Why did the power of the Egyptian Pharaohs decrease over time?

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The power of the Pharoahs decreased as Egypt suffered invasions from foreign powers which the Pharoahs were unable to prevent. Following the death of Alexander the Great (who had had himself crowned Pharaoh,) the Egyptian Empire was considerably smaller than in previous years. Alexander's general, Ptolemy, created another dynasty which included Cleopatra; but at this point Egypt was overshadowed by the growing power of Rome.

The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Egypt were originally united under the legendary Pharaoh Menes. It was Menes who founded the first Dynasty and was considered the earthly manifestation of the god Horus. He was also believed to be responsible for the flooding of the Nile, which was vital to Egyptian civilization.

Over time, several parts of Egypt broke away from central control and declared their autonomy. During the Middle Kingdom, (2040-2640 B.C.E.) the Pharaohs were able to exert some control over these areas, but never to the extent that had previously existed. Invasions from the Hyskos, who used bronze weapons as opposed to the wooden weapons of the Egyptians, caused resentment among powerful Egyptian nobles who caused a revolt. The Hyskos were eventually expelled, but again with a loss of power to the Pharoah. Ultimately, about 700 B.C.E. Kushite and Assyrian armies invaded Egypt. The Kushites were eventually expelled; but the Assyrians ruled Egypt for almost 100 years before their own empire collapsed.  


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During the 20th dynasty, towards the end of the 2nd millennium B.C., the Egyptian empire began to falter under the strain of repeated attacks by Mediterranean invaders known only as "Peoples of the Sea," who crossed over from the region of Greece and attacked Egypt from the north, and via Libya in the west. The Third Intermediate Period was now upon Egypt. As one weak dynasty followed another, the country slid into anarchy. Competing dynasties, including one founded by priests and another by a Libyan prince, began to tear the country apart. Eventually, in 667 B.C., the country was invaded by the Assyrians, a neighboring Middle Eastern empire with a reputation for ruthlessness and, for a brief while, they dominated the country. The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs fought back and momentarily reestablished their rule, only to be invaded once more, in 525 B.C., by the powerful Persian Empire, which reduced their country to the status of a mere province. Despite initially respecting the customs and traditions of the ancient Egyptians, the new Persian rulers became heavy-handed once they had consolidated their power. A series of anti-Persian uprisings culminated in a brief spell of renewed Egyptian independence, only to be dashed by yet another Persian invasion in 341 B.C.