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• Central geographic fact is Nile River – Began in lakes of equatorial Africa and flows northward into the Floods every Mediterranean Sea fall, leaving – Passes through rocky behind fertile ledges (cataracts) which layer of silt causes rapids and small Gave region waterfalls capability to support an – Calms down 750 miles abundant south of the Mediterranean agriculture • This 750 mile stretch and large population was ancient Egypt – Narrow valley
• Nile also served as excellent artery of communication – Encouraged early and lasting political unification • Isolated by cataracts in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the north, and huge deserts to east and west – Would protect Egypt from periodic waves of new people which so often disrupted Mesopotamia – Allowed civilization to develop in relatively peaceful and stable conditions • Gave them cheerful and optimistic outlook
and Lybian Desert – Settled in small villages • Gradually cleared valley of swamps and wild animals by 4000 BC – Some evidence of Mesopotamian influence .PREHISTORIC EGYPTIANS • Original settlers were a mixture of people from Nubia. Syria. Palestine.
ZOSER • Settlements along Nile unified into a single kingdom around 3100 BC – Perhaps by Zoser • Egyptian history begins with this act – Old Kingdom (31002000 BC) – Middle Kingdom (2000-1575) • Each period divided into Dynasties .
OLD KINGDOM • Zoser established capital at Memphis in Lower Egypt – Most records from this period have been lost • Most of our knowledge today comes from monuments and tombs of pharaohs .
made from 6 million tons of stone. covering 13 square acres • Foundation is almost perfectly level and its sides perfectly square Great Pyramid .PYRAMIDS • Pyramids would be normal form of burial for pharaohs until 1500 BC – About 80 are still standing • Most within 70 mile stretch of desert near Memphis – Largest is the Great Pyramid of Cheops • 481 feet high.
PHARAOHS • Pharaoh was. he was assisted by growing bureaucracy • Began to dominate pharaoh and act independently towards end of Old Kingdom . all-powerful ruler – But as time went on and government became more complex. in theory.
central authority had virtually disappeared and the Old Kingdom was over – Country plagued by anarchy Old Kingdom bureaucrat .REASONS FOR DECLINE IN PHARAOH’S POWER • Partly caused by enormous drain of pharaoh’s resources in maintaining pyramids and priests • Partly due to custom of rewarding loyal officials with large estates and treasure • Partly due to power struggles with the royal family • By 2000 BC.
MIDDLE KINGDOM • Egypt recovered from decay of Old Kingdom and entered age of tranquility and progress – 2000-1575 BC • Regained strength under 12th Dynasty pharaohs – Large sections of Lower Egypt brought into agricultural productivity by irrigation projects – Pharaoh controlled bureaucracy – Established loose political control over Palestine and trade contacts with Syria and Mesopotamia .
and economic stagnation .FALL OF THE MIDDLE KINGDOM • When power and prosperity of Middle Kingdom began to decay. foreign occupation. the country was invaded by the Hyksos – Semitic tribe – Took over northern half of kingdom – Destroyed political unity – Region enter 100-year period of chaos.
where it entered a mystical netherworld – Fought off forces of chaos and disorder and then emerged in the east the next morning with renewed strength • Nile river passed annually through a cycle of birth and death – Flooded every fall and then receded. leaving behind fertile silt • These events served as models of the unchanging rhythm of the universe – Egyptians saw themselves as a part of all this .FUNDAMENTAL RELIGIOUS MYTHS • Sun rose daily in the east and traveled to the west.
THE DIVINE PHARAOH • Orderly world was conscious creation of the gods – But could be disrupted by evil forces • To make sure that evil forces never succeeded. the gods delegated Horus to guard over the balance and harmony of the universe and serve as pharaoh – Pharaoh was Horus in human form .
Horus continually died and was reborn in an endless cycle of succeeding pharaohs – Explains why Egyptians went to such lengths to preserve the body of a dead pharaoh • To ensure Horus’ safe journey back to heaven – Built pyramids because they were meant to house the physical remains of what had once been a god .MUMMIES • When human form died. Horus returned to heaven and then returned in a new human form – In short.
PHARAOH’S POWER • Pharaoh’s authority was unchallenged and total (at least in theory) – Charged with being the shepherd of his people • Symbolized by shepherd’s staff – Sole source of law • No written law codes – Obligated to administer law in accordance with the natural order of the universe and with mercy .
Ptah.GODS Seth Popularity of various gods rose and fell with time Nekhbet Wedjet: half woman/half cobra Some had human form: Min. and Amon Hathor . Atum.
TEMPLES • Temples build of stone and meant to last forever • Laid out in a straight line with one room leading to another – Each one symbolically further removed from the outside world – Last room was were statue of god rested • Only priests could enter this room .
counseled no one.PRIESTS • Were not a closed caste set above the rest of society – Ordinary laymen who spent part of the year serving the gods and the rest of their time performing their secular occupations • Played no ethical role. not “holy men” . never tried to convert others – Sole function was to see that temple operated properly and that the god was properly taken care of • Religious technicians.
tools and weapons in tombs of ordinary people • Not sure what Egyptians thought their afterlife was like – Some believed it was just a repetition of earthly life – Others believed souls became stars after death – Others saw it as escape from hardships of earthly life .AFTERLIFE • Believed dead person had to be provided with everything he or she might need to survive in the next world – Hence treasures piled in tombs of pharaohs – Hence household items. agricultural implements.
ART • Tomb art not intended to be decorative or artistic – Designed to serve a religious purpose • to portray symbolically the things that the dead person’s soul needed to survive in the afterlife – Was also public • Served the needs of the state or the gods • Never considered to be private expression of an individual .
HIERIOGLYPHICS • Developed writing around 3000 BC – Always remained a clumsy means of creative expression • Better for bureaucratic reports than for literature • Very complex system – Could only be mastered after years of study at special schools • Because only small elite could read and write. there never was communication between writer and mass audience .
LITERATURE • Most concentrated on the greatness of pharaohs and the gods – Consisted of repetitious refrains • Object was to evoke strong feelings. designed for maximum verbal impact • Intended to be read aloud at public events .
it went beyond practical advice to aspiring bureaucrats and emphasized moral values .WISDOM LITERATURE • Developed at the end of the Old Kingdom – Among scribes – Practical advice on how to survive and advance in bureaucracy • As time went on.
time. and wealth to religion .MESOPOTAMIA AND EGYPT I • Both civilizations had powerful religious flavor – Religion dominated all aspects of life to a degree that seldom occurred afterwards – Gods were seen as forces that directed and controlled nature • Their ethical or moral qualities were at best incidental – An ethical god would not appear until the development of YAHWEH by the Hebrews • Had power of life or death over man – Frightened and/or inspired Mesopotamians and Egyptians to devote so much energy.
and harsh climate of Mesopotamia produced a pessimistic and brooding people – Totally predictable Nile produced a more optimistic and cheerful people – Geography also fomented the early political unity of Egypt and political fragmentation of Mesopotamia – Desire to control harsh environment caused Mesopotamians to focus on science while appreciation of more gentle surroundings caused Egyptians to focus on art . rough terrain.MESOPOTAMIA AND EGYPT II • Mesopotamians in the grip of deep fear of their capricious and often cruel gods • Egyptians more at ease with their more orderly and peaceful gods • Difference influenced by geography – Wild rivers.
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