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© Copyright 1999, Jim Loy
Ancient Egypt was divided between Upper Egypt (a fertile band of land on either side of the Nile river) and Lower Egypt (the Nile delta). While other kingdoms came and went in hundreds of years, Egypt lasted (as a major world power) for thousands of years. The following dates are somewhat uncertain, especially early dates. "B. C. E." ("before the Christian era" or "before the common era," meaning the current era) replaces the older "BC."
Old Kingdom: The Old Kingdom (according to legend) began with the uniting of Upper and Lower Egypt into one country (about 3100 B. C. E.), usually known as the Two Lands. The king who did this was known as Menes or Narmer. The capital was Memphis. The Third Dynasty (2686-2613 B. C. E.) is often called the beginning of the Old Kingdom. In the Third Dynasty, the kings began to construct giant pyramids to be buried in. A notable early pyramid is Djoser's Step Pyramid. The largest pyramid is the Great Pyramid of Khufu (of the Fourth Dynasty, he was known as Cheops to the Greeks), which was the largest of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the only one of those wonders to still exist. Standing next to the Great Pyramid are those of Khafra and Menkaura. Pepy II (last king of the Sixth Dynasty) reigned for 90 or more years, the longest of any known ruler in world history. The glorious Old Kingdom fell apart at the end of the 6th Dynasty (about 2181 B. C. E.).
First Intermediate Period: During this period, Egypt was weak. First Hieracleopolis, then Thebes became the capital city.
Middle Kingdom: The Middle Kingdom began in about 2055 B. C. E., with the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty. The Twelfth Dynasty (1985-1795 B. C. E.) was the golden age of this era, with several famous kings: Amunemhat I, Senusret (Sesostris in Greek) I, Amunemhat II, Senusret II, Senusret III, Amunemhat II, and Amunemhat IV. The dynasty ended with the rule of a queen, Sobekneferu, apparently because there were no remaining male heirs. The Thirteenth Dynasty ended in another time of weakness (1650 B. C. E.).
Second Intermediate Period: In these times (1650-1550 B. C. E.) the Hyksos (also called the Shepherd Kings), perhaps from Syria, ruled Egypt.
New Kingdom: The New Kingdom was the most glorious period in Egyptian history. It began with the Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1295 B. C. E.), a dynasty of many famous kings: Amunhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Queen Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amunhotep II, Thutmose IV, Amunhotep III, Akhenaton, Tutankhamun, Ay, and Horemheb. Queen Hatshepsut ruled as king. Her images on monuments were later defaced, probably for political reasons. Akhenaton (originally called Amunhotep IV) abolished all of the Egyptian Gods except for Aton, the visible disk of the sun, and established the capital at Akhetaton (Amarna). Egypt went into decline during his reign. After Akhenaton's death Tutankhamun reestablished the capital in Thebes, and destroyed all mention of Akhenaton and Aton. Egypt slowly returned to glory. Tutankhamun is most famous for his tomb, which was the only royal tomb not completely looted by robbers, and was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. The Nineteenth Dynasty (1295-1186 B. C. E.) began with Ramses I, and Seti I. Seti's son Ramses II built more and bigger monuments than any other king. He personally won the battle of Kadesh from the Hittites. He went on to rule for 67 years. After Ramses II, Egypt went very slowly into decline. Famous kings were Merenptah, Seti II, Ramses III (Twentieth Dynasty), and Queen Tiy.
Third Intermediate Period: In this period (1069-525 B. C. E.), Tanis became the capital city. One famous king was Sheshonq I. Other cities became the capital.
Nubian Period: Blacks from Kush (Nubia) to the South invaded and ruled (747-656 B. C. E.). This was followed by a period of Egyptian rule.
Persian Periods: In 525 B. C. E., Persia invaded Egypt. And several Persian kings ruled interrupted by a period of Egyptian rule: Cambyses I, Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, Darius II, Artaxerxes II (Twenty-Seventh Dynasty 525-404 B. C. E.) and Artaxerxes III, Arses, Darius III (Second Persian Period 343-332 B. C. E.).
Macedonian Period: Egypt looked upon Alexander the Great as a liberator, when he defeated the Persians. This period lasted from 332-305 B. C. E..
Ptolemaic Period: Ptolemy I was Greek and a General in Alexander's army. His descendants ruled Egypt until 30 B. C. E.. The last ruler of the Ptolemy line was Cleopatra VII, lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Roman Period: Egypt lost its power, as the Roman Emperors (beginning with Caesar Augustus in 30 B. C. E.) ruled Egypt.
Eventually Christianity and then Islam came to dominate Egypt. Many of the ancient monuments and images of gods were then destroyed for religious reasons. In 1799, Napoleon invaded Egypt, and the Rosetta Stone was discovered. And the ancient Egyptian language (which had been dead for hundreds of years) was deciphered by Jean-Francois Champollion, Thomas Young, and others.
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