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Brief History of Ancient Egypt
 
Old Kingdom
1st dynasty - before the first dynasty Egypt was in fact two lands. The unifier of these lands, in folk tales, was Menes and known as the first mortal king of Egypt. The Greek historian Herodotus records that this king founded the capital, Memphis, by damming the Nile to reclaim land for the city. During this time papyrus was invented and as a consequence writing was used as an administrative tool of government. This created the conditions for prosperity, which can be seen in the magnificent artefacts that have been found from this period.
 
2nd dynasty - at the end of the 1st dynasty there appears to have been rival claimants for the throne. The successful claimantís Horus name, Hetepsekhemwy, translates as "peaceful in respect of the two powers" this may be a reference to the opposing gods Horus and Seth, or an understanding reached between two rival factions. But the political rivalry was never fully resolved and in time the situation worsened into conflict. The 6th pharaoh, Peribsen, took the title of "Seth" instead of Horus and the last ruler of the dynasty, Khasekhemwy took both titles, a Horus/Seth name meaning "arising in respect of the two powers," and "the two lords are at peace in him." Towards the end of this dynasty, however there seems to have been more disorder and possibly civil war.
 
3rd dynasty - period is one of the landmarks of Human history. A prosperous age and the appearance of the worlds first great monumental building - the Pyramid. The artistic masterpieces in the tombs of the nobles show the martial wealth of this time Djoser - one of the outstanding kings of Egypt. His Step Pyramid at Saqqara is the first large stone building and the forerunner of later pyramids.
4th dynasty - Egypt was able to accomplish the ambitious feat of the Giza pyramids because there had been a long period of peace and no threats of invasion. So their energies were spent in cultivating art to its highest forms. The 4th dynasty came from Memphis and the 5th from Elephantine. The transition from one ruling family to another appears to have been peaceful.
 
5th dynasty - the first two kings of the 5th dynasty, were sons of a lady, Khentkaues, who was a member of the 4th dynasty royal family. There was an institutionalisation of officialdom and high officials for the first time came from outside the royal family. The pyramids are smaller and less solidly constructed than those of the fourth dynasty, but the carvings from the mortuary temples are well preserved and of the highest quality. There are surviving papyri from this period, which demonstrate well-developed methods of accounting and record keeping. They document the redistribution of goods between the royal residence, the temples, and officials.
 
6th dynasty - there are many inscriptions from the sixth dynasty. These include records of trading expeditions to the south from the reigns of Pepy I. One of the most interesting is a letter written by Pepy II. The pyramid of Pepy II at southern Saqqara is the last major monument of the Old Kingdom. None of the names of kings of the short-lived seventh dynasty are known and the eighth dynasty shows signs of and political decay.
 
First Intermediate Period
7th and 8th dynasties - about this time the Old Kingdom state collapsed. Egypt simultaneously suffered political failure and environmental disaster. There was famine, civil disorder and a rise in the death rate. With the climate of Northeast Africa becoming dryer, combined with low inundations of the Nile and the cemeteries rapidly filling, this was not a good time for the Egyptians. The years following the death of Pepy II are most obscure. There are no contemporary but Herodotus  wrote of a Queen Nitokris:
"She killed hundreds of Egyptians to avenge the king, her brother, whom his subjects had killed, and had forced her to succeed. She did this by constructing a huge underground chamber. Then invited to a banquet all those she knew to be responsible for her brother's death. When the banquet was underway, she let the river in on them, through a concealed pipe. After this fearful revenge, she flung herself into a room filled with embers, to escape her punishment."
For a time petty princes ruled the provinces. From Herakleopolis emerged a ruling family led by Khety, who for a time held sway over the whole country. However, this was short lived and the country split into North (ruled from Herakleopolis) and south (ruled from Thebes). The Theban dynasty was stable, but in Herakleopolis the kings succeeded one another rapidly. There was continual conflict between the two lands, which was resolved in the 11th dynasty.


Middle Kingdom
11th dynasty - the Middle Kingdom begins with the reunification of the country under Mentuhotep II who ousted the kings of Herakleopolis. He assumed the Horus name "Divine of the White Crown", implicitly claiming all of Upper Egypt. This was later changed to "Uniter of the Two Lands". His mortuary complex at Deir el-Bahri was the architectural inspiration for Hatshepsut's temple which was built alongside some 500 years later.
 
12th dynasty - Amenemhet I moved the capital back to the Memphis. There was a revival of Old Kingdom artistic styles. He later took his son, Senusret I as his co-regent. During the 10 years of joint rule Senusret undertook campaigns in Lower Nubia which led to its conquest. Senusret III reorganised Egypt into four regions the northern and southern halves of the Nile Valley and the eastern and western Delta. He and his successor Amenemhet III left a striking artistic legacy in the form of statuary depicting them as ageing, careworn rulers. It was during this period that the written language was regularised in its classical form of Middle Egyptian. The first body of literary texts was composed in this form, although several are ascribed to Old Kingdom authors. The most important of these is the "Instruction for Merikare," a discourse on kingship and moral responsibility. Queen Sobekkneferu, the first female monarch, marked the end of the dynastic line.
 
