The History of Egypt

The history of Egypt is certainly one of the most fascinating and incredible in the world. In fact, the Ancient Egyptian Civilization is considered one of the longest-lived in history, and still today seduces millions of people all over the world.

The very long path of Ancient Egypt has strongly influenced the current Western world, thanks to the encounters and clashes with the Greek and Roman civilizations . But in this article, we will also discover modern Egypt , which from the Arab conquesttakes us to the present day. Finally, we will give you travel tips to Egypt to retrace the places of its legendary history and we will also try to make a summary of the history of Egypt, starting from antiquity to get to the present day.

The Stages of the History of Egypt

The history of Egypt must be divided into various phases. Furthermore, the period of Ancient Egypt must be further divided into different eras, so as to be able to understand its complexity over its millennial history . At the fall of this legendary kingdom, Egypt still experienced periods of cultural splendor under the Greek and Roman influence, and subsequently with the Arab conquest.

The origins

The history of Egypt begins around 6,000 BC, when the hunter-gatherer populations of the Sahara were forced to move along the banks of the Nile, due to the great advance of the desert. From this period began an era of great technological and cultural growth, and thanks to the seasonal flooding of the river, agriculture and livestock were gradually introduced . Thus the different populations began to become sedentary, forever abandoning the nomadic lifestyle. Along the fertile Nile Valleys the first cultural differences began to be seen. In fact, Upper Egypt to the south, desert and sandy, was opposed to Lower Egypt, corresponding to the vast area of ​​the Nile Delta and the immense Fayyum Oasis . This cultural contrast led the populations of Upper Egypt to prevail over those of the north, in a process of assimilation that lasted about 1,000 years. Thus was born the Ancient Egyptian Kingdom , unified for the first time.

Nile - History of Egypt

Old Kingdom

With the unification under a single kingdom, the history of Ancient Egypt began . The first phase of this developed and enduring civilization is called the Old Kingdom , spanning a history of about 1,000 years. During this, the Egyptians found themselves fighting against neighboring populations, organizing themselves into a solid social structure. The capital of the Old Kingdom was Memphis , in Lower Egypt a few kilometers south of present-day Cairo.

To this period, we owe the most famous structures of Ancient Egypt: the pyramids . In fact, with the Third Dynasty a great architectural revolution began. The Pharaoh Djoser had the first prototype of a pyramid built in Saqqara : the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser, designed by the architect Imhotep . Instead, the fourth dynasty gave birth to Snefru , the great Pharaoh known as the builder of pyramids. In fact, he is considered a great ruler for his time, and he spent his life searching for the perfect pyramid for his burial.

The Pyramid of Meidum , the double-sloping Rhomboidal Pyramid and the Red Pyramid , the first to present a perfectly geometric figure, and where he was buried, are due to him . The figure of Snefru was of fundamental importance for the Pharaohs to come. In fact, his son Cheops had the Great Pyramid of Giza built , and so did the following Chefren – who built the famous Great Sphinx and Menkaure to protect his pyramid.

Pyramid of Djoser - Ancient Egypt history

Middle Kingdom

Around 2,200 BC the enormous power given to the Pharaohs was the subject of major revolts by the people, which led to the birth of various regional states in conflict with each other. But in 2,150 BC Pharaoh Amenemhet I took over the government of the state, subdued those who had rebelled and created a new society, giving birth to the Middle Kingdom . During this time Egypt made numerous conquests and expanded its borders south beyond Aswan , and east to the present-day states of Syria and Lebanon. The peoples of Nubia and the Hyksos , who had joined the Jews in an attempt to invade Lower Egypt, were thus definitively defeated .

But during the Middle Kingdom there was not only a political and social revolution, but also and above all a religious one. In fact, if in the Ancient Kingdom the Pharaoh was seen as a divinity to whom all full powers were entrusted, from the Middle Kingdom he becomes a messenger of the Gods . In doing so, new spaces were created for the people, who were more likely to aspire to high offices, such as scribes or priests . The new capital was moved to Thebes , now Luxor, where the huge Karnak Templar Complex was built. But the sepulchral system was also modified. In fact, the pyramids gave way to tombs carved into the rock, such as the famous Valley of the Kings and Queens.

Luxor - History of Egypt

New Kingdom

The history of Egypt continues with the end of the Middle Kingdom at the hands of the Ethiopian populations who invaded the Nile Valley. However, it was Pharaoh Psameticus I who liberated Egypt and brought it back to its former glory. A famous historical figure of the New Kingdom was Queen Hatshepsut who proclaimed herself Pharaoh taking advantage of a dynastic crisis. His successor was Thutmose III , considered the Napoleon of Egypt for his great conquests. In fact, his Kingdom reached the fourth cataract of the Nile , in the heart of present-day Sudan. Finally, the greatest Pharaoh of the New Kingdom was surely Ramses II. He was an extremely long-lived ruler, so much so that he reigned for a period of 67 years, bringing peace and prosperity to Egypt. The beautiful shrines of Abu Simbel, dedicated to himself and to his wife Nefertari, are due to Ramses II.

