This subject will be treated under the following main divisions:I. General Description;
The name Egypt proper applies only to the rather narrow valley of the Nile from the Mediterranean, 31° 35' N. latitude, to the First Cataract, at Assuân (Syene), 24° 5' 30" N. latitude, a stretch of about 680 miles by rail. However, from remote antiquity, as now, Egypt held sway over Nubia, reaching by degrees as far as Napata (Gebel Barkal), 18° 30' N. latitude, which, under the eighteenth dynasty, was the southernmost city of the empire -- another stretch of about 590 miles by rail. Distances by water are somewhat greater owing to the winding course of the river. From Napata the Nile continues for a while in the south-west direction which it follows from Abu-Hamed, but soon assumes is ordinary sinuous course to the north, describing two great principle curves -- one to the west down to Wâdi Halfa, just below the second cataract, Soleb being the westernmost point, then another to the east as far as Assiût (Lycopolis), Assuân forming its apex, or easternmost point. As far as Edfu (Appollinopolis Magna) the valley is rather narrow, rarely as much as two or three miles wide. Indeed, "in Lower Nubia the cultivable land area is seldom more than a few hundred yards in width and at not a few points, especially on the west bank, the desert advances clear up to the river bank" (Baedeker, Egypt, 1908, p. 376). The general aspect of the Nubian desert is that of a comparatively low table-land, stony in the north, studded with sandy hills in the south. At Assuân the course of the river is broken by the first cataract, where its waters rush between numberless more or less diminutive islands, the most famous of which is the island of Philæ above and Elephantine in front of Assuân. The cataract, however, has lost much of its grandeur since the building of the great dam which now regulates the supply for the irrigation of the country in time of low water. From Assuân to Edfu (about 48 miles) the banks are so high that even in the annual inundation they are above the level of high water, and consequently remain barren. Near Edfu the valley widens out and becomes wider still in the neighbourhood of Esneh (Latopolis). At Luxor (part of Thebæ) it again narrows for a few miles, but after that it maintains a respectable breadth, averaging between twelve and fifteen miles. At Assuân begin the two high ranges of the Libyan and Arabian deserts, between which the valley extends. The range to the left is somewhat farther from the river, so that most of the towns are built on the western bank.
Near Girgeh (Abydos) begins the Bahr-Yûsef, Joseph's Canal. It was formerly a branch of the Nile; it runs parallel to the main stream at a distance of from 5 to 6 miles along the left bank, and empties into the Fayûm ( home of Arsinoe ). One hundred ten miles above Memphis the Libyan mountains bend to the north-west, and then, facing north-east, they draw nearer against to the Nile, thus surrounding a large extent of territory, which of old was know as Te-She, or Lakeland, from the great inland lake frequently mentioned and described by the Greek Moeris. It is still called Fayûm, from the Coptic " piiom , "the sea". This lake once occupied almost the entire basin of the Fayûm, but within the historical period its circumference does not seem to have exceeded 140 miles. It lay 73 feet above the sea level, and was very deep, as shown by its last vestige, the Birket-el-Karûn, which lies 144 feet below the same level (Baedeker, op. cit., p. 186 sq.).
A little before reaching Cairo the Nile flows along the rocky and sandy plateau on which the three best-known pyramids stand. There, too, the two ranges of Arabian and Libyan mountains, which above this point run for many miles close to the river, turn sharply aside in the direction of the north-east and north-west, thus forming a triangle with the Mediterranean shore. The immense alluvial plain thus encompassed was called by the Greeks the Delta, owing to its likeness to the fourth letter of their alphabet ( Delta ). As soon as the river enters this plain its waters divide into several streams which separately wind their way to the sea and make it a garden of incredible fertility. In ancient times there were seven of these branches, five natural and two artificial. Only two are now of importance for navigation, the Damietta (Tamiathis) and the Rosetta branches, both named for the towns near which they discharge into the sea. It is to be remarked that, as a natural result of the incessant struggle between sea and land the outline of the Delta is even now somewhat indefinite, and was probably much more so in the remote past. The shore is always partly covered with lagoons which move from one place to another. The most extensive of these are now, from east to west, Lake Menzaleh between the ancient Ostium Phatniticum and Ostium Pelusiacum, Lake Borolos (Lacus Buto or Paralus ) east and Lake Edkû west of the Rosetta mouth (Ostium Bolbitinum), and Lake Mariût (Mareotis Lacus) south of the narrow strip of land on which Alexandria stands. Between Lake Menzaleh and the Red Sea, on a line running first south, and then south-south-east, are Lake Balah, Lake Timsâh, and the Bitter Lakes (Lacus Amari), now traversed by the Suez Canal. Wâdi Tumilât connects Lake Timsâh with the Delta across the Arabian desert, and forms the natural entrance to Egypt from the Asiatic side. West of the Delta, in a depression of the Libyan Desert, lies the Wâdi Natrûn (Vallis Nitria), famous in early Christian times, under the name of the Desert of Scete, for its Coptic monasteries, four of which exist to this day.Geology
The low Nubian table-land through which the Nile meanders consists of a red sandstone, belonging to the upper cretaceous formation. It has furnished the Egyptians with an excellent building stone which they have exploited from remote antiquity, especially at Gebel Silsileh (Silsilis), 26 miles south of Edfu, where the sandstone beds, in sharp contrast to their former low level, rise in steep banks overhanging the river, thus offering unusual facilities for quarrying and transporting the stone. Near Edfu the sandstone is replaced by nummulitic limestones (Eocene) of the Tertiary period, which form the bulk of the Libyan desert and a considerable portion of the Arabian desert as well. The Libyan Desert is a level, or almost level, table-land averaging 1000 feet above the sea. On the east it is fringed with craggy cliffs overhanging the valley, while its outward border, running aslant to the north-west, offers here and there deep bays in which lie the oases of Khârgeh and Dâkhleh (Great Oasis), Farâfreh (Tringtheos Oasis), and Siweh (Jupiter Ammon). The oasis of Bahriyeh (Small Oasis), north-east of Farâfreh, lies, on the contrary, in a depression entirely surrounded by the higher plateau. The Fayûm, in fact, is nothing but such an oasis on a larger scale. The plateau itself is waterless and practically without vegetation. Its strata are gently inclined to the north-west, so that the highest level is in the south, near Luxor, where the oldest (lower Eocene) strata appear, and valleys (Bibân-el-Molûk) take the place of the cliffs, undoubtedly for the same reason as in the Arabian desert (see below).
