A summary of the historical work of Immanuel Velikovsky
Part 7. The Sea Peoples
The successor of Ramses II was Merneptah (full name Merneptah - Hotephirmaat) and Necho's successor was called Hophra in the Bible and Apries by Herodotus. Inscriptions of Merneptah were found with a report of a campaign against invaders from Libya. The text says that Merneptah thwarted the invasion of the Libyan king who, with the help of a seafaring people, had succeded in penetrating the country almost as far as Memphis. When in the 19th century Egyptian texts could be translated, suddenly these "Sea Peoples", appeared as almost as big a surprise as the appearance of the Hittites. Merneptah mentions a successful campaign, but does not mention how the conflict with the Libyan king evolved. Perhaps Herodotus can shed light on the matter if we assume that Merneptah was Apries and the Sea Peoples were Sardinians, Siciliërs, Etruscans and Lycians. Herodotus told how, around 600 BC, the Greeks settled en masse on the coast of Libya. Apries formed a large army and went to Cyrene, a town on the Libyan coast, but was beaten by the Greeks and Cyrenians "because the Egyptians had no knowledge of Greeks and despised their enemy". Herodotus goes on to say how the Egyptian army started to mutiny and how Apries sent Amasis to restore order. Amasis, however, joined the mutineers and went up to Memphis to take over power. Apries was killed.
Amasis was an admirer of the Greeks and allowed them to settle on the Mediterranean coast. The swampy area had always been neglected in ancient Egypt. After the death of Amasis Egypt was overrun by Cambyses, the son of the Persian king Cyrus.
In the conventional historiography, the period around 1200 BC was a turbulent period. In Egypt Ramses III (of the 20th Dynasty) was king when the country risked being overrun by invaders from the north. It was thought that during this time the Trojan War was fought, that there was a sudden end to the Mycenaean civilization in Greece, that the great empire of the Hittites, plus some smaller kingdoms, were wiped off the map, and supposed that somewhere around this time the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt to the land of Canaan took place.
The following centuries, until about 750 BC, are often called dark ages - not dark because of evidence of decline and economic downfall, but more because there are virtually no traces of governments, architecture or art from this period. In Greece there are such dark ages, in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) no traces of civilization were found, and in Egyptian history we speak about "a period of confusion".
Ramses III and the Pereset
Ramses III fought against the invaders from the north, which he called the Sea Peoples. He waged war with the Sea Peoples and the "Pereset". It is believed that the Philistines were the Pereset, because Pereset may have meant the same as Peleset, but if Ramses III was threatened by the Philistines, we get a strange construction: the Philistines threatening Egypt are at the same time threatened from behind by the then nomadic Israelites and eventually pushed back by them. It's possible, but it is at least curious. To clarify this, we must figure out what is known about Ramses III.
If there can be any truth in Velikovsky's theory that Egyptian history should be shifted hundreds of years forward the following is a test. There is no doubt that Ramses III came later than Ramses II. If Ramses II (Necho II) was king around 600 BC, the 19th Dynasty being the same as the 26th Dynasty, of which Amasis was the last major pharaoh in 526 BC, where can we put Ramses III? In 525 BC Persian rule began in Egypt, when Cambyses II invaded Egypt. Is this reconcilable?
Firstly, Velikovsky points at findings in an excavation of a palace of Ramses III thirty kilometres north-east of Cairo. This excavation was a riddle for archaeologists. They found tiles with beautiful designs and with the name of Ramses III written in hieroglyphs. On the back of the tiles were unmistakable Greek characters and they were not primitive ones. The motifs on the front of the tiles were strongly reminiscent of Persian art. There was confusion about the date of these finds; were they from the time of Ramses III, or from a period when Hellenic influence was growing stronger.
Ramses III left us extensive reports of his activities, for example, on the temple where he was buried, near Thebes, but also on papyrus. In these texts we learn that Ramses III brought the country back to prosperity and peace after a long period of foreign domination in which Egypt didn't have a king. The leader of the foreign rulers was called Arsa. In conventional history the 20th Dynasty (of Ramses III) follows the 19th dynasty and there is not a long period of foreign domination between. That was just another mystery. Was he, perhaps, referring to the period of domination by the Hyksos?
