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  • Chaldeans
    re creating their empire As we have seen p 29 he destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B C and carried thousands of Jews captive to Babylonia Nebuchadnezzar reconstructed Babylon making it the largest and most impressive city of its day The tremendous city walls were wide enough at the top to have rows of small houses on either side In the center of Babylon ran the famous Procession Street which passed through the Ishtar Gate This arch which was adorned with brilliant tile animals is the best remaining example of Babylonian architecture The immense palace of Nebuchadnezzar towered terrace upon terrace each resplendent with masses of ferns flowers and trees These roof gardens the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon were so beautiful that they were regarded by the Greeks as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world Nebuchadnezzar also rebuilt the great temple tower or ziggurat the Biblical Tower of Babel which the Greek historian Herodotus viewed a century later and described as a tower of solid masonry a furlong 220 yards in length and breadth upon which was raised a second tower and on that a third and so on up to eight The ascent to the top

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  • Dawn Of Civilization
    if no tradition supplied them with this they did not experience any scruples in inventing one The Egyptians of the time of the Ptolemies who were guided in their philological speculations by the pronunciation in vogue around them attributed the patronship of their city to a Princess Memphis a daughter of its founder the fabulous Uchoreus those of preceding ages before the name had become altered thought to find in Minnofiru or Mini Nofir or Menes the Good the reputed founder of the capital of the Delta Menes the Good divested of his epithet is none other than Menes the first king of all Egypt and he owes his existence to a popular attempt at etymology The legend which identifies the establishment of the kingdom with the construction of the city must have originated at a time when Memphis was still the residence of the kings and the seat of government at latest about the end of the Memphite period It must have been an old tradition at the time of the Theban dynasties since they admitted unhesitatingly the authenticity of the statements which ascribed to the northern city so marked a superiority over their own country When the hero was once created and firmly established in his position there was little difficulty in inventing a story about him which would portray him as a paragon and an ideal sovereign He was represented in turn as architect warrior and statesman he had founded Memphis he had begun the temple of Phtah written laws and regulated the worship of the gods particularly that of Hapis and he had conducted expeditions against the Libyans When he lost his only son in the flower of his age the people improvised a hymn of mourning to console him the Maneros both the words and the tune of which were handed down from generation to generation He did not moreover disdain the luxuries of the table for he invented the art of serving a dinner and the mode of eating it in a reclining posture One day while hunting his dogs excited by something or other fell upon him to devour him He escaped with difficulty and pursued by them fled to the shore of Lake Moeris and was there brought to bay he was on the point of succumbing to them when a crocodile took him on his back and carried him across to the other side In gratitude he built a new town which he called Crocodilopolis and assigned to it for its god the crocodile which had saved him he then erected close to it the famous labyrinth and a pyramid for his tomb Other traditions show him in a less favorable light They accuse him of having by horrible crimes excited against him the anger of the gods and allege that after a reign of sixty two years he was killed by a hippopotamus which came forth from the Nile They also relate that the Saite Tafnakhti returning from an expedition against the Arabs during which he had been obliged to renounce the pomp and luxuries of life had solemnly cursed him and had caused his imprecations to be inscribed upon a stele 1 set up in the temple of Amon at Thebes Nevertheless in the memory that Egypt preserved of its first Pharaoh the good outweighed the evil He was worshipped in Memphis side by side with Phtah and Ramses II his name figured at the head of the royal lists and his cult continued till the time of the Ptolemies Footnote 1 The burned tile showing the impression of the stylus made on the clay while plastic Ed His immediate successors have only a semblance of reality such as he had The lists give the order of succession it is true with the years of their reigns almost to a day sometimes the length of their lives but we may well ask whence the chroniclers procured so much precise information They were in the same position as ourselves with regard to these ancient kings they knew them by a tradition of a later age by a fragment papyrus fortuitously preserved in a temple by accidentally coming across some monument bearing their name and were reduced as it were to put together the few facts which they possessed or to supply such as were wanting by conjectures often in a very improbable manner It is quite possible that they were unable to gather from the memory of the past the names of those individuals of which they made up the first two dynasties The forms of these names are curt and rugged and indicative of a rude and savage state harmonizing with the semi barbaric period to which they are relegated Ati the Wrestler Teti the Runner Qeunqoni the Crusher are suitable rulers for a people the first duty of whose chief was to lead his followers into battle and to strike harder than any other man in the thickest of the fight The inscriptions supply us with proofs that some of these princes lived and reigned Sondi who is classed in the II dynasty received a continuous worship toward the end of the III dynasty But did all those who preceded him and those who followed him exist as he did And if they existed do the order and relation agree with actual truth The different lists do not contain the same names in the same position certain Pharaohs are added or suppressed without appreciable reason Where Manetho inscribes Kenkenes and Ouenephes the tables of the time of Seti I give us Ati and Ata Manetho reckons nine kings to the II dynasty while they register only five The monuments indeed show us that Egypt in the past obeyed princes whom her annalists were unable to classify for instance they associated with Sondi a Pirsenu who is not mentioned in the annals We must therefore take the record of all this opening period of history for what it is

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  • Dawn Of Civilization
