Friday, October 14, 2016

EARLY HISTORY: A BOOK REVIEW

Eternal Egypt by Pierre Montet-Translated from the French by Doreen Weightman
      I. The first chapter begins with a description of the Nile valley in prehistoric times and the
         sweeping changes it has gone through until the arrival of the first Europeans.
A.    The oldest flora known to ancient Egyptians was the barley (iot) and emmer-wheat (boti).
B.     The most prominent tree par excellence that grew in the villages, at cross-roads, and on the edges of the desert was the sycamore.
C.     Famous Egyptian fauna in Neolithic times included the elephant, the giraffe, and the python.
D.    Egypt has been synonymous with plagues, epidemics, floods, locust invasions, lice, frogs, mosquitoes, flies, and hail in historical times.
      II. Traces of tools found in Egypt by geologists Sandford and Arkell date from early
          Abbevillian period to the Mousterian period. [1]
A.    The four races that lived in Egypt in prehistoric times were the remtu who were the Egyptians themselves, the Amu who had Asiatic features, the Nehesiu who were black and lived south of Egypt, and lastly the Timihu who lived west of Egypt and were closely related to the Asiatic in profile.
B.     Egypt was a meeting-point for different races in prehistoric times as can be seen in surviving statues that display different characteristics of human types.
C.     Though Egypt had her own dwarfs, the Kings and the rich brought extra dwarfs from the distant land of Punt.
D.    In terms of population numbers and according to Herodotus, there were twenty-thousand highly populated towns during the reign of Amasis. [2]
      III. In chapter 3, the author defines Pharaoh as a literal translation of the Egyptian expression
            Per-aa which is in reference to the great house or in other words pertaining to the royal
            palace.
A.    Pharaonic kings were above ordinary mortals, mummification ceremonies took seventy days, and that coronation celebrations were signals for great rejoicing.
B.     Newly enthroned kings were crowned in the palace of the departed father until the new sovereign king constructed his own palace.
C.      Egyptian kings supervised the massive construction of the tombs that served as their final resting abodes.
D.    Egyptian dynasties experienced assassinations and plots.
      IV. Egyptian pharaohs considered themselves to be masters of two lands and that everything
            in Upper and Lower Egypt including people, livestock, buildings, lands, tools, and even
            furniture belonged to them.
A.    Kings of the Old Kingdom wielded considerable powers and oversaw powerful administrative systems.
B.     During the days when Egypt was divided into two parts, following the examples of the Greeks, the country experienced boundaries that came to be referred to as nomes each displaying a distinct emblem.
C.      As noted by Hesiod, Egyptians of his time made pictures and inscriptions of everyday work on their tombs symbolizing a kind of concrete encyclopedia of Egyptian life.[3]
D.    A distinct community who went about their work naked or wearing only a belt did most of the hunting and fishing in ancient Egypt.
      V. Besides the two lands-Upper and Lower Egypt, the Pharaoh was also the Sovereign of the
           Nine Bows-in reference to a confederation of peoples that fell under the domain of the
           Pharaoh.
A.    The military resources of the Egyptians during the New Kingdom comprised of mercenaries and prisoners of war while Akhenaton’s personal bodyguards included Nubians, Libyans, and Syrians.
B.     Byblos which was part of the eastern nations was the most noteworthy trading partner of Egypt from the time Khasekhemui, the last king of the Second Dynasty, until the Ptolemaic era.
C.     In search of incense, Queen Hatshepsut sailed to the Land of Punt and returned with plenty of the product.
D.    Amazingly, during the Fifth Dynasty, the Greeks and Cretans lived primitive lives.
      VI. Ancient Egyptians had a variety of gods often shared by the array of nomes that
            subdivided the kingdoms.
A.    The most notable of these gods were Neith, Thoth, Hathor, Seth, Horus, Osiris, Amun-Ra and Ibis.
B.     Every important Egyptian god had altars managed by priests who upon their deaths were succeeded by their sons.
C.     Egyptian gods were responsible for the protection of their devotees against illness, against their enemies, and other external forces.
D.    The kings’ duties to the gods included building temples, seeing to their upkeep, and providing the means whereby the offering tables could be constantly replenished.
      VII. Because Egyptians worshipped the dead; they gave them all the necessary attention as
               they did for their kings.
A.    The intensification of funerary construction took greater strides at the beginning of the Third Dynasty as stone took the place of brick.
B.     The construction of mammoth pyramids dotted the Egyptian landscape in the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties with special attention given to the Valley of the Dead and the Valley of the Living.
C.     The tombs of the queens, high-ranking officials, and courtiers were low, smaller buildings that were smaller in dimensions.
D.    Ancient Egyptians conceived the idea of the judging of the dead before they were allowed entry into the next world.
      VIII. With the absence of writing on the Neolithic or Amratian tombs, the respected
               Author is of the view that hieroglyphic signs were invented as early as the Chalcolothic
               Period.
A.    In ancient Egypt, the occupation of a scribe was the finest of all professions for scribes were employed in the temples, in the main administrative departments, in prisons, and in the offices of governors and magistrates.
B.     The first literary genre practiced by the Egyptians was the collections of ‘instructions’ first written by the professional writer Imhotep, now lost.
C.     According to the Greeks, ancient Egyptians were absolutely eloquent and remarkably versed in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.
D.    Medical science was practiced at Memphis thus giving Egyptian doctors a high standing throughout the whole of the ancient world.
      IX. Ancient Egypt’s earliest known artist was Imhotep as architecture, sculpture, drawing,
            and design continued to evolve until his time.
A.    Enthusiastic patrons of the arts in the New Kingdom included Queen Hatshepsut, Amenophis III, Akhenaton, Seti I, and Ramses the Great.
B.     The names of the artists who meticulously did the dedicatory inscriptions on the temples remain anonymous.
C.     Egyptians started to build monuments entirely out of stone at the beginning of the Third Dynasty.
D.    Ancient Egyptian arts were influenced by the natural world as can be seen from the inscriptions on the tombs, monuments, and pyramids of ancient kings.
      X. The final chapter of the book is dedicated to those who had dealings with the Egyptians:
            The Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Romans.
A.    The greatest numbers of foreigners in ancient Egypt were represented by the Greeks who became more numerous during the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty.
B.     The best known pioneer to decipher the hieroglyphics was Kircher, a Jesuit, though Jean-Francois Champollion remains the greatest of all names associated with the study of Egypt.
C.     The First World War marked a new period in the history of Egyptology when Maspero, a French scientist was dispatched to Cairo by the French government to train Egyptologists and Arabic scholars after the death of Mariette who previously held the post of Service des Antiquetes.
D.    Having excelled in the art of pyramid construction and colossi or pectorals and pendants, Egyptians rival Greeks and outshine the other peoples of antiquity.
References

[1] P. Montet, La Geographie de l’Egypte ancienne, Paris, 1957-1961: I Tomehu, la Basse Egypte; II To-Chema, la Haute Egypte.
[2] Herodotus, II, 177. Diodorus, I, 31, and Theocritus, XVII, 82-4, give different figures.
[3] P. Montet, Les Scenes de la Vie privee dans les tombeaux de L’Ancien Empire, Paris 1925; Junker, Giza, 12 vols, and several articles by Keimer. P. Montet La vie quotidienne en Egypte au temps des Ramses, Paris, 1942; Posener, Sauneron, Yoyotte, Dictionnaire de la civilization égyptienne, Paris, 1959. 

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