Greek Travel Pages

Location information

Listed 13 sub titles with search on: Information about the place for destination: "EGYPT Country MIDDLE EAST".

Information about the place (13)


Commercial WebPages

Commercial WebSites

Educational institutions WebPages

Perseus Project index


Total results on 23/7/2001: 1000 for Egypt.

Governmental Web-Sites

Information & Decision Support Center

Egypt State Information Service

The World Factbook



Columbus Publishing

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   A country in the northeastern part of Africa; the modern Egypt. The name, in Greek Aiguptos, is perhaps a corruption of Hakeptah (City of Ptah), i. e. Memphis. Others explain it with less probability as formed from the Sanskrit gup, "to guard"=agupta, "guarded about." In Coptic, as in hieroglyphs, it is called Kemi (Black Land) from the colour of the soil. The Jews styled it Mazor, "fortified," or in the dual, to denote both Upper and Lower Egypt, Mizraim. This name is preserved in the modern Arabic Misr--a word applied by the Arabs both to the country and to its capital, Cairo.
    Aegyptus was bounded on the north by the Mediterranean; on the east by Palestine, Arabia Petraea, and the Red Sea; on the south by Aethiopia, the division between the two countries being at the First or Little Cataract of the Nile, close to Syene; and on the west by the Great Libyan Desert. From Syene the Nile flows due north for about 500 miles, through a valley whose average breadth is about seven miles, to a point some few miles below Memphis. Here the river divides into branches (seven in ancient times, but now only two), which flow through a low alluvial land, called, from its shape, the Delta, into the Mediterranean. The whole district thus described is periodically laid under water by the overflowing of the Nile from April to October. The river, in subsiding, leaves behind a rich deposit of fine mud, which forms the soil of Egypt. All beyond the reach of the alluvial is rock or sand. Hence Egypt was called the "Gift of the Nile." The outlying portions of ancient Egypt consisted of three cultivable valleys (called oases), in the midst of the Western or Libyan Desert.
    Ethnology and Civilization.--At the earliest period of which any record has been preserved, Egypt possessed a very high degree of civilization, and one which presupposes many centuries of development. It was the home, too, of a very large population, since during the Fourth Dynasty (about 3600 B.C.) some 100,000 men were employed in constructing the Great Pyramid. At the time of Nero (A.D. 54) the Egyptians numbered 7,800,000; and the population is estimated to have been not much less under the Pharaohs, at which time the towns numbered 1800 as against 3000 under the Ptolemies. The population of modern Egypt Proper in 1882 was 6,806,000. The ancient Egyptians appear to have been of mixed origin, partly Asiatic and partly Nigritic, superimposed upon an aboriginal type, copper-coloured, with high cheek-bones, large lips, thin legs, and large feet. Both these types appear upon the monuments. It is not true, as stated by the Greek writers, that a caste system prevailed.
   As to the knowledge and culture of the ancient Egyptians, it is sufficient to mention certain interesting and significant facts. As early as 4000 B.C., the pyramid-builders possessed a definite system of chronology, a decimal system of numbers, a knowledge of geographical science, of geometry, of astronomy, and probably of chemistry, anatomy, and medicine. Literature dates equally far back, since of this period fragments of the so-called Hermetic Books have come down to us; while Cheops himself was numbered among the authors of Egypt. Architecture and sculpture had attained an extraordinary development, as shown by the remarkably fine specimens of masonry still existing, by the admirably scientific construction of the temples, the elegance of the columns, the chiselled statues of Chephren, and the sculptures found at Meydoun. Egyptian art was rigidly conventional, yet its remains show unusual plas tic skill; and in the later centuries, when a freer treatment obtained, the lions and sphinxes evince much spirit and vigour of execution. The architectural details of the temples were always coloured. In architecture the vault or arch was known at least 800 years before it can be shown to have been used by the Romans. To transport the huge blocks of stone found in Egyptian structures involved an advanced knowledge of engineering. The mechanical arts also flourished, and many inventions, often regarded as modern, had been made as early as the Fifth Dynasty. The blow-pipe, bellows, and siphons, the saw, chisel, press, balance, harpoon, lever, plough, and adze, were all employed. Razors appear during the Twelfth Dynasty. An opaque kind of glass was made about 3500 B.C., and dated specimens of the reign of Thothmes III. exist. At the same period the potter's wheel and the kiln were known, as well as applications of metallurgy and the use of tin.
