Ancient Egypt Eight thousand years ago, North Africa was filled with grasslands and forests stretching from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. In these grasslands, humans wandered in small groups, and eventually some of these humans began to plant and farm their food. However, around this time that the human race began to become farmers and agriculturalists, North Africa began to die. Generation after generation, it began to rain less and less, and fewer plants were growing.
This death of the lush greenness gave way to sand, and within a few thousand years, North Africa became the Sahara desert. The people of North Africa were pushed south toward the only source of water: The Nile River. The Nile valley was not occupied by man until after the Fourth Glacial Period. In ancient times, Egypt consisted of the Nile Valley north of the first Cataract, a deep narrow trench only a few miles wide and 600 miles long; and the Nile Delta, an inverted triangle 150 miles wide and 100 miles long. The history of ancient Egypt is separated into periods and kingdoms. Its history begins with the Archaic Period, which lasted from 3100-2650 B.
C. From 3900 B. C. to 3100 B. C. , villages along the Nile River grew powerful and wealthy.
Two of these villages became particularly powerful and wealthy. In the north, the city of Nek heb grew powerful, while Nek hen grew powerful in the south. Around 3000 B. C.
, these two cities went to war. Upper Egypt would win the war and dominate all of Egypt. King Menes brought about this unification. Of all the kings of Egypt, Menes is the most well-known and legendary. This is because he united the two kingdoms of Egypt and became the first king of Upper and Lower Egypt. The history of Egyptian kings begins with Menes who founded the first dynasty of Egyptian kings.
The rulers of Egypt are identified by dynasties. Each dynasty is made up of a succession of rulers belonging to a single family or being from the same descent of a common ancestor. The unification of upper and lower Egypt is probably the single most important event in Egyptian history. It allowed for the first historical sign of authority and then allowed for massive building projects and administration. Huge irrigation projects were begun as well as large-scale regulation of trade and distribution of food. The first kings of Egypt grew to be so successful that they could build expensive tombs for themselves called pyramids.
No one had seen anything like this before. At this time, Egyptians also invented writing. The need for record-keeping motivated this development. This early form of picture writing eventually developed into hieroglyphics. The most important development to come from the unification of Egypt, however, was the invention of a state system. The King became a divine king, a living god who was incarnated in the king.
This made Egypt a theocratic society. The king ruled only because he could provide food, protection, and life to his people. When his body aged and his health declined, he was no longer capable of fulfilling the job of king. The kings of Archaic Egypt had to prove yearly that they remained physically able to rule Egypt. The king had to run a course for each of the provinces that he ruled. If he could not run the course acceptably, he would be sacrificed in a religious ritual.
By the beginning of the Old Kingdom, this practice became obsolete, but the concept that the king must be physically fit remained. It was a crime against the universe to kill a god, however, it was not a crime to let a god die. So a king was rarely treated for disease or old age, he was just allowed to die in order to allow a fit king to take his place. The institution of the divine king lasted for almost 3000 years. It gave the Egyptian society a stability that no other early civilization had yet seen. The Old Kingdom lasted from 2650 B.
C. to 2134 B. C. Although King Menes unified the country, the kings of the first two dynasties had to fight wars against well-matched opponents all along the Nile River. The third dynasty of Egyptian kings began powerfully.
The second king of this dynasty, a man named Djoser, became powerful enough to control all of the country. Egypt had prospered and grown incredibly, and the population had swelled unbelievably. Egypt suddenly found itself wealthy, and the country exploded with creativity for the next several hundred years. The Old Kingdom was the richest and most creative period in Egyptian history. All the pyramids were built during this era, because the explosion in population and wealth allowed the kings to use incredible amounts of labor and materials to these monuments to themselves. The first Pharaoh (meaning "Great House" the kings were eventually called this) to build a monument to himself was Djoser.
Djoser's pyramid was called the Step Pyramid. It is a series of six bases built on top of one another. A later pharaoh, Snofru, built a pyramid closer to the design that we are used to today, but his son, Cheops, built the largest pyramid of all, The Great Cheops Pyramid of Giza. All of the huge pyramids were built in the lifetimes of four pharaohs, Snofru, Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus. However, they are the most memorable icons of the richest and most powerful period of Egyptian culture. The first pyramids were without a doubt political in nature.
If the king died, the pyramid that was built for him would be abandoned. During the Old Kingdom, the capital was located at Memphis, in the northern part of the Nile valley. Memphis remained a seat of political power even when kings moved the capital to another region. Memphis was located on the western side of the Nile, south of what is now modern-day Cairo. Later when capitals were at other places, the affairs of the state were partially conducted in Memphis, and most dynastic clans spent a portion of each year in residence there. The city remained great throughout the nation's history.
