Ancient Egypt

~5,000 years ago

•Civilization lasts more than 2,000 years
•Went through three phases, but didn't really change
•Civilization is centered around the Nile River
•Nile R. starts in Nubia (now Sudan)
•Arid climate, natural barriers are mountains to the south, desert, and seas
•Resources include the Nile, flax (linen), papyrus (paper), and grain (such an excess of which that grain comes to represent wealth)
•Nile R. flows north and seems to flood around the same time every year
•Leaders of Egypt (Pharaohs) became linked to the deities -- They were not just rulers, but religious figures as well (theocracy)
Menes unifies Egypt in ~3,100 BCE
Cenus of the Cattle
•It was a cenus to see how much wealth the nation had
•Egyptians develped a complex writing system to do this - hieroglyphs
•There are over 600 glyphs -- English has 26!
•Creation of a writing system creates an elite class of scribes
•Scribes work for the government so the gov't hoards information
Pharaohs owned Everything
•State monopoly on production -- The Pharaoh was letting you farm
•There was no concept of personal property
•No personal property is one of the reasons women had more freedom and could even had political power in Ancient Egypt
•Because there was no concept of personal property, there is little evidence for slave labor in the Egyptian civilization
•Egyptians saw their deities as protectors
•Deities were often depicted as animals
•They believed in resurrection
•There was a main focus on the afterlife
•The Egyptian afterlife was a place of sun & light and it was comfortable
•They prepared for the afterlife through mummification
•Egyptians believed the dead need their bodies for the afterlife
•The pyramids were massive structures (tombs) made not for this life, but for the next
•There's no evidence for the story of Exodus from the Egyptian perspective
Culture of Stasis
•There's this idea of permance and statis in the Egyptian civilization and their culture
•Bodies and monuments are permanent
•The royal bloodline is protected from outside influence, as incest is expected from royals
•The art is even the same across thousands of years of the civilation's existence
Disruptions: Hyksos Invasion
•Roughly 1700 to 1540 BCE
•There is little known about who the Hyksos people were, but they were most likely a tribe of nomadic people
•This is the first time the Egyptian people have see the technology of chariots
•The Hyksos kill the royal family and take over
•They adopted many Egyptian practices but don't change much of anything
•However, they were still a foreign people ruling the civilization
•Traumatic for the Egyptian peoples
•Historical Significance: Egyptians don't forget they're different, but this experience makes them more outward-looking
Disruptions: Religious Reform
•1490 to 1436 BCE
Pharaoh Akhenaton institutes the worship of the sun god, Aten & changes his name as well
•Historians aren't sure why he does this but it can be argued this is the world's first monotheistic religion
•Egyptians don't like this because it's impersonal and leaves priests unemployed, while also banning other religions
•After Pharaoh Akhenaton's death, his son Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut) lifted the religious ban
•King Tut's reign was one of religious tolerance
To Review
•Natural barriers create comfortable society
•Change doesn't last long in Ancient Egypt, and it's traumatic when it does happen
•Rulers hold status as deities
•Nile River gives an example of resurrection
•Culture is focused on life after death


Sources: Western Civilization 10th Edition, Volume One to 1715 by Spielvogel