    Music was cultivated, for the harp and flute were known in the Fourth Dynasty; and later are found the heptachord, pentachord, lyres, drums, trumpets, guitars, and the national instrument, the sistrum. Many of these instruments were of considerable size.
    Painting was almost as conventional as architecture and sculpture, the colours generally being the primary ones on a white background. The papyri containing rituals often exhibit illuminations like those of the mediaeval missals. Frescoes were not unknown; encaustic is found to date back to only a comparatively late period.    In warfare, the Egyptians used shields, cuirasses of leather, helmets, bows, spears, clubs, swords, and axes. In conducting sieges, they employed the testudo and scaling-ladders, and appear to have had a knowledge of the principles of mining and counter-mining. Under the Eighteenth Dynasty, war-chariots were introduced, prior to which time the army was composed entirely of infantry. Sea-going vessels were not earlier than B.C. 2500, though galleys and small sailing craft plied on the Nile at a very early period.
    Coined money was first introduced by the Persians, previous to which time it is possible that gold circulated in rings or in portions of definite weight. Popular amusements were fencing, juggling, dancing, dice, and bull-fighting.
   Religion.--The religion of the ancient Egyptians was a pantheistic system, each god, as with the Romans, standing for some special attribute. Each principal divinity is accompanied by a put, or retinue of associated gods. As with the Assyrians, the pantheon is grouped in triads, or family groups, each consisting of the parent deity, his wife and sister, and a son. Thus the god Ptah forms a triad with Sekhet or Bast and Imhotep. These triads are often associated with inferior deities to complete the put. The worship of many triads was restricted to particular localities; but other triads, such as those of Osiris, Isis, and Horus (all of which see), were adored all over Egypt. The dual conception that embodies the antagonism of good and evil is seen in the opposition of the sun gods to the Great Serpent, Apap, the type of darkness; while Osiris is pitted against Set. On the monuments the gods are generally represented with human bodies but the heads of animals, animals being their living emblems. At the close of the eighteenth dynasty, some foreign deities were admitted into the religious system of Egypt. Among these were Bar (Baal), Ashtarata (Ashtaroth), Ken (Kuin), and Reshpu (Reseph). As with the Greeks and Romans, so with the Egyptians, the gods were conceived as possessed of all the human passions and emotions. The chief of the Egyptian deities is Ptah, the Opener, the creator of all things, the same as the Phoenician Pataikos. To him belong Sekhet, the Lioness, Bast, Bubastis, the goddess of fire, identified with Artemis. Ptah is depicted as a bowlegged dwarf. His son, Nefer-Tum, wears the lotus on his head. Other gods are Khnum, the ramheaded god of water; Heka, the Frog; Sati, the Sunbeam; Nit, the Shuttle; Khons (Force), the Heracles of Egyptian mythology; Ra, the Sun; Amenra, the hidden power of the Sun; Seb, Time; and Nut, the Firmament. Seb and Nut (Cronos and Rhea) gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Set, and the elder Horus. The myth of Osiris was the Egyptian type of the judgment and future destiny of man; and all the dead are called by his name. Each deity had its sacred animal, which was regarded as the second life of the deity whom it represented. The most famous of these animals was the Apis, or sacred bull, at Memphis, whose worship was national.
   Another point of the Egyptian religion was a belief in the transmigration of souls. All who were too impure to be admitted to the Courts of the Sun, or whose bodies when embalmed perished before the end of 3000 years, passed from body to body, having first descended to the lower world. The Sacred Bark in which the mummy was carried over the Nile to its tomb was a type of the Sunboat which would at last bear the purified spirit to Paradise.
