The Civilization of Ancient Egypt

Egypt has one of the longest histories of any modern state, having been continually inhabited from the tenth century BC, during the Neolithic period, when the first settlers settled, in their escape from the increasing desertification of the Sahara. For those settlers, the Sahara would be a vast steppe with large herbivores to hunt. Saharan cultures are largely unknown, but nonexistent.

Egypt is the cradle of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which together with Mesopotamia was the origin of the current Western culture, influencing decisively in the history of humanity. After the gradual withdrawal of the glaciations, the pastures were increased and the diverse indigenous populations were being pushed by the desertification process of the Sahara. There were diverse indigenous cultures identifiable by their different utensils, ceramics and funeral rites.

The Nile River, around which the population is based, has been the reference point for Egyptian culture since hunter-gatherer nomads began to live on their shores during the Pleistocene. The traces of these first settlers remained in the objects and signs engraved in the rocks along the valley of the Nile and in the oases.

Along the Nile, in the XI century BC, a culture of grain collectors had been replaced by another one of hunters, fishermen and collectors who used stone tools. The harvested grain was stored in barns and then used to make bread and beer.

The studies also indicate human settlements in southwestern Egypt, near the border with Sudan, before 8000 BC. Geological studies suggest that changes in climate around 8000 BC began to dry the lands of hunting and shepherding of Egypt, being gradually conformed the desert of the Sahara. The tribes of the region tended to group near the river, where small settlements developed an agricultural economy.

There is evidence of grazing and cereal cultivation in eastern Sahara in the VII century BC. Around 6000 BC, had already appeared in the valley of the Nile organized agriculture and the construction of large towns. At the same time, the southwest was dedicated to livestock. Between 5500 and 3100 BC, during the Predynastic period, small settlements prospered along the Nile.

The Neolithic period that began in Canaan around 9000 BC, arrived at Egypt about the year 5000 BC. The successive phases of the Neolithic are represented by the cultures of El Fayum around 5,000 BC, the tasiense culture, towards the 4500 BC and the culture of Merimde towards 4000 BC. The lime mortar was used in 4000 BC. It is the so-called predynastic period, which begins with the Naqada culture.

The first settlers of Egypt, reached the banks of the Nile, who made the country habitable, and were structured in regions called nomos. After times of agreements and disputes the nomos were grouped in two proto-nations, denominated the High and the Low Egypt around the year 4000 BC.

They all knew use of polished stone, pottery, agriculture and livestock. The base of the economy was the agriculture that was realized taking advantage of the slime from Ethiopia, natural fertilizer that was contributed from the annual floods of the river Nile. After these cultures they appeared Badarian and the Amratian or Naqada I, between 4000 and 3800 BC.

By the year 3600 BC arises the Gerzeh or Naqada II, that spreads by all Egypt, unifying it culturally. This cultural consonance will lead to political unity, which will arise after a period of clan struggles and alliances to impose its supremacy.

To achieve greater efficiency and production, around 3500 BC, began to realize the first works of canalization and arises the writing with hieroglyphics in Abydos. In 3300 BC, just before the first dynasty, Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known as Upper Egypt as Ta Shemau and Lower Egypt as Ta Mehu. The border between the two was located in the present area of Cairo, south of the Nile Delta.

The history of Egypt, as a unified state, begins around 3050 BC with Menes, who unified Upper and Lower Egypt, and was its first king. This character was the king Narmer, the first pharaoh of which it is known that reigned over all Egypt, after a series of fights, as it was attested in the palette of Narmer.

The pharaoh was officially regarded as a god, heir to the gods who reigned on Earth, custodian of justice and universal order "Maat". He was the only one who could have several legitimate and other secondary wives or concubines, mothers of future kings. Viziers who were generally high priests in the temples of Ra, Thoth and Min were entitled to be buried with the pharaoh, in smaller pyramids or mastabas.

The details of religious belief changed over time as the importance of particular gods ascended and declined, and their intricate relationships changed. Several times, certain gods became pre-eminent over others, including the sun god Ra, the creator god Amon, and the mother goddess Isis. For a brief period in the theology promulgated by the pharaoh Akhenaten, one god, Aten, replaced the traditional pantheon.

The religion of Ancient Egypt was not a monolithic institution, it consisted of a vast and varied set of beliefs and practices, linked by their common approach in the interaction between the world of humans and the world of the divine. The characteristics of the gods who populated the divine kingdom were inexplicably related to the Egyptian understanding of the properties of the world in which they lived.

