HomeAncient HistoryAncient EgyptGeographical and political conditions for the development of ancient Egypt

Geographical and political conditions for the development of ancient Egypt



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Geographical conditions

The area where Egyptian kingdom was made is characterized by two crucial components; on one side hot deserts, on the other side a great river Nile. The river cuts through the desert in the north-south direction. Around its banks, a river created a narrow strip of fertile land. As the rains in Egypt were rare, only annual flooding of the Nile was the source of the rich granary of which Pharaoh Egypt lived. Nile gets its water masses from the lakes and rivers of Ethiopia and Sudan creating in the beginning two rivers – White and Blue Nile. As they flow, river eventually merge into one river.

In the estuary, the river Nile separates into many armbands that flow towards the Mediterranean Sea forming Delta that looks like a lotus flower. In a country dominated by the sun, big rivers, and deserts and in which floods of the Nile occur at regular intervals people found a reference point in monitoring harmony of natural forces and their connection with the divine forces.

Nile River flooding example
Nile River flooding example

Egyptians for its country had two names – Kemet and Deshret. Kemet is a “black” fertile land for which in the letter stands a sign of crocodile feet while Deshret is a “red” barren desert.

The annual flooding of the Nile could be perfectly predicted by observing the stars, which led Egyptians to develop astrology before any other nation. They created the calendar, and a year that consists of 365 days. Egypt has developed a high degree of civilization adapted to its environment and in complete harmony with the nature. They had a very developed system of inundate channels (from prehistoric times, i.e. The Neolithic). In the area of cities and temples, there were many ornamental trees, vegetation, ponds.

Because of the regular winter rains in the area of Nile Equatorial Lakes, White Nile brought greenish water enriched with plant residues from the equatorial ponds. Snowbelt and summer rains in the south sent reddish water through the Blue Nile that was iron-enriched water from the mountains. Nile begins to rise around middle June.

Reconstruction of egyptian village
Reconstruction of Egyptian village

Political conditions

The population after the withdrawal of the Nile were busy with sowing and harvesting, while the rest of the year everyone were doing some other work. A rich harvest allowed people to make supplies of grain that were mainly under the direction of the priesthood.

Therefore, the rest of the year could be spent on the development of material culture, science, art, theological thoughts, etc.

Huge work around canals and banks could be done only with a joint effort of many people. Some of the tribes, after coming down into the valley, worked together and cultivate the land together.

Very soon, it was realized that there was a need for connecting other tribes into one, because they all depended on each other and in that way the effect would be more efficient. In addition, there was a need for authority that will be able to manage a multiple individual dams, banks, and canals.

In this way, between 3.500 and 3.200 BC Egyptian nomes appeared and they replaced the old tribal system completely. Nomes retained the old tribal totems, but they are losing more and more its meaning until they eventually became Gods. God in this case is some kind of a flag or an emblem of the individual nomes. The transition from prehistory to history completely erased tribes and formed them into a patriarchy with some aspects of the matriarchy left. The woman could leave her husband but with compensation. Marriage between siblings was very common thing.

Individuals are divided into classes that are defined with profession and position. Although there were no masters, whom would stand above the others; sometimes it would happen that the ruler would empower one Nome and in that way would win over some other Nome and that is how they would expand its authority and cults.

Upper and Lower Egypt map
Upper and Lower Egypt map

One such ruler was probably also Osiris. By detailed research about Osiris legend, it concluded that he was one of pre-dynasty rulers in the Delta. He was the one who first won several nomes in Lower Egypt, and then he managed to overcome Upper Egypt and temporarily unite them. Battles between Upper and Lower Egypt became legends, while priesthood turned a legendary warlord into a God. At the same time, classes of farmers were made that will cultivate other people’s land.

These workers together with the slaves (from invasions) worked in the fields, built canals, dams, etc. During Thinis period comes consolidation of the land (farmers were put in debt, etc.) and moving on to a serfs’ relationship. At that time the king was an incarnation of the divine (Horus or Seth) and he was absolute ruler of Egypt. Below him were clerks sorted into ranks. It was believed that at the beginning of the historic period (around 3100 BC) in Egypt lived around 150.000 people, while at the time of the New Kingdom (1552.-1070. BC) Egypt could have around 4 million people.

Establishing exact ethno genesis of the Egyptians is not completely possible. There were plenty indications that show in the pre-dynasty period along with the indigenous culture that there were a specific migration and cultural influence of Mesopotamia. When it comes to linguistic roots, we find that the influences are mostly Semitic and Hamitic (or Afro-Asiatic). Semitic origin was later completed by the Indo-European influences from the north and Nubia in the south. On the drawings themselves can be seen a diversity of the population, from the purely Indo-European features to the Negro characteristics. After the arrival of Alexander the Great, Egypt was inhabited by a multitude of different ethnic groups. In the 7th century, the Arabs conquered Egypt and the identity of that people in terms of the nation completely disappeared. The population was divided into Muslims and Christians who belong to the Coptic autocephalous church that has even kept some marks of the ancient Egyptian religion. They, for example, during first centuries saw in the Christ the Egyptian God of Sun Horus, and instead of crucifix, they used ankh.