    The chief remains of Egyptian architecture are religious--tombs, temples, and pyramids--the last-named being royal tombs reared to mark the burial-places of the kings. They are the most ancient of the Egyptian monuments, the next in point of antiquity being the rock-tombs of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties, with their mummy-pits. Later still come the hill-tombs, with a temple before them.
    Government.--Ecclesiastical government was in the hands of the high-priests, in conjunction with an inferior hierarchy, overseers, and superintendents of revenues, domains, and gifts. The civil government was carried on by the royal secretaries of justice, finance, foreign affairs, and internal administration. The army--at one time numbering some 400,000 men--was officered by nomarchs, colonels, and captains. In the time of Rameses II. there were territorial regiments. Circuit judges administered law.
    History.--In the third century B.C., Manetho , a priest of Heliopolis, prepared, at the request of King Ptolemy Philadelphus, a history of Egypt from Menes (B.C. 4455) to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander, B.C. 332, a period which he divided into thirty dynasties. The work of Manetho is preserved in the form of epitomes by Iulius Africanus (A.D. 300), Ensebius, and Georgius Syncellus (A.D. 800). Much weight is now given to the statements of Manetho, since he undoubtedly had access to the most authentic records of Egypt; and the study of the monumental inscriptions in modern times has served to justify this confidence.
Myth declares Egypt to have been originally governed by a dynasty of divinities--Ptah, Ra, Shu, Seb, Hesiri (Osiris), Set, and Har (Horus)-- reigning 13,900 years, and succeeded by demigods who ruled for a further period of 4000 years. The first purely human monarch of Egypt is said to have been Menes, whose epoch is variously dated by different Egyptologists. Brugsch fixes it at B.C. 4455, and Lepsius at B.C. 3892. No monuments of Menes exist. The seat of his power is said to have been This, near Abydos, and he is believed to have founded Memphis. His dynasty reigned some 250 years, being succeeded by the Second Dynasty, which held sway for 300 years. Under it the worship of sacred animals is asserted to have begun. With the succeeding dynasty (B.C. 3966 according to Brugsch) the monumental history of Egypt commences. The king Senoferu conquered the Sinaitic peninsula and opened the copper-mines of Wady-Maghara, where his name and portrait may still be seen. The seated figures of Rahotep and his wife Nefert, the oldest statues in the world, date from this reign.
    The Fourth Dynasty lasted 167 years (B.C. 3733-3566). Under it Khufu (Cheops) built the Great Pyramid at Gizeh; his successor Khafra (Chephrenes) built the second pyramid; and Menkaura (Mycerinus) the third. From this period dates also the famous ritual known as the Book of the Dead, and various works of art.
    The Fifth Dynasty comprised nine kings, and lasted some 200 years. The last of the line, Unas, built the truncated pyramid near Sakkara, now called Pharaoh's Seat.
    The Sixth Dynasty contains the name of King Pepi, whose general, Una, undertook various wars and expeditions, among them one to Palestine, in which he used negro troops from Nubia. A number of texts belonging to this reign were found in pyramids opened in 1880. It is doubtful whether Queen Nitocris, whom Manetho assigns to this dynasty, is an historical personage. Of her,Herodotus relates various interesting stories, and the Arabs believe that she still haunts the third pyramid of Gizeh, where she is said to have been buried.
