September 20, 2013

The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt

The Old Kingdom
The Old Kingdom which had its beginnings round about 2700 B.C. is considered by many scholars to be the greatest period of the whole of Egyptian civilisation. It is also sometimes called the Memphis Kingdom, the capital being moved from Abydos to Memphis (Memphis, the capital of the 1st nome of Lower Egypt). During this initial period of Egyptian history the first civil and religious laws, writing and artistic canons all came into existence. The first great Pharaoh was Zoser at the beginning of the third dynasty. He was responsible for the construction of the first of the great stone monuments of Egypt, the pyramid at Sak- karah.

The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt
He also appointed a prime minister who assisted him with the royal administration which had become very extensive and complicated. Zoser also organised numerous military expeditions, for exemple to Nubia beyond the first cataract and to Sinai. The next dynasty, the IVth, started with Snefru who constructed a new type of pyramid, one with perfectly smooth faces. As far as architectonic magnificence is concerned however he was surpassed by three other pharaohs of the same dynasty: Cheops, Chefren, and Micernius the builders of the famous complex at Gizeh. Unfortunately we know very little about them apart from the fact that Cheops organised a few military expeditions against Sinai. The fifth dynasty orgi- nated in the city of Heliopolis and is therefore called the Heliopolitan dynasty because its first three pharaohs are said to have been conceived by the wife of a priest of Ra after intercourse with the god himself. From then on all pharaohs were called « sons of Ra » as a matter of course.

The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt
It was during this period that the Pyramid Texts were composed and military expedi-. tions against Asia and Libya carried out. The most important personality of the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom was Pepi II who succeeded to the throne at the age of six and remained there for ninety four years. His was the longest reign in Egyptian history. However at the end of the sixth dynasty the central government collapsed and power was divided up among the « nomarchs » or feudal princes who passed it from one to the other without the Pharaoh being able to intervene or oppose them in any way.

The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt
This gave rise to the First Interim Period, a troubled and obscure time which saw Egypt enter a long period of anarchy and social upheaval from about 2180 B.C. in the Vllth dynasty to about 2130 B.C. at the beginning of the Xlth.

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