ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CIVILIZATION
The Nile River:
1. It rises in East Central Africa and flows northward through
Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea.
2. Herodotus: (Greek Historian) - "All of Egypt is the gift of the Nile."
a. From June to October: rains and melting snow in the Mountains at the source of the Nile (Lake Victoria) causes the river to flood as it moves northward.
b. In the Fall: the river recedes leaving a deposit of fertile silt.
c. At the mouth of the Nile, where the river empties into the Mediterranean Sea, deposits of silt have formed a delta (deposit of earth and sand usually three sided, that collects at the mouth of a river) that is a triangle shaped area of marshy flat lands.
3. Toward the end of the fourth millenium B.C. (4,000 - 3,000): Egyptians came down from the hills bordering the river to farm the land along the Nile.
4. Remember: It almost never rains in Egypt.
a. Water control was necessary; irrigation was learned early in their History.
b. Dikes: transformed marshes along this river into fertile arable land.
c. Irrigation System of Canals: to divert water from the Nile to other fields.
Purpose: to increase the harvest with more and varied crops.
d. Success or failure depended on the timing and magnitude of the flood.
5. Society and Government were shaped by the river and the desert. (Libyan and Nubian)
a. The fertile fields usually yielded a harvest capable of sustaining a large population.
b. Desert boundaries placed an absolute limit on available land.
c. Egypt became a densely settled agricultural community along the river.
6. Natural Advantages: Geography
a. Climate: well suited for farming.
1.) Frost free - all year.
2.) Plentiful sun shine.
b. Prevailing Winds: from the Mediterranean.
1.) The wind blows southward or up stream.
2.) River Current: moves southward or down stream.
c. Importance: the Nile became a route for travel, trade, and communication - essential elements to develop a unified state.
d. Large deposits of clay, granite, sand stone, and limestone: used as building materials. (Physical Remains)
e. Partial Protection from invasion. The Nile Valley is surrounded by sea and deserts.
1.) To the South: the Nile is interrupted six times by cataracts (waterfalls and rapids).
* The cataracts and a huge swamp where the Nile became impassable, posed obstacles to invaders from Kush (present day Ethiopia).
2.) Invaders: most reached Egypt through the Sinai Peninsula.
The Mystery of Egypt:
1. The Middle Ages knew Egypt as a Roman Province and a Christian settlement.
The Renaissance presumed civilization began with Greece.
The Enlightenment knew nothing of Egypt beyond the Pyramids.
2. Egyptian History remained hidden until the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
3. The Result of French Imperialism:
a. 1798: a French army under the command of Napoleon Bonapart invaded Egypt.
b. Draftsmen and engineers were brought to map out the terrain; and scholars interested in history (for the sake of a better understanding).
c. 1799: near the ancient temples at Luxor and Karnak.
1.) An officer found a stone slab on the shore of the Rosetta Branch of the Nile River.
2.) The Rosetta Stone: three kinds of writing (hieroglyphics, demotic, and Ancient Greek).
4. Jean Champolion:
a. Obelisk (four sided shaft of stone with a pyramidal apex).
1.) Inscription of Greek at the base: the writing concerned Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
2.) Tentatively made out eleven letters.
* First proof Egypt had an alphabet.
b. By 1822: Champolion applied this knowledge to the Rosetta Stone. With his knowledge of Greek he deciphered the stone and eventually the entire Egyptian Alphabet.
Egyptian Writing: Hieroglyphics
1. ca. 3,000 B.C.: a system of writing had developed.
a. Hieroglyphics: 600 signs.
b. A combination of ideograms and phonograms.
2. Did not develop a true Alphabet:
a. 24 signs: for consonants.
b. 80 signs: containing two consonants.
c. There are no signs for vowels.
3. Simplified Hieroglyphics:
a. Handwriting known as hieratic.
b. An even more simplified form known as demotic.
4. Carved hieroglyphics in stone - need for a more useful writing material.
a. Papyrus: a plant (reed) which grew in the marshes of the Nile.
b. Formed it into a mat with a smooth surface.
1.) 5 - 18 inches wide joined in long strips which could be rolled up.
