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A Brief History of the Oldest Civilization, 4,000 BCE – 0 CE

Before you leave for Egypt on the Chamber’s 2020 membership trip, here’s just a brief sliver of the myths and stories from the Nile, from the dawn of civilization to Roman occupation.

The Nile River has been a popular location for humans since the reign of hunter-gatherers. The beginning of what people know as Ancient Egypt is best popularized by the “Old Kingdom,” which consists of the Third through Sixth Dynasties of Pharaohs and lasted 2686–2181 BCE. During this time, Egypt was ruled from the capital of Memphis. The most pronounced lasting mark of Egypt’s Old Kingdom are the Pyramids — the most famous of which being the Great Pyramids of Giza, constructed as burial tombs for the Fourth Dynasty Pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafra, and grandson Menkaure.

After the Sixth Dynasty, the power of the Pharaohs waned, ushering in the First Intermediate Period. It is commonly accepted by archaeologists and historians that most of the Old Kingdom pyramids and tombs were looted during this time. Egypt was eventually split in two, ruled by rival dynasties, until forces from the city of Thebes reunited the land into one kingdom, founding the “Middle Kingdom”.

Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (2030–1650 BCE) consisted of the Eleventh through Thirteenth Dynasties, who ruled from Thebes (now known as Luxor, which is one of the stops on the trip’s Nile River cruise). The kingdom’s borders expanded and so did the population. Eventually, the land could not sustain the empire and Egypt declined once more, giving way to the Second Intermediate Period.

After a period of strife, Egypt found its new rulers in the “New Kingdom” (1550 – 1070 BCE). Most of the recognizable pharaohs came from this time, including Ramesses II, Tutankhamen, and Hatshepsut — the first female ruler of Egypt. Understanding the vulnerability of pyramids, pharaohs in the New Kingdom elected to build their tombs underground and hidden, as to not attract the attention of bandits. One of such locations, the Valley of Kings, is known to contain no fewer than 63 tombs for pharaohs between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Dynasties. The site will be yet another stop on our Nile River cruise, as a trip to Egypt would not be complete without visiting the Valley of Kings.

The next millennium was not kind to Egypt, as Persians, Greeks, and Nubians invaded and occupied the Nile for a time. The most notable of such conquerors was Alexander the Great, who incorporated Egypt into his empire in 332 BCE. Alexander founded the port city of Alexandria to serve as the province’s capital, which became the home of the Great Lighthouse — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — and the Great Library, one of the greatest collections of printed material to have ever existed. Trip guests who so choose can extend their time with us to include a tour of the grand city.

When Alexander died, his close friend and companion Ptolemy retained control of Egypt. Ptolemy’s descendants marked the Hellenistic Period of Egypt’s history, eventually ending with the famous Cleopatra VII as Egypt’s last significant pharaoh. In 30 BCE, facing invasion from Rome, under the leadership of Emperor Augustus, Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony committed suicide, incorporating Egypt into Roman rule and ending thousands of years of pharaohs in Egypt.

You’ve read the history — now see where it all happened. Click here to reserve your place for our membership trip to Egypt in March 2020.

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