Egypt History – The Ancient Kingdom
For the chronology, the figures provided by Manetone (v.), At least as they were handed down to us, do not withstand the most tenuous critical examination; every correction is bizarre. Some Egyptian texts allude to the appearance of the star Sothis in certain years of reign and thanks to those the twelfth, eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties are astronomically fixed. The Stone of Palermo and the Papyrus of the kings preserved in Turin give the opportunity to estimate with great approximation, around 3200, the beginning of the first dynasty. Borchardt’s attempt to bring it back to 4200 proved to be elevated on false foundations. Even so, Egyptian history does not begin later than the Babylonian one, because Urninā, the oldest king of Lagaš, reigned, according to modern chronologists, around 2875 BC. C. (see Ed. Meyer, Die ältere Chronologie, Stuttgart and Berlin 1925, p 39).
Mêne (Mēnēs of the Greeks) is, according to monuments and according to tradition, the first ruler of the united kingdom. The foundation of the “White Fortress” where Memphis was then traced back, perhaps wrongly, to him; it is probable that from this residence he guarded the still treacherous Lower Egypt. In the five hundred years that lasted the first two dynasties, of the city of Tini (3238-2990, 2989-2701 BC), not only the power of Egyptian weapons was felt several times on the neighbors, but the spiritual fusion of the nation and a wonderfully organized state emerged. In reality it is not one of the less grandiose monuments erected by the Egyptians.
In theory, according to findjobdescriptions, the sovereign, as elsewhere, is the absolute master; but in fact the councils of great officials and elected persons who for their own good judgment have acquired the favor of the prince influence the state’s progress. As still happens in the East, the regicide took away the violent and the limbs. Ordinarily, however, the government appears to us to be imbued with a profound sense of humanity; the monarch likes to believe himself to be the providential support of the weak. Righteousness is declared the norm that must regulate every action and it is not violated with impunity. First under the king is the “vizier” (as he is commonly referred to with a title taken from Muslim history) who also imparts justice; distinct offices, even if sometimes united in the same person, are: the treasurer, who oversees the state department stores, the person in charge of public works, the commander of the expeditions. A governor of Upper Egypt rules this region when the capital is in Memphis. The conspicuous number of officials was divided between the central administration and the provincial with a wise hierarchy. All government ordinances, every private act, had to be written down, sealed, often copied in special registers, almost always kept in the archives. Distinct from that of the sovereign is the patrimony of the state. The proceeds were very varied. Besides the spoils of war, confiscations, donations, the part if not the greater part, however ordinary, is constituted by taxes. They were paid in kind and large deposits were scattered all over the country in order to collect them and then return them as wages to those who were kept by the state. Frequent censuses informed about the resources of the citizens; the taxes on the crops were related to the floods of the Nile. Beyond these burdens there was the obligation to provide work and substances for services for collective benefit. Against those who abused in the exercise of their powers, the law sanctioned severe penalties.
The Memphites (dynasties III-VI) represent one of the most splendid periods of human history. The wonders built in Saqqārah by Imḥôtep, architect of Pharaoh Ṣôśer (2700-2678) are a clear indication of the powerful creative genius of the Egyptians. Under Śenfôre (Soris), of the fourth dynasty which lasted from 2644 to 2541, the activity was always intense. The so-called false pyramid of Meidūm and that of Dahshūr belong to him. The annals recall an expedition to Nubia with a rich booty of animals and slaves; and also in the Sinai the dominion was reaffirmed. Cheops, Chefren and Micerino were responsible for the construction of the pyramids at el-Gīzah, which testify to prosperous and peaceful times. The work of these enlightened governments favors the formation of great wealth.
The fifth dynasty (2540-2421 BC) marks the first peak of Egyptian civilization. According to a legend, the kings Weśrka’ef, Śaḥwrîe, Nefrerka’rîe-Ka’ke’j are three brothers, born in one child to the Sun-god Rîe from the wife of a priest Weśrrîe. Under these pharaohs the solar cult receives great increase and near the village of Abū Ṣīr the proud temples elevated to the god are still seen, in the middle of which a squat obelisk towers. External expansion, both military and commercial, continues intense in Syria, Libya, Nubia, Somalia. The name of the city of Memphis (v.) Is linked to the pyramid of King Pjôpe I (dynasty VI, around 2400) Mennófrew “Enduring of beauty [è Pjôpe]”. He too is a ruler of great energy. One of his dignitary, Wenej, he has passed on to us news of campaigns by land and sea against the residents of southern Palestine. Under the almost centennial reign of his successor, Pjôpe II (2360-2270) traffic continued with Upper Nubia (Berber) thanks to the princes of Elefantina, among whom Hawwefhôr is famous (erroneously called Ḫarcḥuf by some scholars). The short duration of the following reigns, which constitute the ephemeral VII dynasty of Manetone and the VIII, show the crumbling of the millenary monarchy. The causes of this phenomenon appear clear: the squandering of national wealth in constructions of no economic profit; the excessive growth of the parasitic bureaucracy; the inheritance of offices, which prevented the circulation of the best; the increase of powers to the heads of the provinces, who are transformed into feudal princes, with large landholdings and autonomous armies; the weakening of central power and of the monarchy (the position of “vizier” passes from the princes of the blood to the great officials); the impairment of the government due to the ever more frequent immunities granted to the temples with their vast mortar. A religious movement accompanied these events. The pyramids of the pharaohs of the 6th dynasty are covered with long magic formulas and numerous chapters of the “Book of the Dead” date back to this time. the impairment of the government due to the ever more frequent immunities granted to the temples with their vast mortar. A religious movement accompanied these events. The pyramids of the pharaohs of the 6th dynasty are covered with long magic formulas and numerous chapters of the “Book of the Dead” date back to this time. the impairment of the government due to the ever more frequent immunities granted to the temples with their vast mortar. A religious movement accompanied these events. The pyramids of the pharaohs of the 6th dynasty are covered with long magic formulas and numerous chapters of the “Book of the Dead” date back to this time.