    From the Seventh to the Twelfth Dynasty, Egyptian history is obscure. One reason, perhaps, is to be found in the fact that the nomarchs or local governors became more and more independent, to the detriment of the importance of the kings. The inscriptions at Siat, recently published by Griffith, show that in the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, the kings of Egypt waged war against these rebellious nomarchs, especially those of Thebes. These last, under the Tenth Dynasty, began to claim the title of royalty, and did in fact succeed in establishing their claim. More than that, they overran and conquered the whole country after a protracted struggle, so that the Eleventh Dynasty is Theban. Thebes, from being an insignificant provincial town, became the royal capital; and from the time of the Twelfth Dynasty (about B.C. 2500) begins a new period of political unity and intellectual achievement, so that in later times it was regarded as Egypt's Golden Age. Literature flourished, and great material prosperity prevailed. Nubia was conquered as far as the Second Cataract. Besides Thebes, other cities, such as On (Heliopolis), Tanis, and Bubastis, were embellished and enlarged; while the province of Fayum was gained for agriculture. The excavations of Petrie prove that Amenemhat III. was the Moiris of Herodotus who constructed a great basin for a branch of the Nile flowing into that oasis and losing itself in swamps. In the middle of the basin were found two pyramids with colossal statues surmounting them; and near by, the largest of all the temples of Egypt, the so-called Labyrinth, of which, however, only the foundation stones have been preserved.
    Between the Thirteenth and the Eighteenth Dynasties there exists a blank. About B.C. 2000, the progress of the kings of Chaldea in Asia, or some other disturbance, sent the Hyksos or "Shepherd Kings" into Lower Egypt. These invaders appear to have been of Tartar race. They carried Memphis by storm, expelled the Theban dynasty, and made the city of Avaris (the later Tanis) their seat. Of these kings, Joseph was probably prime-minister to Apepi at Tanis. His granaries are still visible at Pithom. The Hyksos made some religious changes and tried to replace the worship of Ra by that of Set. They were finally overthrown by the Egyptians of Upper Egypt under Aahmes I. (Amosis), who took Avaris by assault and restored the old religion. The succeeding kings, Amenhotep I., Thothmes I., Thothmes II., and Thothmes III., carried the arms of Egypt far into Ethiopia, Nubia, and Asia, subduing the whole of Syria and part of Mesopotamia. The reign of Thothmes III. is the most brilliant period of Egyp [p. 29] tian history. To him, Kush and the southern tribes of Ethiopia, the islands, as well as Assyria, Babylonia, Phoenicia, and a good part of Central Asia, paid tribute. Under Amenhotep IV., the capital was removed to Alabastron (Tel-el-Amarina), and the monotheistic worship of the sun was allowed to diminish the regard paid to the other deities. The true religion was restored by Haremhebi (Horus) after a period of some thirty-five years. He was succeeded by Rameses I., who heads a long dynasty. His successor, Seti I. (Sethos), by his victories in Asia, introduced the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth into Egypt. His troops garrisoned Tyre, and Aradus, and Bethanath in Canaan. Rameses II., son of Seti, defeated the Hittites and took Shaluma, the ancient site of Jerusalem, in a war which lasted four years. A tablet of this monarch has been found near Beyrut in Syria. Rameses II. also reconquered Ethiopia, which had revolted, and established a fleet on the Mediterranean. He it is whose exploits form a basis for the myths woven around the legendary Sesostris. His date is about B.C. 1322. His son Meneptah transferred the seat of government to Memphis, and is probably the Pharaoh of the Jewish Exodus.
    Rameses III., of the Twentieth Dynasty, waged war with the Philistines, and with some of the maritime tribes of Greece, gaining naval victories in the Mediterranean. His favourite temple and palace were at Medinet Habu. The Ramessids who followed were ended by the high-priests of Thebes, who deposed the last king. A new dynasty from Tanis succeeded, and reigned with little power. Under them, the police ceased trying to protect the tombs of the kings from plunderers, who, in consequence, stole many of the mummies and hid them in an excavation, where they were found in 1881. King Amenemhat I., of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Twenty-second Dynasty (B.C. 950) was of Libyan origin, probably established by the powerful Libyan body-guard which had become extremely influential. Shoshank I. (the Biblical Shishak) plundered cities in India, and made war upon the Jewish kings Jeroboam and Rehoboam. Under the Twenty-third Dynasty (of Tanis), the unity of the Empire was lost. The different provinces fell away from the central power, and in the Twenty-fourth Dynasty King Bocchoris ruled over Sais