Egypt is a Mediterranean country, the Northern part of Africa, and is famous for being the home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth. The name ‘Egypt’ originates from the Greek Aegyptus or the Greek pronunciation of the ancient Egyptian name ‘Hwt-Ka-Ptah’ (“Mansion of the Spirit of Ptah”), initially the name of the city of Memphis. The first capital of Egypt is Memphis, which is recognized as a famous religious and trade center; its high status is attested to by the Greeks alluding to the entire country by that name.
For the people of Ancient Egypt themselves, their country was purely known as Kemet, meaning ‘Black Land’, named due to the rich, dark soil along the Nile River where the first settlements began. Later on, the country was called Misr, which in translation means ‘country’, a name that is still in use by Egyptians for their nation in the present day. Egypt flourished for thousands of years (from c. 8000 BCE to c. 30 BCE) as an autonomous nation whose culture was renowned for significant cultural advances in every area of human knowledge, from the arts to science to technology and religion. The great monuments that originate from ancient Egypt are still celebrated in order to reflect the depth and magnificence of Egyptian culture, which influenced so many ancient civilizations, among them Greece and Rome.
Early History of Egypt
The Early Dynastic Time in Egypt (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE) was the period that included the unification of the north and south kingdoms under the king Menes (also known as Meni or Manes) of Upper Egypt who conquered Lower Egypt in c. 3118 BCE or c. 3150 BCE. This edition of the early history originates from the Aegyptica (History of Egypt) by the ancient historian Manetho who lived in the 3rd century BCE under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE). Besides the fact that his chronology has been disputed by later historians, it is still regularly taken into consideration as a source of dynastic succession and the early history of ancient Egypt.
Manetho’s work is the only resource that cites Menes and the conquest, and it is now believed that the man referred to by Manetho as ‘Menes’ was king Narmer who made a peaceful union between the Upper and Lower Egypt under one rule. No matter that the identification of Menes with Narmer is far from collectively accepted and Menes has been as credibly linked to the king Hor-Aha (c. 3100-3050 BCE) who succeeded him. ‘Menes’ is a title meaning “he who endures” and not a personal name, and so it could have been used to refer to more than one king. This claim serves as an explanation for Menes’ connection with his predecessor and successor is that. The declaration that the military campaign unified the land is also dubious as the famous Narmer Palette, depicting a military victory, which some scholars claim to be royal propaganda. Initially, the country might have been united peacefully, but this appears to be unlikely.
According to geography, ancient Egypt follows the direction of the Nile River, and according to that, Upper Egypt is the southern region, whereas Lower Egypt is the northern area nearer to the Mediterranean Sea. Narmer first ruled from the city of Heirakonopolis and then from Memphis and Abydos. Under the monarchs of the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt, there was an increased success in trade and elaborate mastaba tombs, precursors to the later pyramids, were crafted in Egyptian and they stand for burial practices which included increasingly elaborate mummification techniques.
The Old Kingdom Of Egypt
During the period recognized as the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613-2181 BCE), the architecture honoring the gods improved at an increased rate and several of the most famous monuments in Egypt, like the pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza, were constructed. The king Djoser, who reigned c. 2670 BCE, created the first Step Pyramid at Saqqara c. 2670, which was designed by his chief architect and physician Imhotep (c. 2667-2600 BCE) who is also famous for writing one of the first medical texts including a description of the treatment of over 200 different diseases and arguing that the cause of illness could be natural, instead of the will of the gods. The Pyramid of Khufu that is known as the last of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world was constructed during his reign (2589-2566 BCE) with the pyramids of Khafre (2558-2532 BCE) succeeded by Menkaure (2532-2503 BCE).
The brilliance of the pyramids on the Giza plateau, as they initially would have appeared, sheathed in gleaming white limestone, is evidence of the power and wealth of the rulers during this period. Besides a large number of theories regarding how these monuments and tombs were constructed, even nowadays, modern architects and scholars are far from agreement on any single one. Taking into consideration the newest technologies, some have argued, a monument such as the Great Pyramid of Giza should not exist. There are other people who claim that the existence of such crafts and tombs implies superior technology, which has been lost to time.
There is absolutely no recorded evidence that the monuments of the Giza plateau or, in fact, of any other in Egypt were constructed by slave labor as well as there is not any evidence to support a historical reading of the biblical Book of Exodus. The more significant part of the reputable scholars these days discards the state that the pyramids and other monuments were built by slave labor, although slaves of different nationalities certainly did exist in Egypt and were commonly employed in the mines. Egyptian monuments were treated as public works created for the state, and for their construction were used both skilled and unskilled workers in construction, all of whom were paid for their work on the site. Working force at the Giza site, which was only one of many, was provided with a ration of beer three times a day, and their housing, tools, and even their degree of health care have all been clearly established.
