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Ancient Egyptian Progression: The Symbolic Meaning of The Nile River

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Historians and scholars all agree that to understand the development of the Egyptian civilization one must attribute due credit to the Nile River and its role.

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Early settlers in the northern Nile River Valley settled along the river’s banks. They found that in the thin fertile region near the Nile was suitable agricultural soil. The Nile also served as an effective route of trade and communication for Egypt across their expansive, rugged land. Moreover, with the river valley only stretching about ten feet wide, it provided more protection from the outside for the blossoming population. It is recorded from historical accounts that the Nile routinely (and predictably) flooded on a set timeframe.

In order to strategically manage this situation, they enacted a central government to for the task of organizing settlers to prepare the land for the best results through the flooding. One such way in which they took advantage of it was to build long embankments that would hold the floodwater in reserve for future use in irrigating the cropland. This proved to be of immeasurable benefit and by 1000 B.C.E. the population would reach numbers of 3-4 million.

The Old Kingdom is the initial period of ancient Egyptian history (2686-2181 B.C.E). This era is notably referred to as a “golden age” for Egypt. Their government and fiscal interests would reach peak success. They would build the pyramids and begin trade with Nubia to the south, and ultimately with the Arabic state to the east, and Palestine and Syria to the northeast. Workers lived with their families in villages; they received food rations and supplies from the government to keep them content in all their toiling. By 3000 B.C.E. the Egyptians would invent hieroglyphic s; the language of alphabetic and syllabic elements and about 2,000 very distinct characters, would become their formal writing system. Knowledge could grow and spread; literacy was not a luxury for the few but a right granted for all.

It is purported that the lavish cost of erecting the pyramids was what weakened the Egyptian Old Kingdom considerably. A weakened central government equated to weakened pharaohs. Regional rulers often emerged to pick up the slack in power, and the political upset from this took its toll on the land. The Old Kingdom met its demise and from 2181 to 2055 B.C.E. it was a dark period; the century that marks this breakdown in central order is referred to as “The First Intermediate period.”

The Middle Kingdom, from 2040 to 1786 B.C.E., saw the reintroduction of Egyptian culture and life to the global stage. New pharaohs of a dynasty reborn reinstituted a central government (a stronger government). Its capital quarters were relocated south to Thebes, and greater order was implemented in regard to the control regional rulers had. It was in the Middle Kingdom that Egypt would commence foreign conquests of land stretching into Palestine as well as southward to Nubia. They would also travel for the first time into Sinai in search of gold and copper. Unfortunately, with this expansion of their borders and conquest, they would open their land to foreign invasion.

Originating from the region around Syria and Palestine, the Hyksos invaded through the Nile Delta region and would conquer this land. Their rule from 1786 to 1575 B.C.E. marks “The Second Intermediate period.” Their invasion and assertion of regional power brought about increased trade between Egypt and Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. They also engineered many military tools and utilities such as metal body wear, iron weapons, and horse-drawn chariots. Interestingly though, the Hyksos would adopt many of the same customs and practices of the Egyptians.

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However, their rule of the land come to an end in the mid-1500s B.C.E. when a more unified Egypt had suffered enough from these foreign invaders, and more powerful rulers displaced the Hyksos. Egyptian regional power was reinstated in “The New Kingdom,” and they also now had the military strength to expand and conquer other countries. In this period, they conquered peoples in western Asia and Mediterranean. This time marked an ultimate peak in power, as well as wealth with Egypt establishing a line of access to gold from Nubia.

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Ancient Egyptian progression: The symbolic meaning of the Nile river. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 7, 2023, from
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