    s who were probably authorized to control the local irrigation systems The food surplus provided by the farmers supported these leaders as well as priests artists craftsmen and others The Sumerians contributed to the development of metalworking wheeled carts and potter s wheels They may have invented the first form of writing They engraved pictures on clay tablets in a form of writing known as cuneiform wedge shaped The tablets were used to keep the accounts of the temple food storehouses By about 2500 BCthese picture signs were being refined into an alphabet The Sumerians developed the first calendar which they adjusted to the phases of the moon The lunar calendar was adopted by the Semites Egyptians and Greeks An increase in trade between Sumerian cities and between Sumeria and other more distant regions led to the growth of a merchant class The Sumerians organized a complex mythology based on the relationships among the various local gods of the temple towns In Sumerian religion the most important gods were seen as human forms of natural forces sky sun earth water and storm These gods each originally associated with a particular city were worshiped not only in the great temples but also in small shrines in family homes Warfare between cities eventually led to the rise of kings called lugals whose authority replaced that of city state rulers Sumeria became a more unified state with a common culture and a centralized government This led to the establishment of a bureaucracy and an army By 2375 BC most of Sumer was united under one king Lugalzaggisi of Umma Babylon The Sumerians were conquered by their Semitic neighbors But their civilization was carried on by their successors the Akkadians Babylonians Assyrians and Chaldeans The Babylonians made distinct contributions to the growth of civilization They added to the knowledge of astronomy advanced the knowledge of mathematics and built the first great capital city Babylon The Babylonian King Hammurabi set forth the Code of Hammurabi in about 1800 BC This was the most complete compilation of Babylonian law and one of the first great law codes in the world see Hammurabi Law Egypt Egyptian farmers had settled in the long and narrow valley of the Nile River by 5000 BC Within 2 000 years they had invented writing built massive irrigation works and established a culture that bequeathed the pyramids and other magnificent monuments to posterity The primitive farming settlements of Egypt were concerned with the raising of vegetables grains and animals These settlements slowly gave way to larger groupings of people Probably the need to control the Nile floodwaters through dams and canals eventually led to the rise of government in the region By the end of the prehistoric period before 3100 BC Egypt was divided into two kingdoms Lower Egypt had its capital at Buto while Upper Egypt was centered at Hierakonpolis In this period travelers brought in ideas from Sumeria including the concepts of writing and the pottery wheel Egyptian civilization began

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  • An Overview of Civilization
    into settlements and by cooperative endeavor to make better lives for themselves see Ancient Civilization These first settlements so far as archaeologists have discovered were in the river valleys of ancient China India Mesopotamia and Egypt These ancient peoples developed tools by a slow and tortuous process of trial and error But with these tools came a true culture The people devised implements with which to farm dig irrigation ditches construct housing and make everyday utensils To aid them in their endeavors they must have achieved the use of the tool called language first spoken and later written They also had to learn rudimentary mathematics how to measure land and to count objects such as animals and possessions At some very early period too people developed the tools to engage in the decorative musical and literary arts The decorative arts probably appeared first even before any significant advances in technology It is known for instance that the remarkable cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain are perhaps as much as 30 000 years old Literary arts poetry and song could only come along once spoken language had evolved It seems likely that before people wrote to each other they expressed themselves by drawings or pictograms such as the hieroglyphics used by the ancient Egyptians Popular Culture Many people when they use the word culture mean a degree of refinement They think of those who are cultured as having an appreciation for the arts for good literature painting sculpture and music This is not a mistaken use of the word but it is a restricted definition If culture and civilization are for all practical purposes inseparable they signify the totality of a society s achievements Civilization therefore should be viewed as including all human activity and expression within a given society In the United States for example the economic system political institutions educational systems religious bodies legal systems television programming motion pictures sports popular literature rock music shopping malls the popularity of the automobile the presence of a large middle class the variety of ethnic backgrounds and many other factors all must be taken together as constituting present day American civilization Other aspects of American civilization have also found their way around the world Rock music originated in the southern United States during the 1950s featuring such performers as Elvis Presley Bill Haley and the Comets and Chuck Berry Today rock music is in nearly every country even in Communist societies that consistently denounce American values Blue jeans are another instance of one small aspect of American civilization that has spread around the world Their popularity is such that they are even counterfeited in other countries and given American brand names The transfer of 20th century culture is not a one way street Other societies have an impact on the way life is lived in the United States An obvious influence is on eating habits The large number of Italian Chinese French Greek and Japanese restaurants suggests that Americans are

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  • Rise of Civilizations and Empires in Mesopotamia
