Moreover, a recently discovered stela of Sargon from Iran may further complicate the issue: it seems to imply that Shabtaqa was on the throne as early as 705 BCE.
Coming to the throne in 689 (backdated to 690) BCE, Taharqa enjoyed a successful decade and a half in power. He moved his residence to Memphis in the north and began a long-range program of rebuilding and temple endowment. His work is still visible in temple additions at Napata, Kawa, Edfu, Thebes, Abydos, and Memphis. In the sixth year of his reign (685–684 BCE), an especially high inundation of the Nile River brought an abundant crop and the annihilation of the rodent population. Seen as a gesture of divine favor, the miracles of that year were enhanced by the visit of the queen mother from Nubia to see her son ensconced on the throne of Egypt in the capital of the land.
A policy of foreign intervention was established at that time, directed against two of the traditional trouble spots for Egyptian hegemonic claims: the Levant and Libya. Taharqa astutely took advantage of the temporary weakness of the Assyrian Empire, attendant on the ineffectiveness and eventual assassination of Sennacherib. A series of little-known campaigns in Palestine and Lebanon (reflected only in the donation lists from the temple of Kawa in Nubia) is identified for the period extending to around 679 BCE. These resulted in a short-lived sphere of Egyptian influence along the coast from Ashkelon to Byblos. A major expedition into Libya achieved sufficient success that Taharqa could claim victory and transport booty and chattels back to Egypt, destined for the estate of Amun. These military accomplishments were celebrated to such an extent that later generations remembered Taharqa as one of the last great conquerors in the pharaonic tradition.
Taharqa's fortunes fell with the advent to power of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (681–669 BCE). Whatever treaty or concordat Taharqa's predecessor had signed with Assyria was considered abrogated, and in 674 BCE the Assyrian army descended on the Nile Delta, intent on adding Egypt to the empire. Rebuffed on that occasion, Esarhaddon returned in 671 BCE and won the day. The Egyptian frontier defenses were outflanked, and Taharqa was forced to abandon Memphis and flee to the Sudan. Although he made a triumphal return to the north after the Assyrian troops withdrew, Taharqa was not to survive. The mere threat of a new invasion by the Assyrians was enough to drive him once again to Napata, where he died in 664 BCE.
- Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. Translated by Ian Shaw. Oxford, 1992.
- Leclant, Jean. “Taharqa.” In Lexikon der Ägyptologie, 6:156–184. Wiesbaden, 1986.
- Onasch, Hans-Ulrich. Die assyrischen Eroberungen Ägyptens. Wiesbaden, 1994.
- Redford, Donald B. “Taharqa in Western Asia and Libya.” Eretz Israel 24 (Jerusalem, 1993), 188*–191*.
Donald B. Redford