East of the Nile the limestone formation originally presented much the same appearance as in the Libyan counterpart. This appearance, however, was changed by a high (6000 to 7000 feet) range of crystalline rocks (granite, gneiss, diotite, porphyry, etc.) which sprang up along the Red Sea , lifting and tilting both the limestone formation and the sandstone beds (which extend farther north on the eastern than on the western side of the river), thus creating numerous deeply eroded valleys. Some of these run north and south, but most of them slope down to the Nile. The Wâdi Hammâmât (the Rehrnu Valley of the Egyptians) runs almost straight across the desert from Keft (Coptos) on the Nile in the direction of Koseir ( Leucos Limên of the Greeks) on the Red Sea. In spite of this the Arabian Desert still preserves its general appearance of a table-land. The open plains, of course, are almost devoid of vegetation, but numerous plants can be seen in the valley after rain, and they thrive in the sheltered ravines among the hills where springs occur. Near Assuân a spur of the eruptive range just mentioned runs in a western direction to the Nile, extending clear across the bed of the river and thus occasioning the so-called first cataract.
The formation of the present Valley of the Nile, in Egypt proper, dates from the Pliocene times, when it first appeared as a fiord into which the water of the Mediterranean Sea flowed at least as far as Keneh (Caenepolis) and perhaps even as far as Esneh (in the older Miocene times, the valley did not exist at all, the Arabian and Libyan deserts forming one continuous table-land). Intimately connected with the formation of the valley are the sands and loams occurring to the south of the pyramids of Gizeh, as is shown by numerous Pliocene fossils they contain (Baedeker, Egypt, p. 1). The silicified wood which abounds in the district of Moghara, west of the Wâdi Natrûn (see above), belongs to the Miocene times, as do also the marine limestones of the Plateau of Cyrenaica, north of the Oasis of Siweh, on the eastern edge of the Arabian Desert, and on the shore of the Gulf of Suez. The so-called petrified forests near Cairo consist of the stems of trees silicified by the action of the siliceous thermal springs which bubbled forth amid the networks of lagoons existing in these parts in Oligocene times. Those forest trees are still more common in the Fayûm, where innumerable bones of extinct terrestrial and marine mammals and reptiles have been found in sands of the same geological age (Baedeker, loc. cit).
Deposits of alabaster are to be found in the neighbourhood of El 'Amerna, where the alabaster quarries of Hetnub were worked by the Egyptians from the time of the Fourth Dynasty. The cultivated plains of the Delta and the Nile valley consist of recent alluvial deposits, ranging from fine sand to the finest silt laid down by the water of the annual inundation. Under these lie coarser yellowish sands and gravels of the Pleistocene age, which here and there reach the surface in the Delta as islands of sandy waste among the rich cultivation of the surrounding country (Baedeker, Egypt, p. xlix). Gold-bearing quartz and iron ore are plentiful in the eruptive range of the eastern desert both in Nubia and in Egypt, and gold mines were exploited there by the pharaohs. No workings of iron ore have been found (Breasted, "History of the Ancient Egyptians", 122, 142, 154, 155).Flora and Agriculture
Since the remotest antiquity Egypt has been famous for its fertility. The black soil, really a gift of the Nile, annually enriched by a fresh layer of silt, requires but little care in tilling and plowing. Hence the primitive character of the agricultural implements -- the plough, in particular, which is precisely the same now as it was 5000 years ago, a pole to which is fastened a piece of wood bent inward at an acute angle and shod, at least in later periods, with a three-pronged piece of iron. There is no trace of large forests similar to our own ever having covered the valley proper of the Nile in quaternary times, much less the Libyan or Arabian ranges, but the Delta still has, and may have had in the past, large groves of palm trees. So far as we can judge from the paintings of the early tombs, the whole cultivatable land was laid out in fields, orchards, or gardens. The fields gave rich crops of wheat, barley, millet ( Sorghum vulgare ), flax, lentils, peas, and beans. The orchards were stocked with trees, which, as a rule, were planted as much for the shade the afforded as for their refreshing fruit. There were palms of two species, the ordinary date-palm and the dûm-palm, the latter growing in Upper Egypt only. Oranges and lemons were peculiar to Lower Egypt, while sycamores, tamarisks, acacias of various kinds, the vine, the pomegranate, and the olive were common; oleanders, roses, carnations and geraniums were, as they still are, the principal decorative plants. In the kitchen gardens grew cabbages, cucumbers, melons, and garlic, which the Israelites seem to have regretted no less than the excellent fish ( Numbers 6:5 ) and the fat fleshpots ( Exodus 16:3 ) of the land of bondage. Reeds of various kinds grew abundantly in the marshes of Lower Egypt especially; the most important reed was the papyrus; its stalks served to make boats ( Isaiah 17:2 ), ropes, sandals, clothes, and baskets. It was in such a basket that Moses was put by his mother and exposed in the flags by the river brink ( Exodus 2:3 ). But it was especially as a writing material that the papyrus became famous. Its large, fibrous stalks, being first stripped of their rind, were sliced length-wise. Two layers of such slices were disposed at right angles to one another and fastened with a sort of glue under some pressure, and the sheet of paper was ready for use as soon as it dried. When written upon the sheet was rolled up with the writing inside, and the title of contents was then added on the back end of it. In ancient Egypt the tuft of papyrus was the coat of arms or symbol of the Northern Kingdom. This reed, so common in Egypt up to the first centuries of our era, has now completely disappeared from that country, very likely on account of the high tax which the Roman emperors imposed on its cultivation. It exists still, however, on the upper course of the Nile, and, according to Bruce, the Abyssinians still make boats of its stalks. Among the many other aquatic plants must be mentioned the lotus, a water-lily, of which two species, the Castalia scutifolia ( Nymphæa coerulea ), with blue flowers, and the Castalia mystica ( Nymphæ lotus ), with white blossoms, are often found figured on Egyptian monuments, particularly on columns. The flower of the lotus was the emblem of Upper Egypt, as the tuft of papyrus was of Lower Egypt.