13th dynasty and 14th dynasty - lasted for around 77 years. The true chronology of the 13th dynasty is vague since there are few surviving monuments from this period. There were many kings who reigned for a short time, who were not of a single family. The last fifty years represents a gradual decline. It seems that after the death of Ay, the eastern Delta broke away under its own petty kings (14th dynasty). There is even less known about this dynasty. Asiatic immigration became widespread, the north-eastern Delta being settled from Palestine.
 
Second Intermediate Period
The Middle Kingdom fell because of the weakness of its later kings, which lead to Egypt being invaded by an Asiatic; desert people called the Hyksos. These invaders made themselves kings and held the country for more than two centuries. The word Hyksos goes back to an Egyptian phrase meaning "ruler of foreign lands". The Jewish historian Josephus (1st century AD) mentions them. He depicts the new rulers as sacrilegious invaders who despoiled the land but with the exception of the title Hyksos they presented themselves as Egyptian kings and appear to have been accepted as such. They tolerated other lines of kings within the country, both those of the 17th dynasty and the various minor Hyksos who made up the 16th dynasty.
 
15th dynasty - the Hyksos, sometimes referred to as the Shepherd Kings or Desert Princes, sacked the old capital of Memphis and built their capital at Avaris, in the Delta. The best-known king was Apepi who reigned for up to 40 years. Their rule brought many technical innovations to Egypt, from bronze working, pottery and looms to new musical instruments and musical styles. New breeds of animals and crops were introduced. But the most important changes was in the area of warfare; composite bows, new types of daggers and scimitars, and above all the horse and chariot. In many ways the Hyksos modernised Egypt and ultimately Egypt was to benefit from their rule.

16th dynasty - rules in Thebes contemporary with the 15th dynasty.
17th dynasty - while the Hyksos ruled northern Egypt a new line of native rulers was developing in Thebes. They controlled the area from Elephantine in the south, to Abydos in the middle of the country. The early rulers made no attempt to challenge the Hyksos but an uneasy truce existed between them. However, the later rulers rose against the Hyksos and a number of battles were fought. King Tao II, was probably killed in one of these battles since his mummy has significant head wounds. One of his sons, Ahmose, the founder of the 18th dynasty, expelled the Hyksos from Egypt.
 
New Kingdom
18th dynasty - this family began a period of unprecedented success in international affairs for Egypt. There was a succession of extraordinary and able kings and queens who laid the foundations of a strong Egypt and bequeathed a prosperous economy to the kings of the 19th dynasty. Ahmose, who expelled the Hyksos, followed by Thutmose I's conquest in the Near East and Africa. Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose III who made Egypt into an ancient super power. The magnificent Amenhotep III, who began an artistic revolution. Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) and Nefertiti began a religious revolution - the concept of one god. Finally there was Tutankhamun who's tomb firmly re-established wide-scale interest in Egyptology.
 
19th dynasty - after Rameses I's brief reign, Seti I's reign looked for its model to the mid-18th dynasty and was a time of considerable prosperity. He restored countless monuments. His temple at Abydos exhibits some of the finest carved wall reliefs. His son Rameses II is the major figure of the dynasty. Around this time the Hittites had become a dominant Asiatic power. An uneasy balance of power developed between the two kingdoms, which was punctuated by wars and treaties. By now Egypt was an ethnically pluralistic society and this is reflected in a diversity of artistic expression. Unfortunately the tide of history was turning and Rameses son; Merenptah had to struggle to maintain Egypt's prestige.
20th dynasty - Setnakht ruled for only a few years but restored order after a period of chaos. His son Rameses III was the last great king. He gave Egypt a final moment of glory by defeating Sea Peoples who had utterly destroyed the Hittite Empire and swept all before them on their march south. After Rameses III, Egypt began to suffer economic problems and a break down in the fabric of society. She was unable to exploit the revolution of the Iron Age and there followed a succession of kings all called Rameses.
 
Third Intermediate Period
The capital moves from Tanis to Libya, to Nubia, to Thebes, to Sais, and then back to Nubia and Thebes.
 
21st Dynasty
22nd Dynasty
23rd Dynasty
24th Dynasty
25th Dynasty
 
Late Kingdom
The Nubians fall under the Assyrians invasion. The Greeks help re-establish order. A renaissance in the arts of the 25th Dynasty shows a return to the Old Kingdom style.
 
26th Dynasty
27th Dynasty - First Persian Period
28th Dynasty
29th Dynasty
30th Dynasty - contains the last of the Egyptian-born Pharaohs.
31st Dynasty - Second Persian Period and was added after Manetho created his list of kings.
 
Ptolemaic Dynasty
This period is confusing due to all of the co-regencies. Scholars are not always in agreement on the order of reigns and, in some case, the reigns themselves, from Ptolemy VI through Ptolemy XI. In any event, Egypt's authority and wealth was intact until the death of Cleopatra, at which time, Rome overpowered Egypt.

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