Outline of Egyptian History:
Ancient Egyptian civilization was certainly one of the most long-lived and durable in all of world history. Among the factors contributing to its longevity are the Nile River, its naturally protected valley, and the stable weather conditions. The Nile valley is enclosed by the Mediterranean Sea on the north; the Arabian Desert and Red Sea on the east; the Libyan Desert on the west, and in ancient times danger seldom came from the south. By the Neolithic Period (ca. 5000 B.C.), the Egyptians already enjoyed a sedentary and stable existence. The annual inundation of the Nile induced them to construct dykes and dams to protect their settlements, and to dig canals to better irrigate and cultivate their fields. They began to store harvest crops against times of famine, and they learned how to gauge the rise and fall of the inundation waters. One might even say that the regular annual rhythm of the river was the primary catalyst underlying the organization and political unification of the country! In this sense, then, Herodotus, the “father of history*, was surely correct when he wrote in 449 B.C. that “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”.
Neolithic Period (5000 B.C.):
Egyptian civilization at this period is known as the “Nagada culture”, which can be divided into three phases. The culture first arises in the Fifth Millennium B.C. in Upper Egypt between Abydos in the north and Armant in the south, and subsequently spread over the rest of Upper Egypt. The first – or Nagada I – phase achieved trade relations with the Kharga Oasis, reached the Red Sea to the east, and the First Cataract to the south. The process of consolidating the country, which resulted in historical times in a unified Egypt, may have begun under the Nagada II phase. Both trade relations and con¬flicts between Upper and Lower Egypt are attested at this time. Especially noteworthy during this period are the fascinating early mural paintings discovered in a tomb at Hierakonpolis (ca. 3500 B.C.), and the ceramic decorations displaying human and animal figures, as well as ships complete with oars and cabins. The third and most advanced Nagada III phase seems to reveal influence both from Lower Egypt and other cultures in the Near East. Autonomous provinces were estab¬lished and consolidated until two separate kingdoms eventually came into being: one in Upper Egypt with its capital at Nekheb (El Kab, near Edfu); and the other in Lower Egypt, with its capital at Buto (Tell el Faram, near Desouq).
The Historical Period (ca. 3000-332):
Was divided into thirty-one dynasties, or royal families, by the Egyptian priest Manetho, who lived between 323 and 245 B.C. Manetho, wrote his history of Egypt beginning with Menes of the First Dynasty and ending with Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. We can divide his dynasties further into several discrete eras.
The Early Dynastic Era (ca. 3000-2750):
Consists of the first two dynasties, and derives its name from the town of origin of the earliest kings: Thinis. The first capital of the newly unified country to be established -by Hor-Aha (Menes), the fourth king of the First Dynasty – was at Memphis. Hiero¬glyphic writing also came into use at this time in moderate scale for simple economic and other types of documents. These early jottings mostly served to list names, places or objects. A few experiments with stone as a building material, instead of mud brick, were also undertaken. Royal tombs were constructed at both Sakkara and Abydos. Among the famous
Representational works from this period is the Narmer palette, which commemorates the defeat of the Lower Egyptians at the hands of the Upper Egyptians, and the unification of the two halves of the country.
The Old Kingdom (ca. 2705-2155 B.C.):
This period includes Dynasties 3—6. Memphis remained the political capital, but Heliopolis grew as the most important religious center. The pharaohs were buried in theGreat Pyramid necropolis of Sakkara, Giza, |Abusir and Dahshur (to the southwest of Cairo). The Old Kingdom was characterized by a highly bureaucratic and organized central administration. In the transition period from the Fifth to Sixth Dynasties, the corpus of religious mortuary literature known as the Pyramid Texts makes its first appearance insidethe burial chambers of the pyramids. Members of the royal family and high officials were interred in mastabas, or inrock-cut tombs. The officials’ sepulchers were located either around the pyramids of the pharaoh they had served, or in their own administrative province. The walls were richly decorated with painted reliefs of scenes of deity life and religious mortuary cult activities. The most famous kings of this era include Djoser Netjer-Khet) of Dynasty 3,owner of the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, which was constructed by the great architect Imhotep; King Sneferu of the Fourth Dynasty built one pyramid at Meidum and two at Dahshur.
