How is Nubia connected with Egypt?

Egyptian history in a nutshell

What does the old kingdom mean? When was the 19th dynasty? Anyone who travels to Egypt for the first time needs a few key historical data in order to find their way through the millennia-old history. Here is a very rough attempt that also serves my personal preparation. At the end of August, we are going to the land on the Nile for two weeks.

When you think of the history of Egypt, you usually automatically have the time of the pyramids and pharaohs in mind, i.e. ancient Egypt. It is all too easy to overlook the fact that the course had already been set in the centuries and millennia in such a way that the later high culture on the Nile could develop at all.


1. From the Paleolithic to the Predynastic Period

  • around 11,000 BC Chr .: first flint finds (hammer stones) indicate human life
  • 9300 BC BC: first evidence of settlement activity in the Egyptian western desert
  • until about 5400 BC Chr .: nomadic hunters and gatherers in the Nile valley
  • from about 5400 BC Chr .: sedentary Fajum-A culture in the western Nile delta, with agriculture and cattle breeding, both cultural techniques immigrated from the Levant
  • between 4900 and 4400 BC Chr .: Climate change, which makes life in the desert more difficult, settlement activity is shifting to the Nile valley
  • 4500-4000 BC Chr .: at Sohag in Upper Egypt the Badari culture, Burial of deceased in pits with grave goods (tools, jewelry or food, for the first time also human figures)
  • 4000-3900 BC Chr .: Badari culture merges with the Naqada cultures, which are named after their center Naqada - near the present-day city of Koptos. These cultures are considered to be the immediate cultural forerunners of the dynastic period, into which they clearly extend in their final phase:
    • Naqada I period (4000–3600 BC, also Amra culture)
      • mainly restricted to Upper Egypt,
      • Elaborately designed graves speak for the predominance of certain families and a differentiation of society,
      • through increasing industrialization one seems to have reached a certain level of prosperity during this period.
      • Particularly noteworthy is the stone vessel industry and the decoration of ceramics with white lines, with geometric shapes as well as representations of plants or animals.
    • Naqada II period (3600-3200 BC, also Gerza culture)
      • One assumes a stable elite.
      • The dry climate is pushing settlement activity out of the desert back into the Nile Valley.
      • During this time, the culture expanded from Upper Egypt to the Fajum and the northeast delta.
      • The first reliable evidence of a ritualized treatment of the deceased and the idea of ​​survival after death can be read in a burial ground in Hierakonpolis, where there are examples of artificial mummification or partial mummification of dead bodies. Wall paintings in graves are also proven.
    • Naqada III period (from 3200, last offshoots to around 2550 BC, also Semaina culture)
      • In this phase the transition into the dynastic time falls. Dynasties 0 to 3 are still to be set at this time, as is the beginning of the Old Kingdom (around 2686).
      • In Umm el-Qaab near Abydos, a ruler's grave from this period has been found, which consists of twelve chambers. It already shows that the grave and the house are conceptually growing together. This idea can also be found in the later pharaohs tombs.
      • In Umm el-Qaab about 150 written ivory tablets were found, which play an important role in the reconstruction of the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing.
      • Ceramic finds indicate that the culture first spread to northern Egypt during this period. An increasing hierarchization of society and the first centers of rulership herald the dynastic period in Egyptian history.

2. Ancient Egypt

For this phase of Egyptian history, the ancient classification of Manethos is still relevant today. In his presentation of the history of Egypt (den Aegyptiaca /Αἰγυπτιακά) developed.1 Manetho counts a total of 30 dynasties of Egyptian rulers, which form the finest level of its division. The realms and interim times form the rough epoch grid for him. This classification also determines the following presentation.2 Only the first three dynasties are usually assigned to the predynastic epoch today, i.e. they fall into the Naqada III period.