These deified forces included elements, animal characteristics, or abstract forces. They also believed in a pantheon of gods, who were involved in all aspects of nature and human society. For example, the funerary god Anubis was depicted as a jackal, a creature whose scavenging habits threatened the preservation of the body, in an effort to counter this threat and use it for protection.

Many gods were associated with particular regions of Egypt where their cults were the most important. However, these associations changed over time, so that a god associated with a place does not mean that their worship originated there. Therefore, the god Monthu was the patron of the city of Thebes. Throughout the period of the Middle Kingdom, however, he was displaced in that role by Ammon, who perhaps emerged elsewhere. The national popularity and importance of individual gods fluctuated in a similar way.

One such group, the Ennead brought together nine deities in a theological system that involved the mythological areas of creation, reign, and life after death. The relations between the deities could also be expressed in the process of syncretism, in which two or more different gods were linked together to form a compound deity. As the leaders of the various groups gained and lost influence, the dominant beliefs were transformed, combined, and syncretized.

This process was a recognition of the presence of one god in another, when the second god took a role that belonged to the first. These bonds between deities were fluid, and did not represent the permanent fusion of two gods into one. Therefore, some gods could develop multiple syncretic connections. With the goddesses the same thing happened as Hathor initially assimilated the characteristics of other goddesses, but in the end it was assimilated with Isis.

The evil gods were amalgamated in the same way, as Seth, who was originally a hero, assimilated all the characteristics of the evil gods, which they subsequently condemned for being chosen as protector god of Hyksos rulers. During the time of Hellenic influence on Egypt, what was most vigorously endured was the triad Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Even at this stage, fusion continued, with Osiris as an aspect of Horus and vice versa, gradually moving toward monotheism.

Sometimes syncretism combined deities with similar characteristics. At other times, gods of different natures joined, as when Amun, god of hidden power, was related to Ra, the sun god. The resulting god, Amun-Ra, United the power that remained behind all things with the great visible force of nature.

Many deities could be given epithets that seemed to indicate that they were larger than any other god, suggesting some kind of unity beyond the multitude of natural forces. In particular, this is true for some gods whom, on several occasions in history, were given supreme importance in the Egyptian religion. These include the royal patron Horus, the sun god Ra, and the mother goddess Isis.

Temples were not primarily intended as places of worship by the general population, and ordinary people had a complex set of religious practices of their own. Instead, state-sponsored temples served as houses for the gods, in which the physical images that served as intermediaries were cared for and provided with offerings. It was believed that this service was necessary to maintain the gods, and thus these maintained in turn to the universe itself.

Thus, temples were central to Egyptian society, and vast resources were intended for maintenance, including donations from the monarchy and large estates. Pharaohs often expanded them as part of their obligation to honor the gods, which is why many temples are of enormous size. However, not all gods were dedicated temples, many important gods in official theology received minimal worship, while several house gods were the focus of popular veneration, not temple rituals.

However, the most important festivals such as the festival of Opet held at Karnak, usually involved a procession carrying the image of God outside the sanctuary in a model barque to visit other significant, such as the temple of a related deity sites. The commoners gathered to watch the procession and sometimes received portions of the unusually large offerings given to the gods on these occasions.

The deities invoked in these situations differed somewhat from those at the center of state cults. Many of these important popular deities, such as the fertility goddess Taweret and the protector of the Bes household , had no temples of their own. However, many other gods, including Amun and Osiris, were very important both to the popular religion and to the official religion.

No people has had more religious ceremonies than the ancient Egyptians, for they have chosen not only all kinds of animals for worship, but even the vegetables of the gardens. Just as the Egyptians were the first to invent most of the pagan deities known to the Greeks, they were also the first to establish the feasts celebrated in their honor, the pomp of their worship, ceremonies, oracles, etc.

The principal feasts of this town, such as those of the Persians and the Indians, were established according to the marital epochs of the year. The most solemn was called the feast of the Lamentations of Isis or of the disappearance of Osiris that began around the winter solstice with the search for Osiris, and the arrival of Isis, for the death of Osiris is an essentially agricultural symbol. That of his resurrection, when the plants begin to sprout, that of the pregnancy of Isis, of the birth of his son Harpocrates, who was offered the first fruits of the harvest, and that of the Pamylias or procession Of phallus.

In addition, the Nile was one of the forms under which they worshiped Osiris. At the summer solstice, when it reached its highest level of beneficent flooding of this river which then had the spectacle of a smiling archipelago for who crossed a multitude of boats and was thus a day of joy and one of the most solemn feasts in which the river prey was opened to the noise of the universal acclamations and the cries of joy of an immense crowd.