While agriculture was prosperous in Egypt itself during the Old Kingdom, trade relations were established with Phoenicia, the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, and Nubia to the south. Sinai was brought under Egyptian control because it was important as a source of copper. The great pyramids are indicative of the power and wealth of the Fourth dynasty rulers. It has been concluded that the great amount of money spent on the lavish royal burial chambers were responsible for the gradual weakness and decline of the Old Kingdom. The decline became more apparent in the time of the Fifth and Sixth dynasties and finally culminated in political and economic collapse after 2300 B. C.
The Old Kingdom lasted for four dynasties, but rapidly declined near the end of the sixth dynasty. The annual floods of the Nile, which watered the ground and brought rich soil, eventually died off. People began to die of starvation, and the once united kingdom fell into the blackness of the First Intermediate Period. The First Intermediate Period lasted from 2134 B.
C. -2040 B. C. All the administrative organization that made the Old Kingdom so successful fell apart during this time, and the country splintered apart.
The idea of the Egyptian king died out as local governors and officials associated themselves with their own region instead of associating themselves with the kings. The Middle Kingdom lasted from 2040 B. C. -1640 B.
C. After the chaos of the First Intermediate Period, it seemed as though the proud kingdom would never be seen again. However, two kings, In tef and Mentuhotep, re-established order and reinstated the idea of the Egyptian King. They began the eleventh dynasty, which marks the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. Unfortunately, the power of the king never really returned.
Local villages had become used to their own power and independence. This was a major threat to the dynasty. As a matter of fact, Amenemhet I seems to have been murdered by a conspiracy of local governors. Only King Sesostris III, well into the Middle Kingdom, managed to break the local monarchies and returned the title of king to its previous power. As the kings of Egypt slowly regained authority, Egypt again grew in wealth and population. A large part of the population was non-Egyptians who migrated into the Nile Valley to share the prosperity that was happening there.
However, in the Middle East, no matter where you lived, you always belonged to your original tribe or nation. So those that migrated to Egypt did not become Egyptians, they were simply "foreigners." The life of a foreigner had a lot of possibilities; they sometimes had fewer privileges and rights, but usually were allowed to form their own communities with their own leader. They were only required to pay taxes. The fact that foreigners did not become citizens greatly influenced Egyptian history in the Middle Kingdom.
As the number of foreigners increased, they settled in large communities and their leaders became kings themselves. The power of these foreigners grew and grew until the power of the Egyptian monarch became almost non-existent. At this time, Egypt entered another period of chaos called the Second Intermediate Period. The Second Intermediate Period lasted from 1640 B. C. until 1550 B.
C. The large numbers of immigrants into the Nile Valley is eventually what caused the end of the Middle Kingdom. During the Second Intermediate Period, foreign kings ruled Egypt for almost one hundred years. These kings came from many different backgrounds and places as groups of foreigners fought to dominate Egypt. The Egyptians were angry and ashamed about the loss of their state.
They called the new rulers Hek a-Kha swt, or "Rulers of the Foreign Lands." The Greeks later simplified this term to "Hyksos." The Hyksos adopted Egyptian manners, laws, and theories of monarchy. The Hyksos wanted to become Egyptians, but this never happened. An Egyptian family from Luxor (the area of Thebes) waged a fierce set of wars with the Hyksos kings and drove them out of Egypt by 1550 B. C. Amos is, the great general who finally succeeded in driving out the Hyksos, founded a new dynasty, the Eighteenth Dynasty, and ushered in the New Kingdom. The New Kingdom lasted from 1550 B.
C. to 1070 B. C. During this time, about 1400 B. C. , the Jews left Egypt.
This is the famous Bible story. The Bible gives the account of the Jews arriving in Egypt by telling that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. The Israelites live in Egypt for a span of 430 years. The Israelites left by crossing the Red Sea and the Egyptians chasing them were drowned in the Red Sea. After the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt, the Egyptians dedicated themselves to not letting it happen again. The period of Hyksos domination was a terrible time for the Egyptians, and they were determined to never have a foreign king in charge of Egypt again.
This brought about a time of warrior-kings, great generals who didn't stand apart from their people. These warrior-kings built statues to their greatness and adorned their tombs with lavish wealth. The greatest of these kings was Tuthmosis III, a fierce general. However, this period of warrior-kings came to an end when a young boy came to the throne. His name was Amenhotep.
