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Transcript of Ancient Egypt
"The Gift of the Nile"
After this module, you will be able to...
Of central importance to the development of the Egyptian civilization was the Nile River.
Hymn to the Nile
"The bringer of food, rich in provisions, creator of all good, lord of majesty, sweet of fragrance...He who...fills the magazines, makes the granaries wide, and gives things to the poor. He who makes every beloved tree to grow."
The Nile is a unique river.
It begins in the heart of Africa and flows northward for thousands of miles.
It is the longest river in the world
The Nile is several miles wide on each of its banks. This area capable of producing abundant harvests.
The Miracle of the Nile
Each year around September, the river would flood and would leave a deposit of silt that enriched the soil.
The Egyptians called this soil "Black Land."
Beyond the strips of fertile fields were the deserts called the "Red Land."
100 miles before it empties into the Mediterranean, the river splits, forming a delta and most of Egypt's most important cities were built there.
This Separated Lower Egypt from Upper Egypt.
The large amount of food that Egyptian farmers grew in the fertile Nile valley made Egypt prosperous.
The Benefits of the Nile
The river served as a unifying factor as it was the fastest way to travel. Both transportation and communication were made easier.
Winds from the north pushed the sailboats south, and the current of the Nile carried them north.
Unlike Mesopotamia, which was subject to constant invasion, Egypt had many natural barriers that protected it.
Deserts to the west and east.
Rapids on the southern part of the Nile.
The Mediterranean Sea to the North
The Nile gave the Egyptians a sense of security. Their civilization was characterized by a sense of continuity.
Ancient Egyptian History
The basic framework for studying Egyptian history was provided by Manetho, an Egyptian priest and historian.
He divided their history into 31 dynasties of kings
On the basis of Manetho's lists, modern historians have divided Egyptian history into three major periods.
The Old Kingdom
The Middle Kingdom
The New Kingdom
These were periods of long-term stability characterized by
Strong monarchical authority
Freedom from invasion
Construction of many temples and pyramids
Considerable intellectual and cultural activity
Pyramid of Djoser (Zoser)
27th Century, B.C.
However, between these periods were ages known as the Intermediate Periods, which were characterized by:
Weak political structures
Rivalry for leadership
A decline in building activity
Restructuring of society
The Old Kingdom
Around 3100 BC the first Egyptian royal dynasty, under a king named Menes, united both Upper and Lower Egypt into a single kingdom.
The king was then called "King of Upper and Lower Egypt" and royal crown was called the Double Crown, combining the White Crown of Upper Egypt and the Red Crown of Lower Egypt.
Just as the Nile served to unite Upper and Lower Egypt physically, the kingship now served to unite them politically.
Initially, there were many populated areas ruled by tribal chieftains.
In this kingdom were the 3rd through the 6th dynasties, lasting from around 2686 to 2181 B.C.
It was an age of prosperity and splendor as demonstrated by the construction of the greatest and largest pyramids in Egypt's history.
The capital of the Old Kingdom was located at Memphis, south of the delta
Giza Pyramids built during the 4th dynasty
Kingship was a divine institution and the Egyptians believed that by obeying the king, they helped maintain the cosmic order.
The most common title for an Egyptian king was "Pharaoh," originally meaning "great house" or "palace."
The Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx faces East and is believed to be symbolizing the sun god, thus the pharaoh.
It is believed to have been built by one of the Pharaohs to protect his temple.
The Egyptian Kings
Although they possessed absolute power, Egyptian kings were not supposed to rule arbitrarily.
Instead, they were supposed submit to a chief principle called "Ma'at," which meant truth and justice, right order and harmony.
To the ancient Egyptians, this principle has existed since the beginning of time and Pharaohs were the divine instruments who maintained it.
Although they were the only king, the Pharaohs did not rule alone.
In charge of bureaucracy including police, justice, river transport, and public works, agriculture and the treasury.
Egypt was divided into provinces.
22 in Upper Egypt
20 in Lower Egypt
Each had a governor who was responsible to both the King and the Vizier.
These governors, known as Nomarchs, tended to seek power within their provinces, creating rivalry with the Pharaohs.
The First Intermediate Period
Several factors caused the ending of the Old Kingdom:
A decline in centralized authority
A severe drought
After the Old Kingdom fell came the first Intermediate Period, which lasted from 2180 to 2055.
Nefer-Rohu described the scene:
"This land is so damaged that there is no one who is concerned with it, no one who speaks, no one who weeps..."
