Egypt is one of the first countries in the world to undergo civilization. Civilization in Egypt is also the longest, and thus it has attracted the attention of many scholars. Egypt under the rule of Alexander the Great was one of the most powerful states in the period between 612 and 525 BC (Shaw 312). Alexander was crowned as the first pharaoh in 305 BC, which is a clear indication that such kings played a key role in the Egyptian civilization (Wilkinson 37).
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One of the factors that boosted civilization in Egypt is the existence of the Nile River (Wenke 187). People along the river practiced farming, and thus they had to invent new methods and equipment to improve their husbandry activities. Income from farming was used to fund the government and in the construction of pyramids and temples. However, the process of civilization faced challenges due to food insecurity, which was caused by droughts that ravaged the country at times. Ancient Egypt was run under the “leadership of pharaohs who were regarded as both political and religious leaders and the Egyptians regarded the pharaohs as gods who acted as intermediaries between the living and spirits” (Kemp 142).
The pharaohs worked in conjunction with the elite in society who gave political advice regarding governance. The occupation of the Nile Valley by the Romans in 31 BC marked the beginning of change in the culture of the Egyptians (Shaw 398). This paper will analyze the Egyptian civilization. The paper will evaluate the occurrences that favored civilization across the country as well as the setbacks that arose along the way.
The Old Kingdom
The Old Kingdom was in place between 2686 and 2181 BC (Wenke 132). During this kingdom, the country achieved major advancements in architecture and arts. Agriculture was the main activity in the country and it facilitated the aforementioned developments. In addition, revenues realized from agriculture were used to fund the central government. The popular Giza pyramids and Great Sphinx were constructed during this period (Wilkinson 37).
The construction of these pyramids required mathematical skills and the designers were qualified to meet the requirements. The Old Kingdom experienced the development of tax laws that facilitated tax collection by the government (Kemp 123). Revenue collected through taxation was used to make agriculture highly productive through the development of irrigation projects. In the same period, a justice system was developed by the government of the day in an attempt to maintain peaceful coexistence amongst the Egyptians (Shaw 322). With the rising need for a central administration, a group of elites emerged to provide certain important services to the government in exchange of estates granted to them by the pharaohs as compensation for their services (Wenke 45).
Pharaohs had control over land and thus they could allocate pieces for the construction of mortuaries and local temples that served as worshiping centers (Wilkinson 37). However, it is alleged that the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom mismanaged funds, thus leading to the inability of the economy to support a large centralized administration (Kemp 166). Consequently, governors, who were traditionally known as monarchs, challenged the pharaohs’ administration. The challenge from governors “coupled with a severe drought, which was experienced in the period between 2200 and 2150 BC, led to the first intermediate period that was equally characterized by a severe drought” (Shaw 366).
First Intermediate Period (2181–1991 BC)
The intermediate period denotes the period between 2181 and 1991 BC. The Old Kingdom, which failed due to lack of sufficient funds to support a central government, predated this period (Kemp 111). Owing to the need to provide important services to the public and cut the overdependence on the central government, governors initiated projects aimed at developing their respective provinces (Shaw 327). Civil wars were evident during this period as governors struggled to control large sections. Through the decentralized form of government, the provinces accumulated great wealth, and thus they could afford better burials for all social classes (Wenke 157).
The governors came up with creative styles to rule their provinces and managed to create an entirely different culture from that of the old kingdom. By this period, the country had been divided into two with the Herakleopolis controlling the Lower Egypt and the Intef family clan governing the Upper Egypt (Kemp 122). The two clans engaged in civil wars, in the quest for a unified control for the two regions until 2055 BC when the Intefs finally defeated the Herakleopolis, hence reuniting the two regions.
The Middle Kingdom existed between 2134BC and 1690 BC (Wilkinson 37). The pharaohs of this period restored people’s confidence on the governance of the day, thus reestablishing the nation’s affluence and solidity (Wenke 121). Additionally, the pharaohs reinitiated the architectural and monumental building projects (Shaw 344). At first, the country’s capital city was established in Thebes, but it was later transferred to Itjtawy City after Vizier Amenemhat I assumed power around 1985 BC (Kemp 131). Amenemhat I and his successors focused mainly on land reclamation and development of irrigation projects in a bid to ensure food security in the country (Kemp 134).