For Manetho, the unity of Egypt, which consists of Upper and Lower Egypt, was particularly important. This notion has found expression in his distinction between rich and intermediate times. Whenever Manetho speaks of an "empire", Upper and Lower Egypt are united under a common rule, in the "interim times" this is not the case.


Old empire

from about the 3rd to the 8th dynasty, from about 2686-2160 BC. Chr.

In economic terms, this phase of Egyptian history was a boom. The monumental pyramids that are now being built also testify to this. Based on the step pyramid of Djoser, the bent pyramid of Sneferu and the pyramids of Giza, the architectural-historical development from the step shape to the real pyramid, as we know it from Giza, can be well understood.

The end of the unification of the empire in this epoch is connected with the strengthening of local administrative officials, who over time develop into local rulers and dispute the power of the Pharaoh.


First split

from the 7th to the 11th dynasty, approximately from 2181–2055 BC Chr.

About 126 years are set for the First Intermediate Period, in which there is no rule that unites Upper and Lower Egypt. Thebes in the south and Herakleopolis in the north established themselves as centers during this period. It was not until Mentuhotep II, who founded the Middle Kingdom, that the enmity of these rival centers of power was overcome. If one reads the First Intermediate Period through the glasses of what has been handed down in writing in the Middle Kingdom, a picture of chaos and disorder emerges. However, this representation is strongly ideologically colored. The contemporary material and textual evidence speaks a different language. Martin Bommas describes the picture that emerges from these findings as "the picture of a culturally high and dynamic period of Egyptian history"3.


Middle realm

from the 11th to the 13th dynasty, approximately from 2055–1773 BC Chr.

Mentuhotep II succeeds in getting control of Lower Egypt from Upper Egypt and reuniting the empire. New administrative structures are now being created in the united kingdom. An important concern at this time is to give the multi-ethnic state of Egypt its own identity. This happens especially in the area of ​​the culture of remembrance.

One orientates oneself on the splendor of the Old Kingdom and draws the first interim period, in which there was no unity of the empire, in retrospect as a phase of disorder. The orientation towards the traditions of the Old Kingdom can also be seen in the architecture. Amenemhet I, the founder of the 12th dynasty, had a pyramid built near el-Lisht, the quality of which, however, did not come close to the models of the Old Kingdom.

For the first time in Egyptian history, “beautiful literature” is documented in this epoch. This also includes the wisdom teachings, the authorship of which is partly attributed to authors of the Old Kingdom.


Second split time

from the 14th to the 17th dynasty, around 1773–1550 BC. Chr.

For the first time in its history, Egypt is ruled by foreign rulers. The so-called "Hyksos" (Egyptian: hekau hasut/ “Rulers of Foreign Countries”) from the Syrian-Palestinian region shaped Egyptian politics and culture from then on. Local rulers sometimes cooperate with them. In the south the Nubians penetrate into the territory of Egypt.


New kingdom

from the 18th to the 20th dynasty, approximately from 1550–1069 BC Chr.

The beginning of the New Kingdom is marked by the displacement of the foreign rulers. In the south, the Nubian Empire is being pushed back by Kush. Nubia becomes an Egyptian colony. Military advances into the Syrian and Mesopotamian regions extend the Egyptian sphere of influence into the Middle East.

Thutmose III is of particular importance because Egypt developed into a world power under his rule. The battle of Megiddo, which he cited, is one of the acts of war that is most extensively represented in ancient Egypt. It is described in the annals of Thutmose on the wall of the Karnak temple.

In terms of religious history, the reforms under Amenophis IV./Echnaton are important at this time. With the worship of the sun god Aton, he founded a new religion that already shows monotheistic features. He dedicated the new capital Achet-Aton (now Tell el-Amarna) to this cult.

This cult was ended again under Tutankhamun. He returned to the old polytheistic religion and moved the capital to Memphis, while Thebes remained a cult center.

In the Ramesside period (19th – 20th dynasty, 1295–1069 BC), after the battle against the Hetither on the Orontes, the first peace treaty in world history was concluded under Ramses II.