The inundation of the Nile is of utmost importance to Egypt; it is no exaggeration to say that but for its annual recurrence the rich valley would soon become a desert similar to those of Libya and Arabia. The overflow is due principally to the torrents of rain that fall almost uninterruptedly in Abyssinia during the four months of summer and swell the Blue Nile (Astapus), which discharges into the Nile proper, or White Nile, at Khartûm. The rise of the Nile begins in Egypt a few days before the summer solstice, that is between the 10th and 20th of June; but the inundation does not begin until fully two months later. It reaches its maximum height about the autumnal equinox when it begins gradually to subside until the vernal equinox, so that the whole process of inundation lasts about nine months. The maximum height of the water varies in different places, decreasing as the area covered by the inundation increases. The mean difference between the highest and lowest stages of the river is 21 feet at Khartûm, 20 feet at Wâdi Halfa, 23 feet at Asûan, 22 feet at Asiût, and 22 feet at Minieh. Below the last-names point controlling works now prevent the rise of the river. (Baedeker, Egypt, p. xlvi.) At Cairo today the average rise is 16 feet. Some twenty-five years ago it used to be 25 feet at Cairo, 24 feet at Rosetta. When stated generally the height of the inundation must be understood as the height of the nilometre on the island of Rôdah, near Cairo (close by the ancient Babylon. Formerly, a rise of 18 to 20 feet was poor, 20 to 24 insufficient, 24 to 27 good, and 27 and above too much. For seven years, A.H. 475-464 (A.D. 1065-1072) the inundation failed altogether. The long duration of the overflow is due to the fact that is it controlled by artificial means without which it would undoubtedly prove as detrimental as it is beneficial. The only part left to nature is the process of infiltration which is due to the pressure of the water on the banks and is favoured by the porous nature of the soil, also by the fact that the subsoil, like the surface of the valley, gently slopes down to the mountains. It is only when this natural process is completed that the river is ready to overflow its banks, and then begins man's work. The sluices of the canals are opened, and the waters are led first to the higher level lands nearer the banks, then to the lower lands, for in its general configuration the soil to be submerged, as the subsoil, is convex -- not concave as in the case of ordinary rivers. This is brought about by building earthen dykes across the canals and the fields; the dyke is removed when the preceding tract has been sufficiently irrigated. The reverse is done when the river begins to fall, and the waters are kept in the remotest parts of the valley as high as possible above the level of the river, and they are let out slowly so as to secure irrigation for the low-water months, March to June. This process, however, is not always possible, either because the irrigation is insufficient or because the canals and sluices are not kept in good condition. The fellaheen (tillers of the soil) then have to raise the water from the river, the canals, or the numerous wells fed by natural infiltration, so as to water their fields.
Two machines chiefly are used for this purpose; the sâkyeh and the shâdûf . The sâkyeh consist of two cog-wheels working at right angles to each other. The perpendicular wheel carries an endless chain, to which are attached leathern, wooden, or clay buckets. As the wheel turns the buckets are dipped in the water and filled, when they are lifted and emptied into a channel which carries the water into the fields. These machines are worked by asses or buffaloes in Egypt and by camels in Nubia. The shâdûf is a roughly made pair of gigantic scales in which the trays are replaced by a bucket on one end and a stone on the other, the stone being a little more than the weight of the bucket when filled. A man stands on the bank and, pulling on the rope to which the bucket is attached, submerges the latter, then letting go, the weight of the stone pulls the bucket out, when it can be emptied into the proper channel. In the Lower Delta, where the level of the water in the canals remains nearly the same, they use a wooden wheel called tâbût, which raises the water by means of numerous compartments in the hollow felloes. Such methods, however, while absorbing all the energies of the population fro most of the year, are far from exhausting the irrigation power supplied by the Nile during inundation, nine-tweflths of the annual outpour being contributed during the three months of maximum rise. It allows one crop only for the irrigated lands, and leaves many districts desert-like for lack of water. The pharaohs of the twelfth dynasty, it seems, tried partly to obviate these defects by using the natural lake of the Fayûm as a reservoir where the surplus of the inundation waters were stored during their highest rise, which allowed them to double the volume of the river below the Fayûm during the three months of low Nile. The immense waterworks necessitated by the undertaking, at the point where the lake was most commonly visited by foreigners, gave the impression that the lake itself was an artificial excavation, as reported by classic geographers and travellers.
This great enterprise was not resumed until the close of the last century, when a series of gigantic dams at different points on the Nile was planned by the Egyptian Government; these, in part at least, have been completed. The Barrage du Nil (about twelve miles below Cairo) was completed in 1890. It extends across the Rosetta and Damietta branches and two of the principal canals of the Delta, thus ensuring constant navigation on the Rosetta branch and perennial irrigation through most of the Delta. The dam of Assiût, constructed 1898-1902, regulates the amount of water in the Ibrâhimieh Canal, and thus insures the irrigation of the provinces of Assiût, Minieh, Beni-Suef (10 miles east of the Heracleopolis Magna), and through Bahr-Yûsef, of the Fayûm. Finally the dam of Assuân, also completed in 1902, below the island of Philæ, maintains such a supply of water in the canals of Lower and Middle Egypt that upwards of 500,000 acres have been added to the area of cultivatable land in the summer. This dam, the largest structure of the kind in the world, rises 130 feet above the foundation, and dams up the water of the Nile to a height of 83 feet, thus forming a lake of 234,000,000,000 gallons. Its length is 2150 yards; its width 98 feet at the bottom, and 23 feet at the top. The Egyptian government has lately decided to raise it 23 feet, which will more than double the huge reservoir's capacity and will afford irrigation for about 930,000 acres of land now lying waste in Upper Egypt (Baedeker, Egypt, p. 365). In addition to these gigantic waterworks, the number and capacity of the canals have been considerably increased, thus allowing the inundation waters to reach further on the outskirts of the desert ; to this, probably, is due the fact that the average level of high waters is lower than it used to be -- 25 feet at Asuân instead of 40, although for the region below Minieh this change is also to be explained by the manipulation of the controlling waterworks (Baedeker, Egypt, p. lxvi).
