Early Dynastic or Archaic Period, 3000-2650 BC:
Old Kingdom, 2650-2135 BC:
Old Kingdom: pyramids surrounded by temples and other tombs, step pyramid at Saqqarah is oldest, Giza pyramids represent classic form of pyramid construction, nobles buried in rectangular mastabas, Sphinx: lion's body with ruler's head close to pyramid of Khafre, temples for worship of pharaohs and gods, tombs and temples decorated with brightly painted reliefs illustrating daily life of Egyptians, large and small statues in wood and stone, portraits of the deceased; pyramid texts, poetry includes narratives, incantations, and invocations designed to help the pharaoh's soul in journey to the other world, prosaic and repetitive.
Middle Kingdom, 2135-1650 BC:
Middle Kingdom: more refined sculpture, portrait sculptures of the kings displaying worry or pessimism, high level of artistry in relief sculpture and painting, smaller pyramids built of brick with stone facing at Fayyum, coffin texts, Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor in single papyrus.
New Kingdom, 1550-1080 BC:
New Kingdom: era of empire, 18th-20th dynasties, rising power of priesthood, massive temples, flowering of the arts, light, graceful, detailed human figures, temples, chapels, rock-cut tombs, plant motifs in columns and walls, huge statues, inscribed stones, granite statues, wall reliefs glorifying rulers and gods, Valley of the Tombs of Kings at Thebes, temples at Luxor, Karnak, Abydos, Tell el-Amarna, Abu Simbel, tomb of Tutankhamen (b. 1370, r. 1361-1352 BC), Book of the Dead (origins in pyramid texts and coffin texts of Old and Middle Kingdoms, final form 26th dynasty in Saite Period 663-525 BC) on papyrus scrolls buried with the dead, morality and magic, spells for resurrection of dead person and safety in afterlife; love lyrics 1300-1100; Song of the Harper on Inherkhawy's tomb (20th dynasty c. 1160), carpe diem ('seize the day') motif, Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1379-1358 BC), worship of sun (Aten, Amun-Re), royal city Heliopolis/Akhet-Aten, obliteration of names of older gods, emerging monotheism, pharaoh as son of sun god, Amarna style, realism, complete freedom of expression, informal daily activities; Akhenaten's "Hymn to the Sun" 1375-1358. Ramses II (1290-1224), Leiden Hymns: papyrus dated 1238, idea of sun as preeminent god (Horus, Amun, Amun-Re), father of other gods, multiplicity of forms and incarnations, poet-theologian, sun as universal creator; love lyrics from Ramesside Period (1300-1100)
Late Period, 1080-332 BC:
Assyrian invasion in 7th c. BC
Persian Domination (525-404 BC), Achaemenid dynasty
Alexander's invasion 332 BC
Ptolemaic Period, 323-30 BC
Roman Period, 30 BC-395 AD
Language and Writing
Egyptian hieroglyphics, "sacred carvings" pictographic; more cursive versions: hieratic and demotic; logograms; 1799 discovery of Rosetta Stone (196 BC): hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek; language: Old (3000-2200), Middle (2200-1600), and Late Egyptian (1550-700), Demotic (700 BC-400 AD), Coptic (2nd c.-17th c. AD); Middle is classical stage of the language, literary language based on spoken language of c. 2200 BC; Late Egyptian became official language during Akhenaten's reign; hieroglyphs developed into hieratic and demotic scripts; demotic script corresponding to demotic form of language; change to Christianity brought about Coptic form of language, written in Greek alphabet with seven characters borrowed from demotic script.
Akhenaten's "Hymn to the Sun" 1375-1358; 12 sections, origins of monotheism, origins of religion in worship of natural forces, sun as original cause/creator, establishing of parallelism between human ruler and sun as universal ruler; pharaoh as son of sun god and interpreter of his will; fear of darkness and death, predators at night; dualism, light and dark, upper and lower Egypt, cf. two eyes of Maat (the divine order) in Book of the Dead; pastoral landscapes, vision of human order and work (crafts and professions); all worship the sun; fertility man-woman, understanding of reproductive functions; creation as sun god's handiwork (cf. human crafts; implied constructedness); vision of order, peace, growth, production; concept of destiny; mysteries of nature, awe before the variety and the ways of the natural world; "proper station"; mention of differences of languages, skin colors, nations; Hapy the god of the Nile, earthly and heavenly Nile (rain); order, purpose in world; one God, Aten, the Living Sun; privileged knowledge of Akhenaten; sun as Time
What was the ancient Egyptian attitude toward nature and life, as seen in these texts? What may be the relationship between the theological and philosophical ideas and images in the hymn and the political situation in the Egypt of Akhenaten's time? How does Akhenaten portray his own relatioship to the divine? How is the religious monotheism of Akhenaten connected to his own political and social agendas?
