Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Egypt and England: A Comparison

Just to give you an idea of how unimaginably long the ancient Egyptian civilization flourished as a unified nation, consider this:

A man named Narmer was Egypt’s first king. He was a warrior who took control of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of Egypt, and combined the various Egyptian provinces into one unified kingdom. He is widely considered the first Egyptian Pharaoh, and he established what is known as the 1st Dynasty of Egyptian rulers. He lived and ruled around 3100 B.C.E.

The pyramids at Giza were built during the 4th Dynasty, roughly 2500 B.C.E., or 600 years after Narmer. The last pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty, Pepi II, took the throne at age 6, and is believed to have lived to at least the age of 100. His official reign of 94 years is still the longest monarchical reign in recorded history. When he died, however, his dynasty ended (he had, no doubt, outlived all his heirs), and thus the “Old Kingdom” of Egyptian history came to an end. The next five dynasties existed during the period known as the First Intermediate Period – an era characterized by decentralized governments, weak rulers, famines, wars, invasions, etc. Very little is known of the history of this period, which lasted from roughly 2200 to 2000 B.C.E.

Powerful rulers and a re-establishment of a strong central government helped usher in the Middle Kingdom, a period which saw an increase in the production of history, art, and architecture. This period of relative stability lasted until about 1700 B.C.E., when a race of Asiatic people began to invade Egypt. They are known as the Hyksos, and they ushered in a period of unrest and civil war, ruling Egypt as foreigners, and establishing what is now called the Second Intermediate Period in Egyptian History. The Hyksos primarily controlled Lower Egypt (the northern half of Egypt), while a weaker Egyptian king ruled from Thebes in the south. In time, the Hyksos came to control all of Egypt, with the Theban rulers either pledging allegiance to the Hyksos, or ruling in exile.

Beginning in roughly 1550 B.C.E., the Hyksos were finally defeated and driven out of Egypt by a pharaoh named Kamose, who was a native Egyptian and a member of the ruling Theban family. His successor, Ahmose I, established the 18th Dynasty, which marks the beginning of what is known as the New Kingdom. The New Kingdom lasted until roughly 1050 B.C.E., and is considered the Golden Age of ancient Egypt. These were the centuries in which Egypt was its most powerful, controlling not only its own borders, but many of the tribes and civilizations throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The production of art, literature, history, and architecture boomed during this period, and this period saw the reigns of such powerful and well-known kings as Akhenaten (who abolished the traditional gods in favor of single god), the powerful Queen Hatshepsut, who called herself a king, built many monuments, and even wore the traditional false beard of the pharaohs, Ramesses II, and King Tut.

The Third Intermediate Period ushered in yet another period of decentralization of government and civil war. It lasted about 400 years, until the beginning of the Late Period, starting in 650 B.C.E. The 26th Dynasty ruled during this time, and proved to be the last of the native Egyptian rulers of Egypt. After that, beginning in about 525 B.C.E., the Persians conquered Egypt and ruled for several hundred years, up until the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great in about 338 B.C.E. After that, the Greeks ruled Egypt until 30 B.C.E., when Cleopatra VII committed suicide and the Romans took control under Octavius.

Now, having taken that brief trip through 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history (and that only took us up to the time of Jesus!), let’s compare that long establishment of civilization and culture with our own current establishment of civilization and culture.

Since much of America was settled by Anglos from the UK, and most Americans today can trace their lineage back to the British Isles, I am going to focus this comparison on British history.

The English Narmer is a man by the name of Alfred. Alfred lived in the mid- to late-9th century (he died in 899 C.E.). Prior to his time, the British isles had been divided up into a series of petty kingdoms and principalities, with the majority of the population descended from a group of people from northern Germania who had been called the Angles. The Angles were referred to as a tribe in northern Germania as early as 98 C.E. in the writings of the historian Tacitus. This tribe of people made their way to the British isles, where they eventually settled and established a number of small city-states and provinces. By the time of Alfred, Angleland (or, England), was made up of the provinces of Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, Kent, Sussex, Wessex, and Essex. Each of these provinces had their own ruling families and kings, and they were intermittently at war and peace with each other.

It was not unlike the Pre-Dynastic Period of Egyptian history, when Egypt was divided into provinces and ruled by a series of chieftains and warrior kings, warring and making peace, but never unifying under one central leader.

Into this world came the English Narmer, Alfred. Alfred was the brother of the West Saxon king, Ethelred. Beginning in roughly 860 C.E., Danish invaders began to land in northern England, in the kingdom of Northumbria. Called Vikings by the English, the Danes slowly began to make their way across the British mainland, plundering and either deposing or buying the allegiance of the various provincial kings. Northumbria fell first, followed by East Anglia and Mercia. As king of Wessex, Ethelred and his brother Alfred fought alongside the Mercians against the Danes, but retreated back to Wessex after Mercia fell.

In 870, the Vikings came to plunder Wessex. Alfred – who led his brother’s army – fought as many as 9 battles that year against the Danish invaders, and succeeded in keeping them out of Wessex.

In 871, Ethelred died, and although he had two sons, both were still children, and so Alfred was able to take the throne of Wessex. Over the next several years, Alfred continued to fight the Danes, and ultimately made peace with them in 878, splitting England into two halves – with Alfred controlling the southeast, and the Danes controlling the northeast, including London. For several years there was peace, with the British island (excluding Wales and Scotland) comprised of two provinces – England and Danelaw.