Around 1200 BC there was no period of foreign domination, but if Ramses III lived 700 or more years later, there was, namely the Persian occupation of Egypt. In 525 BC they conquered Egypt and remained in power for many years, although Persian attempts to conquer Greece failed. Shortly after Artaxerxes became king in Persia in 465 BC, the Egyptians attempted to revolt. They received help from the Athenian fleet, but it ended in failure. Artaxerxes suppressed the uprising and appointed Arsames as a kind of viceroy in Egypt and throughout the area west of the Euphrates. Arsames collected the taxes and took much land for himself. Over a period of more than fifty years we find his name in various documents. Persian rule lasted until 399 BC. Ramses III may well have been talking about that 125 years of Persian domination, Arsames (Arsa) as the main embodiment thereof. The Pereset were not Philistines, but Persians. Ramses III was in power at the end of the Persian occupation of Egypt in 399 BC.
A difference of eight hundred years
The difference between conventional history and that of Velikovsky is greatest for Ramses III; a little over 800 years. Is this possible? The further we get in time, the better the coverage is and the easier we can verify facts. It is a test for Velikovsky's theories, because we cannot be content by saying that with some imagination the facts can be joined together. The details of the coverage of Ramses III and those of Greek historians must match.
So let's see what is known about the Pereset and the Persians. A similarity is found in what the Pereset wear on their head. The Pereset on the tomb of Ramses wear a crown with what appear to be upright feathers, just like the depiction of Persian soldiers in the palace of the Persian king Darius. The images of the Pereset also give the impression of well-organized and well-armed troops, not forces of more-or-less nomadic people that the Philistines must have been in 1200 BC. Further, in the Canopus Decree that was written in 238 BC in three languages, to determine the exact length of the year and to settle a new calendar, the name of Persia is written with the characters p-r-s-tt.
We must also compare the texts of Ramses III with those of Greek historians. Not the oldest historians because they were long dead when Ramses III fought his wars, according to Velikovsky. Greek writers say that from 400 BC in Egypt the following kings ruled: Neferites, Acoris, Nectanebo I, Tachos and Nectanebo II. Of them Nectanebo I, who ruled from 379-361 BC, was the most impressive figure. Diodorus of Sicily gives a detailed description of his reign.
On the reliefs on the tomb of Ramses III are shown different stages of the war with the Pereset. In the first image we see Egyptian soldiers fighting against Libyan troops, together with soldiers with a headdress that we have described as Persian and with soldiers with horned helmets, like the Greek soldiers used to wear. In the second image we see Egyptians together with "horned helmets" fighting against the Pereset and in the third image we see a battle of ships in which Egyptian soldiers are fighting against both the "feather-crowns" and the "horned helmets".
Initially, the Persians were in power in Egypt. Nectanebo became king when he was still on friendly terms with the Persians. He fought with them and with Greek mercenaries on the western frontier against Libyans and against the growing power of Carthage.
Diodorus tells us what happened next. After several years Nectanebo began to resist the Persian domination. He offered high payments and thus gathered a large number of Greek mercenaries to fight against the Persians. Chabrias the Athenian was commander of these troops and the Persians were expelled from Egypt.
The Persians, however, frequently co-operated with the Athenians in their war with the Spartans and Thebans in the same period. Athens did not want to quarrel with Persia and gave Chabrias the order to stop. According to Diodorus, in his place they sent Iphicrates to help the Persians.
Attack by sea
Iphicrates and the Persian general Pharnabazus prepared an attack on Egypt. This attack would begin from two sides; an attack by sea to the mouth of the Nile and an attack by land with a large army from Syria. Nectanebo was prepared for the attack. He fortified the eastern frontier against the invasion of the land army and fortified the different mouths of the Nile against the coming fleet. Ramses III also reported that he placed re-inforcements at the mouth of the Nile. The attack was a failure. Ramses wrote that the attackers at the mouth of the Nile were like birds entangled in a net and that the land army was defeated.
