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Outline of Egyptian History

We owe the division of Egypt’s ancient history into thirty royal Dynasties from Menes to Alexander the Great to an Egyptian historian called Manetho,who lived in the reign of PolemyII (285-247BC). The Dynasties were subsequently combined and grouped into three main periods: the Old Kingdom or Pyramid Age, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom .These have been further divided by modern historians into:

Early Dynastic Period -----------------------------------------3100-2686 BC

1st Dynasty

2nd Dynasty

Old Kingdom----------------------------------------------------2686-2181 BC

3rd Dynasty

4th Dynasty

5th Dynasty

6th Dynasty

First Intermediate Period------------------------------------2181-2133 BC

7th /8th Dynasties

9th to early 11th Dynasties

Middle Kingdom------------------------------------------------2133-1786 BC

11th Dynasty

12th Dynasty

Second Intermediate Period---------------------------------1786-1567 BC

13th to 17th Dynasties

New Kingdom----------------------------------------------------1567-1080 BC

18th Dynasty

19th Dynasty

20th Dynasty

Third Intermediate Period------------------------------------1080-715 BC

(Period of Decline)

21st to 24th Dynasties

Late Period

25th Dynasty ( Kushite) ----------------------------------------750-656 BC

26th Dynasty ( Saite)--------------------------------------------664-525 BC

27th to 30th Dynasties

(Mostly Persian)-------------------------------------------------525-332 BC

It is perhaps not surrising,in view of the more hostile environment in Upper Egypt and the economic attraction of the fertile Delta,the the trust towards unification was always spearheaded from Upper Egypt.

Menes came from ancient Thinis, near Abydos, and according to Manetho the first and second dynasties were ruled by eight kings of Thinis and nine kings of Thinis respectively. This was a period in which were appears to have been active resistance against unity.

Once consolidated, however, Egypt embarked on a period of economic prosperity, technical achievement, productivity and inventiveness.

During the Old Kingdom (2686-2345 BC) a series of vigorous monarchs established and maintained a highly centralized government. This was when the Pharaohs Khufu (Cheops),Khafre (Chephren) and Menkaure( Mycerinus) raised the Great Pyramids on the Giza plateau.

Unfortunately, forces of internal erosion finally reduced the country to lawlessness, and the monarchy fell. The provincial lords who had gained prestige under the great Pharaohs agitated for independence. The country fragmented into small provincial Kingdoms, and though several leaders governed independently during the First Intermediate Period, none was powerful enough to rule the Two Lands.

It was an Upper Egyptian from the Theban area, Luxor, who provided the stimulus to reunify the country and pave the way for the Middle Kingdom (2133-1786 BC), the second cultural peak. Four Pharaohs by the name of Amenemhet and three calledSenusert (Sesostris) ruled during the 12thDynasty, a period of great prosperity. It was comparable to, but in many ways different from, the Old Kingdom .Fine monuments were raised throughout the land; arts and crafts again flourished, and irrigation projects were carried out. Furthermore, Egypt extended its frontiers well into Kush, where a series of enormous frontier fortress were established.

As before, there was a breakdown in the central governments. Petty kings ruled simultaneously from Luxor in Upper Egypt and from some centers in Lower Egypt. Rapid decline set in and the country soon passed under the domination of the Hyksos,” ruler of foreign countries”, warlike tribes from western Asia.

The Hyksos occupation lasted for a bout century. Again it was a family from Thebes area, Luxor,who triggered the war of liberation and provided the galvanic response to pursue the enemy right into their own camp,which was situated in the north-eastern Delta. Having successfully defeated the enemy and driven them out of Egypt, a liberated ,reunited country could embark  on its third cultural peak.

Under the rulers of the New Kingdom (1567-1080 BC), Egypt developed into an important power. The successful wars against Hyksos had already transformed the country into a military state with a standing army. Now it remained to create an empire and extend the frontiers southwards to Kush and north-east wards to the countries of Palestine and Syria. The monuments raised throughout the land during the New Kingdom, particularly those in Upper Egypt, reflect the wealth and prosperity of the nation. Unfortunately, the Pharaohs fell under the domination of the high priests of Amon at Thebes, until eventually one of them seized the throne.

In the 21th Dynasty, the country was once more divided: Upper Egypt was ruled by the high priests at Thebes, and Lower Egypt by a family in Tanis. Under a divided and weakened rule, Egypt succumbed again to foreign invasion: tribes of Libyan origin, Kushites from beyond Nubia, the Assyrian conquest and then, following by a short-lived revival known as the Saiteperiod, came the Persian invasions, and finally the Greek and Roman occupations.

In times of strong central government, the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt were united. In times of weakened rule they broke apart. When united, the culture was built on strong foundation of inherited values and traditions. When divided, the Delta, Lower Egypt, was open to diverse foreign influences, while it was in Upper Egypt, and in neighboring Nubia, that the traditional spirit of ancient Egypt survived.