Outline of Ancient Egypt

This post is part of a series of outlines on civilizations that have influenced the Western world. This post looks at history, religion, art and architecture, and literature of ancient Egypt and goes from 3100 to 525 BCE (conquest by Persia).

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Egyptian History

I.  Geography

A.  Nile

1.  Narrow strip of land along the Nile

2.  600 miles long

B.  Borders

1.  North: Mediterranean

2.  East: Desert, Red Sea and Arabia

3.  West: Desert, Libyan Desert

4. South: First Cataract at Aswan and later extended 600 mi. south; Mountains

5.  Result

a.  Isolated and developed uniquely

b.  95% of people lived on 5% of the arable land

II.  Early Dynastic Period (3100-2700)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties 1-3

2.  Menes

a.  1st Dynasty

b.  Memphis is capital

c.  Menes cemented his throne by marrying a Memphite heiress

d.  Menes institutes government and religious traditions

B.  Influence

1.  Culture

a.  Cities flourish

b.  Arts stylistically similar

c.  Architecture sees growth of temples

d.  Papyri in use

e.  Calendar:  Sirius, the dog star, used to mark New Year’s Day

f.  Astronomy and math grow

2.  Religion

a.  Religious texts permeate culture

b.  Deities are localized according to city-state

c.  Temples are built

d.  Royal cult emerges

1)  Pharaoh is god-on-earth

III.  Old Kingdom (2700-2185)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties 4-8

2.  4th Dynasty

a.  Builders of great pyramid in 4th

3.  Military

a.  Expeditions to Libya, Syria, and Nubia, exploratory and punitive

b.  Navy comes into use

c.  Quarries and mines opened, also in foreign lands, so a military presence required

d.  Aggressive general Weni (ca. 2402, 5th D)alters defensive posture, waging campaigns

4.  Collapse

a.  Last two Dynasties, 7th and 8th (2150-2134?) unable to keep grip on various territories

b.  Nomes seek political autonomy

c.  Famines and disorder

1)  Documents and inscriptions reveal famines and social disorder, even anarchy

2)  Decisive factor was, perhaps, Egypt climate: low floods, drier conditions over a long period of time

B.  Influence

1.  Culture

a.  Architecture:  rapid & impressive development

b.  Decorative arts flourish

c.  Great pyramids

2.  Religion

a.  Royal cult firmly in place

b.  Pharaoh is addressed as son of Re/Ra

c.  Re-Atum is associated with sun cult

3.  Literature

a.  “Unas Pyramid Texts”

1)  Royal Mortuary Inscription

2)  Warnings that a king is about to enter Afterlife

IV.  First Intermediate (2185-2050)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties 9-11½

2.  Civil Wars

a.  Civil Wars for 90 years these Dynasties intermittently fight war with Theban (southern) claimants from powerful family

b.  Relocation of Capital from Memphis to the south in Herakleopolis below the Faiyum, home of 9th & 10th Dyn

c.  Mentuhotpe II (ca. 2040) from Thebes wins throne, and peace established

B.  Influence

1.  Culture

a.  Eloquent Peasant and Instructions for Merikare

b.  Art and architecture, not much

2.  Religion

a.  Local gods re-assume importance

b.  Central control is loosened

V.  Middle Kingdom (2050-1800)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties 11½-12

2.  Military

a.  Military and mines established

b.  Foreign campaigns in Nubia, Libya, Sinai, and Palestine

c.  Successor, Amenemhet (1991-1962), a military commander, takes the throne, builds capital in Ith-tawy, south of Giza and Saqqara in North

3.  Economy

a.  Trade, overland routes established

b.  Projects of irrigation and hydraulics in Faiyum, reclaiming lush field there, to stimulate economy

c.  Slavery introduced as an institution

4.  Hyksos

a.  Dynasties wanes with weak rulers

b.  Hyksos come in gradually

1)  This may explain discrepancy in dates

c.  Then they sweep in more aggressively

B.  Influence

1.  Culture

a.  Renaissance under Mentuhotpe II (r. 2061-2010), fourth king of 11th dynasty in all areas

b.  Mortuary complex

1)  Mentuhotpe II erected vast mortuary complex in Deir El-Bahri, which influences architects of 18th Dyn (New Kingdom)

c.  Arts

1)  Touch of realism, detail important (head of Senwosret III (12th, 1878-1841?)