They threw a panther into the river. It was an offering made to the god. These feasts lasted seven days, during which it was believed that the priests enjoyed a truce with the crocodiles and could bathe safely on the Nile.

All the Egyptian festivities were celebrated in the new or full moon with the one of the Lamps, was very similar to the one of the Lanterns that is still celebrated in China and Diwali in India. It was a party in lighting around the houses multitude of lamps filled with oil and salt and allowing it to burn all night.

The Egyptian culture and customs were remarkably stable and hardly changed in nearly 3000 years, including religion, artistic expression, architecture and social structure. At this time the proto-states began. The first communities made the country habitable and organized in regions called nomos. The inhabitants of the Delta had a feudal organization and came to establish two kingdoms with two chiefs or monarchs respectively.

A kingdom was seated in a marshy place, which was called the reed kingdom and had as a symbol a reed stalk. Its capital was Buto. They had a snake as a totem. The other kingdom had Busiris as capital and had the vulture as a totem but its symbol was a bee and came to be known as the kingdom of the Bee. Both kingdoms were separated by an arm of the river Nile.

The Kingdom of the Bee conquered the kingdom of Junco so that the Delta was unified. But some of the vanquished fled to settle in the Upper Egypt area where they founded cities giving them the same name as those they had left in the Delta. That is why many cities of this time have similar names in Upper and Lower Egypt. These people prospered considerably until they became organized in one state.

Considered the final phase of the predynastic period, also known as late predynastic, or Naqada III period, it was ruled by rulers of Upper Egypt who reside in Tinis and were represented with a serej and worship of Horus. The name of these kings appears in the Stone of Palermo, engraved 700 years later. In this period the first authentic cities arise, such as Tinis, Nubet, Nejeb, Nejen, etc. They are typical of this time the magnificent vessels carved in stone, ceremonial knives and paletas, or heads of votive clubs. Narmer could be the last king of this time.

At the end of the predynastic period, Egypt was divided into small kingdoms. The main ones were Hieracómpolis (Nejen) in Upper Egypt and Buto (Pe) in Lower Egypt. The process of unification was carried out by the kings of Hieracómpolis.

Under the Dynasty III the capital was definitively settled in Memphis, where the name of the country comes from, since the name of the main temple, Hat Ka Ptah, which passed to Greek as Aegyptos. In the time of the third dynasty began the habit of erecting great pyramids and monumental sets in stone, thanks to the pharaoh Djoser. Also the great pyramids of Giza, attributed to the pharaohs Cheops (Khufu), Chephren (Khafre) and Mycerinus (Menkaure) are dated in this period.

The V Dynasty marks the rise of the high clergy and the influential local rulers or nomarchs, and during the long reign of Pepy II will be accentuated a time of strong decentralization, called the first intermediate period of Egypt. The Old Empire comprises the dynasties III to VI.

It was an era where power was decentralized and runs between the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom. It comprises from the 7th Dynasty until the middle of the 11th Dynasty, when Mentuhotep II reunified the country under his command. In spite of the decadence, this period stood out for a great literary flourishing, with doctrinal or didactic texts, that show the great social change.

The important change of mentality as well as the growth of the middle classes in the cities gave rise to a new conception of beliefs, reflected in the appearance of the so-called Sarcophagus Texts. Osiris became the most popular divinity, with Montu and Amun. The nomos of Heracleópolis and Thebes were constituted like hegemónicos, being imposed finally this last one.

Ambitious irrigation projects were carried out at El Fayum to regulate the great floods of the Nile, diverting it to Lake Moeris (El Fayum). Trade relations were also strengthened with the surrounding African, Asian and Mediterranean regions. The artistic representations were humanized, and the worship of the god Amón was imposed.

It is considered to begin with the reunification of Egypt under Mentuhotep II. It is a period of great economic prosperity and outward expansion, with pragmatic and entrepreneurial pharaohs. In the middle of 1800 BC, the Hyksos leaders defeated the Egyptian pharaohs, which began as a gradual migration of Libyans and Canaanites to the Nile delta and eventually became a military conquest of almost all Egyptian territory, leading to the fall of the Middle Kingdom. The Hyksos won because they had better weapons, and they knew how to use the surprise factor.

During much of this period the Hyksos rulers, chiefs of nomadic peoples of the periphery, especially Libyans and Asians, who settled in the delta, dominated Egypt, and had as capital the city of Avaris. Finally, the Egyptian leaders of Thebes declared the independence, being denominated dynasty XVII. They proclaimed the salvation of Egypt and led a war of liberation against the Hyksos.