Ancient Egypt was mainly polytheistic, which means that they worshipped many gods. Amenhotep was responsible for a religious revolution and rejected this idea of polytheism. The population believed whatever the Pharaoh believed, and this young boy believed that there was only one god in existence, and that god was Aten. Amenhotep made Aten the sun god and created a city dedicated to the sun-god. He called this city Akhenaton, and eventually renamed himself Akhenaton. The young king and his wife, Nefertiti, moved to the new city to concentrate on the new religion.
This religion is the first monotheistic religion recorded in history. The nineteenth dynasty came about and the existence of the warrior-kings reappeared with the great Ramesside Kings, which were Ramesses I and his descendants. However, again the Egyptian empire eventually fell over time as foreign powers once again took over. The greatest of the Ramesside kings was Ramses II. Unfortunately, he was followed by a series of weaker kings and Egypt once again collapsed into a period of Political chaos. The Third Intermediate Period began in 1070 B.
C. and lasted until 712 B. C. The chaos began during the rule of the last Ramesside king, Ramses XI. After his death, a man named S mendes claimed the throne.
After this, no one was really in charge of Egypt. For a small amount of time, the Libyans controlled Egypt. They made up the twenty-second dynasty. The Late Period lasted from 712-332 B. C. During this time, Egypt was invaded by Nubia, Egypt's southern neighbor.
Under the command of Piankhy, the Nubians rushed north and took Egypt. Many Egyptian traditions that had died out were restored by Nubian conquerors. However, the Nubian reign of Egypt lasted for only a short time because they were no match for the Assyrians and their king, Ashurbanipal. Ashurbanipal placed another Egyptian on the throne and in doing so, established the Twenty-sixth dynasty.
Soon, the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians, and Egypt came under the control of Persia. The Egyptians suffered greatly under Persian control. In fact, they suffered so much that they welcomed the Greek conqueror of Persia in 332 B. C. , Alexander the Great.
However, Egypt was to become a Greek kingdom under a series of Greek kings. There would be no Egyptian king of Egypt after 332 B. C. until the nineteenth century A. D. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 B.
C. , he intended to found a universal empire. At one time, Alexander's brief empire included all of Egypt, Thrace, Greece, Turkey, the Near East, Mesopotamia, and Asia all the way to India. Alexander built a new capital at the mouth of the Nile on the Mediterranean. He named the new capital Alexandria. Sadly enough, Alexander's empire did not last any longer than he did.
After his death, the empire was divided among his generals, and Egypt came under the control of the general Philip Arrhidaeus, then Alexander IV, then Ptolemy I. Ptolemy I built the last dynasty in Egypt, the thirty-second dynasty. Although he was Greek, he adopted Egyptian customs. Like the Egyptians, the Ptolemaic kings married their sisters, who were all named Cleopatra.
Also, all the Ptolemaic kings were named Ptolemy. The Ptolemaic kings and queens were Greek. They spoke Greek and had the ethnocentric view that their Greek culture was better than the Egyptian culture. Greek became the state language (the name "Egypt" is in fact Greek, the Egyptian name is "Kemet") and cities were renamed. Native Egyptians occupied the lowest social classes. The Ptolemies, however, were highly interested in foreign relations.
They even produced a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures; the Ptolemies were interested in the Hebrew religion because of the number of Jews who lived in Egypt. The final queen of the Ptolemies, Cleopatra VII, fell into a dispute with her half brother and invited Julius Caesar and the Romans to intervene. Caesar brought Egypt under the control of Rome and under the nominal queenship of Cleopatra. Egypt became a Roman province when Cleopatra sided with Mark Antony against Augustus Caesar and lost.
Many foreigners had dominated Egypt in the past, but none were more hated than the Romans. The evangelist Mark introduced Christianity some time in the middle of the first century A. D. These first Egyptian Christians saw this religion as a tool to use in anti-Roman propaganda. This is why the Romans severely persecuted the early Egyptian Christians.
After this, Egypt would not belong to the Egyptians for hundreds of years. 1. Buns on, Margaret. A Dictionary of Ancient Egypt Copyright 1991 Pages used: 66, 119, 124, 138, 149, 160, 162, 168, 205 2. Matthews, Warren World Religions Copyright 1999 Pages used: 54-63 3. Moore, P.
R. S. Ancient Egypt Copyright 1983 Pages used: 16 4. National Geographic Society Ancient Egypt Copyright 1978 5.
Holy Bible New International Version Copyright 1984 Pages used: Genesis 37: 8-10, Genesis 37: 36, Exodus 12: 31-32, Exodus 12: 37-41, Exodus 13: 18, Exodus 14: 23-25, Exodus 14: 30-31 6. web.