First Intermediate Period

period in ancient Egyptian history after end of the Old Kingdom

During a time called The First Intermediate Period, which some people call a "dark period," Ancient Egypt went through around 125 years without a strong ruler. This happened after the end of the Old Kingdom, around 2181-2055 BC. The dynasties of the first intermediate period are: the Seventh Dynasty, the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and the beginning of the Eleventh Dynasty.[1][2]

First Intermediate Period of Egypt
c. 2181 BCc. 2055 BC
Common languagesAncient Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian religion
• c. 2181 BC
Menkare (first)
• c. 2069 BC – c. 2061 BC
Intef III (last Theban ruler)
Merykare (last Herakleopolitan ruler)
• Began
c. 2181 BC
• Ended
c. 2055 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Old Kingdom of Egypt
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
Today part ofEgypt

During the First Intermediate Period, which started after the Old Kingdom, there aren't many big buildings or monuments left to show what happened. This is especially true at the beginning of this time. This period was a time when two groups fought for power in Egypt. One group was in a city called Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt, near Fayoum, and the other group was in Thebes, which is in Upper Egypt. Some people think that during this time, temples were robbed, artwork was damaged, and statues of kings were broken or destroyed because of the political mess. The two groups fought against each other, and the group in Thebes won and took over the north. This led to the reunification of Egypt under one ruler named Mentuhotep II during the second part of the Eleventh Dynasty. This event marked the beginning of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.[3][4]

End of Old kingdom


In the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2181 BC), the power of the pharaoh decreased as nomarchs (regional governors) emerged. These officials were no longer under the control of the royal family of the 6th dynasty, and their positions became stronger, leading to the formation of local dynasties that had independence from the central control of the pharaoh.[5] some sources from later times describe the end of the old kingdom as a time of confusion and mess. The reasons for the end of the Old Kingdom are not clear, but some ideas are suggested:

  • Long reign of Pharaoh Pepi II caused problems with succession - This means that the pharaoh Pepi II who was the last pharaoh of old kingdom, lived for a very long time and died without choosing a clear successor, which caused confusion and uncertainty about who should rule after him, leading to conflicts between local governers [6]
  • governors became too powerful - The governors, also called nomarchs, became too independent and started acting like small kings in their own regions. This led to conflicts between neighboring regions.[7]
  • It's thought that at the end of the old kingdom there was less rain, farmers grew less food. This made it hard for people to survive, because they didn't have enough to eat. This could have been one reason why the rulers of ancient Egypt lost control and couldn't rule as well as they used to, as chaos started spreading



7th and 8th dynasties


The Seventh and Eighth Dynasties are not talked about much because we don't know much about the rulers during these times. A historian named Manetho said there were 70 kings who ruled for just one day each, which probably isn't true because it sounds like he was trying to explain how messed up things were during this time. It's possible that the people in charge during the Seventh Dynasty were important officials from the Sixth Dynasty who wanted to keep control of the country from Memphis. We don't have many clues about the Eighth Dynasty rulers, but they claimed to be related to the Sixth Dynasty kings and also ruled from Memphis. We don't have many artwork or texts from these dynasties, but we've found a few things, like artifacts that belongs to Neferkare II from the Seventh Dynasty, and a green jasper cylinder that might have been made during the Eighth Dynasty. There's also a small pyramid that some people think was built by a king named Ibi during the Eighth Dynasty at Saqqara. Some kings, like Iytjenu, are only mentioned once, so their roles aren't known well.[8]

9th and 10th dynasty


During the time of the weaker Memphis rulers, a group of kings rose from Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt. These rulers, known as the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, had a total of 38 listed kings. The Heracleopolitan kings are believed to have gone in wars against the weak Memphite rulers to create the Ninth Dynasty, but there is little evidence to support this theory. The ending of the 9th dynasty,and starting of 10th dynasty was marked by a significant reduction in population in the Nile Valley, and the cause of this is unclear.[9]

The founder of the Ninth Dynasty, Akhthoes or Akhtoy, is often shown as a cruel and violent ruler in historical records, such as those by Manetho.[10] It is possible that Akhthoes and Wahkare Khety I are the same person, as they both share this character and reputation [11] Wahkare Khety I is listed as a king in the Turin king list, and it is said that he caused harm to the Egyptians and eventually died from a crocodile due to his madness.[12] Kheti I succeeded Akhthoes or Wahkare Khety I, and little is known about his reign. His successor, Kheti III, may have brought some stability to the Delta region, but the power and influence of the Ninth Dynasty kings were less than that of the Old Kingdom pharaohs.[13]

During this time, a distinguished line of nomarchs emerged from the province of Siut (or Asyut) in the south. These warrior princes had close relationships with the Heracleopolitan kings and left inscriptions in their tombs that provide informations about the political situation during their reigns. These inscriptions describe the Siut nomarchs digging canals, reducing taxes, growing crops, taking care of large groups of animals, and managing the army and navy. The province of Siut was in the middle between the rulers in the north and the south, protecting them from getting into conflicts. However, the leaders of Siut often faced attacks from the Theban kings because of their position in this strategic area.[14]

11th dynasty

Funerary stela of Intef II

it has been suggested that an invasion of Upper Egypt occurred at the same time as the founding of the Heracleopolitan kingdom, leading to the establishment of the Theban kings, which included the Eleventh dynasty. These kings were believed to be familly of Intef, the nomarch of Thebes, who played an important role in organizing Upper Egypt into an independent one region in the south. Although Intef himself did not claim the title of king, his successors in the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties later did so on his behalf. Notably, Intef II made a military campaign against the north, specifically at Abydos.[15][16]

Around 2060 BC, Intef II defeated the governor of Nekhen, which allowed for further expansion south towards Elephantine. His successor, Intef III, completed the conquest of Abydos and moved into Middle Egypt against the Heracleopolitan kings. The first three kings of the Eleventh Dynasty, all named Intef, were also the last three kings of the First Intermediate Period. They were succeeded by a line of kings, all called Mentuhotep. Mentuhotep II, also known as Nebhepetra, eventually defeated the Heracleopolitan kings around 2033 BC and unified the country to continue the Eleventh Dynasty, bringing Egypt into the Middle Kingdom where Egypt was unified under one sole ruler.[17]


  1. Redford, Donald B. (2001). The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Egypt. Vol. 1. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press. p. 526.
  2. Kathryn A. Bard, An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008), 41.
  3. Breasted, James Henry (1923). A History of the Ancient Egyptians. Charles Scribner's Sons, 133.
  5. The Oxford history of ancient Egypt
  6. Ancient Egypt from the records by Mary Evelyn page n.75
  7. Egypt to the end of the Old Kingdom. by Cyril aldred
  8. Monarchs of the Nile by Aidan Dodson p.41:49
  9. Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 107.
  10. History of the ancient and medieval world p.80
  11. A history of Egypt from the earliest times to the 16th dynasty by Flinder Petrie p.114:115
  12. Baikie, James (1929) A History of Egypt: From the Earliest Times to the End of the XVIIIth Dynasty (New York: The Macmillan Company), 224
  13. Recherches sur l'histoire et la civilisation de l'ancienne Égypte by Jens Daniel Carolus Lieblein p.n56:61
  14. James Henry Breasted, Ph.D., A History of the Ancient Egyptians (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923), 134.
  16. Baikie, James (1929) A History of Egypt: From the Earliest Times to the End of the XVIIIth Dynasty (New York: The Macmillan Company), 245.
  17. James Henry Breasted, Ph.D., A History of the Ancient Egyptians (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923), 136.