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II. C. Meroitic and Post-Meroitic History: 250 BCE-500 CE
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For nearly a millennium after Taharqo’s death, Kushite rulers continued to make Napata  one of their major regional residences, to visit Jebel Barkal for important annual kingship rituals and coronation re-enactment ceremonies, and even to select the site for their burials, especially in the first century BCE.  About 25 BCE, Napata was attacked and briefly occupied by a Roman army led by the prefect P. Petronius. It is the only time the city figured in an historical event directly known and recorded by classical historians.  This action was a Roman response to a Kushite attack a year or two earlier on the Egyptian city of Syene (Aswan), when the new Roman governor of Upper Egypt, Cornelius Gallus, had attempted to tax Lower Nubia, a Kushite province (Török 1997, 448-455; FHN 1996 [II], 689-704).  These mutually destructive events ultimately led to the signing of a treaty between Rome and Kush, which secured peace between the two states for the remainder of their regimes on the Nile.

Although at Jebel Barkal no obvious trace of destruction has yet been found that can be attributed to Petronius’ raid, the old temples of the sanctuary were nevertheless completely rebuilt and refurbished in the first century CE by the Meroitic royal couple Natakamani and Amanitore (fig. 22) - a restoration perhaps prompted by the raid.  This king and queen erected a large palace there (B 1500), which seems to have established a precedent followed by several of their successors.  Napata probably did not cease as a focus of coronation ceremonies until the decline of the later Kushite kingdom in the fourth century CE.

Fig. 22:  Meroitic king Natakamani (right) and his wife Amanitore (left) face the Meroitic lion god Apedemak (center), who looks, and extends his hands, toward each of them.  (The god has also been made to look toward the viewer, so that the sculptor has provided him with three heads and four arms.)  From the west wall of the Apedemak temple at Naqa, Sudan, first century CE.  This famous royal pair fully restored the Jebel Barkal sanctuary for the last time and added to it an enormous palace (B 1500). (Photo: T. Kendall).


By the sixth century CE and throughout the Middle Ages, the old ruinous Kushite temples were occupied by poor Christian squatters and became part of a small Christian village.  After the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries CE, the local people were converted to Islam; the area was then occupied and settled by the warlike Shaigiya tribe and was incorporated into the kingdom of Sinnar.  In 1821, the region, as well as the rest of Sudan, was conquered by Egypt; later it was marginally controlled by the Mahdist state (1885-1898); from 1896-1956, it was part of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, until Sudan achieved independence in 1956. Today, the modern Sudanese town of Karima, estimated population about 30,000, sprawls to the southeast of Jebel Barkal, while the farmers of Barkal Village dwell among the palm groves immediately in front of it.