The ancient Egyptians practically had only one kind of year: a vague year consisting of twelve months, each of thirty days, and five supplementary days which were intercalated between the thirtieth day of the last month of the year just elapsed and the first day of the first month of the following year. Technically, those five days did not belong to the year; the Egyptians always said the "year and the five days to be found thereon". The five extra days were sacred to Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. They were days of bad omen. The year was divided into three periods, or seasons, of four months each: the inundation (Egyptian Echut , or Echet ), the sowing-time ( Proyet ), and the harvest ( Somu ). In ancient times months had no special names, they were simply designated by ordinal numbers in each season, as "the first month of the inundation" and so on. Each month (as also the decades and hours), however, had as a patron one of the divinities whose feast occurred during that month, and the patrons, it seems, varied according to time and locality. At a rather later period the names of those patrons passed over to the months themselves, hence the names transmitted to us by the classic writers (see table below). Each month was divided into three decades (the Egyptians do not seem to have ever used, or even known, the week of seven days); each day into 24 hours, 12 hours of actual day time and 12 hours of actual night time. The hours of day and night, consequently, were not always of the same length. The sixth hour of night corresponded to midnight, and the sixth hour of day to noon. There were further subdivisions of time, but their relation to the hour is unknown. The day most likely began with the first day-time hour; some, however, think it began with the first hour of night.
The year began with the first day of Thoth (Inundation I) which, of course, was supposed to coincide with the first rise of the river. The first of Thoth was also supposed to coincide with the day of the heliacal rising of Sirius, which was called New Year's Day and celebrated as such each year with a great festival. Isis, typified by Sirius, her star, was believed to bring with the inundation a promise of plenty for the new year; this takes us back to the first centuries of the fifth millennium, when the summer solstice, which precedes by a few days only the inundation, actually coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius. We know, besides, from the classical writers that the latter phenomenon occurred on the 19th or 20th of July (according to the Julian calendar), which points to Memphis as the home of the Egyptian Calendar. The Egyptians, however, must have perceived in the course of time (if they had not foreseen it) that their calendar of 365 days would not, as they evidently believed at first, bring back the seasons every years at their respective natural times. Their year being about one-fourth of a day shorter than the Sirius year, on the fourth anniversary of its adoption, it had retroceded a whole day on the heliacal rising of Sirius; 486 years later, the retrocession was of about 120 days, so that the calendar indicated the opening of the inundation time when in fact the harvest was only beginning; and so on until, after 1461 revolutions of the civil year and 1460 only of Sirius, the first of Thoth fell again on the heliacal rising of that star. This period of 1460 Sirius years (1461 Egyptian years) received later the name Sothic period from Sothis , a Greek form of Sopdet, the Egyptian name of Sirius. Long before the end of the first Sothic period it was found necessary to consider the first of Thoth as a New Year's Day also, the civil New Year's Day. As early as the Fourth Dynasty we find the two Near Year's Days recorded side by side in the tombs.
To the common people who, as usual, were guided by the appearances, the calendar was steady while Sirius and the natural seasons were moving around it. Consequently Sirius's New Year's Day -- which seems to be all they knew or ever cared to know of the Sirius year -- was a movable feasts, the date of which was to be announced every year. The fact that they estimated its precession on the calendar at six hours exactly, which was not correct except in 3231 B.C. (see E. Meyer, "Aegyptische Chronologie", p. 14) tends to show that the date was not obtained from astronomical observation, but in a mechanical way on the supposition that every four years it would fall one day later, this rule having been ascertained astronomically once for all, and considered as correct (E. Meyer, op. cit., p. 19).
The cycle of the Sothic periods has been established in different ways by various scholars, with slight variations in the years of beginning of the several periods (see Ginzel, "Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie", 187 sqq.). According to F. Meyer (op. cit., 28), a new period began:--19 July, A.D. 140-141
These dates have been adopted by Breasted in his chronology (Ancient Records of Egypt, I, sec. 44), which we shall follow in the chronological arrangement of the Egyptian dynasties (see below).
We have no evidence of the Egyptians ever having become aware of the difference between the Sirius year and the solar year, which accounts for the shifting of the summer solstice and, consequently, of the beginning of the inundation from 25 July, in 4236 B.C., to 21 June, in 139 A.D. (see Ginzel, op. cit., 190). This divergence, however, was too slow, and amounted to so little, even in the course of several centuries, that the Egyptian astronomers might well have overlooked, or at least ignored, it with regard to the calendar. It is still more remarkable that, after noting the retrocession of their vague year, they should not have tried to even it up with the Sirius year. But the astronomers were also priests and, as such, custodians of the religious side of the calendar, which in their eyes could not have been less important. The simple insertion of an intercalary day would have been sufficient when two years agreed, but that happened rarely; and the need of a reform was not felt by the contemporary generation. When that need was most acute, as in the middle of a Sothic period, the intercalation was not enough; the reform, to be satisfactory, would have demanded the bringing back of the seasons to their right times (at least in the measure allowed by the shifting of the summer solstice), which could not have been done without passing over several months and days (cf. the Gregorian Reform ) and consequently almost as many feasts and popular festivals. Indeed, in Ptolemaic times, when, prompted by pressing politico-religious reasons, the priests finally undertook a reform, they were satisfied with the insertion of a sixth epagomene day every four years. This fixed year, known as the Canopic or Tanitic year, began on 22 October, 238 B.C. (Julian), the first day of Thoth happening then to coincide with that date. It met with but scant favour and was abandoned under Ptolemy IV (Philopator), in honour of whose predecessor, Ptolemy III, the decree had been issued. A second attempt on the same limited scale, and probably in the same spirit of flattery, was made in the early years of August, in connexion with the establishment of the era of Alexandria. The Egyptian years was then brought into harmony with the fixed Julian year, inasmuch as it received every four years an intercalary day. That day was inserted after the fifth epagomene, preceding the Julian intercalary year. The first of Thoth, however, remained where it was when the reform overtook it, viz., on 29 August, except after an intercalary year, when it fell on 30 August. The first year with an intercalary day, it seems, was 23 B.C. (see Ginzel, op. cit., I, 224-228). This fixed year, which is still in use in the Coptic church, was first adopted by the Greek and Roman portions of the population, while the Egyptians proper for several centuries clung still to the old vague year.
