Ancient Egypt’s rich history spans from around 1300 BCE to 30 BCE, characterised by the fertile Nile river and desert landscapes.
Initially, Upper Egypt (the southern region encompassing the Nile River valley from Cairo South through to Lake Nasser) and Lower Egypt (the northern region of the Nile Delta, between Upper Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea) were ruled separately. They were unified under a centralised rule during the Early Dynastic Period.
Pharaohs, rulers who were considered divine, played a crucial role in governing and overseeing religious rituals.
Ancient Egypt had 3 distinct periods, known as the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. Each Kingdom had its own successes and failures, its own socio-political, cultural, and economic developments.
The Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BCE) saw the construction of the iconic pyramids at Giza, and the height of centralised rule. Pharaohs such as Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure ruled during this period.
During the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BCE), there was a focus on stability, trade, and cultural flourishing. Notable Pharaohs from this period Mentuhotep II and Amenemhat III, among others, played key roles in fostering prosperity and artistic achievements.
The New Kingdom (1550-1070 BCE) saw military expansions, monumental building projects, and rulers like Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, and Ramses II. Also known as the “Golden Age” of Ancient Egypt, the New Kingdom marked a peak in wealth, power, and cultural flourishing.
Ancient Egyptians excelled in architecture, and we can still see many of their pyramids and temples across the landscape today. They also used a complex hieroglyphic writing, and advanced medical practices.
Religion played a central role in daily life for Ancient Egyptians. The religion they followed is marked by a pantheon of gods, elaborate rituals, and a strong belief in an afterlife. The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells and rituals intended to guide the deceased into the afterlife. Copies were placed in coffins or burial chambers, and personalised to the individual, to serve as a guide to navigating the perilous journey to the underworld.
Ancient Egypt, like many ancient civilisations, faced periods of decline and foreign invasions, including from Persia and Macedonia.
The Macedonian conquest took place under the rule of Alexander the Great, and he founded the city of Alexandria there in 331 BCE.
Alexander was recognised as the pharaoh and adopted local customs to secure the loyalty of the populace. Just a few years later, at the age of 32, Alexander passed away and his general - Ptolemy - established the Ptolemic Kingdom, initiating a dynasty that ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries until the arrival of the Romans.
Cleopatra’s era marked the end of Pharaonic rule, with Egypt eventually becoming a Roman province.
Ancient Egypt’s legacy endures, with its art, architecture, and cultural symbolism all influencing civilisation throughout history.