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What happened in First Interm. Period?

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Queen of Egypt
Queen of Egypt

Joined: 23 Jan 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isisinacrisis wrote:
I'm curious-what exactly happened in the 1st intermediate period? Was it an invasion? A famine? Political unrest?

All of the above it seems.

There is some evidence of a famine at the end of the 6th dynasty.

on touregypt there's an outline of 5 overlapping stages. This comes from Manetho I think:

1. rapid disintegration of the old Memphite regime following upon the overlong reign of Pepy II;
2. bloodshed and anarchy resulting from the collapse of the monarchy and the rivalries of the provincial feudal lords or 'nomarchs', also possibly fomented by the infiltration of Asiatics into the Delta;
3. rise of a new line of Pharaohs with an Akhtoy (Manetho's Achthoes) at the head and Heracleopolis as their capital;
4. ever-growing importance of Thebes under a yet more energetic family of warrior princes of whom the first four bore the name of Inyotef (Antef in older histories of Egypt) and the remaining three the name of Menthotpe (Mentuhotep);
5. civil war with the Heracleopolitans from which Menthotpe I emerged as victor, reuniting the Two lands and paving the way for the Middle Kingdom--this ushered in by Ammenemes I, one of the greatest of all Egyptian monarchs (Dynasty XII).

They also mention this papyrus - written at a later date - outlining what the state of the country was at this time:

"The bowman is ready. The wrongdoer is everywhere. There is no man of yesterday. A man goes out to plow with his shield. A man smites his brother, his mother's son. Men sit in the bushes until the benighted traveler comes, in order to plunder his load. The robber is a possessor of riches. Boxes of ebony are broken up. Precious acacia-wood is left asunder. "

The general upheaval has reversed the status of rich and poor:

"He who possessed no property is now a man of wealth. The poor man is full of joy. Every town says: let us suppress the powerful among us. He who had no yoke of oxen is now the possessor of a herd. The possessors of robes are now in rags. Gold and lapis lazuli, silver and turquoise are fastened on the necks of female slaves. All female slaves are free with their tongues. When their mistress speaks it is irksome to the servants. The children of princes are dashed against the walls."

The tone of these writings really evokes an image of a pretty terrible time.

I quoted liberally from:
Math and Art: http://mathematicsaroundus.blogspot.com/
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Osiris II

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Basically, the First Itermediate Period was, as anneke says, a very chaotic time in Egypt's history. Because of the compiancy in society during the reign of Pepy II, when he died Pharaoh's power was at its lowest; feudal lords fought for, and many achieved, power in their own areas, further undermining the central government. Society as a whole virtually fell apart.
These topsy-turvey conditions lasted until Menthuhotep I was able to grasp full power, re-uniting the land, and having a long reign, as long as he was very aggressive in his domination of the powerful feudal lords.
As you can tell by the writings anneke posted, it was a very mixed up period.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 12:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll stress that all of the bloodshed was due to internal strife--civil war. No foreign power had yet managed to invade Egypt. It was a violent period. It lasted only about 150 to 200 years (the length varies from historian to historian), but there were an awful lot of pharaohs in this period, and few of them ever held onto much power.

Even more troubling was drought. Egyptologists believe there were many consecutive years of drought because the Nile was not flooding adequately, and therefore was leaving an inadequate layer of fresh topsoil along the river valley. Like all of the earliest civilizations Egypt's was agrarian, and without profitable farming the economy must have suffered tremendously. Famine and disease were everywhere--in fact, as I understand it, there is some evidence of cannibalism taking place in the Fayoum region.

One of the biggest problems from the perspective of the government and the priestly class was wholesale, prolific tomb robbing--not out of greed but out of desperation. Families were starving to death and people would do anything to be able to purchase the very staples of life. So this was when the government introduced the cult of Osiris to the common people, permitting them a shot at heaven and forever changing Egypt.

You're right, isisinacrisis, that plentiful evidence exists to suggest people worshiped the great state deities, particularly ones like Isis and Mut and Bastet who were protective of mothers, children, and families. Nonetheless, those state deities who had temples were sponsored by the state. Every village had a shrine or two (or more), and probably most families had personal shrines, but that's quite separate from the great temples where the major cults of worship were carried out.

It was only once or twice a year that certain commoners were allowed to enter these great temples, but they were never allowed to proceed beyond the main courtyard. They were allowed just a glimpse, probably to remind them of how great and powerful their country and its temples were. In the well-preserved temples you can see in these courtyards, depictions on the walls of the common people--more or less a pictographic version of a sign saying "Commoner, stand here!" Wink

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