As we have seen in the beginning of this section, the whole arrangement of the Egyptian year and its relation to the astronomical and climatic phenomena of chief importance to the ancient Egyptians indicate that it must have been established at a time when one of the heliacal risings of Sirius coincided with the beginning of the inundation, which takes place shortly (according to the Coptic Calendar three days) after the summer solstice. This points clearly to the beginning of the Sothic period the first year of which fell on 19 July, 4241 B.C., when the summer solstice was on 25 July, and the inundation on 28 July. At the beginning of the preceding period, 19 July, 2781 B.C., the summer solstice had already retroceded to 13 July, so that the inundation (16 July) preceded the heliacal rising of Sirius, while at the beginning of the following period, 19 July 5701 B.C., the summer solstice was due only on 6 August, and the inundation on 9 August, or 21 days after the heliacal rising of Sirius (cf. Ginzel, op. cit., 190; E. Meyer, op. cit., 144 sqq.). The date 2781, as a possible date for the inauguration of the Egyptian calendar, is also excluded by the fact that the intercalary days (proving the use of the shifting year of 360 plus 5 days) are mentioned in the so-called Pyramid Texts, which are far older than the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, although the occur for the first time on the monuments of these dynasties (E. Meyer, op. cit., 40; Breasted, "Ancient Records of Egypt", I, 30). The date of the heliacal rising of Sirius varies according to the latitude from which it is observed. The fact that most of the classical writers and Egyptian documents fix that date at 19 July shows that the Egyptians observed it from the 30th degree of N. latitude, which points to one of the ancient cities of the Southern Delta as the home of the Egyptian year, probably Memphis or Heliopolis (E. Meyer, op. cit., 41; Ginzel, op. cit., I, 186; Breasted, op. cit., I, sec. 45).
The following table exhibits the seasons and the 12 months of the Egyptian year and their Greek names (still in use with slight changes of orthography in the Coptic Calendar) and their respective dates of beginning according to the Julian Calendar, when I Thoth fell on the heliacal rising of Sirius, i.e., at the opening of the Sothic periods:
Inundation I: Thoth . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 July
Inundation II: Phaôphi. . . . . . . . . . 18 August
Inundation III: Athyr. . . . . . . . . . . . 17 September
Inundation IV: Choiac. . . . . . . . . . . . 17 October
Sowing I: Tybi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 November
Sowing II: Mechir. . . . . . . . . . . . 16 December
Sowing III: Phamenoth. . . . . . . . 15 January
Sowing IV: Pharmouthi. . . . . . . . 14 February
Harvest I: Pachon. . . . . . . . . . . . 16 March
Harvest II: Payni. . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 April
Harvest III: Epiphi. . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 May
Harvest IV: Mesôri. . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 June
The Five Epagomene days: 14 July
The following table shows the correspondence of the present Egyptian (and Coptic) calendar, as reformed under Augustus, with our own calendar, both before and after intercalation:--
Thoth I: 29 Aug. (After Intercalation: 30 Aug.)
Phaôphi: 28 Sept. (After Intercalation: 29 Sept.)
Athyr: 28 Oct. (After Intercalation: 29 Oct.)
Choiac: 27 Nov. (After Intercalation: 28 Nov.)
Tybi: 28 Dec. (After Intercalation: 29 Dec.)
Mechir: 26 Jan. (After Intercalation: 29 Jan.)
Phamenoth: 25 Feb. (After Intercalation: 26 Feb.)
Pharmouthi: 27 Mar. (After Intercalation: 28 Mar.)
Pachon: 26 Apr. (After Intercalation: 27 Apr.)
Payni: 26 May (After Intercalation: 27 May)
Epiphi: 25 June (After Intercalation: 26 June)
Mesôri: 25 July (After Intercalation: 26 July)
Epagomene day: 24 Aug. (After Intercalation: 25 Aug.)
Although the Egyptians kept track of the Sirius year, in so far as its beginning was the official New Year's day, they do not seem to have made use of it for chronological purposes. The same may be said of the other methods of reckoning the year which may have been in use among some classes of the population, as, for instance, the natural year based on the recurrence of the natural seasons. It is not uncommonly taken for granted or advanced that the Egyptian vague year of 365 days was preceded by a round year of 360 days, and that the former was obtained by adding 5 days to the latter. Arguments in favour of that view are few and not convincing. A year of 360 days neither lunar or solar is hardly imaginable (cf. Ginzel, op. cit. 69; E. Meyer op. cit., 10). It is even more likely that, even before the arrangement of 360 plus 5 days, the Egyptian year (originally a lunar year) had become luni-solar, and increased to 365 days, either as a fixed number for every year by intercalary days distributed over the whole year (as in the Julian year), or as an average number in a series of years by a process of embolism (as for instance in the Hebrew year ). Finally it was decided to adopt the far simpler and rational arrangement of 12 even months followed by 5 intercalary days; the distribution of the days was changed, not their number. This recast of the calendar found expression at a very early period, if not at the time when it took place, in the following fable by preserved by Plutarch (De Iside et Osiride, xii), but undoubtedly very ancient, as judged from the fact that the divinities mentioned in it belonged to the earliest stages of the Egyptian pantheon. Rhea (Egyptian Nût ) having had secret intercourse with Kronos ( Geb ), Hêlos ( Re ) cast a spell on her to prevent her from bringing forth during any month of any year. But Hermes ( Thoth ) who loved her played dice with the Moon and won from her the 73rd part (not 60th as Maspéro, "Histoire ancienne", p. 87; nor 70th as E. Meyer, op. cit., p. 9; nor 72nd, as Ginzel, op. cit. p. 171) of her courses (literally lights, photon ), which he added to the (remaining) 360 days. During these five days Nût brought forth her children (Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys).