and Memphis alone. Under the Twentyfifth Dynasty (B.C. 728), the whole of Egypt became an Ethiopian province, and its viceking suffered defeat at the hands of the Assyrians, who, in B.C. 671, under Assar-haddon, conquered Egypt and divided it among tributary princes. Many of the Assyrian garrisons were driven out in B.C. 668, and when the Assyrian empire began to decline, Psametik (Psammetichus) of Sais, descended from the kings of the Twenty-fourth Dynasty, founded a new line with the aid of Greek mercenaries from Ionia and Caria. Under him and his successors, art and learning revived. His successor, Nekao II., began a canal to connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, but desisted at the warning of an oracle, having also lost a large number of workmen in the attempt. He it was who defeated Josiah, king of Judah, and conquered Palestine, but was himself defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. In the time of his reign, navigators from Phoenicia first sailed south of the equator. Psammetichus II. warred with the Ethiopians, and was followed by Apries, who was deposed and strangled by Amasis, who reigned after him and fostered intercourse with Greece, marrying a Greek wife. He conquered Cyprus, but incurred the enmity of Cambyses, second king of the Medes and Persians, who invaded Egypt, and overthrew the son of Amasis at the battle of Pelusium (B.C. 527), thus insuring the conquest of Egypt, which now became a Persian province. Becoming insane, Cambyses committed many barbarous acts, stabbed the sacred bull Apis, and gave himself up to gross debauchery. He was succeeded by Darius I., Xerxes I., and Artaxerxes I., who governed with comparative mildness, but against whom the Egyptians rose in unsuccessful revolt, being aided by the Athenians. The Twenty-eighth (Saite) Dynasty struggled with varying success against the Persians; the Twenty-ninth maintained a Greek alliance with the same object; but with the Thirtieth, the Persians finally prevailed, and Egypt remained subject to them until the time of Alexander the Great (B.C. 332), who in that year founded Alexandria, after having conquered Persia. In B.C. 306, Alexander's general, Ptolemaeus, assumed the title of King of Egypt. His successors transformed Egypt into a Greek kingdom, both the language of the government and of scholarship being Greek. The court of the Ptolemies became a centre of learning; and Ptolemy Philadelphus built the famous Museum, founded the great Library, and procured the Septuagint translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. From this time the list of his successors is as follows: Euergetes (246-221 B.C.); Philopator (221-204 B.C.), who persecuted the Jews and warred with Antiochus; Epiphanes (204-180 B.C.); Philometor (180-145 B.C.); Euergetes II. (145-116 B.C.); Ptolemy Soter II. and his mother Cleopatra (116- 81 B.C.); Alexander II., Cleopatra Berenice (81-80 B.C.); Neos Dionysus (80-51 B.C.). Last came the famous Cleopatra, the mistress of Antony. After her defeat at the battle of Actium (31 B.C.), Egypt was made a Roman province by Augustus Caesar, under a governor of equestrian rank.
    Egypt remained peaceful under Roman rule, except for the conquest of Zenobia (270 A.D.) and the revolt of Firmus (272 A.D.). The most interesting events of this period are, besides the two just mentioned, the visits of Vespasian, Hadrian, and Caracalla to Alexandria; the persecutions of Diocletian; the rise of the Gnostics, Manichaeans, and Arians; and the final supremacy of the Christian faith in 379 A.D.
    When the Roman Empire was divided in 395 A.D., Egypt went with the Eastern division, and later became one of the great patriarchates of the Church. In 616 A.D., owing to bitter religious feuds, it became a Persian province for twelve years. In the year 639, when the Arabs invaded the country, a native (Coptic) governor was over Egypt, administering it in the name of the Emperor Heraclius. Seeing in the invasion a means for throwing off the rule of the Greeks, he made only a pretended resistance to the Arab chief, 'Amr Ibn el-Asi, who in the year 641 took Alexandria, and made the whole of Egypt a province of the calif Omar.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


You are able to search for more information in greater and/or surrounding areas by choosing one of the titles below and clicking on "more".

Ferry Departures

Copyright 1999-2019 International Publications Ltd.