Egypt is home to one of the world's earliest civilizations, with its earliest settlements in northern Africa dating to 17000 BC. Ancient Egypt was a powerful, influential, and expansionist empire that grew from the Nile River Valley to include much of the eastern Mediterranean. The civilization brought many inventions and advancements, including agriculture, art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, religion, writing, and so much more.
In this four-part series, Professor of Egyptology Joann Fletcher examines Ancient Egypt's extraordinary rise and fall. She traces the mighty empire's humble nomadic beginnings to its zenith as prime architects and pyramid builders and, of course, its descent from worshipped pharaohs to tomb robbers and finally subjugated by the Romans.
In The Road to the Pyramids, she examines what made Ancient Egypt. As early as 17,000 BC, the earliest Egyptians were nomadic hunters that evolved into settled farmers. As the ancient lakes shrank to become the Nile River, communities grew nearer its banks, where the land was (and still is) extremely fertile. By 3,500 BC, Egypt was a full-blown society with a distinct culture and polytheistic religion. They were influenced by the annual Nile River inundation, believed death was a transitional state to a new life, developed the art of writing to record taxes and they built the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
In Chaos, Joann tackles the dark ages that followed the great age of the Pyramids. Major political, economic, and climate upheavals marked this period. There was widespread famine, the kingdom had no funds, and civil wars divided the empire into smaller city-states run by local leaders and warlords. The empire eventually made a comeback in a big way and began building even more temples, palaces and tombs for the mighty pharaohs.
The Zenith of Ancient Egypt is hands down its golden age epitomized by the larger than life Colossi of Memnon that the Pharaoh Amenhotep III built. Episode three delves deep into this glorious stage of Egyptian civilization, particularly how the lives of the Pharaohs, priests and all the workers involved intersected during the building of the massive Valley of the Kings project. At this time, the Pharaoh Akhenaten, his queen Nefertiti and their son Tutankhamen reigned while struggling to control the growing powers of the priests.
Invasion is the final episode, outlining the last decline of the Egyptian empire. The country suffered from internal strife, making it easy for invaders to take advantage of its weakened state. In the South, Nubian kings ruled for over a century, followed by the invading Saites. They were then annexed in quick succession by the Assyrian and Persian empires until they were ruled by Alexander the Great and the Ptolemaic kingdom. Approximately 300 years later, under Queen Cleopatra's rule, the Romans took control and ended the Egyptian empire once and for all.
Though it has been over 2,000 years since the Egyptian empire finally fell and crumbled into the sand, it casts a very long shadow, its impact on later cultures immense and contributing so much to who we are today.