Egypt Early History
Egypt State of north-eastern Africa, which also extends into a territory traditionally considered to be Asia, E of the Suez isthmus (Sinai peninsula). Second great civilization of the Near East, the Egyptian one developed with characteristics in some respects similar to the Mesopotamian model, in the economy (agriculture based on irrigation, canalization of water, intense commercial relations with Mediterranean and Asian countries), in the division of labor and in the social stratification, in the pyramidal structure of power at the top of which was a king, in the urban organization and in the architectural monumentality. However, it had some aspects of its own, which originated from the prehistoric traditions of the people of the Nile or derived from its particular geographical position. Towns, cities and villages wound their way along the course of the Nile. AE to O opened the desert which, although already crossed by small caravans of merchants in prehistoric times, constituted an insuperable barrier for any population who wanted to pass it into arms. This position of physical isolation made Egypt a separate unit, defensible from any external penetration, protected by three “gates” – towards Libya to the West, Nubia to the South, the Isthmus of Suez and the Sinai massif to the East -, while the communication routes and exchange gathered on the Nile and the sea. From this geographical dimension derive the continuity, solidity and duration of the kingdom, and also its cultural conservatism. The history of Egypt pharaonic is divided into great periods of stability (Ancient, Middle and New Kingdom), corresponding to the 30 dynasties that alternated in the government of the country, alternating with periods of (intermediate) crisis,
Ancient kingdom . According to itypeusa, Egypt predynastic consisted of a multitude of tiny kingdoms, each under the authority of a local god, represented by a prince who was also its high priest. Subsequently, processes of annexation and conquest led to the formation of ever larger political organizations, up to the establishment of two states, the Upper Egypt and the Lower Egypt, corresponding to the Valley and the Nile Delta. At the same time, the bond of the tribal organization, based on parental ties and on the immediacy of community life relationships, was replaced by common interests such as to justify dependence on a single ruler. The reunion of the two bodies in a single national state was carried out by the king of the High Egypt Menes, with whom the 1st dynasty began (2850 BC approx.) And who moved the royal residence to Memphis, along the line of separation of the two previously independent lands. The new state had a shared law, bureaucracy and religion. While aware of the differences, the two parts of the kingdom were welded by virtue of the common dependence on the Nile and the doctrine of the afterlife nature of the sovereign. The Old Kingdom reached its peak between the III and V dynasty (2682-2322 ca.). III began with Nebka, followed by Gioser, whose tomb in Saqqara was the first great building of Egypt built in stone. Of Snefru, first pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, contemporary documents attest to expeditions to Nubia, Libya, Sinai, while the names of Cheops, Chefren and Menkaure are linked to the pyramids of Giza. With the V dynasty the cult of Ra, god of the Sun, supreme divinity, assumed full dynastic value, thus ending a tendency which had already manifested itself under Gioser and due to the growing importance of the Heliopolitan priesthood. The sovereign declared himself a son of the god, codifying a sporadic initiative of the previous dynasty. The administration was articulated and a vizier was placed next to the king, while numerous officials, personally chosen by the sovereign, came to constitute a nobility that gravitated around the court, even if for reasons of office it was located in the province. The salient features of the VI dynasty (2322-2191 ca.), originally from Memphis and having the two most representative figures in Pepi I and Pepi II, were an intense artistic life and the affirmation of Egyptian influence in Nubia. However, in the same period an economic and political crisis that had matured for some time erupted. The divine monarchy relied above all on the priestly caste, which had received goods and privileges from it; at the same time the complication of the administration had given increasing authority to officials, while the nomarchs (the heads of the names, the administrative districts) and the provincial authorities tended to fixate themselves on the place where they exercised their office and to pass it on as an inheritance.
First intermediate period. From the attempt of the monarchy, which had two rival forces in the priestly caste and in the nobility, to regain control of the lands given in benefit, a civil war resulted from which Egypt it came out fractionated and weakened. A dark period began for the country. From Memphis the kings of the seventh and eighth dynasty (according to a tradition, 70 pharaohs succeeded each other within 70 days) continued to claim to exercise a purely nominal government over the whole country, in fact ignored by the princes of the various provinces. Subsequently, a family of Heracleopolis in Fayyum (IX and X dynasty) dominated for a few decades in an undefined area of the Delta and in the Middle Egypt, then succumbing to the prevalence of the potentates of Thebes.
Middle Kingdom. With the XI dynasty, by Montuhotep II (2046-1995), the centrifugal forces were recomposed and territorial unity was reconstituted, but at the cost of the collapse of the monarchy of divine right. While the nomarchs and other princes were opposed to the pharaoh, in the economic life the craftsmanship assumed greater independence and a bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class was formed. At the same time there was a renewed development of science and art. Montuhotep and his successors successfully conducted expeditions to Nubia and commercial voyages to the east and the Red Sea. The control, if not yet the occupation and conquest, of the coastal area of Palestine was essential to prevent the establishment of foreign powers on the borders of the country and above all to exercise a form of mercantile “imperialism”. ensuring the monopoly of the terminals of the commercial routes between the Mediterranean and the eastern hinterland. That of the XII dynasty (1976-1794 / 3) is one of the best known periods of Egyptian history. Its founder was Amenemhat I, who brought Amon, the god of Thebes, to the rank of main divinity, verified the frontiers of the names, built defense fortresses in the Delta against the Bedouins and fought against the Libyans. His successors Sesostris III and Amenemhat III carried out an equally incisive policy. The first carried out the conquest of Nubia, the second the reclamation of the Fayyum. In Nubia a chain of fortifications was set up and the borders of the state were moved up to the second cataract; in the Fayyum grandiose irrigation projects were put in place, with the construction of a dam and the conveyance of alluvial waters in numerous canals. This was the age of the most refined life of Egypt: a solid monarchy alongside efficient officials, a people engaged in civil works, a war activism that gave security to the borders; and, at the same time, the flourishing of artistic activity and the writing of classical works of Egyptian literature. Social and political stability did not last long, and years of poorly documented confusion followed.
Second intermediate period. The Middle Kingdom ended with the XII dynasty. The thirteenth and fourteenth dynasties (c. 1794 / 3-1670) were represented by kings largely known only by name, whose weakness was manifested in the rapid succession and frequency of usurpations. If the Egypt it continued to live as a society, it was by virtue of the capacity for autonomous action of its administrative structures. AE of the Delta infiltrated Asian tribes, the hyksos (“kings of foreign countries” and, according to a false etymology, “shepherd kings”), who built a stronghold in Avaris and from there they moved towards the rest of the country. However, they did not succeed in obtaining dominion over the whole Egypt except for a short time, during which local princes probably retained their authority, albeit limited by control and forced to pay a tax.