In the same period, the country conquered Nubia, which was rich in valuable minerals (Shaw 333). During the middle kingdom, the government of the day facilitated the construction of a self-protective structure in the Eastern Delta that would prevent the invasion of the country by foreigners (Wenke 223). The country’s vast agricultural and mineral resources facilitated population increase and the development of arts. Religion was also impacted by the developments in this period. A belief that people possessed a soul that would survive the body after death came to being during the Middle Kingdom. Writing became eloquent and meaningful, which facilitated documentation (Wilkinson 37). Due to the rising demand for labor in Egypt, Semitic-speaking Canaanites were allowed into the country to supplement the labor market (Shaw 378). The Middle Kingdom just like the Old Kingdom faced challenges, which led to its collapse.
Second Intermediate Period
The collapse of the Middle Kingdom paved way for the second intermediate period. This phase occurred between 1674 and 1549 BC (Kemp 156). During this period, the Semitic Canaanite seized the governance of the day and took control of the country. Under their rule, “new weapons such as the composite bow and the horse-drawn chariot were introduced into the country” (Shaw 347). The leadership integrated the Egyptian culture with their culture, and thus the Egyptian culture survived.
The New Kingdom was in place between 1549 and 1069 BC (Wenke 152). It came up due to efforts by the natives to cause the fall of the Semitic Canaanite leadership (Shaw 323). The natives finally managed to repossess their country and pharaohs took control of the government. The pharaohs strengthened their borders and established good relations with their neighbors. Trade links between the country and foreigners was established during this period, thus paving way for the importation of certain critical items such as wood and bronze (Kemp 170). During this period, war broke out and it led to the signing of a peace treaty around 1279 BC. In this period, Egypt had acquired great wealth including mineral deposits that had been taken from the Nubians (Wilkinson 37).
The wealth made the country a target for invasion by foreigners. The Egyptian military managed to secure its territories from invaders. However, the Egyptians lost the southern Canaan territories to foreigners later on. During this kingdom, the government was characterized by corruption, robbery of tombs, and other malpractices that weakened the military’s ability to secure the country’s territories.
Third Intermediate Period
This period underscores as the time between 1069 and 653 BC (Wenke 116). The capital of the country was moved to Tanis city. The Berber community from Libya entered the country and occupied the western delta (Shaw 347). Their influence was unparalleled and they managed to take control of the delta around 945 BC. The delta remained under the control of Libya for a period of 200 years. The Egyptians attempted to regain control over the delta, but the Berbers thwarted such efforts (Wilkinson 37).
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However, around 727 BC, the then pharaoh of Egypt managed to acquire the southern Egypt and reunited the country once again. This accomplishment marked the beginning of restoration of the architectural and traditional Egyptian religion in the land. Projects to build large pyramids were established during this period. During the same period, Egypt struggled to control Near East, which was under the control of the Assyrians. The attempts by the country to defeat the Assyrians failed and they started invading Egypt at around 674 BC and they took control of the southern part (Wilkinson 37).
Late Period (672–332 BC)
Upon the control of the southern Egypt, the Assyrians established a kingship style of governance (Shaw 312). The Assyrians did not intend to conquer the southern Egypt permanently and they were peacefully driven away at around 653 BC (Kemp 157). Egypt hired mercenaries from Greece and Libya who facilitated the process of driving out the Assyrians. The Greek mercenaries were then recruited in the country’s navy. This move brought in additional Greeks into the country and this aspect caused a great influence on the Egyptian culture (Wenke 136). The country strived hard to maintain a good relation with the Assyrians and it even assisted Assyria in a war against the Babylonians in 609 BC.
Egypt is one of the earliest countries to undergo civilization. Initially, the pharaohs, who were regarded as both political and religious leaders, ruled the country. The country had a centralized government at first, but the system was criticized for inefficiencies. The presence of the Nile River played a key role in the civilization process in Egypt as it acted as an economic hub for the country. Funds realized from farming were used to fund the government as well as promote arts. The country acquired extra wealth when it conquered Nubia, which had plenty of minerals. With the invasion of the country by foreigners, Egypt recorded notable cultural and religious changes.
Kemp, Barry. Ancient Egypt: anatomy of a civilization, New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Wenke, Robert. Ancient Egyptian State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print,
Wilkinson, Toby. The rise and fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilization from 3000BC to Cleopatra, London: Bloomsbury, 2010. Print.