The ancient Egyptians never had eras in the usual sense of the word, i.e., epochs from which all successive years are counted regardless of political or other changes in the life of the nation. Instead of eras, in the first five dynasties, they used to name each civil year for some great political or religious event (a usage which had its parallel in Babylonia), as "the Year of the Smiting of the Troglodytes", "the Year of the Conquest of Nubia ", "the Year of the defeat of Lower Egypt", "the Year of the Worship of Horus"; or from some fiscal process recurring periodically, as "the Year of [or after] the Second Occurrence of the Census of all Cattle, Gold", etc. which was often abbreviated to "the Year of the Second Occurrence of the Census", or, still more briefly, "the Year of the Second Occurrence". The census having become annual, each year of any given reign came to be identified as the year of the first (or whatever might be the proper ordinal) census of that reign, a new series beginning with each reign. From the Eleventh Dynasty on, the years were always numbered from the first of the current reign, and the second year of the reign was supposed to begin with the first day of Thoth next following the date of the kings' accession, no matter how recent that date might be. The absence of eras in ancient Egypt is all the more remarkable as there were several periods which could easily have been utilized for that purpose, the Sothic period especially. (On other periods -- Phoenix, Apis, etc. -- mentioned by the classical writers but not yet found on Egyptian monuments, as also on the so-called Great and Small years, and the supposed Nubti Era, see Ginzel, op. cit., I, sec. 38 and 45.)
In later times several eras were created or adopted in Egypt, the principal of which was the Era of Alexandria. Its epoch, or starting-point, has conventionally been fixed at 30 (or 31) August of the first year of Augustus (Julian, 30 B.C.), although, as we have seen, it did not acquire its intercalary character until 26, or even 23, B.C., so that its first years were ordinary Egyptian vague years (for further details see Ginzel, op. cit., I, pp. 224-28). The Philippic, or Macedonian Era (more generally known as the Era of Alexander) was introduced into Egypt in the third century B.C., after the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.). Up to Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-47 B.C.), Egyptian monuments were dated according to the old Egyptian system, but after that time the Macedonian dates are generally found together with the Egyptian. Macedonian dating was gradually superseded by the use of the fixed eras, yet it is found, sporadically at least, as late as the second century after Christ (Ginzel, op. cit., I, p. 232). The Philippic Era begins on I Thoth, 425 (12 November., 324 B.C., Julian style) of the era of Nabonassar; like the latter it is based on a vague year on the same pattern, months' names included, as the old Egyptian year. The Era of Nabonassar begins as noon, 26 February, 747 B.C. (Julian style). It is the basis of the famous Canon of Ptolemy. It was used in Egypt especially for astronomical purposes, and it met with great favour with chronographers, on account of the certainty of its starting-point and its well-established accuracy. The reduction of Nabonassar's years into the corresponding usual Christian reckoning is rather complicated and requires the use of special tables (see Ginzel, op. cit., I, p. 143 sqq.).
Only a very small portion of the colossal mass of inscriptions, papyri, etc. so far discovered in Egypt has any bearing on, or can be any assistance in, chronological questions. The astronomical knowledge of the ancient Egyptians does not seem to have gone very far, and, as everyone knows, accurate astronomical observations rightly recorded in connexion with historical events are the basis of any true chronology of ancient times. It is remarkable that the Egyptian Claudius Ptolemy (second century after Christ ) took from the Babylonians and the Greeks all the observations of eclipses he ever used and started his canon (see above) with Babylonian, not with Egyptian kings. Evidently he held no records of sun observations made in Egypt. Yet, for religious reasons, the Egyptians noted the Heliacal risings of Sirius on the various dates of their movable calendar. A few have reached us, and have been of no small assistance in astronomically determining, within four years at least, some of the most important epochs of Egyptian history. The Egyptians also recorded the coincidence of new moons with the days of their calendar. Such data in themselves have no chronological value, as the phases of the moon return to the same positions on the calendar every nineteen years; taken, however, in conjunction with other data, they can help us to determine more precisely the chronology of some events (Breasted, op. cit., I, sec. 46). Moreover, ancient Egypt has bequeathed to us a number of monuments of a more or less chronological character:
All these documents combined furnish the chronological frame for the vast amount of historical matter contained in thousands of mural inscriptions and stelæ collected and worked out with almost incredible patience by several generations of Egyptologists during the last hundred years.
Of secondary importance are the data furnished by the Greek and Latin writers. Still we must mention here the Aigyptiaka Hypomnemata of the Egyptian priest Manetho of Sebennytus, third century B.C. Of this work we have: (a) Some fragments which, preserved by Josephus (Contra Apion, I, xiv, xv, xx), were used by Eusebius in his "Præparatio Evangelica" and the first book of his "Chronicon" ; (b) by an epitome which has reached us in two recensions; one of these recensions (the better of the two) was used by Julius Africanus , and the other by Eusebius in their respective chronicles; both have been preserved by Georgius Syncellus (eighth-ninth century) in his Egloge Chronographias . We also have a Latin translation by St. Jerome and an Armenian version of the Eusebian recension, while fragments of the recension of Julius Africanus are to be found in the so-called "Excerpta Barbara". Judging from that epitome, the work of Manetho was divided into three parts, the first of which contained the reigns of the gods and demi-gods (omitted in the African recension) and eleven dynasties of human kings; the second, eight dynasties of such kings; the third, twelve (the last one added after Manetho's death). Besides a few short notices, the epitome contains nothing but names and figures showing the duration of each reign and dynasty. Those figures are summed up at the end of each book. In the shape it has reached us Manetho's work is of comparatively little assistance, on account of its chronology, which seems to be hopelessly mixed up, besides being grossly exaggerated; and it must be used with the greatest caution. (For further details on Manetho and his work see the preface of C. Müller in the Didot edition of the second volume of "Fragmenta Historicorum Græcorum", and E. Meyer, op. cit., pp. 69-99.) In the next place should be mentioned a list of so-called Theban kings handed down by Erotosthenes of Cyrene (third century B.C.) and preserved by Syncellus. It seems to be a translation of some Egyptian royal list similar to the Table of Karnak [see C. Müller in the Didot edition of Heroditus (Fragmenta chronographica, p. 182) and E. Meyer, op. cit., pp. 99-103]. Lastly, Heroditus's Historiai (fifth century B.C.) and Diodorus Siculus's Bibliotheke (first century B.C.) deserve at least a passing mention. Although their interest lies chiefly in another direction, yet we may glean from them occasional chronological data for the times during which these two writers lived.