    and Goods The historical activities of the Indus Valley Mesopotamia and Egypt indicate that various peoples moved in and out contested the regions spaces and sought to control other peoples their goods and their resources This interaction had profound consequences on how those involved thought about themselves and each other Their ideas were tested challenged and in many instances changed These regions cities probably were seen as symbols of wealth therefore groups in and outside of the region often sought to control them Cities in Mesopotamia Egypt and the Indus Valley can be seen easily in terms of a richness in population Richness is understood as the population s ability to produce goods and services in quantity not just agriculture but skills such as metalworking pottery or commerce Thus richness in population meant surpluses allowed the cities and the areas they controlled to support a ruling and administrative class and maybe an army Frequently product surpluses were exchanged providing wealth for the area and drawing other peoples to it The Indus Valley Mesopotamia and Egypt all experienced the results of a rich and productive population The point is illustrated by the movement of various peoples across Mesopotamia from the Akkadians through the Assyrians and the Chaldeans as well as the social political and economic structures they created The ways in which these peoples entered Mesopotamia and the ways in which they added to it and gained from it indicate movement and exchange New language patterns such as the early substitution of the Akkadian tongue for Sumerian demonstrate the innovations encouraged by movement and exchange Shifting power also was a key result of movement and exchange as when the Elamites who followed the Akkadians controlled Mesopotamian urban life and mixed with the local populations The conglomeration of peoples languages and cultures was part of the creation of a world view albeit a limited one By 700 BC the extent of the Assyrian Empire literally linked it to the activities of the Egyptian quest for empire status That linkage can be expressed as interaction and exchange Diplomatic exchange as well as military struggle resolved conflict over the empires boundaries and areas of control Marriage was a highly visible form of diplomacy and amounted to an exchange between ruling families that linked them politically and economically The relationship between the Egyptians and the Hittites illustrates the point In the 13th century BC the two parties concluded hostilities through a peace treaty in which the ruler of the Hittites gave his daughter in marriage to the Egyptian pharaoh Hittite and Assyrian examples indicate that such marriages were part of the diplomatic and political fabric These arrangements often resulted in the cessation of hostilities greater regional stability and greater economic exchange Marriages across the ruling classes of these societies offer one way to conceptualize the world By looking at the blending of societies at the upper levels we find some documentation of interaction that repudiates modern notions of race ethnicity religion and nationality Political marriages

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  • Cuneiform
    can handle Therefore we are asking you to please donate anything you can to help keep us on the web Please Help Click Here Care to express an opinion on a current or past historical event Need to ask a question from our many visitors Just visit our Message Board and leave your message Message Board Weekly Poll Cuneiform Cuneiform was the system of writing used most extensively in the ancient Middle East Cuneiform was employed for writing a number of languages from about the end of the 4th millennium BC until about the 1st century BC The Spread and Development of Cuneiform Cuneiform Writing System The most widely used and historically significant writing system of the ancient Middle East was called cuneiform The term is from the Latin meaning wedge shaped The writing system was in use at least by the end of the 4th millennium BC and during the 3rd millennium the pictures that it used became fairly standardized linear drawings Because they were pressed into soft clay tablets with the slanted edge of a stylus they came to have a wedge shaped appearance Cuneiform was not a language It was like Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Chinese system of ideographs or ideograms a picture writing system that used symbols As the symbols gained acceptance throughout the Middle East they could be understood by all ethnic groups even though the groups spoke different languages and dialects The earliest known documents in cuneiform were written by the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia who assigned their own word sounds to the symbols Later the Akkadians adopted the symbols but pronounced them as corresponding Akkadian words Cuneiform thus passed successively from one people to another The Akkadians were succeeded by the Babylonians and they by the Assyrians The expansion of cuneiform writing outside

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  • The Druids - Iona
    were apparently in verse and thus constituted part of the poetry as well as the history of the Druids In the poems of Ossian we have if not the actual productions of Druidical times what may be considered faithful representations of the songs of the Bards The Bards were an essential part of the Druidical hierarchy One author Pennant says The Bards were supposed to be endowed with powers equal to inspiration They were the oral historians of all past transactions public and private They were also accomplished genealogists c Pennant gives a minute account of the Eisteddfods or sessions of the Bards and minstrels which were held in Wales for many centuries long after the Druidical priesthood in its other departments became extinct At these meetings none but Bards of merit were suffered to rehearse their pieces and minstrels of skill to perform Judges were appointed to decide on their respective abilities and suitable degrees were conferred In the earlier period the judges were appointed by the Welsh princes and after the conquest of Wales by commission from the kings of England Yet the tradition is that Edward I in revenge for the influence of the Bards in animating the resistance of the people to his sway persecuted them with great cruelty This tradition has furnished the poet Gray with the subject of his celebrated ode the Bard There are still occasional meetings of the lovers of Welsh poetry and music held under the ancient name Among Mrs Hemans s poems is one written for an Eisteddfod or meeting of Welsh Bards held in London May 22 1822 It begins with a description of the ancient meeting of which the following lines are a part midst the eternal cliffs whose strength defied The crested Roman in his hour of pride And where the Druid s ancient cromlech frowned And the oaks breathed mysterious murmurs round There thronged the inspired of yore on plain or height In the sun s face beneath the eye of light And baring unto heaven each noble head Stood in the circle where none else might tread The Druidical system was at its height at the time of the Roman invasion under Julius Caesar Against the Druids as their chief enemies these conquerors of the world directed their unsparing fury The Druids harassed at all points on the main land retreated to Anglesey and Iona where for a season they found shelter and continued their now dishonored rites The Druids retained their predominance in Iona and over the adjacent islands and main land until they were supplanted and their superstitions overturned by the arrival of St Columba the apostle of the Highlands by whom the inhabitants of that district were first led to profess Christianity Iona One of the smallest of the British Isles situated near a rugged and barren coast surrounded by dangerous seas and possessing no sources of internal wealth Iona has obtained an imperishable place in history as the seat of civilization

