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Lifeblood of the tower house

Medieval Europe was a predominantly agrarian society. Although the extent to which manorialism existed within medieval Ireland has been debated, pre-modern Ireland’s economy was nevertheless dominated by agriculture. This chapter identifies what specific kinds of agriculture occurred at tower houses. The distribution and roles of arable, pastoral and mixed agricultural economies are considered. An underappreciated evidence source for tower house control of the historical agrarian economy are water mills, found here to be a manorial feature often located in conjunction with tower houses.

in The Irish tower house
Tower houses and waterways

Not only did rivers provide water and food, they were the arteries of pre-modern Ireland’s transport and communication networks. This chapter explains how tower houses were uniquely distributed to control long-distance movement, both by navigable river and by sea. Many tower houses were constructed at communication nodal points or chokepoints, which enabled them to control movement as well as providing an income for occupants. Tower houses are therefore regularly associated with bridges, fords, causeways, ferries and passes.

in The Irish tower house
Environment and economy

Tower house distributions are strongly correlated with rivers. The function of rivers in pre-modern Ireland is examined in this chapter. This chapter gives an overview of what fresh water supplied to historical populations, and then considers environmental exploitation. Fish weirs and fishponds are both encountered at tower house sites. These were a source of both food and income. The evidence for fish weirs and traps as a preferred method for catching fish is weighed against the tendency for fishponds elsewhere in medieval Europe at high-status sites.

in The Irish tower house

Tower houses provided a contact point between Ireland and the wider pre-modern world. The trading activity that existed between Ireland, the British Isles, the Irish Sea zone and continental Europe is summarised. The exports from Ireland’s ports reflect the economic activities based at tower houses. Imports reflect luxury items consumed by tower house dwellers, as well as raw materials required by the primary-sector industries discussed in previous chapters. The tower house association with ports and landing places is explained by control of trade and commerce, whether official or illicit.

in The Irish tower house

Until now, the function of tower houses within a predominantly rural society has been discussed. This chapter illustrates how they were equally urban phenomena, present in pre-modern towns and cities. Their functions in these urban landscapes were different to their roles in the rural environment. In towns they operated as merchant residences, business venues and extensions of commerce. New evidence is provided for a public role for urban tower houses, reminding us that we cannot simply view fortifications as a communal–private dichotomy.

in The Irish tower house
Foreign relations and internal reforms

Psamtek I successfully resisted an incursion by western tribesmen in his early years, and by the end of his reign he was successfully campaigning in the Levant against the Babylonian Empire, the new powerful force in the east. During his fifty-four-yearreign Psamtek reformed the political landscape of Egypt, politically reunifying the country and reforming the administration. This reforming spirit of times was also reflected in art and architecture, and one of the most salient features of the culture of this period is archaism. Standards of workmanship in the visual arts, particularly in sculpture, was high. There was a nationwide temple-building and renovation programme, and monumental elite tombs were now being constructed, such as that of Montuemhat, Mayor of Thebes. Changes in funerary practices were evident and the cult of divine animals underwent a considerable degree of development and proliferation.

in Egypt of the Saite pharaohs, 664–525 BC

This volume discusses the history, culture and social conditions of one of the less well-known periods of ancient Egypt, the Saite or 26th Dynasty (664–525 BC). In the 660s BC Egypt was a politically fragmented and occupied country. This is an account of how Psamtek I, a local ruler from Sais in northern Egypt, declared independence from its overlord, the Assyrian Empire, and within ten years brought about the reunification of the country after almost four hundred years of disunity and periods of foreign domination. Over the next century and a half, the Saite rulers were able to achieve stability and preserve Egypt’s independence as a sovereign state against powerful foreign adversaries. Central government was established, a complex financial administration was developed and Egypt’s military forces were reorganised. The Saites successfully promoted foreign trade, peoples from different countries settled in Egypt and Egypt recovered a prominent role in the Mediterranean world. There were innovations in culture, religion and technology, and Egypt became prosperous. This era was a high-achieving one and is often neglected in the literature devoted to ancient Egypt. Egypt of the Saite Pharaohs, 664–525 BC reveals the dynamic nature of the period, the astuteness of the Saite rulers and their considerable achievements in the political, economic, administrative and cultural spheres.

The last Saite ruler, Psamtek III

Soon after the death of Ahmose II, the Persian Empire, which had been increasing in size and power for a number of years, invaded Egypt. Ahmose’s son, Psamtek III, the new ruler of Egypt, fought the Persians, under Cambyses II at Pellusium. The Egyptians retreated and following a siege at Memphis were defeated and Psamtek was taken prisoner. Cambyses conquered Egypt, sent expeditions to the oases, campaigned in Nubia and consolidated his control over the whole country. The celebrated statue of Udjahorresnet, an Egyptian naval officer and dignitary, who served under both Ahmose II and Cambyses II, provides information for this period. Psamtek III reputedly committed suicide following a failed attempt to foment a rebellion against the Persian occupiers. In 525 BC Cambyses was declared King of Egypt and incorporated Egypt into the Persian empire. The Saite Period was over and Egypt was an occupied country.

in Egypt of the Saite pharaohs, 664–525 BC
Civil war to prosperity

Psamtek II was succeeded in 589 BC by his son, Haaibra (Apries), who had to deal with a number of international challenges. The Egyptians were defeated when attempting to lift the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and again defeated when trying to prevent the expansion of the Greek colony of Cyrene. This latter engagement led to a revolt among the defeated Egyptian troops, resulting in civil war and the replacement of Haaibra by a general, Ahmose, who was later declared king. The forty-four-year rule of Ahmose (Amasis) was one of the notable periods in ancient Egyptian history which benefited from a peaceful and stable international scene. Ahmose forged a number of international alliances, he placed renewed emphasis on trade at Naukratis, further developed the oases and undertook massive building projects. There was economic and administrative reorganisation within the country which included the strengthening of the customs administration and greater tax control over the assets of the individual. The numerous economic and commercial reforms contributed to a growing prosperity in Egypt.

in Egypt of the Saite pharaohs, 664–525 BC
Nekau II and Psamtek II

Nekau II, Psamtek I’s son, inherited the throne in 610 BC and continued the Egyptian policy of campaigning against the Babylonians in the Near East. After initial victories, Nekau was defeated at Carchemish in 605 BC and the Egyptians withdrew back to Egypt, losing all their possessions in the Levant. Nekau then concentrated on building up a navy, and Herodotus records that he built a canal to the Red Sea and sent a naval expedition around Africa. Nekau was succeeded by his son, Psamtek II, who sent an army to Nubia to crush the Kushites and undertook a seemingly peaceful expedition to Syria–Palestine, possibly in an attempt to reassert Egyptian claims to Syria–Palestine. Early suggestions that Psamtek directed a damnatio memoriae against his father, Nekau, for surrendering Egyptian territorial possessions in the Levant appear unsubstantiated and probably more a policy of usurpation of some of Nekau’s monuments to promote his own rule.

in Egypt of the Saite pharaohs, 664–525 BC