2.) Some rolls were over a 100 feet long.
c. Ink: was made of vegetable gum, water and soot.
1. Two Kingdoms: Upper and Lower Egypt.
2. At an early point in the Historical Period, Egypt became a unified kingdom.
a. ca. 3,100 B.C.: Menes (legendary, no historical basis) became ruler of Upper Egypt and conquered Lower Egypt.
b. He became Pharaoh or king.
* His successors wore a double crown symbolizing the unity of the two kingdoms.
3. The Kingdoms grew up from a union of towns and villages.
a. Each at one time had been independent.
b. Each ruled by its own ruler or priests.
4. Towns were grouped into districts or Nomes -- (ruled by Nomarchs, their power depended on the strength or weakness of the Pharaoh.
5. People were divided into social classes -- moving from one to another was not easy but not impossible.
6. Position of the Pharaoh: Memphite Theology
a. The Earth was created as the land arose from the primeval waters (recreated by the Nile each year).
b. Ptah, the earth god, created the world and the gods. (ie. gods could not be separated from the world.)
Amon Re: god of the Sun.
Osiris: god of the Nile, eventually of the underworld.
Isis: goddess of the moon and wife of Osiris.
1.) Egyptian legend: Osiris was murdered by his brother Set (Seth), an evil god causing harvests to fail.
2.) Isis brought Osiris back to life, but he remained to reign as God of the underworld and judge of the dead.
* Osiris weighed each heart against a feather, the symbol of truth. Those who failed the test were eaten by a monster. (jackel)
c. Horus and Set (Seth), the good son and evil brother respectively of the dead god - king Osiris, competed for power in Egypt.
d. Horus was the Victor:
1.) The Pharaoh was identified with Horus, as the living king of Egypt.
* also viewed as the god of the rising sun. (ie. birth and new life.)
2.) When he died, he became Osiris, king of the underworld, and his son became Horus: the legitimate ruler of Egypt.
7. The Pharaoh: At the top - he was the source of all authority.
ie. the labor, property, and lives of all the people were at his disposal.
a. Viewed as divine (Horus and Osiris).
b. He was approached only by the priests and nobility.
8. Priests: their office was hereditary and self contained.
9. Administration of Government:
a. The Vizier (prime minister) was the second most powerful person in the kingdom.
b. Chief Judge: also responsible for choosing important governmental officials.
c. Control over Scribes (clerk-record keeping, commercial and legal business of the government).
1.) Did not have social position.
2.) Became prominent because they could read and write.
10. Lower Classes:
a. Common Soldiers.
c. Laborers --------- later slaves.
11. Patriarchal Society: Yet, unique role for Women in Antiquity.
a. Women could inherit and sell property without regard to the wishes of their husbands.
b. Were free to travel alone in public.
c. A wife was entitled to a large share of property - in the event of divorce.
d. Egyptians also traced their ancestry through their mother's family.
12. Children of upper and middle class parents went to school.
a. Taught by Priests.
b. Discipline was very severe.
DIVISION OF EGYPTIAN HISTORY:
Old Kingdom or Age of Pyramids: 2800-2250 B.C. (2700-2200 B.C.)
1. The Pharaoh ruled from his capital at Memphis.
a. He claimed all the land ---------- there was no money economy in Egypt.
1.) Exchange of goods carried on by barter.
2.) Wealth of the Pharaoh: grain, livestock and other goods taken as taxes.
3.) Received metals and other goods as tribute or in trade from abroad.
b. Egyptian Farmers paid one fifth of their crop (harvest) in rent for the land.
* Failure to pay would result in irrigation water being cut off.
2. The word of the Pharaoh was the source of right and justice in the land.
a. The Judicial System did not consist of a code of laws.
b. It was based on decisions on each case by the Pharaoh through his court.
3. Exercise of authority was expressed in the word Maat, meaning truth, justice, and order in the world.
ie. The word of the Pharaoh was Maat.
4. Believed the dominion of the Pharaoh existed not only in life but also in the afterlife: divine life was the continuation of his earthly existence.
a. Every living body was inhabited by a double, or Ka.
b. The Ka would survive more completely if the flesh (body) was preserved against hunger, violence, and decay.
c. Mummification and a Pyramid (tomb) would provide this for a Pharaoh.