2)  Age and weariness frankly depicted

d.  Jewelry

1)  Famous bec. of discovery in Dashur, mortuary region of 12th D

e.  Architecture

1)  Karnak, temple complex, the first of which is to god Amon

2)  250 ac. with temples, chapels, obelisks

3)  Karnak extended

2.  Religion

a.  Solar cult grows in importance

b.  Royal cult is in place

3.  Literature

a.  Classical age

b.  The Dispute of a Man with His Soul (ca. 1850)

1)  A man complains of how life is treating him

2)  His soul threatens to leave him

3)  This would be annihilation, so man begs soul to stay with him 4)  Soul urges man to stop complaining and enjoy life

c.  Story of Sinuhe (12th Dynasty)

1)  Speaks of concern during succession of king Amenemhat I (ca. 1980) and reign of co-regent Senwosret (ca. 1918-1875)

2)  Mixed Genre

a)  Narrative

b)  Hymn to king

c)  Hymn to gods

d)  Lyric expression

d.  Both texts written in time of prosperity, but Sinuhe is during a change of rulers

VI.  Second Intermediate (1800-1552)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties Last of 12th-17th

2.  Hyksos

a.  Asiatics, according to Manetho, 3rd c. B.C. historian, conquered NE territories

b.  Struggle and confusion

c.  15th Dynasty, ruling from Avaris (Leontopolis in mid. Delta), was royal line of Hyksos (1640-1532)

d.  16th Dynasty, Hyksos, ruled contemporaneously, but held less territory and less control politically

3.  Ahmose I (r. 1550-1525)

a.  Kamose, last king of 17th D (1555-1550) and from Thebes, wages war but dies

b.  His brother, ‘Ahmose I (1550-1525), founder of 18th D (New Kingdom)

c.  Lays siege to Avaris and drives out Asiatics, pursuing them into Syria

d.  Ushers in New Kingdom

B.  Influence

1.  Culture

a.  Art and Architecture wanes a little

1)  Although tombs of some nomarchs in outlying provinces were adorned with vivacious scenes

b.  Literary. activity or output undiminished

c.  Reality check:  Egypt realizes it is not invincible

2.  Religion

a.  Hyksos quickly assume royal cult

b.  They do not make changes

VII.  New Kingdom (1552-1079)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties 18-20

2.  Three Eras

a.  Tuthmossid (1550-1354)

b.  Amarna (1353-1307)

c.  Ramessid (1306-1070)

3.  Tuthmossid:  Dynasty 18

a.  Reduces power of princes and counts of various nomes, ending petty rivalries

b.  Conducts all government affairs through series of judges & governors

c.  Rigorous building program

d.  Sets in place imperial system

e.  Places own officials in palaces of vassal rulers and brings back young nobles of other lands to be educated as Egyptians

f.  Treaties, tributes, a standing army, vast naval force, and installed garrisons consolidates military rule over Mediterranean

g.  Egypt at its height

1)  Conquers territories as far away as Euphrates R.

h.  Amon became supreme deity of Egypt and occupied territories

4.  Amarna:  Akhenaten (r. 1353-1335)

a.  Amenhotep IV (r. 1353-1335), called himself Akhenaten (He who is of service to Aten)

1)  Abandoned Thebes to build new city in Middle Egypt, and called it Akhetaten (Horizon of Aten), mod. El-‘Amarna

2)  Abandoned Amon and worshipped Aten, sun god; called heretic in some records

3)  Isolated in his new capital and almost lost empire

4)  Dies in 1335 and Egypt suffers military setback and loses some territories

5)  Great artistic innovation

6)  Nefertiti

7)  Successors were weak

5.  Ramessid:  Dynasties 19-20

a.  Named after Ramses’ family II

b.  Ramseses build monuments for themselves

c.  Conquers Near East

d.  Successors not as vigorous and talented

1)  But stop an invasion of Sea Peoples, coalition of roving brigands

e.  Ramses III (1196-1070) begins 20th Dyn

1) Military giant: Libya, Sea Peoples, Nubia, Palestine

2) Maintains empire, though strikes of workers for wages and a harem revolt–crushed both

