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The Way of Life in New Old and Middle Kingdom

The ancient Egyptian kingdoms covered a large period of time in the Egyptian history. This ancient history was divided into three blocks of time namely; the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom.  This was possible because in each era the pharaohs who led the Egyptians acted and behaved in their specific unique ways. The Old Kingdom existed between 2700 BCE and 2200 BCE. The Middle Kingdom was between 2100 BCE and 1800 BCE the Old Kingdom between 1500 BCE and 1000 BCE.

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Referred to as the Egyptian Empire, the New Kingdom covered the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and the Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt. It was the period of glorious accomplishments in building, culture and military conquest. The New Egyptian Kingdom enabled Ancient Egypt to seize new territory and expand its boundaries thus enhancing its power and glory. It enabled Egyptians to have more access to water, they build more roads to trade food and they were able to buy goods from other countries. This period is always referred to as the expansion period for the Egyptians. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom strengthened and enhanced the security of their borders as they tightened their diplomatic ties with their neighbors. During this period, the Egyptians tried to create a buffer between the Levant and Egypt as it expanded south into the Nubian.  As  Silverman notes, “Military campaigns waged under Tuthmosis I and his grandson Tuthmosis III extended the influence of the pharaohs into Syria and Nubia, cementing loyalties and opening access to critical imports such as bronze and wood” (Silverman 103).

Most of the riches and wealth gathered by the powerful and famous pharaohs of the New Kingdom was lavished on their gods, unlike the Old Kingdom where most of the wealth was used in the building of pyramids. All the pharaohs in the New Kingdom were buried in the same place called the Valley of the Kings. This was not the same for the Middle Kingdom where the kings and the royal family were buried in pyramids that were built close to the capital. Local leaders and provincial governors were hidden in rock-cut sepulchers, in their own districts.  The famous pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty include Ahmose I, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amunhotep III, Akhenaton and Tutankhamen.  Pharaoh Ahmose I completed the expulsion of the Hykos from the delta region. He reorganized the Egyptian administration, opened quarries, mines, trade routes and initiated huge construction projects. These projects had not been undertaken since the Middle Kingdom. Queen Hatshepsut enhanced the expansion of external trade in the New Kingdom. During the reign of Amunhoteo IV, he changed the religion of the Egyptians from worshiping many deities to the worship of one god but still accepted the existence of other gods (Silverman 120).

Under the reign of Akhenaton, Egyptian art improved in drama, literature and music as well as reached an unexpected level of realism painting and sculpture. However, this was not so in the Old Kingdom as most of their artistic effort was centered on preserving life after death while the literature of the middle Kingdom dealt with aspects of society, legal documents letters of wisdom literature and myths. This Middle Kingdom literature gave insight into the social, religious and political concerns of the time. The collapse of the twentieth Dynasty was caused by the surrounding political chaos of the Greek Dark Ages that enhanced economic difficulties in Egypt during the reign of pharaoh Ramesses III.  The power struggle in the government weakened the Egyptians as it allowed for Ancient Egypt to break into smaller states. Their enemies and invaders took advantage of this situation as they were vulnerable. The most successful military leaders are said to have ruled in the New Kingdom as campaigns against Syria, Palestine, the Libyans and Hittites were initiated (Kemp 30).

The New Kingdoms chariots were light, fast and maneuverable, a characteristic that was not in those of Old and Middle Age chariots. The New Kingdom’s fighting tactics were more advanced than the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The Old and Middle Kingdoms tactics involved coordination between massed archers and close combat infantry while the New Kingdoms tactics added a mobile missile platform and scouting arm with the introduction of chariots by the Hyksos. The New Kingdom temples were built with a pylon, more than one courtyard and they had the sanctuary at the back. Unlike the Old and the Middle Kingdom tombs that had funerary equipment, the New Kingdom tombs were rock cut and lavishly decorated. The New Kingdom produced an abundance of monumental architecture and statuary honoring the gods and pharaohs (Silverman 158).

Unlike the Old Kingdom which is also called the pyramid Age because of the Egyptian pyramids built in this period, the New Kingdom had less pyramids because the advancements they had made in the construction sector. In the Old Kingdom, the King was the most important figure unlike in the New Kingdom that had other influential leaders in the government. The Old Kingdom, the women were respected, and they played an indispensable responsibility in the culture of the Egyptians. The women owned land that was passed on through her to her daughter. The Egyptian kingship was also passed through the woman. When a ruler married a daughter of the previous king that’s when he became king. One of the Old Kingdom’s pharaohs unlike the New Kingdom kings who were very powerful is said to have initiated policies that weakened the mandate and powers of the Pharaoh and central government. This led to the central government crumbling, and leadership left returned to local leaders. Ra the sun god was very significant to the people of the Old Kingdom (Kemp 68).