Ramses II is considered the "Pharaoh of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt".4 He had the capital moved from Thebes to Pi-Ramesse (today's Qantir). The Book of Exodus alludes to just that. It tells that the exiled Israelites were involved in the construction of the cities of Pitom and Ramses.


“In Egypt a new king came to power who did not know Joseph. He said to his people: Look, the people of Israel are bigger and stronger than us. Beware! We have to think about what we can do about it so that it does not multiply further. If war breaks out, it could join our enemies, fight us, and move out of the country. So they put bondmakers over it in order to put it under pressure through hard work. The cities of Pitom and Ramses had to be built as storage facilities for the pharaoh. "

Ex 1,8-11

On the stele of the Ramses successor Merenptah there is for the first time an extra-biblical evidence of the name Israel.

Under Merenptah and Ramses III. there are clashes with the sea peoples. Initially, it is possible to settle them in the area of ​​the Palestinian coast, but in the long run the threat remains. In addition, Egypt's western border is endangered by the Libyans, and domestic political crises are on the rise. The successors of Ramses III. it is not possible to control the external territories or to get a grip on the internal political situation.

While the next division of rule into smaller domains is looming, the increasing loss of power of the pharaohs enables a kingdom to be established in Israel under David and Solomon.


Third intermediate time

from the 21st to the 25th dynasty, approximately from 1069–655 BC. Chr.

In the third intermediate time, what is already known from the first intermediate times is repeated. The formerly centrally organized empire is now divided into various smaller domains. In the south, the Amun priests rule from Thebes, so to speak, a state of God. Various pharaohs are in power in the north. In the cities of Tanis and Bubastis, monumental buildings from the old city of Ramses are being moved to build on the glamor and power of bygone times. The Libyan influence on the pharaohs is growing.

The Libyan Scheschonk I (945-924) even succeeded in taking over the royal dignity. Scheschonk has made some advances towards Palestine and is also known under the name Schischak in the Old Testament:

  • He undertook a campaign to Palestine and robbed both the temple and the palace in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Kings 14.25f. And the representation on the temple wall in Karnak).
  • Megiddo in Palestine was probably under Sheshonk's rule at times.
  • Jeroboam, later king of the northern kingdom of Israel, fled to Sheshonk in Tanis (cf. 1 Kings 11:40).

From 730 B.C. The Nubians completely conquered Egypt before the Assyrians finally contested it (664/663 BC).


Late period

from the 26th to the 30th dynasty, approximately from 672–332 BC Chr.

The late period of Egypt begins with the 26th dynasty, which is also known as the Saite Age because of the seat of government in Sais. Psammetich I and his successors succeed in time to work their way out of the Assyrian supremacy and to rule all of Egypt. After the New Kingdom, there is one last imperial unity in the late period, which, however, already Psammetich III. can no longer hold up. After the lost battle against the Persians at Pelusium (525 BC), Egypt came under Persian rule for the first time from the 27th dynasty. The string time is over.

From the 28th to the 30th dynasty, Egypt was ruled once again by local pharaohs before the Persian king Artaxerxes III. the second Persian rule established over Egypt (31st Dynasty). After the victory of Alexander the Great over the Persian Empire, Egypt was taken over by Darius III. 332 BC Chr. Handed over to Alexander without a fight.


3. Greco-Roman Period (332 BC – 395 AD)

After his victory over the Persians at Issus (333 BC), Alexander the Great had moved along the coast of Palestine, had finally conquered Gaza after a long siege and finally reached Egypt. There he was celebrated by the local population as a great liberator. Presumably he was even enthroned as Pharaoh.