We cannot enter here upon even a cursory analysis, much less a discussion, of the various systems of Egyptian chronology. The older systems of Champollion, Lepsius, Lesueur, Brugsch, Mariette were, to a considerable extent, based on theories which have since been proved false, or on an imperfect study and an erroneous interpretation of the chronological material. These scholars, however, paved the way for the present generation of Egyptologists, of the German school especially, who have at last succeeded in placing the chronology of ancient Egypt on a firm basis. The following chronological table up to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty is condensed from the excellent work of Professor J. H. Breasted, "Ancient Records of Egypt", I, pp. 40-47. The other dynasties up to the Thirtieth are taken from Professor G. Steindorff's "Outline of the History of Egypt" in Baedeker's "Egypt" (6th ed., 1908), with the exception of the year 408, the last of the Twenty-seventh Dynasty and first of the Twenty-eighth, which we copy from Maspéro, "Guide to the Cairo Museum" (Cairo, 1903, p. 3:--
4241* B.C. -- Introduction of the Calendar
3400 B.C. -- Accession of Menes and beginning of the dynasties
3400-2980 B.C. -- First and Second Dynasties
2980-2900 B.C. -- Third Dynasty
2900-2750 B. C. -- Fourth Dynasty
¹2750-2625 B.C. -- Fifth Dynasty
¹2625-2475 B.C. -- Sixth Dynasty
2475-2445 B.C. -- Seventh and Eighth Dynasties
2445-2160 B.C. -- Ninth and Tenth Dynasty
2160-2000 B.C. -- Eleventh Dynasty
2000*-1788* B.C. -- Twelfth Dynasty
²1788*-1580 B.C. -- Thirteenth to Seventeenth Dynasties (including Hyksos times)
¹1580-1350 B.C. -- Eighteenth Dynasty
¹1350-1205 B.C. -- Nineteenth Dynasty
¹1205-1200 B. C. -- Interim
¹1200-1090 B.C. -- Twentieth Dynasty
¹1090-945 B.C. -- Twenty-first Dynasty
¹945-745 B.C. -- Twenty-second Dynasty
¹745-718 B.C. -- Twenty-third Dynasty
¹718-712 B.C. -- Twenty-fourth Dynasty
¹712-663 B.C. -- Twenty-fifth Dynasty
663-525 B.C. -- Twenty-sixth Dynasty
525-408 B.C. -- Twenty-seventh Dynasty
408-398 B.C. -- Twenty-eighth Dynasty
398-378 B.C. -- Twenty-ninth Dynasty
378-341 B.C. -- Thirtieth Dynasty
Dates marked with an asterisk in the above table are astronomically computed and correct within three years, while the date 525 is attested by the Canon of Ptolemy. Several dates besides, within the period of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the initial date of Shebataka, second king of the twenty-fifth Dynasty, are also astronomically determined. The superscript "1" (¹) indicates that the numerical difference between the two following dates is the minimum duration allowed by the monuments for the corresponding dynasties. The superscript "2" (²) on the contrary, indicates the maximum of duration. this is the case only for the period from the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth dynasties. What this period may loose some day will be the gain of the nine following dynasties, but the extreme dates, 1788 and 662, will not be affected. The duration of 285 years for the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, indicated by the two extreme dates 2445-2160, is an estimate, in round numbers, based on an average of 16 years for each of their 18 kings. The uncertainty which attaches to that period affects the dates of all the preceding dynasties, which, consequently, may some day have to be shifted as much as a century either way.Ethnology
Scholars are at variance as to the origin of the Egyptians. Some, chiefly philologists, suppose that the Egyptians of historical times had come from Western Asia either directly, through the Isthmus of Suez, or, as most will have it, through the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb and Ethiopia. Others, principally naturalists, think they came from, or at least through, Libya, while others still place the original home of the Egyptians in Central Africa. The first hypothesis is now the most commonly received. Several considerations tend to make it plausible: the fact, for instance, that wheat and barely, which have been found in the most ancient tombs dating from before the first dynasty, are originally indigenous to Asia, as well as linen, wine, and the produce of other cultivated plants which are represented among the funeral offerings in the tombs of the earliest dynasties. And the same can be said of the two sacred trees of the Egyptian pantheon, the sycamore and the persea . Finally, the fact that the ancestor of the domesticated Egyptian ass had its home in the wilderness in the south of Egypt would show that the Asiatic invaders or settlers came through Ethiopia. This theory tallies with the Biblical narrative, Genesis 10:6 , which makes the ancestor of the Egyptians, under the ethnic name of Misraim, the brother of Cûsh the Ethiopian, of Phût (e.g. Puanit , the Poeni of the Latins), and Canaan, all three of whom certainly had their original homes in Asia. What seems more certain is that the Egyptians of historical times belong to the same stock as the Libyans and other races, some of which were absorbed, while other were totally or partly driven away by them. Five at least of these are given in the Bible ( Genesis 10:13, 14 ) under ethnic names as sons of Misraim, i.e. Ludim (according to Maspéro, "Histoire Ancienne des peuples de l'Orient", Paris, 1908, p. 16, the Rotu or Romitu of the hieroglyphics, i.e. the Egyptians proper), Laabim (the Libyans), Naphtûchim (the inhabitants of No-Phtah, or Memphis ), Patrûsim (the inhabitants of the To-rêsi, i.e. Upper Egypt), Anamim (the Anûs, who, in prehistoric times founded On of the North, or Heliopolis, and On of the South, or Hermonthis).Predynastic History
At all events, in the predynastic times, when the light of history begins to dawn on Egypt, various races which at different periods had settled in Egypt, had been blended under the molding influence of the climate of their new home, and turned into a new race, well-characterized and easily distinguished from any other race, Asiatic, European, or African -- the Egyptian race. Naturally, a difference of occupation created a certain variety of types within that race. While the tiller of the soil was short and thick-set, the men of the higher classes and the women generally were rather tall and slender, but all were broad-shouldered, erect, spare, flat-footed. The head is rather large, the forehead square and rather low, the nose fleshy, the lips thick but not turned up, the mouth rather large with an undefinable expression of instinctive sadness. The type perpetuated itself through thirty or forty centuries of revolutions, invasions, or pacific immigrations and survives to this day in the peasant class, the fellaheen , who form the bulk of the population and the sinews of the national strength. All agree that, even before the Egyptian race had attained that remarkable degree of ethnological permanence, Egypt, from a merely pastoral region, had become an agricultural country, as a result of the immigration (or invasion) of Asiatic tribes, for, before the dawn of historical times, they had learned to grow wheat and barley, using the plow in their cultivation. Next came the political organization of the country. It was subdivided into a number of small independent States, which became the nomes of pharaonic times, each with its own laws and religion. In the course of time some of these States were merged into one another, until they formed two large principalities, the Northern Kingdom ( To-Mehi ) and the Southern Kingdom ( To-Rêsi ), an arrangement which must have lasted some time, for when the final degree of centralization was reached, and the two countries united under one rule, the king took the title of "Lord of Both Lands", or "King of Upper and Lower Egypt" (never "King of Kimit", i.e. of Egypt) and often wore a double crown consisting of the white crown of the South and the red crown of the North; the arms of the United Kingdom were formed by a union of the lotus and the papyrus, the emblems of the two countries.