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  • Egypt Ancient, History of Egypt from the predynastic through the Roman period
    was worshipped in Memphis side by side with Phtah and Ramses II his name figured at the head of the royal lists and his cult continued till the time of the Ptolemies Footnote 1 The burned tile showing the impression of the stylus made on the clay while plastic Ed His immediate successors have only a semblance of reality such as he had The lists give the order of succession it is true with the years of their reigns almost to a day sometimes the length of their lives but we may well ask whence the chroniclers procured so much precise information They were in the same position as ourselves with regard to these ancient kings they knew them by a tradition of a later age by a fragment papyrus fortuitously preserved in a temple by accidentally coming across some monument bearing their name and were reduced as it were to put together the few facts which they possessed or to supply such as were wanting by conjectures often in a very improbable manner It is quite possible that they were unable to gather from the memory of the past the names of those individuals of which they made up the first two dynasties The forms of these names are curt and rugged and indicative of a rude and savage state harmonizing with the semi barbaric period to which they are relegated Ati the Wrestler Teti the Runner Qeunqoni the Crusher are suitable rulers for a people the first duty of whose chief was to lead his followers into battle and to strike harder than any other man in the thickest of the fight The inscriptions supply us with proofs that some of these princes lived and reigned Sondi who is classed in the II dynasty received a continuous worship toward the end of the III dynasty But did all those who preceded him and those who followed him exist as he did And if they existed do the order and relation agree with actual truth The different lists do not contain the same names in the same position certain Pharaohs are added or suppressed without appreciable reason Where Manetho inscribes Kenkenes and Ouenephes the tables of the time of Seti I give us Ati and Ata Manetho reckons nine kings to the II dynasty while they register only five The monuments indeed show us that Egypt in the past obeyed princes whom her annalists were unable to classify for instance they associated with Sondi a Pirsenu who is not mentioned in the annals We must therefore take the record of all this opening period of history for what it is namely a system invented at a much later date by means of various artifices and combinations to be partially accepted in default of a better but without according to it that excessive confidence which it has hitherto received The two Thinite dynasties in direct descent from the fabulous Menes furnish like this hero himself only a tissue of romantic tales and miraculous legends in the place of history A double headed stork which had appeared in the first year of Teti son of Menes had foreshadowed to Egypt a long prosperity but a famine under Ouenephes and a terrible plague under Semempses had depopulated the country the laws had been relaxed great crimes had been committed and revolts had broken out During the reign of the Boethos a gulf had opened near Bubastis and swallowed up many people then the Nile had flowed with honey for fifteen days in the time of Nephercheres and Sesochris was supposed to have been a giant in stature A few details about royal edifices were mixed up with these prodigies Teti had laid the foundation of the great palace of Memphis Ouenephes had built the pyramids of Ko kome near Saqqara Several of the ancient Pharaohs had published books on theology or had written treatises on anatomy and medicine several had made laws called Kakou the male of males or the bull of bulls They explained his name by the statement that he had concerned himself about the sacred animals he had proclaimed as gods Hapis of Memphis Mnevis of Heliopolis and the goat of Mendes After him Binothris had conferred the right of succession upon all women of the blood royal The accession of the III dynasty a Memphite one according to Manetho did not at first change the miraculous character of this history The Libyans had revolted against Necherophes and the two armies were encamped before each other when one night the disk of the moon became immeasurably enlarged to the great alarm of the rebels who recognized in this phenomenon a sign of the anger of heaven and yielded without fighting Tosorthros the successor of Necherophes brought the hieroglyphs and the art of stone cutting to perfection He composed as Teti did books of medicine a fact which caused him to be identified with the healing god Imhotpu The priests related these things seriously and the Greek writers took them down from their lips with the respect which they offered to everything emanating from the wise men of Egypt What they related of the human kings was not more detailed as we see than their accounts of the gods Whether the legends dealt with deities or kings all that we know took its origin not in popular imagination but in sacerdotal dogma they were invented long after the times they dealt with in the recesses of the temples with an intention and a method of which we are enabled to detect flagrant instances on the monuments Toward the middle of the third century before our era the Greek troops stationed on the southern frontier in the forts at the first cataract developed a particular veneration for Isis of Philae Their devotion spread to the superior officers who came to inspect them then to the whole population of the Thebaid and finally reached the court of the Macedonian kings The latter carried away by force of example gave every encouragement to a movement which attracted worshippers to a common sanctuary and united in one cult two races over which they ruled They pulled down the meagre building of the Saite period which had hitherto sufficed for the worship of Isis constructed at great cost the temple which still remains almost intact and assigned to it considerable possessions in Nubia which in addition to gifts from private individuals made the goddess the richest land owner in Southern Egypt Knumu and his two wives Anukit and Satit who before Isis had been the undisputed suzerains of the cataract perceived with jealousy their neighbor s prosperity the civil wars and invasions of the centuries immediately preceding had ruined their temples and their poverty contrasted painfully with the riches of