5. A Pyramid was the external home of the Pharaoh in the afterlife.
a. Outside: formed by precisely fitted stone.
b. Inside: a system of passage ways with a central resting place for the Pharaoh.
6. Khufu (2900 B.C.): kept 100,000 workers laboring for over 20 years to build the Great Pyramid at Gizeh.
* 2 1/5 million blocks which average 2 1/2 tons; covering half a million square feet and rising 481 feet into the air.
7. Khafre (2850 B.C.) constructed another pyramid at Gizeh and also carved the Great Sphinx.
8. Herodotus: has given us a description of the EgyptianMummification Process.
First they draw out the brains through the nostrils with an iron
hook, raking part of it out in this manner, the rest by the
infusion of drugs. Then with a sharp stone they make an incision
in the side, and take out all the bowels; and having cleansed
the abdomen and rinsed it with palm wine, they next sprinkle it
with pounded perfume. Then, having filled the belly with pure
myrrh, cassia and other perfumes, they sew it up again; and when
they have done this they steep it in natron (a silicate of sodium
and aluminum), leaving it under for 70 days; for a longer time
than this is not lawful to steep it. At the expiration of 70 days
they wash the corpse, and wrap the whole body in bandages of waxen
cloth, smearing it with gum, which the Egyptians commonly use
instead of glue. After this the relations, having taken the body
back again, make a wooden box in the shape of a man, and having
made it they enclose the body; and then, having fastened it up,
they store it in a chamber, setting it upright against the wall.
In this manner they prepare the bodies that embalmed in the most
9. Pepi II (2738-2644 B.C.):
a. Ruled for 94 years.
b. After his death, there was anarchy.
c. Noblemen (nomarchs) ruled the Nomes independently.
* 250 years - Egypt was torn by Civil War.
The Middle Kingdom or Age of Nobles: 2200-1730 B.C. (2050-1800 B.C.)
1. The local power of the Nobility grew and they were able to ignore the authority of the Pharaoh.
* Egypt was broken up into local domains under the control of the Nobility.
2. Lower classes gained the right to have their bodies mummified and thus the right to enjoy immortality.
3. Post Pepi II: after a Dark Age of four chaotic centuries, centralized authority and order was restored by Amenemhet I (inaugurating the 12th Dynasty).
* He moved the capital from Memphis to Thebes on the east coast of the Nile.
4. Senusret I:
a. Built a great canal from the Nile to the Red Sea benefiting both trade and transportation.
b. He drove back Nubian Invaders and erected great temples at Heliopolis, Abydos, and Karnak (and Luxor).
* The colossal seated figures of him were constructed which can be found in the Cairo museum today.
5. Senusret III:
* He began the subjugation of Palestine, and drove back the recurrent Nubians, and set up a stele or slab at the southern border:
"Not from any desire that ye worship it, but that ye should fight for it."
6. During the Middle Kingdom:
a. There was an expansion of Egyptian borders, and greater contact with other civilizations.
* Trade expeditions went to Kush, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Crete.
b. Contact with outsiders contributed to the flourishing of Egyptian literature and art.
* The Tale of Sinhue, described the adventures of an Egyptian traveling in foreign lands. --------- It became the basis of the Sinbad the Sailor stories.
7. Amenemhet III:
a. A great administrator, builder of canals and irrigation; he put an end (perhaps too effectively) to the power of the Nobility, and replaced them with appointees of his own.
b. Thirteen years after his death Egypt was plunged into disorder by a dispute among rival claimants to the throne, and the Middle Kingdom ended in two centuries of turmoil and disruption.
8. 1730 B.C.: Egypt was invaded by the Hyksos, a warlike people from Western Asia.
a. The Hyksos' use of horses and war chariots, both unknown in Egypt led to their victory over the Egyptians who fought from donkey carts.
b. They ruled Egypt for about 200 years.
* The Hyksos allowed the Pharaoh to remain as a titular ruler as long as taxes were collected.
c. By 1570 B.C. ---------- after learning the use of horses and chariots, Egyptian Nobles united to expel the Hyksos.