His successors Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura constructed theirs at Giza; these last three are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In the Fifth Dynasty, the cult of the falcon-headed sun god Re exerted tremendous influence over the country. Sun-temples were erected near the pyra¬mids north of Sakkara and at Abusir.
The First Intermediate period (ca.2155-3134):
Towards the end of the Old Kingdom, as central authority disintegrated, whatcontacts had existed between Egypt and Nubia, Phoenicia and Palestine were broken off. The officials in charge of the many Egyptian provinces struggled to gain their own independ¬ence, and political and economic chaos resulted. The period from Dynasties 7 to 10, also known as the Heracleopolitan Period, was one of civil war and starvation. Two weak ruling houses are attested:|one at Thebes in the south, and the other at Heracleopolis in the north (Ehnasia near the Fayum). This was the classical period of the Egyptian lan¬guage, and several descriptive accounts tell of the woes of the age, which lasted more than a century and a half.
The Middle Kingdom (ca.2134-1781 B.C.):
Dynasties 11-12 come under this heading. The country was finally reunited under the Theban princes whose capital in the south became the religious center for all of Egypt. It was here at Thebes that King Mentuhotep II built his famous mortuary temple of Deir el-Bahari. In the Twelfth Dynasty| however, the capital shifted to the north, near El-Lisht, and the pharaohs were buried in mud-brick pyramids (Dahshur, Fayum, and Beni Suef). The older Pyramid Texts evolved into the Coffin Texts, now no longer restricted to use by the king alone. They adorned the inside and outside of coffins, and are later attested in the tombs of certain high officials.
Provincial “monarchs” and other Independent high officials were allowed to excavate or construct their tombs in their own districts. These were provided with beautiful mortu¬ary equipment and decorated with vivid scenes of both daily life and life in the next world (Beni Hassan, El Bersheh, Thebes, and Aswan).
Great irrigation projects were undertaken during the Twelfth Dynasty. Attempts were made to irrigate the Fayum, and reservoirs and canals were constructed under Sesostris (Senusret) II, Sesostris (Senusret) III and Amenemhat III.
The second Intermediate Period (ca. 1781-1550 B. C.) (Dynasties 13-17):
After a period of political and economic turmoil, most of the country was overrun for about a century by a Near Eastern people known as the Hyksos, or “rulers of foreign Lands” Dynasties 15-16). Composed of immigrant tribes of Syrians, Palestinians and Hurrians, the Hyksos found refuge in the fertile Nile valley. They introduced into Egypt the horse and horse-drawn chariot, as well as new types of daggers, swords and compos¬ite bows, all of which were to play a large role later on in Egyptian military history. In terms of artistic achievement or economic prosperity, the Hyksos domination was a rela¬tively decadent and impoverished era.
The Hyksos worshipped the deity Seth (Sutekh) god of strength and confusion. Avaris in the eastern Delta between Tanis and Qantir served as their capital. During the Seven¬th Dynasty, however, the Theban princes had been consolidating their own power in the south, and eventually moved to oust the foreigners from their homeland. Finally, under the leadership of Seqenenre, Kamose and Ahmose, the Thebans expelled the Hyksos, reunited the country and initiated a new dynasty.
The New kingdom (ca. 1550-1070 B.C.)
(The Empire period):
This period includes Dynasties 18—20, and is considered by many to be the golden age of Egyptian civilization. In the Eighteenth Dynasty, Thebes was both the political and religious center of the realm. Magnificent temples were erected there for the state god Amon-Re. The temple of Karnak functioned not only as the major religious center, but also the political, economic and diplomatic focus for everything, from the delivery of local taxes from across the river to foreign tribute from provinces such as Nubia, Syria-Palestine and Phoenicia, and from countries such as Punt (Somalia?), Libya, Crete, the Aegean islands and Mesopotamia. Famous rulers of Dynasty 18 include: Queen Hatshepsut (1488—1470 B.C.), the best-known queen-cum-pharaoh of Egypt. Her relatively peaceful reign, trade relations with Punt and building activities at Thebes (Deir el-Bahari and Karnak} are especially noteworthy.
