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The History of Egypt

1. The Old Kingdom, 2700-2200BC :
The first state controlling all of Egypt was formed in around 3150BC with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Narmer-Menes. It's conventional to divide ancient Egyptian history into a sequence of dynasties, and Narmer-Menes is traditionally the first pharaoh of the First Dynasty. During the Old Kingdom, four successive dynasties (29 kings in all) that ruled from Memphis in Lower Egypt. The civil, military and religious administrations were centered on the person of the pharaoh, who was believed to have a special relationship with the gods.

Egyptian military power expanded beyond the first Nile cataract into Lower Nubia in the south and into Sinai in the north (the former the major source of the gold on which the Egyptian economy depended, the latter of turquoise). Egyptian commercial interests reached further a field, to Byblos in the Levant and Punt on the Red Sea coast of eastern Africa (source of incense, ebony, ivory, animal skins and other luxury goods). This state endured for centuries.

2. The First Intermediate Period, 2200-2040BC :
The power of the centralized state ultimately depended on the agricultural surplus of the fertile soils of the Nile flood-plain (one role of the pharaoh was to intercede with the gods to control the Nile inundations vital to Egyptian agriculture). In the 22nd century BC, a temporary shift in climate reduced the level of these inundations, causing widespread famine, and the country slid towards anarchy. During the later Old Kingdom local dynasties of provincial governors had emerged. Eventually, the process of disintegration ended and reversed as rival dynasties at Herakleopolis and Thebes consolidated and extended their control.

3. The Middle Kingdom, 2040-1674BC :
Mentuhotep II, who became King of Thebes in 2061BC, eventually defeated the Herakleopolitan pharaohs and his other rivals, The centuries that followed were the classical period of Egyptian civilization and the Twelfth Dynasty - which followed Mentuhotep's Eleventh Dynasty - was one of the most powerful in Egyptian history. The Twelfth Dynasty pharaohs pacified Nubia as far as the region of Kush around the third cataract, exploited the gold mines of the Eastern Desert, built impressive irrigation works, extended Egyptian influence into Syria-Palestine, After a complex problem of succession following the long reigns of Senusret III and Amenemhat III, the Twelfth Dynasty ended with the death of Queen Sobekneferu in 1802BC. Although the transfer of power to the Thirteenth Dynasty was smooth, the golden age of the Middle Kingdom gradually began to fade.

4. The Second Intermediate Period, 1674-1553BC :
Under the Thirteenth Dynasty, Egypt once again began to fragment politically. As the power of the pharaohs diminished, a new political power irrupted into Egyptian history: the Hyksos, a group of Semitic peoples who crossed from Asia into northern Egypt and established their own kingdom in the Nile delta with its capital at Avaris. Contrary to the impression given by the propaganda of the New Kingdom pharaohs, the Hyksos rapidly adopted most aspects of Egyptian culture. The Hyksos kings brought a measure of renewed stability and prosperity to the Delta, Soon the situation in the rest of the country stabilized too and a new equilibrium emerged, each of whose parts considered the others as equals : a network of northern city-states with varying degrees of loyalty to the Hyksos king in Lower Egypt, a powerful breakaway state ruled from Thebes by native Egyptian kings in Upper Egypt.

5. The New Kingdom, 1552-1352BC: Tuthmosids :
Just as the First Intermediate Period ended with the wars of the Theban king Mentuhotep II, so the Second Intermediate Period ended with the wars of Theban kings Kamose (last pharaoh of the Seventeenth Dynasty) and his brother Ahmose I (first pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the first of the New Kingdom). This period saw the construction of the Egyptian Empire as the warrior pharaohs Tuthmose I, Tuthmose III and Amenhotep II pushed Egypt's borders deep into Nubia and to the Euphrates in Syria. reign of Hatchepsut, the first (and perhaps only) woman to rule not as queen regent but pharaoh,The reign of Hatchepsut, the first (and perhaps only) woman to rule not as queen regent but pharaoh provided a relatively peaceful interlude during which a trading expedition was sent to the exotic and of Punt. During this period Egypt prospered as never before, and its power dominated the Mediterranean world. The Egyptian New Kingdom became part of an international system of great powers, Much of the wealth that poured into Egypt from international trade and tribute was used to fund monumental architecture such as the Karnak temple of the state god Amun at Thebes, the temple of Hatchepsut at Deir el-Bahri.

 6. The New Kingdom, 1352-1295BC: The Amarna Interlude :
Throughout the New Kingdom, the priesthood of Amun grew in wealth and power. By the time of Amenhotep III actively promoted the cult of the sun-god Re. This, though, was nothing next to the religious revolution ushered in by his son, who came to the throne as Amenhotep IV but soon changed his name to Akhenaten. Under Akhenaten the old religion of Egypt was largely swept away - at least so far as the court was concerned - and replaced by the worship of the sun's disc, the Aten, This was the earliest recorded monotheistic religion. Akhenaten also moved the capital from Thebes to a new city called Akhetaten ("Horizon of the Aten") that he ordered built in the middle Egyptian desert at what is now el-Amarna. Akhenaten's reign also brought a revolution in Egyptian art, which for a short period cast aside the ancient formalism and embraced a new mood of naturalism. His death was followed rapidly by that of the next pharaoh, the elusive Smenkhkare, and then of Akhenaten's young son Tutankhaten/Tutankhamen. The Egyptian Empire didn't collapse was due to three men who in turn became pharaoh: the Amarna regime's elder statemen Ay , and the generals Horemheb and Ramesses I, who stabilized the military situation. The last became the founder of the new Nineteenth Dynasty. The aftermath of the Amarna debacle saw a concerted attempt to erase all traces of Akhenaten and his new religion from Egyptian history.