The New Kingdom or Age of Empire: 1550-1085 B.C. (1570-1090 B.C.)
1. Pharaohs of this period also ruled from Thebes.
* These pharaohs were also able to reduce the power of the priests and nobility.
2. The Pharaoh came to rely on the administration to maintain a strict control of the government.
3. Thutmose I:
a. Decided Western Asia must be controlled to prevent further invasion.
b. Thutmose invaded Syria, subjugated it from the coast to Cachemish (an ancient city in S. Turkey, on the upper Euphrates: once the capital of the Hittite Empire), and put it under guard and tribute then he returned to Thebes.
c. At the end of his 30 year year reign: he raised his daughter Hatshepsut to partnership with him on the throne.
* First woman ruler known to history. (ca. 1500-1480 B.C.)
1.) For a time her husband and step brother (possibly half brother) ruled as Thutmose II.
* A Pharaoh only married a sister or half sister.
2.) Thutmose II named Thutmose III, son of Thutmose I by a concubine, as his successor.
a. She set the youngster aside, and assumed full royal powers, and proved herself a king in every way but sex.
b. Hatshepsut was more concerned with trade and efficient government than with war.
c. Egyptian Tradition: required that every Egyptian ruler should be a son the great god Amon.
* She at once had herself proclaimed male and divine.
1.) An Invented Biography: Amon descended upon Hatshepsut's mother, Ahmasi, in a flood of perfume and light; his attentions had been gratefully received; and on his departure he had announced that Ahmasi would give birth to a daughter in whom all the valor and strength of the god would be manifest on earth.
2.) Hatshepsut had herself represented on monuments as a bearded and breastless warrior.
d. She built for herself a secret and ornate tomb among the mountains on the western side of the Nile known as the "Valley of the Kings' Tombs".
* Eventually some 60 royal tombs were cut into these hills.
5. Thutmose III:
a. At the death of Hatshepsut, Thutmose III ordered her name removed from all public monuments.
b. He proved to be an able general and ruler: Thutmose expanded the Egyptian Empire to its greatest limit (size).
c. He conquered Palestine and Syria and organized a navy to subdue cities along the eastern Mediterranean coast.
(ie. From Syria to Kush, Ethiopia)
6. Amenhotep IV (1375-1358 B.C.):
a. Known more for his religious reforms - leading to social and religious revolution in Egypt.
b. He believed Amon Re was the only god (monotheism) and not the first among many.
c. He changed the name of Amon to Aton showing the god had a new nature.
d. The Pharaoh also changed his own name:
Amenhotep: "Amon is satisfied" to
Akenaton: "He who is beneficial to Aton"
e. To weaken the power of the Priests of Amon, he moved the capital from Thebes to Tell el Amarna which he had built.
* A great temple to Amon was located in Thebes -- the center of the priests' power.
f. Eventually only the worship of Aton was permitted.
g. Opposition to these Reforms:
1.) Loss of revenue and position for the priests of the other gods and the "old Amon".
2.) A great deal of disorder: realization that the pharaoh could not change religious beliefs by decree.
7. When Akenaton died (1358 B.C.), his son-in-law, a boy eight years old, inherited the throne -- Tutankamen: priests of Amon had re-established their power and forced the new Pharaoh to move the capital back to Thebes.
ie. Showing the pharaoh had returned to traditional religious beliefs.
8. Decline of Egyptian Power: Post 1150 B.C.
a. Ramses II: last great ruler of the New Kingdom (1292-1225 B.C.).
1.) Spent most of his 67 year reign reviving the empire and fighting the Hittites.
2.) 1280 B.C. -- Egypt negotiated the first written treaty in history ending the struggle between the Hittites and themselves.
(Ramses was also the Pharaoh of the Jewish Oppression.)
b. By 1090 B.C.: Egypt was too weak to resist invaders.
c. First the Assyrians and then the Persians (525 B.C.) conquered Egypt.
d. 331 B.C.: Alexander the Great (the Greeks) conquered Egypt.
1.) Ptolemy, a general of Alexander, received Egypt after Alexander's death establishing a new dynasty.