Tuthmosis III (1490—1436 B.C.), whose military exploits in the north, northeast and south earned him the title of creator of the Egyptian empire. He also conducted an active building campaign, especially at Thebes (Karnak, Luxor).
Amenophis III (1403-1365) B.C.), with his prosperous and peaceful reign, and friendly diplomatic relations with many foreign countries in western Asia. Egyptian art and cul¬ture reached a zenith during his rule.
Amenophis IV (Akhenaten) (1365-1348 B.C.), the first to establish a form of monothe¬ism in Egypt. Akhenaten’s great religious revolution involved the replacement of the state god Amon-Re with the solar deity Aten. Artistic conventions and political traditions were also totally restructured. The king moved the capital to a completely new city in Middle Egypt (Akhetaten, now Tell el-Amarna). Many of the Egyptian holdings in Syria-Palestine which Tuthmosis III had secured were nearly lost under Akhenaten’s reign. Tutankhamen (1347—1337 B.C.), a successor of Akhenaten, restored the cult of Amon-Re, and abandoned Tell el-Amarna in order to return to tradition. The discovery of his nearly intact tomb in 1922 revealed the wealth and prosperity of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
Horemheb (1332-1305 B.C) who served as generalissimo and then king after the death of Tutankhamen, and protected the country from foreign intruders.
In Dynasty 19 (ca. 1305-1305 B.C., The capital was moved once again, this time to Pi-Ramesses in the eastern Delta, the origin of the Ramesside family and a more strategic location Vis a Vis Syro-Palestinian affairs. The Hittites in Asia Minor were Egypt’s chief rival at this period; both sides struggled for control of the Syro-Palestinian region (Battle of kadesh).
In the reign of Ramesses III ca. 1196 B.C.), Aegean tribes known as the Sea Peoples threatened to infiltrate the Egyptian Delta region. Economic and cultural decline, coupled with the threat of foreign invasion, contributed to the weakening of central authority; strikes and cases of corruption are documented in the ancient sources. At Thebes, the priesthood of Amon achieved ever greater political influence.
The Third Intermediate Period (1070-750 B.C.):
Dynasties 21-24 are generally ascribed to this era. In Dynasty 21, Egypt was divided once again into two regions. In the south, the theocratic state was ruled by the priest¬hood of Amon-Re at Karnak, while the north was controlled by the priests of Tanis. The Twenty-second to Twenty-fourth Dynasties were of Libyan origin.
The Late period (750-332 B.C.):
The ruling house of Nubia succeeded in founding the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. Egypt was reunited under King Shabaka, and the capital was moved to Napata near the Fourth Cataract in the Sudan. At the end of this period, the Assyrians conquered Egypt (671
The Twenty-sixth, or Saite, Dynasty achieved a renaissance of Egyptian civilization. Art, language and many other aspects of traditional Egyptian culture were resurrected from bygone classical ages. The dynastic capital was at Sais in the western Delta, until the Per¬sians under Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 B.C.
During Dynasties 27—30, Egypt remained under Persian rule, occasionally succeeding in lacing native Egyptian rulers on the throne.
Graeco-Roman Period (332 B.C.-A.D. 395):
In 332 B.C. the country was again invaded, this time by Alexander the Great, founded the city of Alexandria in the following year. After his death in 323 B.C., Egypt fell under Ptolemaic rule until the death of Antony and Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C. The country then became a Roman province until A.D. 395. Christianity then arose and Al¬exandria became a theological center of the new religion.
The Byzantine Period began in A.D. 395 in the time of Arcadius, the Emperor of the East.
In the year A.D. 640, Amr Ibn el-As, the Muslim general of Caliph Omer Ibn el-Khattab, conquered Pelusium (near Suez) and defeated the Byzantines at Heliopolis. His conquest was completed in 646 with the taking of Alexandria, and Egypt then became an Islamic province.
The Arab conquest of 641 by the military commander Amr ibn al As was perhaps the next most important event in Egyptian history because it resulted in the Islamization and Arabization of the country which endure to this day. Even those who clung to the Coptic religion a substantial minority of the population in 1990 were Arabized; that is they adopted the Arabic language and were assimilated into Arab culture.