the new comer The priests resolved to lay this sad state of affairs before King Ptolemy to represent to him the services which they had rendered and still continued to render to Egypt and above all to remind him of the generosity of the ancient Pharaohs whose example owing to the poverty of the times the recent Pharaohs had been unable to follow Doubtless authentic documents were wanting in their archives to support their pretensions they therefore inscribed upon a rock in the island of Sehel a long inscription which they attributed to Zosiri of the III dynasty This sovereign had left behind him a vague reputation for greatness As early as the XII dynasty Usirtasen III had claimed him as his father his ancestor and had erected a statue to him the priests knew that by invoking him they had a chance of obtaining a hearing The inscription which they fabricated set forth that in the eighteenth year of Zosiri s reign he had sent to Madir lord of Elephantine a message couched in these terms I am overcome with sorrow for the throne and for those who reside in the palace and my heart is afflicted and suffers greatly because the Nile has not risen in my time for the space of eight years Corn is scarce there is a lack of herbage and nothing is left to eat when any one calls upon his neighbors for help they take pains not to go The child weeps the young man is uneasy the hearts of the old men are in despair their limbs are bent they crouch on the earth they fold their hands the courtiers have no further resources the shops formerly furnished with rich wares are now filled only with air all that was within them has disappeared My spirit also mindful of the beginning of things seeks to call upon the savior who was here where I am during the centuries of the gods upon Thot Ibis that great wise one upon Imhotpu son of Phtah of Memphis Where is the place in which the Nile is born Who is the god or goddess concealed there What is his likeness The lord of Elephantine brought his reply in person He described to the king who was evidently ignorant of it the situation of the island and the rocks of the cataract the phenomena of the inundation the gods who presided over it and who alone could relieve Egypt from her disastrous plight Zosiri repaired to the temple of the principality and offered the prescribed sacrifices the god arose opened his eyes panted and cried aloud I am Khnumu who created thee and promised him a speedy return of a high Nile and the cessation of the famine Pharaoh was touched by the benevolence which his divine father had shown him he forthwith made a decree by which he ceded to the temple all his rights of suzerainty over the neighboring nomes within a radius of twenty miles Henceforward the entire population tillers and vinedressers fishermen and hunters had to yield the tithe of their income to the priests the quarries could not be worked without the consent of Khnumu and the payment of a suitable indemnity into his coffers finally metals and precious woods shipped thence for Egypt had to submit to a toll on behalf of the temple Did the Ptolemies admit the claims which the local priests attempted to deduce from this romantic tale and did the god regain possession of the domains and dues which they declared had been his right The stele shows us with what ease the scribes could forge official documents when the exigencies of daily life forced the necessity upon them it teaches us at the same time how that fabulous chronicle was elaborated whose remains have been preserved for us by classical writers Every prodigy every fact related by Manetho was taken from some document analogous to the supposed inscription of Zosiri The real history of the early centuries therefore eludes our researches and no contemporary record traces for us those vicissitudes which Egypt passed through before being consolidated into a single kingdom under the rule of one man Many names apparently of powerful and illustrious princes had survived in the memory of the people these were collected classified and grouped in a regular manner into dynasties but the people were ignorant of any exact facts connected with the names and the historians on their own account were reduced to collect apocryphal traditions for their sacred archives The monuments of these remote ages however cannot have entirely disappeared they existed in places where we have not as yet thought of applying the pick and chance excavations will some day most certainly bring them to light The few which we do possess barely go back beyond the III dynasty namely the hypogeum of Shiri priest of Sondi and Pirsenu possibly the tomb of Khuithotpu at Saqqara the Great Sphinx of Gizeh a short inscription on the rocks of Wady Maghara which represents Zosiri the same king of whom the priests of Khnumu in the Greek period made a precedent working the turquoise or copper mines of Sinai and finally the step pyramid where this Pharaoh rests It forms a rectangular mass incorrectly oriented with a variation from the true north of 4 degrees 35 393 ft 8 in long from east to west and 352 ft deep with a height of 159 ft 9 in It is composed of six cubes with sloping sides each being about 13 ft less in width than the one below it that nearest to the ground measures 37 ft 8 in in height and the uppermost one 29 ft 2 in It was entirely constructed of limestone from neighboring mountains The blocks are small and badly cut the stone courses being concave to offer a better resistance to downward thrust and to shocks of earthquake When breaches in the masonry are examined it can be seen that the external surface of the steps has as it were a double stone facing each facing being carefully dressed The body of the pyramid is solid the chambers being cut in the rock beneath These chambers have often been enlarged restored and reworked in the course of centuries and the passages which connect them form a perfect labyrinth into which it is dangerous to venture without a guide The columned porch the galleries and halls all lead to a sort of enormous shaft at the bottom of which the architect had contrived a hiding place destined no doubt to contain the more precious objects of the funerary furniture Until the beginning of this century the vault had preserved its original lining of glazed pottery Three quarters of the wall surface was covered with green tiles oblong and lightly convex on the outer side but flat on the inner a square projection pierced with a hole served to fix them at the back in a horizontal line by means of flexible wooden rods Three bands which frame one of the doors are inscribed with the titles of the Pharaoh The hieroglyphs are raised in either blue red green or yellow on a fawn colored ground The towns palaces temples all the buildings which princes and kings had constructed to be witnesses of their power or piety to future generations have disappeared in the course of ages under the feet and before the triumphal blasts of many invading hosts the