Diodorus wrote that the Greek-Persian fleet was able to conquer one of the reinforcements, but then Iphicrates and Pharnabazus quarreled. Iphicrates immediately wanted to push forward to Memphis with his Greek troops, but Pharnabazus wanted to wait for the land army and didn't want Iphicrates to get all the credit for a rapid conquest of Memphis. The invasion of the land army failed. The conquerors of the fortress on the Nile stayed there a few months, but when the water level of the Nile rose they fled. Pharnabazus complained in Athens about the behaviour of Iphicrates, but Athens appointed him commander of the fleet instead.
We see that Nectanebo won a glorious victory over an army of universally dreaded countries, but it is remarkable that there are no reports about this in Egypt. Historians and archaeologists searched for traces of Nectanebo, but nobody thought about Ramses III because he was believed to have lived hundreds of years earlier. Nobody noticed that one of the so-called Horus names of Ramses was "nekht-a-neb". In their search they found two people who left us pretty few monuments and who, one way or another, were not important persons in the country. They were Nekht-hor-heb and Nekht-Nebef. The first was initially thought to be Nectanebo I and the second was thought to be Nectanebo II. Some time later, it was decided that the first was Nectanebo II and the second was Nectanebo I. It was annoying however that the inscriptions of neither of them mentioned the wars that both Nectanebo I and Nectanebo II waged. Velikovsky came to the conclusion that the reports of the wars of Nectanebo will be found nowhere but on the tomb of Ramses III.
Nekht-hor-heb and Nekht-nebef were not Nectanebo I and II, but lived a little earlier, when the Persian power in Egypt was unchallenged and Arsames was the actual ruler. Nekht-hor-heb was a sort of governor for Arsames and there are letters preserved by Arsames to Nehkt-hor-heb. Nekht-nebef had a comparable position shortly before Nekht-hor-heb.
There are more indications that Ramses III did not live in 1200 BC but eight hundred years later, for example, in the language used in the records of Ramses III. A study mentioned that they used very many foreign words and particularly Semitic words. This is puzzling if the text is from 1200 BC, but understandable if they were from 400 BC, as there were considerable Jewish colonies in Egypt at that time. There was a large difference between these texts and classical texts from the 18th Dynasty in the application of grammatical rules and the words and letters used. It seemed that the writers of Ramses III's time didn't even know the ancient hieroglyphic characters anymore.
The last king of an independent Egypt
Subsequent events after the death of Ramses III are not clear. Maybe a merging of Greek and Egyptian data can make the image brighter. According to the Greeks, Nectanebo I was followed by Tachos. Tachos was in Palestine when one of his cousins, Nectanebo II, stood up against him in 360 BC and took his place. Nectanebo II was the last king of an independent Egypt. Until 343 BC Nectanebo II was king of Egypt and the actual ruler in Palestine. It is therefore not surprising that in Palestine traces were found of the presence of Ramses III and Ramses VI in layers where they were not expected, leading to severe recrimination between archaeologists and even insults.
The finds in Egypt showed that Ramses III was succeeded by Ramses IV and his son Ramses V. Ramses IV came to power after another pretender to the throne had been accused of conspiracy and was sentenced to death along with other conspirators. When, six years later, Ramses VI succeeded Ramses IV, he did his very best to remove all traces of Ramses IV and he also appropriated the tomb that was originally attributed to Ramses V. This shows that he came to power in an environment of conflict and we may compare this to the way Nectanebo II pursued Tachos.
The Persian king Artaxerxes III did his best to regain Egypt. In 350 BC his first campaign failed, but he was succesfull in 343 BC. His success was short-lived however. The second Persian occupation lasted from 343 until 332 BC. In that year Alexander the Great chased away the Persian rulers, made himself king of Egypt and established the Hellenic power in Egypt under the so-called Ptolemies.