3) Cultural and artistic traditions restored

f.  Eight successors were weak

B.  Influence

1.  Art

a.  Tuthmosis Period

1) Innovations in polychromatics

2) Innovations in application of simplified cubic form (see statues of Chief Steward Senenmust and Princess Neferu-Re)

3) Painting stays with predynastic era, but has militaristic narratives

4) Tomb paintings show display banquets and other trappings of prosperity

b.  Amarna Period

1) Akhenaten, in (mod.) ‘Armana, sets off artistic revolution that upset old conventions

2) Rigid grandeur abandoned for more naturalistic style

3) Famed bust of Nefertiti demonstrates mastery

4) Pastoral scenes magnificently reflect wondrous range of animals, plants and water that stand unrivaled for anatomical sureness, color and vitality

c. Ramessid Period

1) Follows old canon, but influences from Tuthmossid and ‘Armana periods evident

2) In temple reliefs, campaign narratives became pop. again, as in Tuthmossid period

2.  Literature

a.  Growth of all genres from Middle Period, but genres exceed them

b.  Amarna Period

1)  Great Hymn to the Aten

2)  It depicts the universality of god

3)  King is mediator between gods and man

c.  Ramessid Period

1)  Instruction of Amenemope

2)  Time of prosperity, at first

3)  Good man is quiet, kind, and humble before God

d.  Egyptian Love Poems

1)  Unclear when they were written, though in New Kingdom

VIII.  Late Dynastic Period (1079-525)

A.  Politics

1.  Dynasties 21-31)

2.  National division

a.  Egypt divided among factious rulers

3.  Foreigners

a.  They enter slowly at first

b.  Libyans rule in Bubastis, halfway btwn Memphis and Tanis (N); when last king of 21st Dynasty (1085-950) leaves no heir, head of Libyan family, Sheshonq, step in by virtue of close association with royal house

c.  Nubia inhabit Nile Valley and made Memphis (North) capital

d.  Assyrians take Memphis in 671 and forced all Egypt to pay tribute

e.  Babylonians invade in 567, but Egypt resists

f.  Greek mercenaries set up own communities on Nile and by 4th c. and influenced nation thru skill in trade and warfare

4.  Persians

a.  Darius I, Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius II, conquer Egypt in 525

Egyptian Religion

I.  Major gods and goddesses

A.  Form of Deities

1.  Images

a.  Devised to represent deities in their aspects, characteristics, roles and strengths of deities

b.  Often combined with animals

2.  Anthropomorphism

a.  Egyptians had concrete mind

b.  Gods should assume concrete shape

3.  Meaning

a.  Egypt believed in fluid life force that could be poured into any suitable mould

b.  Life force was protean

c.  Outward envelope of spirit of gods

B.  Males

1.  Amon

a.  State god of Egypt in New Kingdom

b.  Major temples at Karnak and Luxor in Thebes;

c.  Handsome young man

2.  Atum

a.  Creator god in Heliopolitan cosmogony

b.  Characteristics were later assumed by other gods

c.  Man (often), setting sun, or even mongoose

3.  Ra or Re

a.  Sun-god of Heliopolis, from earliest eras

b.  Head of Ennead (nine deities)

1)  Re’-Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Isis, Seth, Nephthys, and Osiris

c.  Man with falcon’s head

4.  Osiris

a.  God of dead

b.  Maintains popularity throughout nation’s history

c.  Lord of Tuat, underworld

d.  Man in mummy wrappings, wearing a plumed crown

C.  Females

1.  Hathor

a.  “Golden One”

b.  Sky goddess

c.  Favorite in Egypt

d.  Daughter of Ra/Re’ and wife of Horus

e.  Protector of women

f.  Goddess of love and joy

g.  Depicted as as a woman with cow’s ears or a cow

2.  Isis

a.  Wife of Osiris and mother of Horus

b.  Survived to Roman times with many temples or shrines

c.  Woman with throne on her head

3.  Ma’at

a.  Goddess of truth

b.  Presides over the judgments of the deceased in Osiris’ domain

c.  Later signifies spirit of calm and cooperation that was the ideal for society

d.  Woman with feather in head

D.  Afterlife

1.  Optimism; that is, there is one and people can go there

                                                             Egyptian Literature

I.  Introduction

A.  Prose

1.  Description

a.  Linear forward movement of thought by means of variously structured sentences

b.  Variation prevents the emergence of a regular sentence rhythm and of a predictable form

