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Ancient Egypt vs Ancient Greece Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 28th, 2020

Introduction

Egyptian civilization was one of the most significant and very influential civilizations during prehistoric times. The Egyptian Empire, also commonly known as Ancient Egypt, was founded about 3150 and lasted until 20 BC following its inversion by the Roman Empire. The kingdom flourished because of their unique skills in agriculture, especially in irrigation, which helps in ensuring that there was food for its population. The leaders ensured that there was a division of labor which led to specialization at a time when the world had not known such skills. A section of the society worked in the plantations; others became artists, masons, blacksmiths, soldiers, and such other professions. During its golden era, Ancient Egypt was very powerful, with political rulers who were viewed as gods. The pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were absolute rulers. They were both the political and religious heads of their kingdoms. According to Raphael and Bolognese (2014), the fact that people in this society tried to specialize in specific jobs led to the emergence of unique arts and architecture in society. The Egyptian pyramids emerged during this golden age and it had a major impact on modern-day architecture. As the kingdom expanded its empire, it started influencing civilization in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa region. However, like the other ancient civilizations, Ancient Egypt entered a period of decline primarily because of poor decisions made by those trusted with leadership.

During the period of its decline, ancient Egypt came under the rule of several Kingdoms that were emerging during that time. Persia, Macedonia, and Roman Empires are some of the ancient kingdoms that at one time conquered and ruled the Egyptian Empire for some time. Each of these ancient kingdoms that ruled Egypt had a varying socio-economic and political impact on society. The Macedonian Empire (Ancient Greece) was one such kingdom. Egypt was conquered by Ancient Greece under the command of Alexander the Great. Alexander ruled Ancient Greece during its golden era. Scholars argue that Alexander was one of the most shrewd commanders and rulers of ancient society (Gardner & Kleiner, 2014). He was a ruthless soldier who knew how to embrace diplomacy when it suits him. When he came to Egypt, he met little resistance and was able to conquer it by engaging in any battle. Ancient Greece had a significant impact on the Egyptian Empire. In this paper, the researcher seeks to investigate the extent to which Ancient Egypt became Greek and the extent to which it remained the same during and after the rule by Ancient Greece.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is one of the six civilizations that rose independently (James & Dillon, 2012). It was concentrated along the lower Nile River; Northeastern Africa in what is currently Egypt (James & Dillon, 2012). The civilization is believed to have started in 3150 BC in prehistoric Egypt with the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt under a common ruler known as pharaoh. In the pre-dynastic period, the region of Lower Nile had started experiencing economic development and some form of civility. The rich soil along the river Nile and regular floods made it easy for the locals to cultivate rice. The locals in this region had started forming communities that had a clear leadership system and even an army. Animal husbandry and stone tools became common in this region. The civilization moved north of the Nile River as the community grew. Trade with the regional kingdoms begun as technological improvement in agriculture started taking shape. Rice, obsidian, flacks, livestock, and metals became popular commodities of trade between this emerging kingdom and its neighboring kingdoms such as Ethiopia and Near East communities.

The dynastic period began in 3050 BC as the community grew to occupy modern-day Egypt, parts of Sudan, and parts of Tunisia. Civilization was taking shape in Lower and Upper Egypt and power coalesced around Menetho who was a religious leader. The Old Kingdom of Egypt advanced in technology, art, and architecture. That was 2686-2181 BC when the kingdom achieved major success in various fields. The Great Sphinx and Giza Pyramids were constructed during this period. It was also in this era that the kingdom enhanced its agricultural technology by using irrigation systems and other basic mechanization to simplify agricultural activities. Scholars believe that the Ancient Egyptians were constantly affected by the prolonged droughts that affected agriculture and other economic activities (Deady, 2012). During such periods, the community had to fully rely on waters of River Nile for survival. Part of the technological advancements, especially the irrigation system, as a result of the harsh climatic condition in the region that forced the locals to find alternative ways of farming.

The First Intermediate Period that started in 2181 to 1991 BC and the Middle Kingdom that lasted until 1690 BC saw real socio-economic and political development. The leadership at this time had been taken over by the Pharaohs. The monarch that was created during this period was very influential. The society was expected to abide by the laws and regulations set by the rulers. People from the Near East such as the Canaanites started settling in this kingdom because of its economic prosperity. The New Kingdom of Egypt that started from 1549 to 1069 BC marked a major period of interaction with the outside world. It was in this period that this kingdom started diplomatic relations with other regional powers such as the Assyria, Canaan, and Mitanni. Religion also started taking shape as many temples were built to worship. The Egyptian Empire’s decline started in the Late Period of 672-332 BC when the leadership of the Kingdom was faced with internal wrangles.

