For over thirty centuries, Egypt was the leader of the Mediterranean world. From its consolidation in 3100 B.C. to its conquest in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great, no other country surpassed the Pharaohs’ land in terms of power. The great pyramids, the studying of the Old Kingdom, and the mystery that surrounded them have always attracted archaeologists, historians, and even scientists across the globe.
The picture painted by ancient Egypt is one of a vibrant culture surrounded by highly accomplished architecture and rich religious traditions. The narratives of the Egyptian land can be discovered in its weathered tombs and the incomplete paintings that lay inside — each narrating a different beautiful story.
1. The tale of the Scorpion King
There were two main Egyptian Kingdoms in 3400 B.C.: the Upper Kingdom of the southern desert lands, and the Lower Kingdom at the north of the Nile. The Upper Kingdom was ruled by a king who went by the name ‘Scorpion’. He fought and conquered adjacent areas to expand and unite the neighbouring areas into what we now think of as Ancient Egypt. He was a mighty ruler who built the world’s first empire.
The Scorpion King dreamt of a literate society, perhaps the reason why the signs of the world’s first writings seem to have to be recorded in his tomb. There are other documents discovered there that record the battles won by the King against the ‘forces of chaos’. His tomb in the Abydos city of Egypt could have been the inspiration for the Great Pyramids at Giza. If anything, Scorpion King could have been the founding father of the great Egyptian civilisation.
2. The tale of the Divine King who invented ‘luxury’
A century after the Scorpion King, another ruler, Menes, from the Upper Kingdom city of Hierkanpolis worked on expanding the ancient Egyptian lands by conquering the neighbouring areas. He was the first King to unite the Upper and Lower Egyptian Kingdoms.
After the Egyptian kingdoms were unified, he reinstituted the land with religious beliefs, peace, and prosperity. His reign is known to have been very prosperous because the Egyptians didn’t need to work very hard and were allowed to indulge in hobbies and live a life of luxury. The writer and historian Diodorus Siculus even claims in his work that Menes could have probably invented ‘luxury’ and established a harmonious golden age.
3. The tale of Egypt’s oldest unsolved mystery
Unlike the Scorpion King, there are no contemporary pieces of evidence that prove Menes’s existence. As most historians agree, he was one of the most interesting men in the world. All the Egyptian stories point to him being a folk hero or a saviour that could have existed in fiction. Perhaps, Menes could have been an honorary title given to the old Egyptian rulers. Not much is know about this. As per the ancient records, Menes translates to ‘the one who endures’.
The real identity of Menes is still a great historical mystery. The most popular theory points out that Menes was Narmer — the first-ever King of the First Dynasty. Other records suggest that Menes was Narmer’s successor, Hor-Aha. There is a Tablet of Narmer that suggests that Narmer was, in fact, Menes. The front of the tablet portrays Narmer with the red crown of Lower Egypt, while the back shows Narmer in the white crown of Upper Egypt. This could perhaps imply that Narmer was the unifier of the Two Kingdoms, and hence King Menes.
4. The tale of the Dark Dynasty
Egypt was in good hands for decades, until the Second Dynasty (c. 2890 — c. 2670 BCE). The First Dynasty ended when the heirs of King Qa’a broke into a fight over the throne. The records behind the quarrel, the ascension of the throne, and the new royal line are not available. They could have been unkempt or destroyed. However, the records that are present paint a chaotic period post First Dynasty.
Hotepsekhmenwy was one of the first rulers of the Second Dynasty. He ascended to power after Qa’a, after settling the quarrel over the throne, between the princes. His peaceful rule and attempt to bring stability to the Egyptian land was short-lived. Soon, people rebelled against him for unknown reasons. He was then succeeded by Raneb, who was among the first Egyptian rulers to link himself to the divine. He was followed by Peribsen who aligned himself to the forces of chaos, instead of the divine. During the period of the dark dynasty, there was a massive instability of power observed on the Egyptian land.
5. The tale of the very first pyramid
King Djoser was the first ruler of the Third Dynasty, in 2670 B.C. His peaceful rule saw the creation of many monumental buildings. Imhotep, a commoner, gained the King’s trust and soon became his trusted advisor. The advisor, Imhotep, was a doctor and an architect.
As talented as he was, Imhotep is known to be one of the smartest people that human history has ever seen. In a period of superstitious beliefs and magical thinking, Imhoptep authored medical papyrus that discussed medical practices, diseases, and surgeries. He was also the first architect to come up with the idea and design of the first-ever pyramid. His unmatched knowledge won him the status of the God of healing and wisdom.
The tomb of Djoser, designed by Imhotep pushed the Egyptian land into the period of the Old Kingdom, also called ‘the age of pyramids’.
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