pyramid alone has survived and the most ancient of the historic monuments of Egypt is a tomb Egypt Gift Of The Nile Egypt is literally the gift of the Nile as the ancient Greek historian Herodotus observed The Nile valley extending 750 miles from the first cataract to the Mediterranean is a fertile oasis cut out of a limestone plateau Its soil was renewed annually by the rich silt deposited by the flood water of the river that unlike the unpredictable floods of Mesopotamia rose and fell with unusual precision The rise began early in July and continues until the banks were overrun reaching its crest in September By the end of October the river was once more contained within its banks Predynastic Egypt By 4000 B C Neolithic villagers had begun to build dikes and a canal network to control the Nile for irrigation As population grew a central authority was required because this necessary work involved many communities Two distinct kingdoms emerged Lower Egypt comprised the broad Nile delta north of Memphis while Upper Egypt extended southward along the narrow ten to twenty mile wide valley as far as the first cataract at Syene Aswan Each kingdom contained about a score of tribal districts or nomes which had formerly been ruled by independent chieftains The Predynastic period ended soon after 3100 B C when Menes also known as Narmer ruler of Upper Egypt united the two kingdoms and founded the First Dynasty with its capital at Memphis As little is known of these first two dynasties the period is called Egypt s archaic age The Old Kingdom The kings of the Third through the Sixth Dynasties the period called the Old Kingdom or Pyramid Age firmly established order and stability and the essential elements of Egyptian civilization The nobility lost its independence and all power was centered in the king or pharaoh Per ao Great House The pharaoh was considered a god rather than the human agent of a god as was usual in Mesopotamia As the god of Egypt the pharaoh owned all the land although frequent grants were made to temples and private persons controlled the irrigation system decided when the fields should be sown and received the surplus from the crops produced on the huge royal estates This surplus supported a large corps of specialists administrators priests scribes artists artisans and merchants who labored in the service of the pharaoh The people s welfare was thought to rest on absolute fidelity to the god king If you want to know what to do in life advised one Egyptian writer cling to the pharaoh and be loyal As a consequence Egyptians felt a sense of security that was rare in Mesopotamia The belief that the pharaoh was a god led to the practice of mummification and the construction of colossal tombs the pyramids to preserve the pharaoh s embalmed body for eternity The ritual of mummification restored vigor and activity to the dead pharaoh it was his passport to eternity You live again you live again forever here you are young once more for ever The pyramid tombs in particular those of the Fourth Dynasty at Gizeh near Memphis which are the most celebrated of all ancient monuments reflect the great power and wealth of the Old Kingdom pharaohs Although pyramid construction provided employment during the four months of the year when the land was flooded by the Nile the Egyptian masses performed it primarily as an act of faith in their god king on whom the security and prosperity of Egypt depended Security and prosperity came to an end late in the Sixth Dynasty The burden of building and maintaining pyramid tombs for each new king exhausted the state The Nile floods failed and crops were diminished yet taxes were increased As the state and its god king lost credibility royal tombs were plundered and government files were thrown into the street The nobles assumed the prerogatives of the pharaohs including the claim to immortality and the nomes again became independent For about a century and a half known as the First Intermediate Period c 2200 2050 B C civil war raged among contenders for the throne Outsiders raided and infiltrated the land The lot of the common people became unbearable as they faced famine robbery and oppression by petty tyrants All happiness has vanished wrote a contemporary I show you the land in turmoil Each man s heart is for himself A man sits with his back turned while one slays another 17 Footnote 17 Robert A Guisepi Ancient Egyptian Literature A Book of Readings Vol 1 The Old and Middle Kingdoms Berkeley University of California Press 1976 pp 141 142 The Middle Kingdom c 2050 1800 B C Egypt was rescued from anarchy by the pharaohs of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties who reunited the country and ruled from Thebes Stressing their role as watchful shepherds of the people the Middle Kingdom pharaohs promoted the welfare of the downtrodden One of them claimed I gave to the destitute and brought up the orphan I caused him who was nothing to reach his goal like him who was somebody 18 No longer was the nation s wealth expended on huge pyramids but on public works The largest of these a drainage and irrigation project in the marshy Fayum district south of Memphis resulted in the reclamation of 27 000 acres of arable land Moreover a concession that has been called the democratization of the hereafter gave the lower classes the right to have their bodies mummified and thereby to enjoy immortality like the pharaohs and the nobility Footnote 18 John A Wilson trans The Burden of Egypt Chicago University of Chicago Press 1951 p 117 Following the Twelfth Dynasty Egypt again was racked by civil war as provincial governors fought for the pharaoh s throne During this Second Intermediate Period c 1800 1750 B C the Hyksos a mixed but preponderantly Semitic people invaded Egypt from Palestine about 1720 B C They easily conquered the Delta and made the rest of Egypt tributary It was probably at this time that the Hebrew Joseph who had risen to a high position under a Hyksos king invited his relatives to settle in the Delta the land of Goshen during a famine The New Kingdom Or Empire c 1570 1090 B C The Egyptians viewed the Hyksos conquest as a great humiliation imposed on them by detestable barbarians An aggressive nationalism emerged promoted by the native prince of Thebes who proclaimed No man can settle down when despoiled by the taxes of the Asiatics I will grapple with him that I may rip open his belly My wish is to save Egypt and to smite the Asiatics 19 Adopting the new weapons introduced by their conquerors the composite bow constructed of wood and horn and the horse drawn chariot the Egyptians expelled the Hyksos and pursued them into Palestine The pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty who reunited Egypt and founded the new Kingdom made Palestine the nucleus of an Egyptian empire in western Asia Footnote 19 John A Wilson The Burden of Egypt p 164 The outstanding representative of the aggressive state that Egypt now became was