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  • Hi there, my name’s John Green and this is Crash Course: World History, and today were

  • going to talk about Egypt.

  • No, not that Egypt.

  • Older.

  • Older.

  • Older.

  • Less fictional. Yes, that one.

  • Ancient Egypt is probably the most influential of the river valley civilizations.

  • Like you might not recognize any Assyrian Kings or Assyrian language,

  • but you probably do know King Tut.

  • And you may recognize that the Eye of Horus is right now staring at me and judging me.

  • I can feel, I can feel your judgement.

  • [music intro]

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  • When we think of Ancient Civilizations, we think of Egypt. There are a few reasons for

  • this, like the fact that the pyramids are the last man standing among the Seven Ancient

  • Wonders of the World. But more importantly, Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted from

  • 3000 BCE to 332 BCE. That’s a period that historians call a long-ass time. And I will

  • remind you it is not cursing if you're talking about donkeys.

  • So there are many approaches to the study of history. You could view history as a millennial

  • long conversation about philosophy or as clashes between great men or you can see history through

  • the lens of traditionally neglected populations, like women or indigenous peoples or slaves.

  • And were going to try to take many approaches to our study of history during Crash Course.

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green, which approach is right? I mean, for the test.

  • Oh me-from-the-past. Remember how you spent all of third year French writing notes back

  • and forth to that girl and she eventually agreed to go out with you and you did make

  • it to second base but now you can hardly parle un mot de francais?

  • Historical lenses are like that, my friend: With every choice, something is gained and

  • something is lost.

  • Right, so in discussing agriculture and early civilizations, weve been approaching history

  • through the lens of resource distribution and geography.

  • And just as the violent and capricious Tigris and Euphrates rivers shaped the worldview

  • of early Mesopotamians, the Nile shaped the world view of the Egyptians. Let’s go to

  • the Thought Bubble.

  • The Nile was regular, navigable, and benign, making for one of the safest and richest agricultural

  • areas in the world. Each summer the river flooded the fields at precisely the right

  • time, leaving behind nutrient-rich silt for planting season.

  • Planting was so easy that Egyptians just tossed seeds around the silty earth and then let

  • their cattle or pigs walk on it to press the seeds into the ground, and then boom, grain

  • and figs and wheat and pomegranates and melons and joy.

  • Unlike most river valley civilizations, Egyptian communities existed ONLY along the Nile, which

  • was navigable enough to get valuable resources downstream from timber to gold, which the

  • Egyptians considered the divine metal, thereby introducing an idea that would eventually

  • culminate in Mr. T.

  • The Nile is also easily tamed. While other river valley civilizations needed complicated

  • and labor-intensive hydraulic engineering projects to irrigate crops, the Nile was so

  • chill that Egyptians could use a simple form of water management called basin irrigation,

  • in which farmers used floodwaters to fill earthen basins and canals for irrigation.

  • In short, the awesomeness of the Nile meant Egyptians could create big food surpluses

  • with relatively little work, allowing time and energy for some pretty impressive projects.

  • Also, the Nile may help explain the ancient Egypt’s general optimism :

  • While ancient Sumerian religion, for instance, saw the afterlife as this gloomy, dark place,

  • Egyptians were often buried with things that were useful and pleasurable to them in life,

  • because the Afterlife was seen as a continuation of this life, which, at least if you lived

  • along the Nile, wasn’t half-bad.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble.

  • And now, my dear pupils, I shall terrorize you with the oppression of dates. No. Dates.

  • Yes. Thank you.

  • Historians have divided Egyptian history into three broad categories. Each with their own

  • numbered dynasties. But only hardcore Egyptologists know the dynasties, and were not trying

  • to become hardcore Egyptologists.

  • The Old Kingdom lasted from 2649 to 2152;

  • The middle kingdom from 2040 to 1640;

  • And the New Kingdom, so called because it is only 3,000 years old, lasted from 1550-1070

  • BCE.

  • In between you have a couple so-called Intermediate periods. Okay, OLD KINGDOM.

  • This was really the glory age of ancient Egypt, when we get all the stuff that will later

  • make Indiana Jones possible,

  • like the pyramids at Giza,

  • and the sun king Ra,

  • and the idea of divine kingship.

  • which seems like a good gig, except that it meant that he wasn’t expected to act like

  • a person, he was expected to act like a god, which in ancient Egypt means acting like the

  • Nile: calm, cool, benevolent... There’s no fun it that.

  • And then of course there are the pyramids, which aside from remaining impressive to behold

  • represent a remarkable degree of political and social control over the population, because

  • it is not easy to convince people to devote their lives to building a sarcophagus for

  • someone else.

  • The most famous pyramids were built between 2575 and 2465 BCE.

  • The one with the Sphinx was for Khephren;

  • the largest, the Great Pyramid, was built for the Pharaoh Khufu.

  • These pyramids were built partly by peasants who were required by Egyptian law to work

  • for the government a certain number of months per year,

  • and partly by slaves, but not by Moses and the Jews, who showed up on the scene long

  • before pyramids were ever even a twinkle in Khufu’s eye.

  • This leads to an overwhelming question: Why? Why in the sweet name of Ra would anyone ever

  • build such a thing?

  • Well, let’s start with Ra. So, Ra started out as a regional god, reigning over Heliopolis,

  • but he eventually became really central to the entire pantheon of gods of ancient Egypt.

  • He was the god of the sun, but also the god of creation.

  • And the thinking was that if humans did their jobs then the pantheon of gods would maintain

  • cosmic order, and since the pharaohs became gods upon their death, it made sense to please

  • them even unto pyramids.