The Kingdom became weak and its economic activities, such as agriculture, became uncoordinated as the leaders focused on amassing wealth and power instead of helping the society achieve economic progress. According to a report by Raphael and Bolognese (2014), the monarchial system of leadership that was embraced by the Egyptians was the reason for its rise and subsequent fall. There was a period when the royal family had people who knew how to lead. The steered the kingdom into economic and political prosperity. However, there were cases where the leadership had to be handed over to young successors who could not offer the needed leadership. The Kingdom finally fell into the hands of the Persians in 525 BC.

The Inversion by Macedonia

Ancient Greece under Alexander the Great

Ancient Greece achieved great success when it was under its great ruler, King Alexander III of Macedon, popularly known as Alexander the Great. The period, known as the Hellenistic Period or Hellenistic Civilization, was marked by the rapid expansion of the Macedonian Empire under the leadership of Alexander the Great. According to Deady (2012), although the Wars of Alexander only lasted for 13 years, from 336 BC to 323 BC, it left a major impact on society. This was the period when the Macedonians ruled the world. Success in major battles meant that the kingdom controlled major empires in Europe, Middle and Near East, and North African regions. Alexander was not only a skilled warrior but also an astute businessman and a person who cherished education. He gave priority to education, agriculture, trade, and military developments. Ancient Greece became a major center for civilization not only in Europe but also in other regions that were conquered by the empire. As soon as he took power, he started by fortifying his empire to protect it from external foes. After securing the kingdom, he started an aggressive military campaign to expand its territory to other parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa where civilization had started taking shape. According to Hawkins (2013), under the reigns of Alexander the Great, Ancient Greece expanded its territory due to its military success. Alexander himself was always at the battlefront, fighting alongside his soldiers.

According to Deady (2012), one of the most significant characteristics of Ancient Greece under the leadership of King Alexander III of Macedon was its prosperity in education. Having benefited a lot from education, King Alexander emphasized on the need for its people to be taken through formal education by standards of those years. The kingdom has accomplished academicians such as Aristotle, Speusippus, and Isocrates. These great philosophers defined the modern-day education system and civilization of modern society. It explains why Alexander was keen on establishing a learning institution in the territories that it conquered in parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Under the reigns of King Alexander, Macedonia reached its golden age and its military was revered by other kingdoms around the world. Hawkins (2013) says that by the time of his death, Alexander had created an empire that was arguably in control of the world. He achieved the success that his predecessors never imagined of in their lifetimes. It was during his reigns that Ancient Greece took control of Ancient Egypt.

The Inversion of Ancient Egypt by Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece, under the leadership of King Alexander III of Macedon, was very successful and expanded very rapidly. The king was keen on controlling major centers of civilization around the world. Before coming to Egypt, Alexander had fought and won battles of Granicus River, Halicarnassus, Issus, and Tyre among others. He had a team of highly motivated generals and soldiers who believed that their commander was undefeatable. Alexander was a transformational leader who greatly inspired his soldiers (Gardner & Kleiner, 2014). The first huddle in their plan to conquer Ancient Egypt was to take control of Gaza, a very lucrative trade center. Gaza was heavily fortified and under the command of Batis of Persia. Alexander chose diplomacy over force and offered Batis the privilege of controlling the entire region when it becomes a province of Macedonia. However, Batis and his men wanted to be in full control of the Gaza trade center. They rejected the peace deal offered to them, which meant that they had to go to war with the Macedonian soldiers. They were convinced that their fortified city would offer them defense against the invading forces. The ruthless soldiers of Macedonia overran the Batis forces guarding the city. Batis himself was captured and murdered by Alexander. The king ordered that all adult males in this city had to be put to the sword. Women and children were taken to captivity. This important business center became part of the Macedonian Empire.

At the time of the siege of Gaza, Egypt was under Persian rulers. The Egyptians hated the Persians whom they accused of exploiting them. The Persian rulers in Egypt were horrified by the swiftness, ruthlessness, and skills of the Macedonian army. When Alexander made his march into Egypt, he met no meaningful resistance. The Persian rulers in Egypt had no proper army that could help stage a resistance. That was in 332 BC. Hawkins (2013) says that these rulers relied on the army that was led by Batis in Gaza to protect their territory. The believed (rightfully) that any invasion had to first go through the well-trained soldiers in Gaza. When Gaza fell, it was obvious that the rulers stood no chance at repulsing the invasion. The rulers made a quick decision of handing over the Egyptian Kingdom to the king of Macedonia without a fight. He was welcomed by the locals who saw him as a savior who eliminated the oppressive Persians. The Egyptians crowned him the king and he immediately commissioned the development of Alexandria city as a center of academics ad civilization. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian rulers who came to power was not as shrewd in war as he was. The rulers who were left in Egypt started focusing on creating their dynasties, leading to internal wrangles and instability. Their rule was further weakened by constant attacks by Syrians and other kingdoms in the Near East. The Roman Empire finally took control of Ancient Egypt from the Macedonians, marking the end of Ancient Greece rule over Ancient Egypt in 30 BC.