Thutmose III 1490 1435 B C After inheriting the throne as a child Thutmose was shoved aside by his step mother Hatshepsut 1490 1469 B C a former concubine who acted as regent during his minority Supported by the powerful priests of the sun god Amon Hatshepsut proclaimed herself king In many of her statues and reliefs she was portrayed wearing the customary royal crown and helmets sometimes even sporting the royal beard She employed all the customary royal titles with the exception of Mighty Bull which clearly was not appropriate for a woman who described herself as exceedingly good to look upon a beautiful maiden fresh serene of nature altogether divine When Hatshepsut died after twenty years of rule Thutmose ordered her name and inscriptions erased her reliefs effaced and her statues broken and thrown into a quarry Then this Napoleon of Egypt as Thutmose III has been called led his army on seventeen campaigns as far as Syria where he set up his boundary markers on the banks of the Euphrates called by the Egyptians the river that runs backward Nubia and northern Sudan were also brought under his sway Native princes of Palestine Phoenicia and Syria were left on their thrones but their sons were taken to Egypt as hostages Here they were brought up and thoroughly Egyptianized eventually sent home to rule as loyal vassals Thutmose III erected obelisks tall pointed shafts of stone to commemorate his reign and to record his wish that his name might endure throughout the future forever and ever Four of his obelisks now adorn the cities of Istanbul Rome London and New York Under Amenhotep III c 1402 1363 B C the Egyptian Empire reached its peak Tribute flowed in from conquered lands and Thebes with its temples built for the sun god Amon east of the Nile at Luxor and Karnak became the most magnificient city in the world The Hittites and the rulers of Babylonia and Crete among others sent gifts including princesses for the pharaoh s harem In return they asked the pharaoh for gold for gold is as common as dust in your land During the reign of the succeeding pharaoh Amenhotep IV 1363 1347 B C however the Empire went into sharp decline as the result of an internal struggle between the pharaoh and the powerful and wealthy priests of the sun god Amon the king of the gods The pharaoh undertook to revolutionize Egypt s religion by proclaiming the worship of the sun s disk Aton in place of Amon and all the other deities Often called the first monotheist although as Aton s son the pharaoh was also a god Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaton Devoted to Aton left Amon s city to found a new capital Akhetaton and concentrated upon religious reform Most of Egypt s vassal princes in Asia defected when their appeals for aid against invaders went unheeded Prominent among these invaders were groups of people called the Habiru whose possible identification with the Hebrews of the Old Testament has interested modern scholars At home the Amon priesthood encouraged dissension When Akhenaton died his nine year old brother Tutankhamen King Tut c 1347 1338 B C now remembered for his small but richly furnished tomb discovered in 1922 returned to the worship of Amon and to Thebes where he became a puppet of the priests of Amon At this point the generals of the army took control of Egypt One of the new army leaders founded the Nineteenth Dynasty c 1305 1200 B C which sought to re establish Egyptian control over Palestine and Syria The result was a long struggle with the Hittites who in the meantime had pushed south from Asia Minor into Syria This struggle reached a climax in the reign of Ramses II 1290 1224 B C the pharaoh of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt under Moses Ramses II regained Palestine but when he failed to dislodge the Hittites from Syria he agreed to a treaty Its strikingly modern character is revealed in clauses providing for nonagression mutual assistance and extradition of fugitives The long reign of Ramses II as Egypt s last period of national grandeur The number and size of Ramses monuments rival those of the Pyramid Age Outstanding among them are the great Hypostyle Hall built for Amon at Karnak and the temple at Abu Simbel with its four colossal statues of Ramses which has now been raised to save it from inundation by the waters of the High Dam at Aswan Syene After Ramses II royal authority gradually decayed as the power of the priests of Amon rose Period Of Decadence 1090 332 B C During the early part of the Period of Decadence the Amon priesthood at Thebes became so strong that the high priest was able to found his own dynasty and to rule over Upper Egypt At the same time merchant princes set up a dynasty of their own in the Delta Libyans from the west moved into central Egypt where in 940 B C they established a dynasty whose founder Shishak was a contemporary of King Solomon of Israel Two centuries later Egypt was conquered by the black Kushites of Nubia who established the Twenty Fifth Dynasty and ruled from Napata near the Fourth Cataract Kushite domination ended in 671 B C when the Assyrians of Mesopotamia made Egypt a province of their empire The Egyptianized Kushite rulers transferred their capital southward to Meroe just above the Sixth Cataract Here they recorded their royal annals in a script based on Egyptian hieroglyphs and when they died their bodies were mummified and laid to rest in small replicas of the pyramid tombs of the Old Kingdom Egypt enjoyed a brief Indian summer of revived glory during the Twenty Sixth Dynasty 663 525 B C which expelled the Assyrians with the aid of Greek mercenaries The revival of ancient artistic and literary forms proved sterile and after attempts to regain Palestine failed the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land 2 Kings 24 7 Only the commercial policies of these rulers were successful In about 600 B C to facilitate trade Pharaoh Necho ordered a canal dug between the Nile mouth and the Red Sea it was later completed by the Persians and he commissioned a Phoenician expedition which circumnavigated Africa in three years a feat not to be duplicated until A D 1497 by the Portuguese The thirty Egyptian dynasties which had existed for nearly three thousand years came to an end when Egypt passed under Persian rule in 525 B C Two hundred years later this ancient land came within the domain of Alexander the Great Egyptian Society And Economy Although most Egyptians were virtual serfs and subject to forced labor class stratification was not rigid and people of merit could rise to a higher rank in the service of the pharaoh The best avenue of advancement was education The pharaoh s administration needed many scribes and young men were urged to attend a scribal school Be a scribe who is freed from forced labor and protected from all work he directeth every work that is in this land Yet then as now the education of a young man was beset with pitfalls I am told thou forsakest writing that thou