Papyrus dated 1238; sun as preeminent god: Horus, Amun, Amun-Re, father of other gods, multiplicity of forms and incarnations, poet-theologian, sun as universal creator; "Horus of Twin Horizons"; sun as maker of time; "you circle the earth in an instant"; God as master craftsman; "he forged his own figure/hammered his likeness out of himself"; "he mingled his heavenly god-seed with the inmost parts of his being"; "fashioned Himself to perfection"; "unknown his way of inflowing"; "he uttered himself into visible form"; "I Am"; "sacred first cause, whose birth lay in mystery"; "all other gods came after"; all that exists "by his tongue named into being"; "falcon of twin horizons"; two eyes: day and night; "Nun the swirling original waters"; "that countenance still shines and it mirrors the sum of the world"
How did the ancient Egyptians envision/imagine the creation of the universe and all its beings? What role do language and poetry have in the act of creation? What are the relations between theology, philosophy and literature among the ancient Egyptians, as seen in these texts?
Single papyrus from the Middle Kingdom (2133-1600 BC); safe return, speaker encouraging leader/captain of ship; "address the King staunch-hearted,/ responding with no hesitation./ The mouth of a man can save him;/ speech can soften an angry face"; story meant as encouragement to the captain; voyage to mines; two-hundred foot long vessel, seventy feet wide, 120 crew; storm; "a piece of wood of some sort hit me/and then the ship was dead./Of all those fine men, not a one survived"; desert island, "shelter of a covering tree"; abundance of food, bearded serpent, over fifty feet long, "its flesh was gilt,/its eyebrows lapis lazuli"; serpent demands his story from the man and threatens to burn him if he doesn't speak; refrain, story returns/folds upon itself; saved by God, phantom isle; four-month sojourn; serpent tells story too; falling star killed his family while he was away, 75 people burned; advises return to wife, children "it is better than all else"; sailor offers to bring presents and tribute from Egypt; serpent scorns offerings; "off to your home to see your children"; "make my name a proverb in your city"; "to fill your arms with children/and grow young again at home until you die"; made a royal Follower after his return and given 200 slaves; captain not encouraged "does one give water to a sacrificial bird/the morning of its execution day?"
What is the most valuable thing in life according to this narrative? Are there any similarities in the situations and values of this narrative and those presented in works like the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer's Odyssey?
Text from tomb of Inherkhawy (chief of the workers at the Thebes cemetery) (20th dynasty c. 1160), carpe diem ('sieze the day') motif; song for Osiris; "all who come into being as flesh, pass on"; "busy fluttering souls and bright transfigured spirits/who people the world below/and those who shine in the stars with Orion"; "all men rest in the grave"; "set your home well that your good name last because of it" "care for your works that your seat in the West be splendid"; "seize the day! hold holiday!" "be unwearied, unceasing, alive" "let not your heart be troubled during your sojourn on earth" "grieve not your heart, whatever comes" "recall not the evil, loathsome to God, but have joy, joy, joy, and pleasure!" "content with your lot, rejoicing, not speaking evil"
What values are promoted/advanced by this poem? How may such values have related to the lives of people like Inherkhawy, the chief of the workers at the royal burial ground in ancient Thebes? How may such values have related to or commented on the pharaohs's quest for eternal life (as evidenced in the practices of embalming of corpses and burial in pyramids)? How can the carpe diem motif be reconciled with the belief in or quest for immortality?
Ramesside Period (1300-1100); variety of voices/speakers
What was the ancient Egyptian attitude toward love, sexuality and the human body, as evidenced in these texts? How do those ideas relate to the values and attitudes toward life expressed in other ancient Egyptian texts?
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