Impact of Macedonian Rule on Ancient Egypt

The Macedonian rule over the Ancient Egyptians had a major impact on the socio-economic and cultural practices in Egypt. Ancient Greece controlled Ancient Egypt for over 300 years, from 332 BC to 30 BC when the Roman Empire took control of the city. This was a very long period where the Greece culture interacted with Egyptian culture in economic, political, and social spheres. According to Raphael and Bolognese (2014), the Greek rulers made an effort to embrace most of the cultural practices in Egypt as a way of appeasing the locals. They wanted the Egyptians to feel that they were in full control of their social and economic life. As such, Alexander instructed his commanders who were left in Egypt not to significantly interfere with the local culture. In this section of the paper, the focus will be to analyze the extent to which Ancient Egypt became Greek and the extent to which it remained the same despite the long rule of the Macedonians. The following are the specific areas of influence worth focusing on in this analysis.

Land Policies

The land policies that were put in place by the Pharaohs during the golden age of Ancient Egypt were communal. During this time, land in Egypt belonged to pharaohs, and individuals would be granted parcels of land based on their relationship with the royal family and their ability to pay the needed tax. This policy remained in place for a very long time and the Egyptians strongly believed that land belonged to the royal family. When the Egyptian Empire was subdued and taken over by the Persians, they maintained this policy. However, what changed was the royal family owning the lands. Under the Persians, the land was owned by the rulers from Persia. The locals became slaves in their land. Land ownership policy is one of the main areas that were significantly influenced by the coming of the Greek rulers to Egypt.

According to Nichols (2015), Alexander instructed his lieutenants in charge of this new territory to ensure that land ownership changed from being fully controlled by the government and royal families to being owned by the locals. The land was very precious in this kingdom, especially along the River Nile where rice and other crops were grown. As such, the local Egyptians had an attachment to the land. King Alexander III was keen on ensuring that he remained popular among the local Egyptians, especially after they crowned him the pharaoh of Egypt after defeating Persians. One of the ways of appeasing the locals was to ensure that they owned land as individual Egyptians. When he died, the land ownership policy did not change much. The land belonged to the people. Landowners were expected to pay a certain amount of tax to the government to help in various administrative issues.

Government and Politics

When Ancient Egypt fell to the Persians, government and politics changed. Pharaoh was no longer the absolute ruler of the kingdom. Instead, the Persian ruler appointed his generals to govern the territory. At the time when Greeks to control of this country, the Egyptians no longer had a central source of power as it used to be the case in the past. However, the Egyptians still believed that one day a savior will come and drive the foreigners away and become their pharaoh. Hawkins (2013) says that when Alexander drove off the Persians and became very lenient and diplomatic with the locals, he was seen as the savior they were waiting for to rescue them. The Greeks restored the political structure that was in place before the kingdom was invaded by the Persians. The traditional form of government where power was under a central command was reintroduced. However, there were some changes in the form of government. Instead of having a pharaoh who had absolute power, the ruler of Egypt was more considerate and able to listen to the demands of the people. Although the system was autocratic because people could not vote in their preferred leader, the new leader had to be considerate to the people and be ready to change policies based on popular opinions. The new rulers from Greece introduced new government systems, especially the relationship between the people and their leaders. For the first time, Egyptians could reach out to their rulers, through representatives, on issues of concern to them. Some of these gains were, however, lost when the kingdom came under the Roman Empire.

Religion

Religion was at the core of Egyptian civilization. During the golden age of this empire, the pharaoh became both the political and religious leader of this community. Nichols (2015) says that he was seen as one of the gods. They believed in life after death and worshiped their gods in cult temples. Priests were appointed to act on behalf of the King in various parts of the city. When the Greeks took overpower, this was one of the areas they were keen not to interfere with in the social system in Egypt. Under the instructions from Alexander the Great, Greeks were instructed to construct temples in a similar design to that of the Egyptians. The religious practices of the Egyptians remained the same during the time they were ruled by the Greeks. To ensure that there was harmony in the religious system Alexander introduced some of the gods in ancient Greece in Egypt. It was easy to do this because the moment he has crowned the pharaoh by the Egyptians, he automatically became a god. The decision was made to ensure that Macedonians living in Egypt as administrators, educators, soldiers, and businessmen could easily worship together with the Egyptians. In one temple, an Egyptian would worship his gods and a Macedonian would worship a different god. Moreover, people were granted religious democracy, unlike was the case before. Alexander, and other Macedonian rulers who came after him, allowed the Egyptians to choose the gods they preferred to worship. As such, the religious practices remained intact, until the emergence of Roman and Oman Empires.