givest thyself up to pleasures thou goest from street to street where it smelleth of beer to destruction Beer it scareth men from thee it sendeth thy soul to perdition 20 Footnote 20 Adolf Erman The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians trans Aylward M Blackman London Methuen Co 1927 pp 190 196 197 Compared with their Greek and Roman successors Egyptian women enjoyed extraordinary freedom Equality of the sexes in Egypt is reflected in statues and paintings Wives of pharaohs and nobles are shown standing or sitting beside their husbands and little daughters are depicted with the same tenderness as little sons The right of succession to the throne was based on royal descent from the mother as well as the father Marriages between brothers and sisters often took place within the ruling family to assure the most divine strain and reduce the number of rival claimants to the throne Business and legal documents show that women in general had rights to own buy and sell property without reliance on legal guardians and to make wills and testify in court A few became scribes and members of the administration The economy of Egypt has been called theocratic socialism because the state in the person of the divine pharaoh owned the land and monopolized commerce and industry Compare the role of temples in the collectivized economy of the Early Sumerian period Because of the Nile and the proximity to the Mediterranean Red seas most of Egypt s trade was carried on by ships Boats plied regularly up and down the Nile which unlike the Tigris and the Euphrates is easily navigable in both directions up to the first cataract at Aswan Syene The current carries ships downstream and the prevailing north wind enables them to sail upstream easily Trade reached its height during the Empire when commerce traveled along four main routes the Nile River the Red Sea which was connected by caravan to the Nile bend near Thebes a caravan route to Mesopotamia and southern Syria and the Mediterranean Sea connecting northern Syria Cyprus Crete and Greece with the delta of the Nile Egypt s indispensable imports were lumber copper tin and olive oil paid for with gold from its rich mines linens wheat and papyrus rollsthe preferred writing material of the ancient world Our word paper is derived from the Greek papyros Egyptian Religion During the Old Kingdom Egyptian religion had no strong ethical character Relations between humans and gods were based largely on material considerations and the gods were thought to reward those who brought them gifts of sacrifice But widespread suffering during the First Intermediate Period led to a revolution in religious thought It was now believed that instead of sacrificial offerings the gods were interested in good character and love for one s fellows More acceptable to the gods is the character of one upright of heart than the ox of the evildoer Give the love of thyself to the whole world a good character is a remembrance 21 Footnote 21 From The Instruction of Meri ka Re in The Burden of Egypt trans John A Wilson p 120 Osiris the mythical god of the Nile whose death and resurrection explained the annual rise and fall of the river became the center of Egypt s most popular religious cult when the new emphasis on moral character was combined with the supreme reward of an attractive afterlife Do justice whilst thou endurest upon earth people were told A man remains over after death and his deeds are placed beside him in heaps However existence yonder is for eternity He who reaches it without wrongdoing shall exist yonder like a god 22 The original premoral myth told how Osiris had been murdered by Seth his evil brother who cut the victim s body into many pieces When Isis the bereaved widow collected all the pieces and wrapped them in linen Osiris was resurrected The moralized Osiris cult taught that Osiris was the first mummy and that every mummified Egyptian could become another Osiris capable of resurrection from the dead and a blessed eternal life Footnote 22 From The Instruction of Meri ka Re in The Burden of Egypt trans John A Wilson p 119 But only a soul free of sin would be permitted to live forever in what was described as the Field of the Blessed an ideal land where there is no wailing and nothing evil where barley grows four cubits high and emmer wheat seven ells high where even better one has to do no work in the field oneself but can let others take care of it 23 In a ceremony called counting up character Osiris weighed the deceased s heart against the Feather of Truth If the heart was heavy with sin and outweighed the Feather of Truth a horrible creature devoured it During the Empire the priesthood of Osiris became corrupt and claimed that it knew clever methods of surviving the soul testing even if a person s heart were heavy with sin Charms and magical prayers and formulas were sold to the living as insurance policies guaranteeing them a happy outcome in the judgment before Osiris They constitute much of what is known as the Book of the Dead which was placed in the tomb Footnote 23 Quoted in George Steindorff and George Hoyingen Huene Egypt Locust Valley NY J J Augustin 1943 p 23 Akhenaton s religious reformation was directed against the venal priests of Osiris as well as those of the supreme god Amon As we have seen Akhenaton failed to uproot Amon and the multiplicity of lesser gods his monotheism was too cold and intellectual to attract the masses who yearned for a blessed hereafter Mathematics And Science The Egyptians were much less skilled in mathematics than were the Mesopotamians Their arithmetic was limited to addition and subtraction which also served them when they needed to multiply and divide They could cope with only simple algebra but they did have considerable knowledge of practical geometry The obliteration of field boundaries by the annual flooding of the Nile made land measurement a necessity A knowledge of geometry was also essential in computing the dimensions of ramps for raising stones during the construction of pyramids In these and other engineering projects the Egyptians were superior to their Mesopotamian contemporaries Like the Mesopotamians the Egyptians acquired a necessary technology without developing a truly scientific method Yet what has been called the oldest known scientific treatise The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus was composed during the Old Kingdom Its author described forty eight cases requiring surgery drawing conclusions solely from observation and rejecting supernatural causes and treatments In advising the physician to measure for the heart that speaks in various parts of the body he recognized the importance of the pulse and approached the concept of the circulation of the blood This text remained unique however for in Egypt as elsewhere in the ancient Near East thought failed to free itself permanently from domination by priests

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