The New Kingdom & the Amarna Period
Ahmose I is the initiator of what is identified as the period of the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 – c. 1069 BCE), which once more saw immense prosperity in the land under a stable central government. The name of the pharaoh for the ruler of Egypt originates from the period of the New Kingdom; former monarchs were purely known as kings. A lot of the Egyptian sovereigns well-known today ruled during this period and the majority of the great structures of Egyptian architecture such as the Ramesseum, Abu Simbel, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens and the temples of Karnak and Luxor, were either constructed or significantly enhanced throughout this time.
From 1504 to 1492 BCE, the pharaoh Thutmose I (Tuthmosis I) consolidated his power and expanded the borders of Egypt all the way to the Euphrates River in the north, Nubia to the south, and Syria and Palestine to the west. His successor was Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE), who is famous for the greatly expanded trade with other nations, especially the Land of Punt. Her 22-year long reign was one of peace and prosperity for Egypt.
The successor of her throne, Thutmose III (Tuthmosis III), is famous for continuing on her policies (although he tried to eradicate all memory of her as it is thought, he did not want her to serve as a role model for other women given that only men were desirable and worthy to rule) and, by the time he died in 1425 BCE, Egypt was recognized as being a great and mighty nation. Thanks to the prosperity, among other things, there was an increase in the manufacturing of beer in many different varieties and more free time for sports and recreation. Advances in medicine led to progress in health issues.
Driven by their religion and modeled by their clergy bathing had long been a noteworthy part of the daily Egyptian’s regimen as it was. For the duration of this time, though, more sophisticated baths were produced, presumably more for leisure than mere hygiene. The Kahun Gynecological Papyrus was concerned with women’s health and contraceptives and had been written c. 1800 BCE and, during this period, extensive use of doctors has been made. Surgery and dentistry were both practiced with great skill, and beer was prescribed by physicians to ease symptoms of over 200 different maladies.
1353 BCE is the period when the pharaoh Amenhotep IV succeeded the throne and, soon after, changed his name to Akhenaten (`living spirit of Aten’) to reflect his belief in a single god, Aten. It was a traditional belief by the Egyptians that many gods, with their importance, influenced every aspect of their daily lives. Some of the most popular of these deities were Amun, Osiris, Isis, and Hathor. The cult of Amun, during this time, had grown so wealthy that the priests were nearly as powerful as the ruler or pharaoh. Akhenaten and his wife and queen, Nefertiti, renounced the traditional beliefs and customs of Egypt and inserted a new religion based upon the recognition of one god.
His religious reforms successfully cut the power of the priests of Amun and placed it in his hands. To further remove his rule from that of his predecessors, he moved the capital from Thebes to Amarna. This period is recognized as The Amarna Period (1353-1336 BCE), throughout which Amarna grew as the capital of the country, and polytheistic religious customs were banned.
Among many of his accomplishments, Akhenaten was famous for being the primary ruler to decree statuary and a temple in honor of his queen instead of only for himself or the gods and used the money that was once used for the temples was used for public works and parks. During the time of his reign, the power of the clergy declined sharply as that of the central government grew, which seemed to be Akhenaten’s goal from the beginning, yet he failed to use his power in the best interest of his people. The Amarna Letters clear out that he was more worried about his religious reforms than with foreign policy or the needs of his people.
He was succeeded by his son, the most identifiable Egyptian ruler in the modern-day, Tutankhamun, who reigned from c. 1336 – c. 1327 BCE. He was initially named Tutankhaten to reflect the religious beliefs of his father but, upon assuming the throne, changed his name to Tutankhamun to honor the ancient god Amun. In the period of his reign, he restored the ancient temples, removed all references to his father’s single deity, and returned the capital to Thebes. His reign was terminated because of his death, and, these days, he is most famous for the intact grandeur of his tomb, discovered in 1922 CE, which became an international sensation at the time.
The supreme ruler of the New Kingdom, however, was Ramesses II (also known as Ramesses the Great, 1279-1213 BCE), who commenced the most elaborate building projects of any Egyptian ruler and who reigned so efficiently due to the fact that he had the means to do so. Even though the famous Battle of Kadesh of 1274 BCE (between Ramesses II of Egypt and Muwatalli II of the Hittites) is today regarded as a draw, Ramesses considered it a tremendous Egyptian triumph and glorified himself as a champion of the people, and as a god, in his many communities works.
His shrine of Abu Simbel (built for his queen Nefertari) represents a depiction of the battle of Kadesh, and the smaller temple at the site, following Akhenaten’s example, is devoted to Ramesses’ favorite queen Nefertari. The first peace treaty in the world was signed under the reign of Ramesses II (The Treaty of Kadesh) in 1258 BCE, and Egypt enjoyed almost extraordinary affluence. The evidence of that is the numerous monuments built or restored during his reign.