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Our Mideast Trip -- March 1999

Ancient Egyptian History (according to Al)

There were 30 dynasties of Pharoahs, divided into the Old, the Middle, & the New Kingdoms. In 3100 BC, King Menes first united Upper (south) and Lower Egypt into one country. Menes' dynasty & the one that followed ruled Egypt for 400 years, during which they began to use writing, devised a new style of architecture and learned how to irrigate fields and use plows. The pyramids of Giza were built in Dynasty VI, part of the Old Kingdom, which stretched from the 1st to the 6th dynasty.

The country reached a peak in 2300 BC, after which it took a dive only to rise again in the 12th dynasty (starting in 2050 BC) when Upper & Lower Egypt were united again. Up until 2000 BC, the Egyptians had been pretty much isolated with no contact with foreigners -- living, essentially, without war. Then the Hyksos, from Asia Minor, invaded with horses, chariots, bows and arrows, etc., and they ruled the land.

The city of Thebes,was the administrative capital of Egypt for 3,000 years -- the center of wealth and power.

Around 1570 BC, the Egyptians drove the foreign Hyksos invaders back into Asia and restored peace and strengthened the nation's economy, especially under Queen Hatshepsut, who sent trading expeditions to other parts of Africa and built many beautiful temples and palaces. She was succeeded by her stepson, Thutmose III, who promptly proceeded to obliberate all signs of the Queen. He also ended Hatshepsut's peaceful policy & began a 20-year series of military campaigns that pushed Egypt's frontiers through Palestine & Syria and as far northeast as the upper waters of the Euphrates River. His empire lasted for 100 years. He made Thebes, near the temples of Karnak and Luxor, and Memphis, near present-day Cairo, the political, commercial and cultural centers of the world.

The Amarna revolution, which dates to 1367 BC when King Amenhotep IV took the throne, shook the Egyptian Empire for a generation. Married to Queen Nefertiti -- probably the most well-known Egyptian woman because of the beautiful sculpture of her head -- he was a religious reformer who worshipped the life- giving power of the sun, or Aton. He moved the capital from Thebes to a new city at Amarna, outlawed the worship of other gods and changed his name to Akhenaton. During his reign, the Egyptians first began calling their ruler "Pharoah."

But resistance from the priests and the people forced his successor, King Tutankhamon, one of Akhenaton's sons-in-law, to return to the old religion of worshipping many gods; and Thebes, near the temple of Karnak devoted to Amon-Re, again became the Egyptian capital.

After 945 BC, non-Egyptians dominated for the next 600 years, with the Libyans, Sudanese, Assyrians, and Persians ruling in turn. Then in 332 BC, during Dynasty XXX, Alexander the Great made Egypt one of his conquests & the country lived under Greek rule for 30 years. When Alexander died, one of his leading generals succeeded him as Ptolemy I and founded a dynasty that ended when Cleopatra died in 30 BC.

The Romans then took over and governed for another 600 years. In 41 AD, St. Mark came to Egypt and converted many into Christianity under the Coptic Church. In 700 AD, the Arabs took over -- and that basically takes you up to modern times.

Hearing this history -- even tho brief -- gives you a sense of awe for the time involved: thousands and thousands of years! And we look at Williamsburg as ancient!

Click here for a timeline that outlines major events during the past five thousand years in Egypt.

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