2.  Example:  Story of Sinuhe

B.  Intermediate

1.  Description

a.  Symmetrically structure sentence

b.  Direct speech exclusive vehicle of expression

c.  “Orational style” since used in speech

d.  Parallelism of larger thoughts, not repetition

e.  Exact counterpart in Job and Proverbs of Bible

2.  Example:  Instruction for King Amenemhet I (1:135)

C.  Poetry

1.  Description

a.  Defies single definition

b.  Repetition of one line at regular interval

c.  Stanza created

d.  Indistinguishable sometimes from oratory style except in content or mood, feelings conveyed and aroused in listener

e.  Accentuation of units of meaning

f.  Though fixed number of stresses in any given line is unknown

g.  Prose is walking, poetry is dancing, intermediate is parade step

2.  Example:  The Dispute of a Man with His Soul

II.  Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom

A.  Offering Lists

1.  Description

a.  List of fabrics, foods, and ointments that dead must receive

b.  Carved on walls of private tombs (as opposed to royal)

c.  In private tombs of high officials writing takes first steps towards lit. because more flexible than in royal tombs because propriety

B.  Prayer for Offerings

1.  Description

a.  Short, and therefore replaces Offering Lists, which could be long

b.  Prayer for objects, not presenting objects

c.  Identity of tomb-owner and his family and his rank and titles

d.  Narration evolved from rank and titles

2.  Example:  see below I.C.3.a

C.  Two Genres: Prayer and Autobiography

1.  Prayer focused on two themes

a.  Request for offering

b.  Good reception in the West, land of the dead

2.  Autobiography

a.  Self-portrait in words

b.  Sum up the characteristic features of the person, his positive worth and in face of eternity

c.  Idealized portrait, like sculpture

d.  In 6th D auto-achieved full length

e.  Popular for two millenia

3.  Examples

a.  Prayer:  Inscriptions of Princess Ni-sedjer-kai (1:15)

b.  Autobiography of Weni (1:18) (Count, Governor, Chamberlain)

D.  Royal Mortuary Inscriptions

1.  Description

a.  Sterile, left behind creatively because of sacred nature (conservative) of royalty

b.  Theological speculations, myths, and ritual formulae were blended into incantations of great verbal force

c.  Purpose was to achieve resurrection of dead king & ascent to sky

2.  Example:  Unas Pyramid Text

E.  Didactic

1.  Description

a.  Maxims formed and combined, through experience and religious feeling and speculation

b.  Order; thinkers envisaged the order of human society as mirror image of the order that governed the universe; as sun-god ordered world, so king guaranteed human order

c.  Aristocratic, primarily, though popular

d.  Optimism of the teachability and perfectibility of man

e.  Repository of nation’s distilled wisdom

2.  Example:  Instruction of Prince Hardjedef

III.  First Intermediate Period

A.  Autobiographical inscriptions

1.  Description

a.  Nobles and commoners, displayed proud individualism

b.  Commoners constructed simple monuments, done by local craftsmen

c.  Prayers and Offerings sill used

2.  Example:  Prayer of Soldier Qedes

B.  Didactic

1.  Description

a.  New Twist, from a king to his son, not pseudepigraphical

b.  Though a scribe composed it

c.  History in it should be taken seriously

2.  Example:  Instruction to King Merikare

IV.  Middle Kingdom

A.  Classical Age

1.  Produced a variety of genres

2.  Mastery of forms

B.  Royal Monument Inscriptions

1.  Description

a.  Historical nature

b.  Not just associated with tombs

2.  Example:  Building Inscription of Sesostris I

C.  Autobiographies, now major works

1.  Description:  see above I.C.

2.  Example:  Stela of Ikhernofret

D.  Didactic

1.  Description

a.  New twist includes admonitory or prophetic speech of a sage who laments the evil condition into which country has fallen

