HYKSOS hĭk’ sōs (Gr. from Egyp. ḥk’w-ḫ’swt, i.e., rulers of foreign lands). Term used by the Egyp. historian Manetho (3rd cent. b.c.) for the foreign rulers of the 15th and 16th dynasties in Egypt, but wrongly interpreted by him as “shepherd kings,” confusing Shoshu (beduin) with Shosu, the late pronunciation of Khosu (foreign lands).

Corresponding to the six kings of Manetho’s 15th dynasty, the Turin Canon of Kings (13th cent. b.c.) has a damaged total: “6 [Hyk]sos who reigned 10[8] years.” The final expulsion of the Hyksos perhaps did not precede the eleventh year of Ahmose I (c. 1540 b.c., see Egypt), see also Nims, Thebes of the Pharaohs [1965], 199, n. 2, and Apophis was contemporary of Ahmose’s predecessor Kamose. The 108 years of the main Hyksos 15th dynasty may be reckoned at c. 1648-1540 b.c.; the “16th dynasty” consisted of petty local princelings subordinate to the main Hyksos rulers.

The origins and rise to power of the Hyksos are much discussed. The Josephus VS of Manetho with its sweeping invasion may be less realistic than the picture of an internal coup d’état in the E Delta and Memphis presented in the other views. Such a coup would have supplanted in Memphis (and Ithet-Tawy, its administrative suburb) the ruling 13th dynasty for the mastery of Egypt. The ousted dynasty found refuge in Thebes, perhaps as vassal of the Hyksos kings. Monuments of the latter are very few; only Khayan and Apophis have left statues and building fragments; other princes are known only from scarab amulets. The career of Joseph may have fallen into the late 13th dynasty and early Hyksos period. Apparently, the Hyksos dynasty largely took over the existing Egyp. administrative machine. Its rulers adopted pharaonic style, including the title “Son of Re”; Hatshepsut’s later remark that they ruled without Re reflects on their legitimacy in her eyes, not any hostility of theirs for Re. Scarabs indicate that foreigners duly attained to administrative posts (cf. Joseph), e.g., the chancellor Hur. The surviving names of Hyksos rulers are usually W Sem. when not assimilated to Egyp. (cf. Manetho: from Phoenicia), e.g., Khayan, ’Anat-har, etc. Hurrian and Indo-Aryan elements were unimportant, even if present at all. Before the Hyksos takeover, Sem. kings had already occasionally ruled Egypt in the 13th dynasty.


W. G. Waddell, Manetho, Loeb Classical Library (1948); A. H. Gardiner, The Royal Canon of Turin (1959) 17(X:21), plate III:X; W. C. Hayes, T. G. H. James, CAH (new ed.), II, chs. 2,8 (1962/65); J. von Beckerath, Untersuchungen zur politischen Geschichte der zweiten Zwischenzeit Ägyptens (1965); J. van Seters, The Hyksos: A New Investigation (1966).