Also, under the New Kingdom, priests gained even more prominence. In fact, religious figures often obtained even more power than the Pharaohs themselves, and this could lead to internal disagreements. A striking example was the decision of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV who, changing his name to Akhenaten , moved the capital to Sais and changed the main cult, from that of Amon Ra , God of Thebes, to that of Aten . On his death, however, his successor Tutankhamun restored the cult of Amun and the capital in Thebes, rearranging the old social structures.

Abu Simbel Nefertari - History of Egypt

Ptolemaic period

In 525 BC . the history of Ancient Egypt was coming to an end. In fact, towards the end of the New Kingdom, yet another religious fracture was created: in the south the cult of Amon Ra continued to be celebrated, while in the north a new capital was established in Tanis and the cult of Aten was celebrated. In 332 BC . Egypt was in trouble and had to submit to the Macedonian rule of Alexander the Great , who reigned until 305 BC

But on the death of the great Macedonian leader, Ptolemy I proclaimed himself Pharaoh of Egypt giving life to the Ptolemaic dynasty . He was a lover of arts and culture, he was responsible for the construction of the Great Library and the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria, a city built by Alexander the Great to dominate the Mediterranean. Ptolemy II completed the famous collection of this library. He put all his strength into supplying her with great literary works. Finally, the last representative of the Ptolemies was the mythical Cleopatra , who ascended the throne in 55 BC , at the time when the presence of the Roman Empireit was more and more pressing. She was a very cultured and ambitious woman, who first managed to conquer Julius Caesar , and later Marco Antonio , with whom she also had three children. However, she could not stop Octavian ‘s declaration of war , who in 31 BC definitively defeated the Egyptian fleet.

Alexandria Faro - History of Egypt

The Roman and Byzantine Period

With the Roman conquest, the history of Ancient Egypt had officially come to an end and the ancient Egyptian traditions disappeared forever. However, the level of wealth regained by the Ptolemies was maintained even under the Romans. They, to keep at bay a population extremely rooted in the 3,000 years of Egyptian history, created a religious syncretism between the ancient and Roman gods. In addition, the Romans introduced the monetary economy, abolished the ancient Egyptian feudal system, built great roads, canals and ports. Finally, several Emperors brought numerous Egyptian obelisks to Rome, including the Obelisk of Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and that of Piazza San Pietro .

However, the period of great prosperity ended under the Emperor Constantine . Alexandria lost its role as the capital of the Mediterranean, moved to Constantinople, and Christianity was adopted . Under the Byzantine Empire some sacred places were established, such as the Monastery of Santa Caterina on Mount Sinai , and with the advent of Emperor Theodosiuspagan cults were repressed by force. The Byzantines also instituted the death penalty for anyone who did not profess the Christian religion. Finally, the ancient Library of Alexandria was also destroyed by the Christians, and all the books burned. In this regard, famous is the episode of Hypatia, philosopher and daughter of the director of the Library, who was literally torn to pieces in the name of Christianity.

Monastery of Santa Caterina

Arab period

After the victorious battles against the Persians, the Emperor Heraclius found himself having to face a new great invader. In fact, in 639 the Arab Caliphates had by now conquered the entire Arabian Peninsula and Palestine, and were now pushing towards Egypt and North Africa. In 640 they conquered the Nile Delta, and the following year the ancient city of Heliopolis . Finally, in 642 the Arabs entered Alexandria without a fight, as the Byzantines had abandoned Egypt to its fate, setting sail for Cyprus where they will find greater fortune.

Under the Arab rule , Egypt underwent a progressive Islamization. In fact, Muslims found it easier to convert the population than the Byzantine Christians did. Islam will conquer the whole territory of North Africa, reaching as far as Morocco and Spain. Numerous dynasties followed one another during the Arab period, first of all the Ayyubids of Saladin who in 1169 became Sultan of Egypt and built the Citadel of Cairo to protect the city.

Alexandria Fortress - History of Egypt

Ottoman Empire

In 1517 another great Empire , the Ottoman Empire, entered the history of Egypt. Sultan Selim I led the conquest of the Egyptian territories, taking advantage of the mismanagement of the Mamluks . However, with the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, the Arabs managed to maintain the administration of the country, although still under Ottoman rule . In this period the Turkish invaders erected large mosques and enlarged the city of Cairo .

The coexistence between Arabs and Ottomans, however, was not easy and civil wars often broke out for dominance over the territory. The European powers took advantage of this perennial struggle, and Napoleon landed in Alexandria in 1798 . Thus began the war of the pyramids between the French army and that of the Mamluks for control of Egypt.

Cairo Mosque Muhammad Ali - History of Egypt

Modern Age

The modern history of Egypt begins with the abandonment of its lands by Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in 1801 . From here begins a dark period in which numerous wars broke out for the domination of the Egyptian territory. It was occupied by the British in 1882 , officially becoming a British colony. Egypt’s independence process began in 1922 with the birth of an independent monarchy under British control, headed by King Fu’ad , of the Alawite Dynasty. However, the Kingdom of Egypt lasted until 1953 , when the current Arab Republic of Egypt was proclaimed after a military revolt .

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