Thursday 17 March 2016

Egypt in Order And Chaos

Over 100 years of uncertainty and lack of centralized control followed the collapse of Old Kingdom of Egypt. However, order and glory was restored once again with the great Middle kingdom and New kingdom eras, which were themselves separated by another period of some disorder.

At the collapse of the Old Kingdom of Egypt an unsettled time known as First Intermediate period began which lasted from 2180 BC till 2040 BC. Egypt saw civil war, drought and famine, and oppression by local tyrants.

In the 11th Dynasty, Theban king, Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II (c.2060 - 2010 BC), defeated his rivals from Heraklepolis, central Egypt. He reunified Egypt so took it into the Middle Kingdom era.

 Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II

The Middle Kingdom lasted from the 11th dynasty till the 13th dynasty(c.2040 BC - 1730 BC).

Powerful figures called viziers, as depicted by this 12th Dynasty statue, headed the administration of the Middle Kingdom. In the New Kingdom one took control in Lower Egypt and another in Upper Egypt.
A 12th Dynasty Vizier

The Middle Kingdoms's stability dissolved when local governors pushed for more power. Civil war brought about another unsettled era - the Second Intermediate period(c.1730 - 1550 BC; late Dynasties 13 to 17).

Egypt was reunited under pharaoh Amose I  and the New Kingdom(c.1550 - 1069 BC; Dynasties 18 to 20) began.This era is often seen as the time of glorious "empire", with a militaristic, nationalistic outlook and heights of wealth and power.

The New Kingdom was an age of spectacular architecture and art. The lavish tomb contents of the pharaoh Tutankhamun(c.1336-1327 BC) were interred and the monumental buildings and statues of Rameses II(c.1279 - 1213 BC) were erected.

Amenophis IV(1352 - 1336  BC) took sun worship to extremes, bending his kingdom to cult of Aten - worship of sun's disk alone - and renaming himself Akhenaten in honor of his beliefs. His wife Nefertiti seems to have taken a prominent role her husband's rule.

Nefertiti and Akhenaten

Egypt's New Kingdom became a vast empire and difficult to manage. Late in the 20th Dynasty central authority again gave way to destabilization - the Third Intermediate era(c.1069 - 664 BC).

The Third Intermediate period lasted from Dynasty 21 to 25, for over 400 years and saw a complex mixture of foreign control and Egyptian independence. Native pharaohs in upper Egypt gave way to period of Libyan control. Lower Egypt split into many separate regions.

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