After the death of Alexander in 323 BC In Babylon, rule over Egypt passed to his general Ptolemy, who founded the Ptolemy dynasty. Him and his successors Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III. succeeded in expanding the territory beyond Egypt. The Ptolemies ruled temporarily over the Cyrenaica and Cyprus as well as over areas in Syria and Asia Minor. From 301 to 200 BC They also ruled Palestine before they increasingly lost power and finally had to cede Palestine to the Seleucid Empire after the 5th Syrian-Egyptian War (200 BC).

In the 1st century BC The Ptolemaic empire has already shrunk considerably and is completely dependent on Rome, whose imperial province it 30 BC. BC - after the death of Cleopatra VII - finally becomes. The Roman epoch of Egypt is characterized by economic exploitation. Egypt becomes the breadbasket of the Roman Empire and the tax pressure from which the local population suffers is increasing. Officially, however, the Roman emperor presents himself as the legitimate successor to the pharaohs.

Alexandria - the new capital

Founded by Alexander the Great as the new capital, Alexandria (today's al-Iskandariya) in the western Nile Delta is expanded by the Ptolemies. Alexandria is developing into the Hellenistic metropolis par excellence, in economic, cultural, scientific and religious-historical terms. The city is a trading center for grain and goods, buildings such as the lighthouse on the offshore island of Pharos and facilities such as the library of Alexandria made the city world famous. Alexandria was the center of Hellenistic Judaism. This is where the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, originated. Probably the most famous representative of Alexandrian Judaism, Philo of Alexandria, is a contemporary of Paul.

Between the 2nd and 4th / 5th In the century AD, the traditional religion of Egypt with its temples became less and less important, while Christianity emerged as a new religious entity. From the 3rd century onwards, Egypt became an important nucleus for Christian monasticism. The Alexandrian Patriarchate of the Coptic Church distances itself from the resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD). Since then it has formed its own Coptic Church, independent of the Imperial Church.


Compiled according to

Martin Bommas, Ancient Egypt (compact history), Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2012.

Manfred Görg, Art. Egypt, in: New Bible Lexicon 1 (1991) 36–49.

Roman Gundacker, Art. Manetho, in: Das Wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (2018), available online: https://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/stichwort/25466/ (accessed on August 14, 2019).

Peter Hofrichter, Art. Egypt, in: Herders Neues Bibellexikon (2008) 14–15.

Peter Hofrichter, Art. Alexandria, in: Herders Neues Bibellexikon (2008) 21.

Karl Jansen-Winkeln, Art. Alexandreia (Ἀλεξάνδρεια), in: Der Neue Pauly 1 (1996) 463-465.

Bernd Kollmann, Introduction to contemporary history of the New Testament (introduction to theology), Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 32014.

Katrin Laatsch, The cradle of the sun. The Badari and Nagada I – III cultures of predynastic Egypt, in: Antike Welt 27/1 (1996) 8–10.

Martin Rösel, Egypt. Sinai, Nile Delta, oases (EVAs Biblical Travel Guide 5), Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 2010.

Thomas Schneider / Bernd Schipper, Kulturkontakte, Israel - Egypt, in: Das Wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (2014), available online: https://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/stichwort/24365/ (accessed on August 14, 2019).

Stephan Seidlmayer / Karl Jansen-Winkeln, Art. Egypt, in: Der Neue Pauly 1 (1996) 156–166.

To quote this article: Michael Hölscher, Egyptian History in Brief, in: Grammata (August 15, 2019), available online: https://grammata.hypotheses.org/4229 (accessed May 23, 2021).

  1. See. Roman Gundacker, Art. Manetho, in: Das Wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (2018), available online: https://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/stichwort/25466/ (accessed on August 14, 2019). [↩]
  2. There are many uncertainties, especially when it comes to the exact dating of the dynasties. I am following the information provided by Martin Bommas, Ancient Egypt (history compact), Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2012. [↩]
  3. Martin Bommas, Ancient Egypt (history compact), Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2012, 38. [↩]
  4. Martin Rösel, Egypt. Sinai, Nile Delta, oases (EVAs Biblical Travel Guide 5), Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 2010, 23. [↩]