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THE HISTORY OF
About 5,000 years ago, a remarkable way of life,
or civilization, grew up along the banks of the
Nile River in Egypt.
It flourished for over 3,000 years, longer than most other civilizations
in the world's history. Egypt is among the most influential of Arab
states. It lies between Africa and the Middle East. This ancient
country holds a history of over 6,000 years and has many exciting
attractions for travelers. The Pyramids, the Sphinx, the tomb of
young King Tut are just a few attractions that interest and excite
people of all ages.
Egyptian history begins around 3300 BC. This was when the Egyptians
finally had enough symbols in their writing to record history. From
3100 BC inscriptions created a way for later Egyptians. It was also
the time when the pharaoh, King Menes, created Egypt by uniting
the two parts of Egypt, also known as Upper and Lower Egypt, into
a single kingdom. He started Memphis in the north and Abydos in
the south as his capital cities. A series of strong and able rulers
established a well organized government. The calendar was introduced
during this time and the sun-god Re was the most loved god-figure.
Over time, authority began to disappear and Egypt was controlled
by foreign princes. These rulers introduced the horses and chariots
many failed dynasties and deaths of great rulers, a time span of
more than 400 years, power moved into the hands of priests and the
empire declined. The dynasties became so weak, that Alexander the
Great had no problem taking over Egypt.
Although he did not spend much time in Egypt, his
capital city of Alexandria, where he is believed to be buried, is
to this day very successful.
His empire was divided among his generals and this
Greek dynasty ended with the reign of Cleopatra VII. She ruled jointly
over Egypt with her son from their city of Alexandria in Lower Egypt,
which became a world center of Greek culture. For over 300 years
Greek-speaking pharaohs ruled Egypt, then Egypt became a province
of Rome. A division of power resulted in the abandonment of Egypt.
Many foreign countries came in and took over Egypt for short times.
After many years of hard work and wars, Egypt finally became its
own independent country with a President.
The Nile River
other civilization in the time of the pharaohs could compete with
Egypt's magnificent buildings, its wealth, or its long centuries
of peace. To a large extent, this is because other civilizations
did not have Egypt's main advantage -- its great river.
For tens of thousands of years the focal point of Egyptian life
has been the River Nile. Egypt is correctly said to be the gift
of the Nile and Egypt's two most important areas are the Delta and
the Nile Valley. The Nile Delta is the heartland of Egypt.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the waters of
the Nile came from a "mysterious heaven of plenty". All
of Egypt depended on the Nile for water, food, and transportation.
The need to maintain irrigation channels as well as the convenient
transportation that the river provided were some of the reasons
Egypt was the first country in the world to have a national government.
The availability of this unlimited supply of water allowed the creation
of a society which produced the wonders of ancient Egypt.
simply means "the one who lives in the palace". Egyptians
addressed their pharaoh as though he were a god with several forms.
They thought he was more than human and addressed him with the names
of several gods.
The pharaoh's most godlike names were "son
of Re" and "giver of life like Re". The Egyptians
believed that no single name could express the greatness of their
ruler. They also believed by serving the gods, the king helped the
sun to rise every morning and helped the Nile to flood at the end
of each summer.
They believed that in return for the offerings of
food and water that only the pharaoh could make, the gods would
feed the souls of the Egyptians after death. The pharaoh's power
was almighty and unquestioned. As a matter of fact, just touching
the pharaoh's crown or scepter, even accidentally, carried the death
penalty. The pharaoh's chief duty was to build and maintain temples
to the gods.
buildings of Egypt that will impress you the most are probably the
pyramids. All of them were built to contain the tombs of pharaohs.
So far, 46 pyramids have been found. Others may still be discovered,
lying in the ruins, under the desert sands. In the 27th century
BC, the first pyramid was built and pyramids became the most popular
way to bury royalty.
It is the pyramids themselves that make Egyptian
archeology so exciting. One reason why the pyramids were so fascinating
was that they were the earliest buildings ever to be made by precisely
cutting and putting together great blocks of stone. In stonework,
Egypt led the world for more than 2,000 years.
The Egyptians believed that a dead person's soul
still needed the dead body and special objects buried with it in
order to survive after death. They knew that the dry desert preserves
things well, and they chose burial places there that are often well
preserved today. Important Egyptians were wealthy enough to build
magnificent tombs and furnish them richly with treasures, inscriptions,
paintings, and statues. One of the most famous pyramids is the Great
Pyramid of Khufu. It has 2,300,000 blocks and each block in the
pyramid weighs 2.5 tons.
Egyptians did not paint images to show what people were really like,
instead, a picture was a kind of diagram. These diagrams were thought
to have magical powers. To preserve the magical power of their art,
the Egyptians believed they must copy exactly the style handed down
through the ages. This meant that most artists painted in the same
way, and the people they painted all looked the same. Tomb pictures
were closely connected with Egypt's famous picture writing, or hieroglyphs,
invented about 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians believed hieroglyphs
were magical too, and they used them mostly in temples and tombs.
All hieroglyphic symbols began as pictures standing for whole words.
To write all the words they wanted to, however, the Egyptians needed
to put some word pictures to work as signs for sounds.