The New Kingdom focused on expansion of the boundaries of the Egyptian Kingdom while the Middle Kingdom laid out the foundation trade, literature. They had to build stronger armies to protect her borders. The pharaohs in the Middle Kingdom were expected to be wise and good rulers. The Middle Kingdoms royal sculpture showed the king as a strong figure with prominent ears.

 Marriage and close family played an important and integral role in ancient Egypt as it was held as a sacred bond. In the Ancient Egyptian Kingdoms marriage took place when two young people decided to move in together. The woman was expected to move in with the husband and start a simple household. Marrying young was encouraged in the ancient Egyptian kingdoms.  The brides were allowed to be married at the age of fifteen years and the young men from seventeen years to twenty years old were allowed to marry. The young marriages were encouraged because the life span was comparatively short. "Take a wife while you are young, that she may make a son for you while you are youthful” (Trigger 228).

Some of the young people in the upper classes had their marriages arranged with the consent of their parents. However, most young people feel in love and choose their mates because of the abundance of love poetry among them. The use of the terms “sister’” and “brother” between lovers was commonly used not because they were siblings but due because they occurred among the royalty. However, in some cases, the royalty married their siblings. One of the lines in a poem written by a young ancient Egyptian girl notes that, “My brother torments my heart with his voice, he makes sickness take hold of me; he is neighbor to my mother’s house, and I cannot get to him!" (Trigger 230). The importance of love and affection was clear as the Egyptian brides were expected to be loved and respected by their husbands. This was expressed in through the statues and paintings that showed husbands and wives with their arms around each other’s waist, offering each other flowers or food. In establishing the rights of parties in the maintenance and possessions they have, a marriage settlement was written between the bride’s father and her husband. However, the brides in many occasions were part of the contract. 

In the Ancient Egyptian Kingdom, the women were considered equal with men in the rights to own, manage and receive property. This enabled the women protect their rights in the event there is a divorce. Apart from some of the high class, monogamy was encouraged. The man was considered ready to marry if he had the ability to provide for his wife and children. The ancient Egyptians seemed to empower there women. Marriage was not interfered with by religion or state doctrines as they were not registered. Despite marriage being respected, divorce was a common phenomenon. Divorce could occur because of adultery, inability to conceive, abuse or incompatibility (Trigger 240).

Divorce was more complicated where property was involved as the couple had to share it. The fertility of women in the society was tested by putting garlic into the vagina. If the garlic is tested in the breath of the woman she is fertile and if not she was infertile. The children of both sexes were needed in an ancient Egyptian marriage. The New Kingdom had the most advantages for women as it had the most female pharaohs. The pharaohs include the Nefertiti the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, Twosret and Cleopatra. The female pharaohs did not have heirs so after the death of their husbands they assumed leadership (Trigger 250).

Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were built around one source of water, the Nile River. Between the Tigris and Euphrates River was Mesopotamia.  Agriculture was a common activity in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  The few upper class people held wealth in both societies.  Egypt had a centralized government that was led by the pharaoh while Mesopotamia had city-state government where each area was a separate political unit controlled by its own political and economical center. Mesopotamia was advanced in dealing with bronze, lead, silver and gold thus the invention of the wheel. The leaders of both societies were accorded high status as gods.  The people of Mesopotamia developed a religion that depended on the mercy of harsh gods. Because of constant migration of people into Mesopotamia who were in conflict the region was unstable compared to the self-sufficient and invasion free Egypt. The Egyptians unlike Mesopotamians believed in life after death, amulets and in magic. The Sumerians started the culture of Mesopotamia from scratch and the Ancient Egypt borrowed from them thus their longevity. In both civilizations, there was common emphasis on astronomy and mathematics hence the development of units of time and measurement. The conservative nature of the two societies enabled them to last longer as they isolated themselves from other regions. Mesopotamia produced more technological inventions because their environment was hard to manage and they gave consideration to business class and commercial law. The Mesopotamian’s used a Sumerian cuneiform alphabet while the Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphic alphabet (Kemp 128).

In conclusion, the Ancient Egyptian women enjoyed more freedom of choice and more equality under the social and civil law than women in other cultures such as Mesopotamia and Greece. These women were allowed to own property, hold public leadership positions and fight for their rights. They had female pharos and many opportunities for women. The women in Mesopotamia were treated like property.

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