The capital of the Northern Kingdom was Bûto, under the protection of the serpent goddess of the same name (now Tell-el-Ferâ'in, 20 miles south-west from Rosetta). Nekheb (the modern el-Kâb, a few miles north of Edfu) was the capital of the Southern Kingdom; the vulture-goddess, Nekhabet, was its protecting deity. But at both capitals the hawk-god, Horus, was worshiped as the distinctive patron-deity of both kings. That ancient population of Egypt, referred to in later texts as the "Horus-worshippers", have recently emerged from the mythical obscurity to which their kings have been relegated before the days of Manetho, who knows them as the xxx, "the shades", i.e. the deified ancestors. The Palermo Stone has revealed to us the names of six or seven rulers of the Northern Kingdom; and in Upper Egypt, thousands of sepulchres (none of the kings, unfortunately) have recently been excavated. The bodies, unembalmed, lie sideways, in what is called the "embryonic" posture, surrounded by pottery or stone jars, where remains of food, drink, and ointment can still be discerned, with toilet utensils, flint weapons, and clay models of various objects which the deceased might need in the life hereafter -- boats especially, to cross the waters to the Elysian Fields. From those early times date, as to the essentials of concept and expression, the Pyramid Text alluded to in a former section of this article. We have seen, under Chronology , that the institution of the calendar dates from predynastic times (4241 B.C.), and that its original home was in the Northern Kingdom, probably at Memphis or at On (Heliopolis). The computations necessary for that calendar show clearly that we must trace to predynastic times the hieroglyphic system of writing which we find fully developed in the royal tombs of the first two dynasties (Breasted, "Ancient History of the Egyptians", pp. 35-39).Dynastic History
Since Manetho of Sebennytus (see above) it has been customary to arrange the long series of kings who ruled over ancient Egypt, from the beginning of history until the conquest of Alexander the Great, in thirty dynasties, each of which corresponds, or as a rule, seems to correspond, to a break in the succession of legitimate rulers, resulting from internal dissensions or military reverses, the latter almost invariably leading to an invasion and, eventually, the establishment of a foreign dynasty. Manetho's claim, that his history was compiled from lists of royal ancestry, is fairly borne out by the monuments -- the so-called Tablets (royal lists) of Sakkarah, Abydos, Karnak, and especially the Palermo Stone, as well as annals of individual kings recorded on the walls of temples, tombs, etc.
These thirty dynasties are very unevenly known to us; of a good many we know next to nothing. This is in particular the case for the Seventh and Eighth dynasties (Memphites), the Ninth and Tenth (Heracleopolites), the Eleventh (Theban -- contemporary with the Tenth), the Thirteenth (Theban) and the Fourteenth (Xoite -- in part simultaneous), the Fifteenth, and the Sixteenth (Hyksos), and the Seventeenth Dynasty (Theban -- partly contemporary with the Sixteenth. Other dynasties are known to us by their monuments, especially their tombs, which are often extremely rich in information as to the institutions, arts, manners, and customs of Egypt during the lifetime of their occupants, but almost totally devoid of historical evidence proper. Such is the case, for instance, for the first five dynasties, of which all we can say is that they must have ruled successively over the whole land of Egypt and that their kings must have been conquerors as well as builders. We know little or nothing of the peoples they battled with, nor can we detect the political reasons which brought about the rise and fall of the several dynasties. Evidently, in some cases the lack of information on some periods, which must have been very momentous ones in the political life of Egypt, should be attributed to the disappearance of monuments of an historical character, or to the fact that such monuments have not yet been discovered; it is very likely, however, that in many cases no historical evidence was ever handed down to posterity. In Egypt, as in Assyria and Babylonia, it was not customary for kings to place their defeats on record, nor did the chieftain or the soldier or fortune who after a period of internal dissensions succeeded in establishing himself as the founder of a new dynasty, care to take posterity into his confidence as to his origin and previous political career. Manetho, who, as a rule, does not seem to have been much better informed than we are, resorts in such cases to traditions, strongly tinged with legend, which were in the keeping of the priests and belonged, very likely, to the same stock as most of those related by Heroditus on matters that could not fall under his personal observation. Such traditions, until confirmed by the monuments, or at any rate purified of their legendary elements by comparison with them, must of course be kept in abeyance. For the present the royal names are almost all that we can regard as certain for several of the dynasties. Such is the case for the first two dynasties, which until about 1888 A.D. were considered by most scholars as entirely mythical. Their tombs, however, have since been discovered at Ûmm-el-Ga'âb, near Abydos, in the territory of the ancient This (Thinis), and the names of Menes, Zer, Usaphais, and Miebis have already been found. A good many other kings of Manetho's list cannot be identified with the owners of the tombs discovered, owing to the fact that, while Manetho gives only the proper names of the kings, the monuments contained, as a rule, nothing but their Horus names (Maspéro, "Histoire Ancienne", 56 sq.). Monuments of these kings have been discovered in Upper Egypt and at Sakkarah, which shows that they m
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