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Ancient Egypt

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Situated in roughly the same area as modern Egypt, Ancient Egypt was at one time the most powerful nation around the Mediterranean. Its rulers. the Pharaohs, claimed divine status. Some of them play important roles in the Old Testament, either helping or oppressing the Israelites.


Kingdoms and dynasties

Traditional chronology
Old Kingdom 1—6
First Intermediate Period 7—11
Middle Kingdom 12—13
Second Intermediate Period 14—17
New Kingdom 18—20
Third Intermediate Period 21—25
Late Period 26—31
Alexander the Great
Ptolemaic Period
Roman Period

Egypt's history is traditionally divided into three Kingdoms (Old, Middle, and New), each followed by an Intermediate Period (First, Second, and Third), then according to which empire controlled Egypt.

Each of the Kingdoms and Intermediate Periods is further divided into Dynasties, numbered from 1 to 31.

Traditionally, most of these dynasties were consecutive, but revised (shorter) chronologies overlap many of the dynasties, or eliminate some entirely.


Egypt's prosperity was based on the river Nile, whose annual floods made Egyptian agriculture bountiful. Ancient Egypt is well-known for its great building projects, particularly the pyramids. Ancient Egyptian monuments also include large obelisks and colossal statues of pharaohs, particularly Ramesses II.

The history of ancient Egypt is categorized by the ruling dynasties. Egypt reached the first height of its power during the Old Kingdom, encompassing the third to eighth dynasties. During the Old Kingdom, the great pyramids were erected. The seat of government was Memphis. The Old Kingdom collapsed due to a combination of internal strife and drought-induced famine. Egypt became divided into Lower Egypt (the Nile delta) and Upper Egypt (ruled from Thebes).

The Middle Kingdom reunited Egypt when the Theban eleventh dynasty conquered Lower Egypt in about 2055 BC. The rulers of the twelfth dynasty moved the capital into the delta, and Egypt expanded in all directions, colonizing parts of Nubia, ruling the oases to the west and expanding into Palestine. and Syria. The Middle Kingdom disintegrated during the 13th dynasty, when Lower Egypt became ruled by invaders from Asia, the Hyksos, in about 1650 BC.

After the Hyksos were driven out, the 18th dynasty reunited Egypt and established the New Kingdom in about 1550 BC, under which Egypt reached the height of its power. At its greatest extent, it controlled Nubia (modern Sudan), Palestine and Syria, with Pharaoh Ramesses II fighting the Anatolian Hittite Empire in the Battle of Kadesh (ca. 1274 BC). Among the best-known 18th dynasty pharaohs are Amenhotep IV, better known as Echnaton, who tried to introduce monotheism to Egypt, and his son Tutankhamun, who undid his father's religious changes and whose undisturbed grave was found in 1922.

The New Kingdom declined after defeating the invasion of the Sea Peoples during Ramesses III's reign; constant military campaigns burdened the treasury. Drought, below-normal Nile floods, internal conflicts and corruption would exacerbate the problems. The New Kingdom is considered to have ended with the death of Ramesses XI, the last ruler of the 20th dynasty, in 1070 BC. Egypt once again became fractured, with Libyan and Nubian invaders ruling parts of Egypt and Assyria becoming the dominant power, sacking Memphis and Thebes in 664 BC and establishing the 26th dynasty as vassal rulers. When the Assyrians were eclipsed by the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Egypt became a Persian satrapy in 525 BC.

By 332 BC, Alexander of Macedon conquered the Achaemenid Empire, with Egyptian troops participating in the battle of Issos (333 BC) on the Persian side. Egypt became part of Alexander's empire. Following his death, the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt until the first century BC. The last Ptolemaic Pharaoh was Cleopatra, after whose defeat and suicide Egypt became a Roman province.


The ancient Egyptians wrote using hieroglyphs.


The dates traditionally assigned to aspects of ancient Egyptian history have been questioned by a number of authorities, and are inconstisent with the biblical record. Several attempts to provide new dates have been attempted. The table below lists the traditional dates alongside dates provided by Ashton and Down.[1]

Traditional dates Revised dates
Dynasty 1 2920—2770 B.C. 21st century B.C.
Dynasty 3 2649—2573 B.C. 21st century B.C.
Dynasty 4 2575—2472 B.C. 20th—19th century B.C.
Dynasty 5 2465—2323 B.C. 18th century B.C.
Dynasty 6 2323—2150 B.C. 18th century B.C.
Dynasty 12 1991—1878 B.C. approx. 1703—1572 B.C.
Dynasties 12 & 13 1878—1640 B.C. approx. 1572—1445 B.C.
Dynasties 15 & 16 1640—1532 B.C. approx. 1445—1011 B.C.
Dynasties 17 & 18 11th century B.C.
Dynasty 18 1504—1323 B.C. approx. 975—792 B.C.
Dynasty 19 1323—1224 B.C. approx. 792—693 B.C.
Dynasty 20 1196—1170 B.C.
Dynasties 21—24 1070—712 B.C.
Dynasties 25—31 690—332 B.C. approx. 690—332 B.C.


  1. Ashton, John, and Down, David, Unwrapping the Pharaohs, Master Books, 2006, ISBN 978-0-89051-468-9.
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