Science and Education

According to Nichols (2015), scholars argue that the current education system originated from Ancient Greece. Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Physiological sciences, and Arts are some of the areas of education that flourished in Greece at the time it conquered Ancient Egypt. One of the primary goals of Alexander the Great was to spread the Macedonian education system around the world as a way of spreading civilization. He established schools in places where he was welcomed by the locals. Egypt was one of the regions that benefited from his education system. Soon after taking over the leadership of Egypt, the Greeks introduced a new education system that was more formal than what the Egyptians were used to in the past. Alexandria city became the center of modern education in Ancient Egypt. Both sciences and arts were taught at school, initially by teachers from Greece. Hawkins (2013) argues that the education system introduced by the Macedonians in Egypt defined the modern civilization in the Middle East and North Africa regions. It is one of the major changes that was introduced in Egypt and remained intact several years after the departure of the Greeks from Egypt.

War

Historians have always regarded Alexander the Great as the greatest military commander of all times following his massive success in various battles (Gardner & Kleiner, 2014). In most of the cases, he won battles despite logistical and manpower challenges he would face. He knew when to use diplomacy and when to use military power. According to James and Dillon (2012), historically great leaders such as Augustus, Ceaser, and Gendis Khan at one time lost a battle. However, King Alexander III of Macedon never lost a single battle in his entire military career, defeating his enemies from Europe, Middle East, to Asia and as far as India. His unique war techniques were transferred to Egypt, although it was not enough to help the Egyptians reestablish their empire that had fallen. Some of the Macedonian commanders who remained in Egypt had to recruit some of the locals to work in the military. These local Egyptians learned war tactics of the Egyptians and it impacted on their lives after the departure of the Greeks.

Popular Culture

Egyptians were civilized in their way by the time Greeks invaded their kingdom. Some of the socio-cultural practices were defined by their beliefs in the supernatural forces. The romance was also uniquely practiced in this society as passed to them by their ancestors (Gardner & Kleiner, 2014). The locals had their very popular local music. With the arrival of the Macedonians, the popular culture in Egypt did not change much. The introduction of formal education led to the emergence of an elite class of members of society. However, popular culture in Egypt remained intact, especially the music and arts. Education only provided a better platform for these cultural practices to flourish.

Natural Resources

In Ancient Egypt, the land was the most important natural resource. It enabled people to engage in farming, livestock rearing, and other economic activities. The advanced agricultural practice in Egypt was never changed due to the emergence of Greeks. The Greeks tried to ensure that natural resources remained in the hands of the local Egyptians. The new model of education introduced was superior to what the Egyptians had, but the Egyptians’ use of technology in agriculture was unique. The Greeks were marveled at how these locals had mastered their environment and used the available resources to transform an otherwise dry land into a major exporter of various agricultural products. The new knowledge that Egyptians learned from the Greeks helped them come up with better ways of tapping into their natural resources.

Myths

The Egyptians had their myths and beliefs about gods and the relationship they had with people. Myths about successful rulers who conquered the evil forces and helped in creating a successful Egyptian Empire were also common (Nichols, 2015). When the Greeks came to Egypt, they never challenged most of these myths, especially those concerning religion and cultural practices. However, some of the myths relating to science were challenged due to the education system that was introduced. The Egyptians learned to balance religious and cultural myths and scientific facts. When it came to solving real-life problems, they relied on science. However, myths were used to teach morality and to motivate the public, especially when going through various socio-economic and political challenges. Some of the Egyptian myths changed while others remained the same based on their relevance.

Conclusion

Ancient Egypt was one of the earliest civilizations in the world. It was concentrated in Lower and Upper Nile regions in what is currently modern-day Egypt. During its golden era, it controlled the Middle East and North Africa regions. However, it finally fell to foreign powers, one of which was Ancient Greece. The rulers of Ancient Greece introduced new systems and structures in the fields of science, education, and warfare that changed the Egyptians’ way of life. However, religion, popular culture, natural resources, and mythical beliefs did not change much even after years of colonization.

References

Deady, K. W. (2012). Ancient Egypt: Beyond the pyramids. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.

Gardner, H., & Kleiner, F. S. (2014). Gardner’s art through the ages: The Western perspective. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Hawkins, D. R. (2013). Truth vs. Falsehood: How To Tell the Difference. London, UK: Hay House, Inc.

James, S. L., & Dillon, S. (2012). A companion to women in the ancient world. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nichols, K. (2015). Greece and Rome at the Crystal Palace: Classical sculpture and Modern Britain, 1854-1936. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Raphael, E., & Bolognese, D. (2014). Drawing history: Ancient Egypt. New York, NY: Cengage.

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