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Egyptian Dynasties


Studying ancient Egyptian dynasties is one of the most exciting things for historians. Probably the most exciting era in human history, the Egyptian civilization was also an advanced one. Spread over three thousand years, ancient Greeks thrived in economic prosperity. Considering the amount of years the civilization lasted, it is important to note of the different rules or dynasties the civilization went through. Hundreds of Pharaohs ruled Egypt more than thousands of years ago. 
 
The civilization time is divided into periods, kingdoms and dynasties. A period is characterized by some sort of cultural and technological evolution that influenced how Egyptians lived in the subsequent years. These are politically purveyed societies that had law and order. The supreme constitution was the Pharaoh. Political families continued their power brokerage across generations. Kith and kin of retired or demised kings were given kingship and other stately positions. Until Alexander the Great arrived, up to thirty one dynasties ruled Egypt.
 
 
Egyptian Dynasties

 
Egyptian Dynasties

How many Egyptian Dynasties?


The basic source of Egyptian history is a list of rulers compiled in c.280 B.C. by Manetho for the Macedonians who ruled Egypt. Manetho divided Egyptian kings into thirty dynasties in the following picture. 
 
 

Ancient Egyptian periods


Pre-dynastic period


This was the period between 5500 and 3100 BC. During this time settlements came about in the lower half of the Nile River. 


Early Period Dynasties


The first two dynasties ruled Egypt between 3100 and 2686 BC. During this period, Memphis was designated as the capital city. The unification of upper and lower Egypt happened during this period. Amongst the rule of ancient Egyptian dynasties, this event set the trend toward a cultural evolution from both lands.


Old Kingdom Period Dynasties


During this period between 2686 and 2181 BC, three dynasties ruled Egypt. During this period a lot of events happened that set off a social revolution. The king was bestowed the status of God. The Sun was worshipped as the supreme life-giving divine source. The world famous step pyramid was built during this period.

It was again during this period that the pyramids of Giza were built. The dynastic rule during this time was ripe with social and cultural revolutions. The Pharaoh was considered God incarnate. The Pharaoh set the trend towards anything the Egyptians followed.


New Kingdom Period Dynasties

This period witnessed the eighteenth and twentieth dynastic rule. Probably the second golden age for Egypt, the New Kingdom period was used to propagate the empire’s footprints wider. Considering that ancient Egyptian dynasties were not keen on expanding, this era actually changed that attitude.

A lot of conquests were made by the rulers as the kingdom spread far and wide. It was during this time that Tutakhamen, at the age of nine became the ruler of the kingdom.


Late Dynastic Period Dynasties

Between 525 and 332 BC, the might of the Egyptian civilization was weakening. The Persian monarch Cambyses invaded the kingdom. Around 525 BC, Egyptians got a taste of invasion. But the Persian monarch was eventually defeated and turned away. 


The invasion of Alexander the Great

This is one of the most notable events of history considering that Egypt’s culture and social fabric took a turn with the invasion of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian kingdom set up its base in Egypt, and eventually the era of ancient Egyptian dynasties perished.


Egyptian Dynasties timeline

 
Menes (or Narmer) unified Upper and Lower Egypt and established his capital at Memphis  around 3000 B.C.. By the time of the Old Kingdom, the land had been consolidated under the  central power of a king, who was also the "owner" of all Egypt. Considered to be divine, he  stood above the priests and was the only individual who had direct contact with the gods. The  economy was a royal monopoly and so there was no word in Egyptian for "trader." 
 
Egyptian Dynasties timeline
 
Under the  king was a carefully graded hierarchy of officials, ranging from the governors of provinces down  through local mayors and tax collectors. The entire system was supported by the work of slaves,  peasants and artisans.  The Old Kingdom reached its highest stage of development in the Fourth Dynasty. The most  tangible symbols of this period of greatness are the three enormous pyramids built as the tombs  of kings at Giza between 2600 and 2500. 
 
The largest, Khufu (called Cheops by the Greeks), was  originally 481 feet high and 756 feet long on each side. Khufu was made up of 2.3 million stone  blocks averaging 2.5 tons each. In the 5th century B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus tells us  that the pyramid took 100,000 men and twenty years to build. The pyramids are remarkable not  only for their technical engineering expertise, but also for what they tell us about royal power at  the time. 
 
They are evidence that Egyptian kings had enormous wealth as well as the power to  concentrate so much energy on a personal project.  The priests, an important body within the ruling caste, were a social force working to modify the  king's supremacy. Yielding to the demands of the priests of Re, a sun god, kings began to call  themselves "sons of Re," adding his name as a suffix to their own. Re was also worshipped in  temples that were sometimes larger than the pyramids of later kings. 
 
 In the Old Kingdom, royal power was absolute. The pharaoh (the term originally meant "great  house" or "palace"), governed his kingdom through his family and appointed officials. The lives  of the peasants and artisans was carefully regulated: their movement was limited and they were  taxed heavily. Luxury accompanied the pharaoh in life and in death and he was raised to an  exalted level by his people. 
 
The Egyptians worked for the pharaoh and obeyed him because he  was a living god on whom the entire fabric of social life depended. No codes of law were needed  since the pharaoh was the direct source of all law.  In such a world, government was merely one aspect of religion and religion dominated Egyptian  life. The gods of Egypt came in many forms: animals, humans and natural forces. Over time, Re,  the sun god, came to assume a dominant place in Egyptian religion.
 
Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh
 
The Egyptians had a very clear idea of the afterlife. They took great care to bury their dead  according to convention and supplied the grave with things that the departed would need for a  pleasant life after death. The pharaoh and some nobles had their bodies preserved in a process of  mummification. Their tombs were decorated with paintings, food was provided at burial and  after. Some tombs even included full sized sailing vessels for the voyage to heaven and beyond.  At first, only pharaohs were thought to achieve eternal life, however, nobles were eventually  included, and finally all Egyptians could hope for immortality.
 
 
 The Egyptians also developed a system of writing. Although the idea may have come from  Mesopotamia, the script was independent of the cuneiform. Egyptian writing began as  pictographic and was later combined with sound signs to produce a difficult and complicated  script that the Greeks called hieroglyphics ("sacred carvings"). Though much of what we have  today is preserved on wall paintings and carvings, most of Egyptian writing was done with pen and ink on fine paper (papyrus).
 
 In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt as part of his Grand Empire.  He brought with a Commission of Science and Arts composed of more than one hundred  scientists, engineers and mathematicians. In 1799 the Commission discovered a basalt fragment  on the west bank of the Nile at Rachid. The fragment is now known by its English name, the  Rosetta Stone. 
 
The Egyptian hieroglyphics found on the Rosetta Stone were eventually deciphered in 1822 by Jean François Champollion (1790-1832), a French scholar who had  mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and Coptic. The  Rosetta Stone contains three inscriptions. The uppermost is written in hieroglyphics; the second  in what is now called demotic, the common script of ancient Egypt; and the third in Greek. 
 
Champollion guessed that the three inscriptions contained the same text and so he spent the next  fourteen years (1808-1822) working from the Greek to the demotic and finally to the  hieroglyphics until he had deciphered the whole text. The Rosetta Stone is now on display at the  British Museum in London.  During the period of the Middle Kingdom (2050-1800 B.C.) the power of the pharaohs of the  Old Kingdom waned as priests and nobles gained more independence and influence. 
 
The  governors of the regions of Egypt (nomes) gained hereditary claim to their offices and  subsequently their families acquired large estates. About 2200 B.C. the Old Kingdom collapsed  and gave way to the decentralization of the First Intermediate Period (2200-2050 B.C.). Finally,  the nomarchs of Thebes in Upper Egypt gained control of the country and established the Middle  Kingdom.
 
 The rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty restored the power of the pharaoh over the whole of Egypt  although they could not control the nomarchs. They brought order and peace to Egypt and  encouraged trade northward toward Palestine and south toward Ethiopia. They moved the capital  back to Memphis and gave great prominence to Amon, a god connected with the city of Thebes.  He became identified with Re, emerging as Amon-Re. 
 
 The Middle Kingdom disintegrated in the Thirteenth Dynasty with the resurgence of the power  of the nomarchs. Around 1700 B.C. Egypt suffered an invasion by the Hyksos who came from  the east (perhaps Palestine or Syria) and conquered the Nile Delta. In 1575 B.C., a Thebian  dynasty drove out the Hyksos and reunited the kingdom. 
 
In reaction to the humiliation of the  Second Intermediate Period, the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty, most notably Thutmose III  (1490-1436 B.C.), created an absolute government based on a powerful army and an Egyptian  empire extending far beyond the Nile Valley.  One of the results of these imperialistic ventures of the pharaohs was the growth in power of the  priests of Amon and the threat it posed to the pharaoh. 
 
When young Amenhotep IV (1367-1350  B.C.) came to the throne he was apparently determined to resist the priesthood of Amon.  Supported by his family he ultimately made a clean break with the worship of Amon-Re. He  moved his capital from Thebes (the center of Amon worship) to a city three hundred miles to the north at a place now called El Amarna. Its god was Aton, the physical disk of the sun, and the  new city was called Akhenaton. 
 
The pharaoh changed his name to Akhenaton ("it pleases  Aton"). The new god was different from any that had come before him, for he was believed to be  universal, not merely Egyptian.  The universal claims for Aton led to religious intolerance of the worshippers of other gods. Their  temples were closed and the name of Amon-Re was removed from all monuments. The old  priests were deprived of their posts and privileges. 
 
The new religion was more remote than the  old. Only the pharaoh and his family worshipped Aton directly and the people worshipped the  pharaoh. Akhenaton's interest in religious reform proved disastrous in the long run. The Asian  possessions fell away and the economy crumbled as a result. When the pharaoh died, a strong  reaction swept away his life's work.  
 
His chosen successor was put aside and replaced by Tutankhamon (1347-1339 B.C.), the  husband of one of the daughters of Akhenaton and his wife, Nefertiti. The new pharaoh restored  the old religion and wiped out as much as he could of the memory of the worship of Aton. He  restored Amon to the center of the Egyptian pantheon, abandoned El Amarna, and returned the  capital to Thebes. His magnificent tomb remained intact until its discovery in 1922. 
 
The end of the El Amarna age restored power to the priests of Amon and to the military officers.  Horemhab, a general, restored order and recovered much of the lost empire. He referred to  Akhenaton as "the criminal of Akheton" and erased his name from the records. Akhenaton's city  and memory disappeared for over 3000 years to be rediscovered by accident about a century ago.
 
  
 
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