The XVIII dynasty began with a series of pharaoh warriors, from Amosis I until Thutmosis III and Thutmosis IV . Under Amenophis III the expansion was stopped and a period of internal and external peace began. After a period of monarchical weakness, they came to power military caste, Dynasty XIX or Ramesside that fundamentally under Seti I and Ramses II, was strong against the expansionist Hittite kings.

During the reigns of Merenptah, successor of Ramesses II and Ramses III of the 20th Dynasty, Egypt had to face the invasions of the Sea Peoples, originating in various areas of the eastern Mediterranean (Aegean, Anatolia), and the Libyans.

The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom undertook a large-scale construction campaign to promote the god Amun, whose rising cult was based in Karnak. They also built monuments to glorify their own achievements, both real and imagined. Hatshepsut will use such hyperbole during his nearly twenty-two-year reign which was very successful, marked by a long period of peace and prosperity, with commercial expeditions to Punt, restoration of foreign trade networks, large construction projects including an elegant temple Funerary one that rivals the Greek architecture of a thousand years later, colossal obelisks and a chapel in Karnak.

In spite of his achievements, the heir of Hatshepsut, his stepson Tuthmosis III, tried to erase all traces of his legacy towards the end of the reign, appropriating many of his achievements. He also attempted to change many established traditions that had developed over the centuries. Possibly it was a futile attempt to prevent other women from becoming Pharaoh and thus curb their influence in the kingdom.

Around 1350 a. The stability of the Empire seemed threatened, even more so when Amenhotep IV ascended the throne and instituted a series of radical reforms, which had a chaotic result. Changing its name to the one of Ajenatón, promoted like supreme deity the until then dark solar deity Aton, initiating a religious reform tending to monotheism. In part, the monotheism of Akhenaten was a product of royal absolutism.

The old gods had disappeared, but the king kept-for his own political benefit-his traditional role as mediator between men and the wishes of the new god. The pharaoh suppressed the cult to the majority of the other deities and, above all tried to nullify the power of the influential priests of Amun in Thebes, whom he saw as corrupt.

As he moved the capital to the new city of Ajet-Aton (now Amarna), Akhenaten became deaf to the events of the Near East where Hittites, Mitanni and Assyrians contested control and focused only on the new religion. The new religious philosophy entailed a new artistic style, which emphasized the humanity of the king above the monumentality.

After his death, the cult of Aton was quickly abandoned, the priests of Ammon regained power and returned the capital to Thebes. Under his influence the later Pharaohs Tutankhamun, Ay and Horemheb attempted to erase all mention of Akhenaten and his heresy, now known as the Amarna Period.

Around 1279 BC Rameses II ascended to the throne. His would be one of the longest reigns in Egyptian history. He ordered more temples, more statues and obelisks, and more children than any other pharaoh. As a bold military leader, Ramses II led his army against the Hittites in the battle of Kadesh in present-day Syria.

After reaching a stalemate, finally accepted a peace treaty with the Hittite kingdom. It is the oldest registered peace treaty, around 1258 BC. Egypt withdrew from most of its Asian possessions, leaving the Hittites to compete, unsuccessfully, with the growing emerging power of Assyria and the Phrygian newcomers.

The wealth of Egypt, however, had become a tempting target for the invasion in particular for the Bedouin Libyans of the West and the Sea Peoples, who formed part of the powerful confederation of Greek pirates of the Aegean Sea. Initially, the army was able to repel the invasions, but Egypt eventually lost control of its territories in southern Syria and Palestine, which largely fell to the Assyrians and Hittites.

The impact of external threats was aggravated by internal problems such as corruption, robbery of royal tombs and popular riots. After regaining their power, the high priests of the Temple of Amun at Thebes accumulated vast tracts of land and much wealth, weakening the state. The period ends with the domination of the Cushite kings. It begins with the Saite dynasty, with two periods of Persian domination, as well as with several contemporary dynasties of independent Egyptian rulers. Egypt finally became a satrapy.

It begins with the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 332 BC and the arrival to the power in 305 BC of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Macedonian origin. Egypt fell under the influence of Greek culture with the mere presence for less than a year of Alexander the Great that completely modified the Persian organization and was made to name Pharaoh.

