THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT

By Tim Lambert

By 5,000 BC the people of Egypt had begun farming. They also wove linen and made pottery. Later they learned to use bronze. About 3,200 BC the Egyptians invented writing.

The first Egyptian in history was King Menes aka Narmer who lived shortly before 3,000 BC. At that time Egypt was divided into northern (lower) Egypt and southern (upper Egypt). About 3118 Menes managed to unite the two. He made Memphis his capital.

Ancient Egypt was a highly organised society. The country was divided into 42 areas called nomes. Each one was governed by nomarch. Farmers paid part of their crops in taxes.

The first period of Egyptian history, which ended in 2181 BC is called the Old Kingdom. During it the pharaohs built pyramids. The first pyramid, the step pyramid was built by Zoser about 2665 BC. Others were built by the following pharaohs Sneferu and Khufu.

However central authority in Egypt eventually weakened. After about 1281 BC Egypt split into parts and there were civil wars between the rival areas. This period of civil disorder is called the First Intermediate Period and it lasted until 2055 BC. Finally Montuhotep II succeeded in reuniting Egypt and he founded the Middle Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom lasted until 1650 BC. It was a great period of art and literature in Egypt. Furthermore the pharaohs carried out successful military campaigns and more pyramids were built. Also at this time people from what is now Israel settled in Egypt (including the ancestors of today’s Jews).

However the Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period. About 1650 a Palestinian people called the Hyskos seized power in northern Egypt. They ruled from the city of Avaris. However native Egyptians continued to rule southern Egypt and in 1550 BC they drove out the Hyskos and reunited Egypt.

So began the New Kingdom. It lasted from 1550 to 1070 BC. During this era Egypt was rich and powerful once again. Egypt controlled Nubia, the land to the south and invaded Palestine and Syria. Meanwhile great new temples were built at Thebes and pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings. (One pharaoh was female. Hatshepsut ruled from 1490-1468 BC).

Then about 1364 BC Akhenaton became pharaoh. He worshiped only the sun god Aten. However his son Tutankhamen worshiped the old gods.

The New Kingdom collapsed in 1070 and gave way to another period of disunity. From this point Egypt declined and never recovered its former glory.

During the Third intermediate period Egypt split into two halves, north and south. However in 747 BC kings from Nubia (the country south of Egypt) conquered Egypt and restored unity. Yet in 525 BC the Persians conquered Egypt. Then in 332 Alexander the Great conquered it.

After Alexander's death his empire split into parts. A Greek general called Ptolemy eventually took Egypt and for about 300 years his Greek descendants ruled Egypt. However in 30 BC Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire and ceased to be an independent kingdom.

However the real end of Ancient Egypt came with Christianity. It reached Alexandria by 70 AD and spread south by 180 AD. Christianity meant the end of the old religion and so the end of Ancient Egyptian culture.

Life in Ancient Egypt

Home