However, the Vikings were not satisfied with only half of England, and by the mid-880’s, they began attacking English towns and villages. Alfred struck back with force, capturing London in 886, and ultimately driving the Vikings out of England by 896. He died in 899 as the first king of a unified England. He had first pronounced himself Rex Anglorum – King of the English – after capturing London.

A line of kings followed Alfred, known today as the “West Saxon” kings. They ruled England until the first decade of the 1000’s when the Vikings returned. In ancient Egyptian language, this might be called the “First Intermediate Period.”

The Vikings defeated Ethelred II (earning him the nickname “Ethelred the Unready”), and took control of England, beginning with Canute in 1016 C.E. Canute married Ethelred’s widow, and their two sons ultimately succeed him to the throne.

In 1042, Ethelred II’s son Edward returned from exile in Normandy. He was beloved by the West Saxon population of England, and was ultimately named successor to his half brother Harthacanute (Harthacanute was the second son of Edward’s mother and Canute). Edward became known as Edward the Confessor, and his reign re-established West Saxon control of the throne of England.

In 1066, Edward died without a child. Prior to his death, he had publicly named his grand nephew, Edgar, as his heir. However, Harold Godwinson, the earl of Wessex, was the second most powerful man in England after Edward, and claimed (through his earldom in Wessex) to be descended from Alfred (he was also Edward’s brother-in-law). So upon Edward’s death, he claimed the throne.

However, William, Duke of Normandy, had his eyes on the throne of England (he was the grand nephew of Edward’s mother – the same one who had been married to both Ethelred II and Canute), and he claimed that Edward had promised the throne to him during a trip to England some years earlier (if this is true, it was never made public...English records show only Edgar as the named heir of Edward). William also claimed that Harold had pledged his support to William’s kingship during a shipwreck in 1064, in which William had aided Harold. Harold denied this.

Thus, the stage was set for the Battle of Hastings, which occurred in October of 1066. William’s army won, Harold was killed, and William became King of England.

All of these events, from Alfred to William, took place over the course of about 200 years. By ancient Egyptian standards, we are still nearly 400 years from the building of the Great Pyramids at Giza.

William was succeeded by his son, William Rufus, and his second son, Henry. Henry had no sons, and since there was no precedent, at the time, for a woman to claim the throne of England, Stephen, the French Count of Blois, claimed the throne (Stephen was the grandson of William the Conqueror by his mother). Matilda, the daughter of King Henry, and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, also claimed the throne, thus setting the stage for what we might call the “Second Intermediate Period” in English history.

After a series of civil wars, ransoms, and vacillating allegiances from the various English nobles, Stephen managed to hang on to the crown, but only by publicly naming Matilda’s son Henry as his heir. Thus, Stephen became the only English king from the House of Blois.

Henry II established the Plantagenet dynasty, which produced such kings as Richard the Lionheart, Edward I (the king demonized in the film “Braveheart”), and Edward III.

Richard III proved to be the last Plantagenet king. He usurped the throne from his nephew, Edward V, and most likely had the young king murdered. Richard’s actions led to uprising and civil war, culminating with his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last English monarch to be killed in battle.

By ancient Egyptian standards, Richard III died about the time the third pyramid was being built at Giza.

After Richard III, the Tudors took control of the English throne, and this dynasty included Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The Stuarts followed, then the period of civil war when Charles I was beheaded and Oliver Cromwell established what is known as the Commonwealth (perhaps the Third Intermediate Period?). The Stuarts were restored after the destruction of the Commonwealth, but their line ended with the tragic figure of Queen Anne, who – despite more than fifteen pregnancies – produced no children who lived past the age of 11.

This inability to produce an heir on the part of Queen Anne set the stage for the Hanoverians to take the throne of England. They were the rulers of a German province called Hanover, and were very distantly related to the Stuarts. Under their watch, both the American and French Revolutions occurred, and their direct descendents are still on the throne of England today.

The American Revolution occurred at the point in British history that would have coincided with the end of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. World War II began at roughly the point in time when the Middle Kingdom pharaohs began to flourish in ancient Egypt.

By Egyptian standards, the Anglo West is still 300 years from the Hyksos invasion, 700 years from the reigns of King Tut and Ramesses II, 1,700 years from Alexander the Great, and 2,000 years from Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.

And 4,000 years from Elizabeth II, Bush II, and 9/11.

Kind of a mind freak, isn’t it?

5 comments:

deine schwester :) said...

So why aren't you a history professor, again?

Scott said...

I want to be the next Bernard Cornwell, and write historical adventure novels.

KnoWareMan said...

Absolutely amazing! I want your booklist. I did research because of what I saw in the movie "Empire of the City-World Superstate" and I was floored! So there really is a correlation between Egypt and England! They say the Statue of Liberty is an exact image of Cleopatra's twin daughter Selene, and that the statue was a gift from French Freemasons to American Freemasons and the torch represents the masonic "light" of Lucifer/Horus. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

i want to said to scott said that is STUPID

Scott said...

Thank you for thank reading you commenting and, Anon.

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