Although Egypt was formally under Arab rule beginning in the ninth century hereditary autonomous dynasties arose that allowed local rulers to maintain a great deal of control over the country’s destiny. During this period Cairo was established as the capital of the country and became a center of religion learning art and architecture. In 1260 the Egyptian ruler Qutuz and his forces stopped the Mongol advance across the Arab world at the battle of Ayn Jalut in Palestine. Because of this victory Islamic civilization could continue to flourish when Baghdad the capital of the Abbasid caliphate fell to the Mongols. Qutuz’s successor Baybars I inaugurated the reign of the Mamluks a dynasty of slave-soldiers of Turkish and Circassian origin that lasted for almost three centuries.
In 1517 Egypt was conquered by Sultan Selim I and absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Since the Turks were Muslims however and the sultans regarded themselves as the preservers of Sunni Islam this period saw institutional continuity particularly in religion education and the religious law courts. In addition after only a century of Ottoman rule the Mamluk system reasserted itself and Ottoman governors became at times virtual prisoners in the Citadel the ancient seat of Egypt’s rulers.
The modern history of Egypt is marked by Egyptian attempts to achieve political independence first from the Ottoman Empire and then from the British. In the first half of the nineteenth century Muhammad Ali an Albanian and the Ottoman viceroy in Egypt attempted to create an Egyptian empire that extended to Syria and to remove Egypt from Turkish control. Ultimately he was unsuccessful and true independence from foreign powers would not be achieved until midway through the next century.
Foreign including British investment in Egypt and Britain’s need to maintain control over the Suez Canal resulted in the British occupation of Egypt in 1882. Although Egypt was granted independence in 1922, British troops were allowed to remain in the country to safeguard the Suez Canal. In 1952 the Free Officers led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser took control of the government and removed King Faruk from power. In 1956 Nasser as Egyptian president announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal an action that resulted in the tripartite invasion by Britain France and Israel. Ultimately however Egypt prevailed and the last British troops were withdrawn from the country by the end of the year.
No history of Egypt would be complete without mentioning the Arab-Israeli conflict which has cost Egypt so much in lives territory and property. Armed conflict between Egypt and Israel ended in 1979 when the two countries signed the Camp David Accords. The accords however constituted a separate peace between Egypt and Israel and did not lead to a comprehensive settlement that would have satisfied Palestinian demands for a homeland or brought about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Thus Egypt remained embroiled in the conflict on the diplomatic level and continued to press for an international conference to achieve a comprehensive agreement.
Mubarak is the current president of Egypt. He served actively in the army. He was the chief-commander of the air force during the1973 war (also called Yom Kippur War). Actually, the successful performance of the air force in that war is accredited to him.
He was promoted as an Air Marshal in 1974. In 1975, President Sadat chose him as his vice-president and he remained as such until Sadats assassination in 1981. He was also made secretary-general of Sadat’s National Democratic Party.
Mubarak was elected president on 13 October 1981. He soon declared his commitment to Sadat’s peace path. He also released the political detainees who were imprisoned by Sadat.
In the early years of his rule, Mubarak worked hard to restore severed relations with Arab states and maintain good relations with the United States and the Soviet Union, later Russia.
Domestically, he introduced economic reforms and granted more political and press freedoms to the society. In recent years he also encouraged a privatization scheme planned by the government to reactivate the economy.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Mubarak was challenged by terrorist attacks launched by fundamentalist groups.
In 1995, Mubarak escaped an assassination attempt in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, while he was attending an African meeting. In the aftermath of the attack, Mubarak adopted a hard-line position against extremists until he successfully uprooted terrorism.
He also supported and took part in the US-led Gulf war in 1990 against Iraq, which was reaped by the successful liberation of Kuwait.
Also under his rule, Egypt supported and sponsored peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
Mubarak also showed moral support for the US anti-terrorism efforts following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001.
Mubarak was reelected 3 times by referenda in 1987, 1993 and 1999 with landslide votes supporting him.