The Rise and Fall of Egypt
Ancient Egypt is regarded as one of the most outstanding and developed civilizations of the ancient times with the remarkable history, culture and religion. The history of ancient Egypt includes different periods and was marked by the rule of 31 dynasties during more than 3000 years. The changes that the civilization faced during its existence were drastic, therefore the history of the ancient Egypt is remarkably interesting and manifold.
The history of the Great Egyptian civilization began in approximately 3100 BC, when Lower and Upper Egypt were united by king Menes, who is also known as Narmer. He founded the rule of pharaohs. Menes was the ruler of the two regions. The unification of Lower and Upper Egypt influenced art and culture of the Egyptian civilization significantly. The separated villages were under control of one king. This fact was important for the development of regional cultural and economic relations. In addition, culture and social life of Egyptian people was highly influenced by religious beliefs during all the period of existence of the Ancient Egyptian civilization. The unification in social and cultural spheres did not immediately follow the political unification of the territories as the process began long before the actual unification. During the period, establishing a stable connection between the two separate territories in different spheres, such as trade, agriculture and politics, was of primary importance. The religious beliefs developed, especially those concerning traditional funeral rituals as the rich people needed something more than the old traditional burial. The series of funeral practices initiated at that time served as a basis for future creation of the pyramids.
The following period was famous because of the pyramids that were built in these years; it is known as the Age of Pyramids. This is the period that lasted throughout the third millennium BC when important scientific inventions and discoveries were made. Moreover, it was marked by the highest level of development of architecture, technology, art and culture. This time spanned the rule of four dynasties (from the third to the sixth one). The work of the governors of different territories within the Egyptian empire was appropriately coordinated, which resulted in high productivity and stable growth of agriculture. This cooperation and coordinated work provided resources for the development of all other industries. A remarkable representative of the third dynasty was Djoser, who initiated the construction of the first pyramid. Another important historical figure was Imhotep, a polymath and vizier of the king. He was also the architect of the first pyramid. Imhotep is now considered to be the first mathematician, architect and engineer in the history, and his impact on the development of the Great Egypt cannot be overestimated. Imhotep was one of very few common people who were given the divine status after their death. His contribution to the architecture was highly significant. He was the first to use the columns to support a construction. In addition, Imhotep largely contributed to the development of the Egyptian medicine. He was the author of a remarkable medical treatise that appeared to be a kind of innovation. Here, Imhotep went away from religious and magical thinking when considering the issues of the proper medical treatment of ill and injured people. The paper featured observations of the diseases and parts of the human body as well as medical considerations. Even after his death, Imhotep was highly respected as an important figure of the Egyptian science, culture, medicine, and architecture. He was sometimes confused with great Egyptian gods. This also shows the high level of respect towards this prominent scientist.
The third dynasty was followed by the fourth one that was also famous for its outstanding representatives. The kingdom reached the peak of its development and power during the rule of the fourth dynasty. Special attention should be paid to the second pharaoh in the dynasty, Khufu, who is also famous under his Hellenized name Cheops. Khufu is known for building of the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There are different characteristics of the personality of the king in different periods of the Egyptian empire. There was a series of positive observations of the image of the king and it was important to preserve his positive image. However, older documents, dated at about the third century BC, reveal the negative side of his character, which gives complete information on the personality of the emperor. Nonetheless, despite the fact that he had both positive and negative traits, building of the most well-known ancient pyramid during his rule testifies to the valuable contribution of Khufu as a leader to the development of the Egyptian culture and architecture. Khufu was followed by his sons, Djedefra and Khafre. The latter is known for building the second big pyramid in Giza. He is also sometimes regarded as the ruler who built the famous statue of Sphinx; but this fact is highly questionable and usually criticized by many egyptologists. Khafre was one of the first famous pharaohs in the history of Ancient Egypt. He is famous for his outstanding deeds, but there are few documents that contain some information about this figure. The main sources of information about this header are the observation of Herodotus, who described Khafre as a despotic and oppressive governor. He was also known for his statue that is still exists and is known for its richness and size. At the end of the period the highly developed centralized government brought up a new social class of educated people who owned great amounts of land and had stable grants from the pharaoh for their services. The uprising of nobles was followed by a series of civil wars. The continuous granting of land and riches to aristocracy together with the inner instability and series of conflicts weakened the authority of pharaoh and decreased the economic stability of Egypt. But the key factor of the empire's decline at that period was the drought that resulted in various diseases and continuing hunger. In these hard times the governing system appeared to be ineffective and helpless in coping with these complex problems.
At the end of the sixth dynasty’s rule the centralized government system was ruined. It was impossible to reach the initial level of economic development and stability. The governors of the districts could not rely on the pharaoh; therefore, they began to develop separately from each other, forming more distinguished culture and economy. Feeling absolute freedom from the centralized government and being no more controlled by the king, the governors participated in numerous territorial conflicts. During the second millennium, pharaohs made attempts to restore the central power and return to the prior level of political and economic development. The stability and prosperity were finally achieved, although they did not reach the scale of the previous times.
Another important figure to be mentioned is the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra VII Philopator, a representative of the Ptolemaic dynasty and a descendant of Alexander the Great. At first, she ruled the country together with her father, and later with her two brothers, whom she married according to the existing tradition. Eventually, she remained to be the only pharaoh. Cleopatra was the descendant of the Hellenic emperor, Alexander the Great, but is considered as one of the most outstanding rulers of Egypt because of her beliefs, political views, and remarkable patriotism. She was the only representative of her dynasty who recognized the value of the Egyptian language and learned it. Cleopatra did not refuse to speak the language, unlike other pharaohs who preferred to speak Greek. She possessed outstanding intelligence. Her political talent brought rapid growth and stability of the country’s economy. She somehow reunited the territories that participated in civil wars and conflicts and her policy brought peace to Egypt. When the state became involved in the conflict between Pompey and Julius Caesar, Caesar came to the capital of Egypt and got involved in a relationship with Cleopatra. She regained the throne with the help of Caesar, and her brother was killed. She then married her second brother, but her son, Caesarion, is known to be the son of Caesar, although he had never officially recognized him. After assassination of Caesar, she got into relationship with Mark Antony. They opposed Julius Caesar Octavian, uniting their armies to increase their chance of victory. Unluckily, they failed and after Mark Antony’s suicide Cleopatra also decided to take her own life. After her death Egypt became the territory of the Roman Empire. It was the end of the great ancient Egypt.
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