7. The New Kingdom, 1295-1069BC: Ramessids :
During the post-Amarna period the equilibrium of the great states had begun to shift dramatically as Hatti swallowed Arzawa, partitioned Mittani with Assyria and began to detach Egypt's vassals in Syria-Palestine. Containing the threat of Hittite expansion was the great challenge for the early Nineteenth Dynasty pharaohs. Their efforts culminated in one of the great battles of the ancient world, the immense but somewhat inconclusive battle fought between Ramesses II and the Hittite king Muwatallis II in 1274BC at Kadesh in Syria.
After Kadesh Ramesses and the new Hittite king Hattusili III agreed the world's earliest known peace treaty, During this period, the system of great states beyond Egypt's northern borders entirely collapsed and the Near East plunged into a "dark age" that lasted for centuries, And the state of Hatti weakened by civil wars, was swept away. The pharaohs Merenptah and Ramesses III defeated attempted invasions by the Sea Peoples in 1209BC and 1180BC respectively. Ramesses III, though, was to be the last powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. The Twentieth Dynasty continued to rule a unified Egypt for a century after his death, but his successors were generally weak and ineffectual. Furthermore, climate change once again caused crop failures and famine. In the end, the New Kingdom was fatally weakened by the troubles, and Egypt declined into a third period of disunity and foreign domination.

8. The Third Intermediate Period, 1069-664BC :
Following the death of Ramesses XI in 1069BC, power was split between Piankh, the High Priest of Amun at Thebes and the pharaoh Smendes who ruled from Tanis in the Nile Delta. This was the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period, that would last for four centuries, during which parts of Egypt were ruled by a range of dynasties related to each other by complex family relationships. The Third Intermediate period can be roughly divided into three phases. During the first phase, from 1069BC to 945BC, pharaohs of the Twenty-First Dynasty nominally ruled the country but power in the south remained in the hands of Piankh's successors. The second phase, from 945BC to 747BC, When The Nile Delta had been slowly infiltrated by Libyans tribes from the west since the Twentieth Dynasty but during this period they formed their own tribal confederacies that were independent of the rule of the pharaoh. With the death of Psusennes II, last pharaoh of the Twenty-First Dynasty, Shoshenq I, Great Chief of the Meshwesh [Libyans] became king. He and his successors dominated Egypt for two centuries and even extended Egyptian power once more into Palestine. During the third phase, Egypt was conquered by Egyptianised Kushite pharaohs from Nubia who ruled for almost a century. The last part of Kushite rule, under the great Taharqa, was overshadowed by a desperate struggle with Assyria, which had by now recovered from its own dark age and was busily building an empire in Syria and Palestine. The Assyrians launched a series of invasions of Egypt between 671BC and 664BC, eventually defeating the Kushites and making Egypt a vassal of the Assyrian Empire.

9. The Late Period, 664-525BC :
At first, the Assyrians attempted to control Egypt through twenty native governors. Then, in 664BC, they recognized the remarkable Psamtik, as sole king of Egypt. Psamtik spent twenty years making this nominal power. In 656BC Psamtik's forces finally took control of Thebes and he appointed his daughter Nitocris as the next Divine Adoratrice of Amun. For a century and a half, he and his successors, the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty presided over the "Saite renaissance", However, the world beyond the Saite monarchy was a much more dangerous, if the New Kingdom's world had been one of rival kingdoms, the Egypt of the Late Period was part of a world of great empires. Following the destruction of the Assyrian Empire, Egyptian armies and their Greek mercenaries attempted to reestablish Egyptian control of Palestine, then The Persian king Cambyses II invaded Egypt in 525BC, defeated and captured the pharaoh, Psamtik III, ending both the Saite dynasty and Egypt's independence.

10. The End of Ancient Egypt :
The post-pharaonic history of ancient Egypt extended a millennium beyond the Persian conquest. Save for a brief interlude from 404BC to 343BC between two periods of Persian occupation, ancient Egypt would never again be ruled by Egyptians. The second Persian occupation was terminated in 332BC by the conquests of Alexander the Great. From 304BC till 30BC, Egypt was ruled by Alexander's general Ptolemy and his descendents. Then, following the defeat of Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius by Octavian in 31BC, Egypt became part of the Roman Empire, and Egypt flourished once again. The Greeks and Romans even continued to build monuments in the formal Egyptian style until the Christianity spread among the Roman Empire. In the end, it was the fanaticism of the Christians that swept away the culture of the pharaohs. The last hieroglyphic inscription was carved at the temple complex at Philae in the far south of Egypt in AD394. At that point, we can say that the civilization that began in the Nile Valley in the fourth millennium BC finally ended.