Ancient History/Egypt

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Introduction - Ancient Egypt

The fifth century BC historian Herodotus called Egypt "the gift of the Nile," meaning that the country would not exist without its river. Surrounded to east and west by inhospitable desert, and to the south by rough and rocky badlands and high country, Egypt was long an isolated country that gave rise to a unique kingdom in ancient times.

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Section 1 - Geography

The Nile is the principal feature of Egyptian geography, which made it in ancient times a nation rarely more than twelve miles wide from east to west — but more than 600 miles long from north to south. However, the black land of Egypt, and the mineral wealth of the surrounding deserts, made Egypt prosperous and mighty from its earliest days up to the days of the Roman empire.

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Section 2 - Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt

Egypt, like all nations, did not emerge full-grown onto the world stage. Archaeological investigations have demonstrated that several cultures emerged and thrived on the banks of the Nile River, before two kingdoms managed to take hold of the land, and eventually unite under a single royal standard.

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Section 3 - The Old Kingdom

Once Egypt was united under a single monarch, a period of great order and stability began, which was to last for almost a thousand years. Protected from outside forces by impassible desert, and immune to change because of the orderly, predictable nature of life in ancient Egypt, the first dynasties were able to erect the pyramids as monuments to their god-kings.

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Section 4 - The Middle Kingdom

Drought, famine, and the rise of an aristocracy helped bring about the end of the Old Kingdom and usher in a period of new prosperity, in which nobles and ordinary citizens began to share in Egypt's wealth. The appearance of foreign invaders, the Hyksos, also changed and renewed Egyptian culture.

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Section 5 - The New Kingdom

The resurgence of Egyptian power after the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty drove out the Hyksos led to Egyptian imperialism and major building programs that proclaimed the might of the pharaohs, and the gods who watched over them. However, new ideas in religion and political changes in the wider world tended to limit Egyptian power in unexpected ways.

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Section 6 - Late Period and Ptolemaic Egypt

Successive waves of invasion — by Kushites, Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks — made Egypt a land of outward looking leadership and inward-looking commoners, and widened the divide between governors and governed.

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Section 7 - Roman and Byzantine Egypt

Egypt became the breadbasket of two successive empires, but the very nature of its wealth — in agriculture and critical products — made it a tempting target to Persian and Islamized Arab alike.

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Section 8 - Decline

insert summary here

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Section 9 - Egyptology

Waves of visitors from Europe brought a madness for things Egyptian back to the salons and coffeehouses of Europe. Italian tourists made off with the corpse of St. Mark for Venice; British forces stole the Rosetta Stone from Napoleon, who stole it from the wall of a peasant hut; and Howard Carter wasted a British lord's money for years before finding the only unlooted tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh.

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Section 10 - Pyramids

They rank as some of the largest human-built structures on the planet, and yet their 'only' function seems to be as tombs for rulers of the second, third and fourth dynasties of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. What are they, and how were they built?

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Section 11 - Pharaohs

Gods, kings, ordinary men, a few women, and strangely inter-related... the pharaohs of Egypt have probably had more prestige and mystery than any other rulers in world history. Who were they, and what did they do?

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Section 12 - Culture

Egypt is a land of huge statues, deep tombs, and a confusing, contradictory culture. Their obsession with the afterlife winds up explaining an enormous amount to us today about how they lived, worked and played.

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