2.) Cleopatra, a descendant of Ptolemy, attempted to restore Egyptian Power.
* 31 B.C.: a Roman Fleet defeated Egyptian naval forces (at Actium), and in the next year Egypt became a Roman Province.
* Egypt did not gain its independence again until 1936.
1. Food Surplus allowed the development of industry and trade.
2. Egypt was a Mineral Poor nation -- sought these resources in Arabia and Nubia.
3. Mining was a Governmental Monopoly.
a. Copper was mined in small quantities.
b. Imported iron from the Hittites.
c. Gold was mined: eastern coast and in Nubia.
4. Diodorus Siculus (56 B.C.) gives us a description of Egyptian Miners.
The kings of Egypt collect condemned prisoners, prisoners of
war and others who by false accusations, have been in a fit of
anger thrown into prison. These sometimes alone, sometimes with
their entire family - they send to the gold mines, partly to
exact a just vengeance for crimes committed by the condemned,
partly to secure or themselves a big revenue through their
..... As these workers can take no care of their bodies, and have
not even a garment to hide their nakedness, there is no one who,
seeing these luckless people, would not pity them because of the
excess of misery, for there is no forgiveness or relaxation at
all for the sick, or the maimed, or the old, or for women's
weakness; but all with blows are compelled to stick to their
labor until, worn out, they die in their servitude. Thus the poor
wretches even account the future more dreadful than the present
because of the excess of their punishment, and look to death as
more desirable than life.
5. The Egyptians learned early to make the alloy, Bronze for weaponsand tools.
6. Workers made: brick, cement, and plaster of Paris; glazed pottery and blew glass.
a. Master Wood Carvers: from boats and carriages to handsome coffins.
b. Tanners: quivers, shields, and seats.
c. Papyrus Plant: ropes, mats, sandals, and paper.
d. Textile Industry: hand looms.
a. Mostly free or partly slave.
b. Occupation, caste: sons were expected to follow their fathers.
c. Wars: thousands of captives that made possible large estates and the engineering triumphs of the Egyptians.
d. Free Artisans: were organized by a "chief worker" or overseer for a specific task.
Labor was sold as a group and then paid individually by the overseer.
8. Engineering was superior to what was known to the Greeks and Romans.
a. Senusret III: a 27 mile long wall to gather into Lake Moeris the waters of the Fayun Basin.
* 25,000 acres of marshland was reclaimed.
b. Canal: between the Nile and the Red Sea.
c. Immense stone was drawn on greased beams, and raised to desired levels by inclines.
9. Land Transportation:
a. Human Muscle.
b. Later by donkeys then by horses which the Hyksos probably introduced.
c. The Camel did not appear until Ptolemaic days.
10. Postal Service: However, communication was difficult.
a. Roads were few and bad (except military highways through Gaza to the Euphrates).
b. The Nile was the main highway. problem - it increased the distance between two places.
11. Egypt grew rich by importing raw materials and exporting finished products.
1. Scholars mostly priests enjoying the comfort and security of their temples.
2. Egyptian Legend: the Sciences had been invented ca. 18,000 B.C. by Troth, the Egyptian god of wisdom.
3. Precise measurements were necessary for their vast engineering projects.
4. Land Surveyors: origin in the development of geometry.
* Numbering System based on ten; developed fractions and whole numbers.
5. Egyptian physics and chemistry: we know nothing, almost as little about Egyptian Astronomy.
6. Invented a Calendar:
a. A star in the horizon before the flood -------- Sirius, the dog star.
b. Calendar: 12 months of 30 days each.
c. Year was divided into three seasons of four months each.
First: the rise, overflow, and recession of the Nile.
Second: the period of cultivation.
Third: the period of harvesting.
a. Began with priests: magical origins; possession by devils.
b. Surgeons and Specialists ----------- sought by foreign rulers.
Architecture and Art:
1. Built ramps and levers.
2. Post and Lintel: Vertical posts supported horizontal beams called lintels.
3. Statues: very rigid not realistic.
4. Painting: of everyday life.
Distinctive Style: profile of the head with full shoulders and profile of the legs.