b.  Dichotomy is basic and reduced: order vs. chaos

c.  Civil War often tears nation

2.  Examples:

a.  Prophecies of Neferti

b.  Dispute of a Man with His Soul

E.  Hymns

1.  Description

a.  Songs of praise

b.  Stone and papyrus are media

c.  Close relation with psalms of Bible

d.   Directed to gods or kings

2.  Examples:

a.  Cycle of Hymns to King Sesostris III (1:198)

b.  To king:  Story of Sinuhe,

c.  To gods:  Story of Sinuhe,

F.  Mortuary Lit. in Coffin Texts

1.  Description

a.  Spells that rely on magic

b.  Oscillates btwn grandiose claims and petty fears

c.  Commoners get involved in funerary claims

2.  Example:  Spell from Coffin Text

G.  Lamentations

1.  Description

a.  Brief song accompanied by harp reflects troubled mood

2.  Example:  Song from Tomb of King Intef

H.  Tales

1.  Description

a.  Sketch a situation with a few strokes

b.  No description for its own sake

c.  Fiction in prose

2.  Example:  Story of Sinuhe

a.  Three poems

1)  Hymn to king

2)  Personal lyric

3)  Hymn to gods

I.  Lyric Poetry

1.  Description

a.  Personal expression

2.  Example:  Story of Sinuhe

V.  New Kingdom

A.  Autobiography is status quo

B.  Royal Monument Inscriptions

1.  Description

a.  Enlarged and diversified

b.  In middle is a narrative poem, an epic

2.  Example:  Kadesh Battle Inscriptions of Ramses II

C.  Hymns

1.  Description

a.  Mirror religiosity of New Kingdom

b.  From immanence to transcendence

c.  Universalism

d.  Though remote, accessible to persons

2.  Example:  Great Hymn to Aten

D.  Mortuary Lit:  Book of the Dead

1.  Description

a.  Reworking and expansion of Coffin Texts

b.  Reflects ritual during and after burial

c.  Resurrection of dead must be achieved

d.  Safe passage must be achieved

2.  Example:  Book of Dead

E.  School Texts

1.  Description

a.  New genre

b.  Miscellany of writings used as models for instruction for students, either in school or tutoring; be a teacher

2.  Example:  Schoolbook (2:168)

F.  Love Lyrics

1.  Description

a.  Not just Lyrics

b.  Major theme is love

2.  Example: Love Poems

G.  Tales

1.  Description

a.  Expanded in motifs, length and horizons

b.  Complex, artistic– deliberately

VI.  Late Period

A.  Autobiography

1.  Description

a.  Less optimism and more concern

b.  Lament over an early death

2.  Ex:  Statue Inscription of Djedkhonsefankh)

B.  Inscriptions

1.  Description

a.  More propagandistic

b.  More often pseudepigraphic, disguising works with the past

c.  Past makes things seem authentic

2. Example: Victory Stela of King Piye

C.  Didactic

1.  Description

a.  Differs in sentence structure; before interconnected groups of sentences that taught lessons through vignettes

b.  Now single, self-contained prose sentence

c.  Prologue is a fiction

2.  Example:  Instruction of Ankhsheshonq

D.  Other genres not discovered or did not exist

E.  Otherwise status quo

VI.  Creation myths

A.  Though much confusion, three accounts can be discerned, associated with three religious centers:

1. Hermopolis

2. Heliopolis

3. Memphis

B.  Three accounts have one starting point:

1. Primeval Waters, no sky, no earth, no air, no Nile, no gods, men, not even a name of a thing; no depth, width, surface, name was Nun

C.  Hermopolis

1.  Characteristics of depth, endlessness, darkness, and invisibility were given each masculine & feminine forms:  Nau and Nauet, Huh and Hauet, Kuk and Kaket, and Amun and Amauet, known as eight Genii (head of frogs and serpents)

2.  These creature believed to have formed an egg in Nun

3.  Then somehow god Thoth was head of genii, and created things

D.  Heliopolis

1.  Sun-god Atum (later associated with sun-god Re) rose out of Nun and created things

E.  Memphis

1.  Between third to fifth Dynasties when Memphis was capital of Egypt, Ptah was creator

2.  Nun was product of eternal mind Ptah

3.  Creation took place through the heart (seat of intelligent thought) and through the tongue (spoken word) of Ptah

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