Introduction about the civilization of ancient Egypt

Apr 1, 2011

Introduction about the civilization of ancient Egypt

The civilization of ancient Egypt lasted for over 5,000 years, covering a period from c.5000 BC to the early centuries AD. Before the unification of the country in c.3100 BC, there were some 2,000 years (the Predynastic Period) during which the civilization gradually developed and the earliest advances were made in technology, arts and crafts, politics, and religion, laying the foundations for later developments. However, written records of this earliest period have never been discovered.
After Alexander the Great (a Macedonian king) conquered Egypt in 332 BC, the country was ruled by a line of Macedonian Greeks who descended from Alexander’s general Ptolemy (King Ptolemy I). Cleopatra VII (the last ruler of this dynasty) was forced to surrender Egypt to Roman rule, and the country became part of the Roman Empire in 30 BC.

When the Roman Empire was divided into two sections in the fourth century AD, Egypt came to be controlled from Constantinople (Byzantium).
Christianity was eventually adopted as the official state religion throughout the Roman Empire—thus affecting many aspects of Egypt’s civilization—but some influences survived from the Pharaonic Period. However,when the Arabs conquered Egypt in the seventh century AD, Islam replaced Christianity as the major religion, and all outward expressions of the ancient civilization finally disappeared.
The basis of any modern chronology of ancient Egypt rests on the work of Manetho
(c.282 BC), an Egyptian priest who wrote a chronicle of Egyptian rulers covering the
period from c.3100 BC to 343 BC.
He divided his king list into thirty dynasties, which are retained by modern historians (who have added an extra one). Egyptian historical accounts, the records left by Classical writers, and information provided by other contemporary sources (including Hebrew and Near Eastern historical and literary texts) all enable modern historians to compile a reasonably accurate sequence of rulers and their dates. Sometimes, however, the evidence is scanty or contradictory.
The chronology followed in this book is based on the system given in the Cambridge Ancient History. The dynasties are arranged under the subdivisions “kingdoms” or “periods,” which are generally accepted today in Egyptology.

There is no clear definition of dynasty or an explanation of why Manetho divided the king list in this way. If precise dates for a reign or an event are recorded, they are given in this book.
When only approximate dates are known, they are written as c.240 BC (circa, or around the time of, 240 BC). If a date is written as c.240–c.160 BC, it means approximately 240 BC to approximately 160 BC. If it is written as c.240–160 BC, then it means approximately 240 BC to precisely 160 BC, while 240–160 BC means precisely 240 BC to precisely 160 BC.
Historical evidence about Egypt’s civilization comes from various sources, including monuments, artifacts, inscriptions, and preserved human remains. The main aim of this book is to present information relating to Egyptian civilization from the Predynastic Period through to the end of Roman rule in Egypt.
Although an outline of the historical background and context is provided in the back of the book, the chapters are organized thematically rather than chronologically so that readers can readily gain access to particular topics.

There has been an attempt to separate archaeological, literary, paleopathological, or historical elements in the text and, whenever appropriate, the chapter combines current information from different areas of knowledge and research.
Although repetition of information is kept to a minimum, some topics can be viewed in more than one way and may therefore be covered in more than one section. Full use should be made of the index to find all references to a particular subject and also the meanings of particular words.
The chapters provide summaries of cur- rent knowledge about the various topics, but further references are also included to guide the reader’s own pursuit of the subject matter.
When special terminology or technical terms are used, such as nome, ostracon, or cartouche, a brief definition is provided. The most widely accepted versions of personal names are given, and sites are listed under the place-names by which they are best known; however, alternative ancient Egyptian, Greek, or modern Arabic versions are included where relevant. Regarding the spelling of kings’ names, it is known that there were five main names in the pharaoh’s royal titulary and the two most important were inscribed inside cartouches (a stylized loop of rope). In this book, the practice of using the one name by which the ruler is best known has been adopted. In some cases, this means that the Grecized rather than the Egyptian version of the name is retained (e.g., Cheops rather than Khufu); in others, the Egyptian name is used (e.g., Amenemhet rather than Ammenemes, and Senusret rather than Sesostris).


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