Ancient Egyptian History Term Paper

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Egyptian History

Ancient Egyptian History

Ancient Egypt is one of the very first societies that is taught in most elementary history (or social studies) classes. It has become so familiar, in many ways because it is both the example of how ancient cultures relate to modern ones and how they are unique. Egypt, like any other world power, rose to great heights, but it also sank to devastating lows. This civilization had periods of wealth, as can be seen through its amazing architecture in temples and burial places, but also periods of poverty such as when the country became the vassal of first the Greeks and then the Romans. This paper take Mann's IEMP model and examines the periods when this ancient civilization was at its highest points and its lowest.

Mann's IEMP Model

Many methods for examining cultures exist, but very few are as complete as Mann's IEMP Model (1986). It comprises ideological, economic, military, political power and organization (for each element), and how they relate to a society's success is seen by examining statements Mann (1986) made regarding the elements, such as:

Ideological power: achieved through a common idea that is shared amongst the populace at large. Mann states that usually this is accomplished through religion (22)

Ideological organization: creates a "society like network" such as gods, priests and worshippers (23).

Economic power: "production, distribution, exchange and consumption relations normally combine in a high level of intensive and extensive power, and have been a large part of social development" (24).

Economic organization: "involves the intensive practical, everyday labor…of the mass of the population" (25).

Military power: "derives from the necessity of organized physical defense and its usefulness or aggression" (25).

Military organization: "mobilizes violence" (26).

Political power: "derives from the usefulness of centralized, institutionalized, territorialized regulation of many aspects of social relations" (26).

Political organization: the state is both territorially centralized and conducts geopolitical diplomacy (27).

The author believed that any ancient culture could be rightly judged by how it performed according to this scale. Relating this to the Egypt's dynastic period is a simple process since so much documentation of the culture still exists (Egyptians were amazing documentarians).

The Golden Age of Egypt

There are distinct periods in the development of Egypt that led to the achievements that made the ancient culture so great. There is a great deal of evidence suggesting that even before the pharaohs came to power and the dynastic period began that the Egyptians were growing toward that day. In unearthing large grave sites in th Northern and Southern sections of Egypt, archeologists have found evidence that the Egyptians were already practicing a similar sun worshipping religion to the one which was to be a major focus during the dynastic period. Bodies in the graves were always buried "in the fetal position, on their left side with the head oriented toward the south and facing west" (Brewer, 2005, 78). This meant that the rulers already understood the value of ideological power and organization at this early period. However, evidence points to the fact that these were people who were relatively primitive hunter-gatherers, so they were not members of the Egyptian golden age.

The next period is the Early Dynastic and it contains the first through third dynasties. It may seem that because they happened so long ago that these periods would have little in the way of archeological evidence. However, the first dynasty was so well documented, according to Wilkinson (2010, 51) actually better than the second or third dynasties, that there is a great deal of information regarding the formation of rule and how political power and organization grew in the now united Egypt. He goes on to say that "arguably the most significant achievement of Egypt's early rulers was to establish a model of government so well attuned to the Egyptian environment and world view that it would remain unchallenged until the very end of pharaonic history" (Wilkinson, 2010, 51). In his book Kemp agrees with this assessment, even saying that the achievements of ancient Egypt, the ones present and conspicuous today, are a result of political organization. "The material achievements of ancient states -- pyramids, conspicuous wealth, palaces, temples, conquests -- all depended on a particular skill: administration of resources" (Kemp, 2006, 163). This period in Egyptian history not only solidified and codified the ideology of Egypt (this is when the nation, through conquest, became, for the first time, a single nation and not just a group of tribal states), it demonstrated how the greatness of Egypt would follow through the power of government organization.

The early dynastic period also demonstrated the power and organization that was to become the Egyptian military. Egyptian innovation produced a great hierarchical political organization that was to become the envy of the world, but they were primarily isolated in the conflicts prior to the first dynasty (Wilkinson, 2010, 58). The reason for this is that there was warring between the different factions that controlled parts of what would become Egypt, and they were constantly fighting. For many centuries, these factions would seek to overcome others in the region, especially those along the Nile, to gain in safety and importance. The group that finally overwhelmed all of the others can be seen in the early dynastic period through works of art which depict the Egyptian king brandishing the head of his enemy. It became the seal of the government (Wilkinson, 2010, 59. This symbolized the role that ideology through religion and politics would play together throughout pharaonic rule. The means by which Egypt conquered the other states within the bounds of what is now considered Egypt and maintained their dominance, is that "they elevated the king beyond mere head of state to guardian and defender of creation" (Wilkinson, 2010, 59). He had thus become a demigod and his rule was endorsed by the gods. This was a masterful means of controlling the masses through the convergence of political, religious and military power and organization. But it is difficult to say that this is the golden age because it did not contain the economic prosperity and power that would be demonstrated at a future time.

The continued rise of the ancient Egyptian state was led by the fact that the kings gained power, but they kept the structure in line that had governed the county since the beginning of the dynastic period. Through the Old Kingdom, the intermediate period and the New Kingdom, Egypt was led by kings who, though they may not have had the best interests of the people in mind entirely (the people were called the "cattle of the gods" (Richardson, 2010, 56), at least provided citizens with the security and prosperity which was lacking in many neighboring states. Richardson puts the kingship of a ruler in the late Old Kingdom through the early New Kingdom in perspective when she says,

"In pursuit of this overarching goal, kingship entailed upholding legal justice as chief governor and judge on earth; assuring agricultural bounty and therefore economic prosperity as the chief (and in some periods, it is argued, the only) landholder; and repelling isfet (chaos), which perpetually threatened the cosmos in the form of either internal problems or external enemies, as supreme political ruler and warlord" (Richardson, 2010, 56).

The king was everything to the people not only because he was considered the representative of the gods on Earth, but because he demonstrated this power in other ways. He fed, protected and managed the people; he was, generally, a beneficent ruler; and he dealt, through diplomacy or war, the forces which existed outside of the kingdom. The people were managed by a brilliant political organization that lasted for more than a thousand years.

But, the people would not have been kept happy if it were not for the capitalist system that was put in place. Kemp contends that prior to the organization of the Egyptian state, no one ever considered economy or the effect it had on the daily lives of the people (Kemp, 2006, 302). He also contends that modern economic thought began in Egypt. The one great difference between this ancient economy and the present scheme in much of the world is that it was a system that was supplied by barter not cash. Kemp (2006, 304) says "ancient economies based on commodities came closer to the ideal of the free market than do modern economies based on money." This free type of free market can still be seen, to some extent, in many Middle Eastern countries. Egypt was one of the first to develop this system to any great extent (fully during the time of the late Old Kingdom (Kemp, 2006, 305)),and during the Middle Kingdom the country relied on a partial system of redistribution also. The reason for this was that some people were not able to survive, especially during periods of flood or drought. So, the government had to devise methods, usually through taxation that allowed all citizens to enjoy…[continue]

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