The Middle Kingdom
During the First Intermediate Period, new centers of power were established.
The king of Thebes, Mentuhotep, defeated the rivaling rulers and reunited Egypt.
The Middle Kingdom lasted from 2055 to 1650 BC
Much of the Middle Kingdom's history centers around the 12th dynasty founded by Amenemhet I, a vizer who established himself and his successors as pharaohs.
The Middle Kingdom was considered a golden age due to its stability.
It was characterized by a new concern on the part of the Pharaoh for the people. In the Old Kingdom, the Pharaoh was an unaccessable god-king. Now he was portrayed as a shepherd.
Egypt began to expand and conquered Lower Nubia. They also sent military expeditions to Palestine and Syria.
This campaign marks the beginning of Egyptian imperialism.
Society and Life in Ancient Egypt
The majority of the people in Egypt worked the land. In theory, the king owned all the land. The people paid taxes in the form of crops to the king, nobles, and priests. They also provided military service and labor for building projects.
The Culture of Egypt
Art and Writing
The Egyptians had no word for religion because it was an inseparable element of their world.
The Pharaoh was the divine being whose function was to maintain stability within the cosmic order.
The Sun God
The sun was considered the source of life. This god was known as "Ra."
Pharaoh was known as the "Son of Ra" because he was regarded as the earthly embodiment of Re.
There were over 2,000 names of gods in Ancient Egypt.
Some images of Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses show them with a human body and the head of a bird or an animal.
Animals were chosen to represent the powers of the god.
He was usually shown in human form with a falcon head, crowned with the sun disc encircled by the a sacred cobra.
The Pyramids were not built in isolation but as part of a larger complex dedicated to the dead - in effect, a city of the dead.
The area included a large pyramid for the king's burial, smaller pyramids for his family.
Egyptian tombs were furnished with supplies such as chairs, boats, chests, weapons, games, dishes, and a variety of foods.
They believed that human beings have two bodies, a physical one and a spiritual one known as "ka". If the physical body was properly preserved (mummified) and the tomb was prepared with objects of regular life, the "ka" would return.
The largest and most magnificent pyramid was built in 2540 BC by Khufu in Giza. It covers 13 acres and stands 481 feet tall.
The first pyramid was built in 2600 BC
Commissioned by kings or nobles for use in temples, Egyptian art was mostly for spiritual purposes.
Egyptian art followed strict rules of proportions to present each part of the body accurately. They combined the profile, semiprofile and frontal views of the human body.
Writing emerged during the first two dynasties and is called "hieroglyphics." Hieroglyphs were signs of objects that had a sacred value.
Egyptian hieroglyphs were initially carved in stone, but later written on papyrus, a paper made from the papyrus reed that grew along the Nile.
The Second Intermediate Period
This period began when they were invaded by the Hykos in the 17th century BC and dominated much of Egypt.
how to use bronze for agricultural tools and weapons
The horse-drawn war chariot, sword, and compound bow.
Eventually, the Egyptians used these new weapons to overthrow the Hyksos domination.
The Egyptian Empire
Pharaoh Ahmose I managed to defeat and expel the Hyksos and reunite Egypt. He established the 18th dynasty and established the New Kingdom (1550 - 1070 BC).
He created a more professional army and, during this period, Egypt became the most powerful state in the Ancient Near East.
Many other Pharaohs lead in conquering surrounding countries and the empire reached its height during the reign of Amenhotep III.
The Karnak Temple
The Luxor Temple
Amenhotep IV introduced the worship of Aten as the chief god instead of Ra.
The priests were not happy about this change because their influence was taken away.
He tried to replace the capital (Thebes) with Akhetaten, a new city located 200 miles north of Thebes.
His attempt at religious change failed because the people saw the destruction of their gods as the destruction of the cosmic order that held Egypt together.
Most importantly, Amenhotep, who renamed himself "Akhenaten," was so focused on religion that he failed to see the external threats from Syria and Palestine.
Akhentaten's son was the boy-pharaoh, Tutankhamen (1347-1338 BC). King Tut was loved so much because he returned the government to Thebes and restored the old gods.
After the end of the 18th dynasty, the 19th dynasty managed to restore Egyptian power one more time under Rameses II (1279-1213 BC). However, the empire was not as strong as before.
The New Kingdom ended with the 20th dynasty in 1070 BC.
For the next thousand years, Egypt was dominated by Libyans, Nubians, Assyrians, Persians, and finally Macedonians under Alexander the Great.