But the creation of Alexandria will turn Egypt into a country with clear interests in the Mediterranean. Thus, with the first Ptolemies is conquered Cyprus and other Greek islands, establishing ports in the north shore of the sea. The figure of Cleopatra VII arose despite the literary and romantic personal history with the Roman generals Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

It ends with the incorporation of Egypt to the Roman Empire after the battle of Actium, in the year 31 BC. In the year 30 BC Cleopatra and Mark Antony dies in the Battle of Actium and Egypt becomes a province of the Roman Empire and remained in their hands. From the middle of the fourth century, Egypt was part of the Eastern Empire, which became the Byzantine Empire.

At the death of Theodosius the Empire is divided until the last emperor of the Roman Empire of the West, Romulus Augustulus. The Oriental, with capital in Constantinople, managed to maintain itself with the provinces of Greece, Balkans, Palestine, Syria and Egypt, the last three the richest that supplied the rest. In Alexandria the schools proliferated, and in their library they disputed Christian and pagan philosophers.

Justinian tried to put order, but the provinces were ravaged by private militias that defied authority and plundered the peasants. The main problem, however, was religious, especially in Egypt. When the Council of Chalcedon condemned the majority monophysitism in Egypt, it provoked a great split.

Orthodoxy was defended by merchants and officials related to Constantinople, while the people defended To the monophysites joining the rejection of authority and the treasury with the defense of their own language and culture, and then founded the Coptic Church until the conquest by the Arabs. Amazingly, the Egyptian people hardly resisted the spread of Christianity, sometimes explained by stating that Jesus was originally a syncretism mainly linked to Horus, with Isis representing the Virgin Mary.

The last vestiges of the traditional culture of Ancient Egypt finalized definitively at the beginning of the century, with the last priests of Isis, who officiated the temple of the island of Philae, when the cult of the pagan gods was banned.

The remains of this civilization mark the country such as the pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx were constructed by its ancient civilization, which was one of the most advanced of its time or the southern city of Lúxor that contains a large number of ancient remains, such as the temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. Its ancient ruins, such as those of Menfi and Thebes, outside Luxor are a significant focus of archaeological study and popular interest.

The richness of fertile silt after the annual floods of the Nile River, coupled with the absence of powerful villages due to their isolation, because the Nile Valley is located between two vast desert areas, allowed the development of one of the first and most dazzling civilizations in the history of mankind.

Obtaining an accurate chronology of Ancient Egypt is a complex task. There are different dating criteria among Egyptologists, with divergences of some years in the later periods, decades at the beginning of the New Kingdom and almost a century during the Old Kingdom. Traditionally Egyptology classifies the history of pharaonic civilization divided into dynasties, following the narrative structure of the epitomes of the hieroglyphs.

The first problem arises from the fact that the Egyptians did not use a homogeneous dating system. They did not have a concept of an era, or the custom of naming the years, as in Mesopotamia. They date with reference to the reigns of the various pharaohs, possibly overlapping the interregnums and eras of corregencia. An added problem arises when comparing the different real lists of pharaohs, because they are incomplete or with contradictory data, even in the same text.

In Ancient Egypt there existed the figure of the Shutiu, a kind of commercial agents who carried out activities of sale in the service of the great pharaonic institutions like temples and royal palaces. But they could also sell slaves to private individuals, or they could conduct commercial transactions outside the institutions for their own benefit.

The almost 200 clay tablets and the numerous inscriptions discovered by the archaeologists in the ancient city of Balat show that this locality, located in the Sahara Egyptian, was used as base of operations and point of supply to the commercial expeditions sent by the pharaohs towards the heart of Africa at the end of the third millennium. From this enclave in the oasis of Dajla expeditions would be set out, composed by about 400 men, whose object was to look for a pigment that once obtained was sent by caravans to the valley of the Nile.

The route would be marked from ancient times as evidenced by the presence of jars deposits located at intervals of 30 kilometers in the desert, that arrive until Gilf el-Kebir in the southwestern end of Egypt. It is unknown how far the route came, although the specialists most likely accept as far as the area of Lake Chad.

The Egyptian religion, embodied in mythology, is a set of beliefs that permeated all Egyptian life, from the predynastic era. They were led by priests, and the use of magic and spells. The temple was a sacred place where only the priests and priestesses were admitted, although in the important celebrations the town was admitted in the patio.

The existence of mummies and pyramids outside Egypt indicates that the beliefs and values ​​of prehistoric cultures were transmitted in one way or another by the way of silk. Egypt's contacts with foreigners included Nubia and Punt to the south, the Aegean and Greece to the north, Lebanon and other regions of the Near East and Libya to the west.

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