  • Egyptian popular religion also embraced the belief in amulets and magic and divination

  • and the belief that certain animals--

  • especially catshad divine power.

  • And yes, I did bring that up just so I could lolcat.

  • Old Kingdom Egypt was also remarkably literate:

  • They had two forms of writing, hieroglyphics for sacred writing and then demotic script

  • for recording contracts and agreements and other boring stuff.

  • The last thing I want to say about Old Kingdom Egypt; it was ridiculously rich.

  • But then around 2250 BCE there were a series of droughts and Pharaohs started fighting

  • over who should have power and we had an intermediate period.

  • [classic intermission music]

  • Which was followed by the Middle Earth...

  • No, what? The middle kingdom? Ohh. Really? That’s a bummer, Stan. I want it to be the

  • Middle Earth. How awesome would that be? Like right in the middle of Egyptian history, there

  • were Hobbits....

  • So the Middle Kingdom, which apparently had no Hobbits, restored Pharaonic rule in 2040

  • BCE but with some distinct changes:

  • First, the rulers were outsiders, from downriver in Nubia. Second, they fostered a new pantheon

  • of gods, the star of which was Ammun, which means hidden.

  • So here’s a little lesson from history: Hidden gods tend to do well because theyre

  • omnipresent.

  • So Ammun eventually merged with Ra to form the god Ammun-Ra, who was like the best god

  • ever and all the Middle Kingdom pharaohs made temples for him and devoted all of their surplus

  • to his glory.

  • The Middle Kingdom also developed an interest in conquering, specifically the new homeland

  • of Nubia, and they developed a side interest in getting conquered, specifically by Semitic

  • peoples from the Levant.

  • They were able to conquer much of Egypt using superior military technology like bronze weapons

  • and compound bows, and chariots of fire. What? They were just regular chariots? STAN WHY

  • ARE YOU ALWATS KILLING MY DREAMS?

  • One group, the Hyksos, were able to conquer all of Egypt, but rather than like destroying

  • the Egyptian culture, they just relaxed like the Nile and assimilated into the Egyptians.

  • And the Egyptians adopted their military technology. And then the Egyptians destroyed the Hyksos

  • and expelled them from Egypt.

  • And then by 1550 BCE there was again an Egyptian pharaoh, Ahmosis...

  • ...whose name only sounds like an STD.

  • Anyway, after all this conquering and being conquered, Egypt eventually emerged from its

  • geographically imposed isolationism and, can you cue the New Kingdom Graphic please?

  • There it is!

  • New Kingdom Egypt continued this military expansion but it looked more like an Empire,

  • particularly when they headed south and took over land in an attempt to find gold and slaves.

  • Probably the most expansive of the New Kingdom pharaohs was Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled

  • Egypt for about 22 years.

  • And who expanded Egypt not through military might, but through trade.

  • But most new kingdom pharaohs being dudes, focused on military expansion, which brought

  • Egypt into conflicts with the Assyrians who youll remember from last week,

  • And then the Persians, and then Alexander the Great and finally, the Romans.

  • On the whole, Egypt probably wouldve been better off enjoying its geographical isolation

  • and not trying to conquer new territory, but all of Egypt’s friends had jumped off a

  • bridge, so

  • One last thing about the New Kingdom. There was this crazy New Kingdom Pharaoh named Akehenaten,

  • who tried to invent a new god for Egypt, Aten.

  • Akehenaten was kind of the Kim Jong Il of Ancient Egypt, like he had this feared police

  • force and this big cult of personality. And also he was a nut job.

  • Anyway, after his death he was replaced by his wife, and then a daughter and than a son,

  • Tutankaten, who turned his back on the weird god Aten and changed his name to Tutankhamen.

  • And that is about all King Tut did before he died...

  • ...probably around the age of 17. Honestly, the only reason King Tut is famous is that

  • most Pharaohs had their graves robbed by ancient people; and King Tut had his grave robbed

  • by 20th century British people.

  • Which brings us to the Open Letter. [scoots to super sweet chartreuse throne] An Open

  • Letter to King Tut:

  • Oh, but first we gotta find out what Stan left for me in the Secret Compartment. It’s

  • a pen. [clicks pen] AAHHHH!! It’s a shock pen! Stan?%@#

  • That’s a terrible, terrible gift for the secret compartment.

  • Dear King Tut,

  • I know that as Pharaohs lives go, yours was pretty poor. First, you had to marry your

  • sister, which hopefully you weren’t that psyched about, plus you had a cleft palate

  • and probably scoliosis.

  • Plus you died before really reaching adulthood. But dude, you have had the best afterlife

  • ever.

  • Since your body was discovered in 1922, youve become probably the most famous ancient person.

  • There have been lots of books about you, scholars have devoted their lives to you.

  • Dude, were so obsessed with you that we used this fancy new technology to scan your

  • body and establish that you probably died of an infected broken leg and/or malaria,

  • So youve inspired such seminal works of art as the Discovery Kids series Tutenstein,

  • which my son forces me to watch.

  • Your relics have been to six continents! So it all works out in the end, man.

  • Well, I mean, youre still dead. So that’s kinda sucks.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • King Tut leads us nicely to the really crucial thing about Egyptian culture.

  • Because King Tut lived right around the same time as the pyramids right? Wrong.

  • Remember the pyramids were built around 2500 BCE during the Old Kingdom. King Tut died

  • in 1322 BCE, 1200 years later!

  • That’s five and a half Americas. But because Egypt was so similar for so long, it all tends

  • to blend together when we imagine it.

  • Ancient Egypt lasted 1000 years longer than Christianity has been around, and about 800

  • years longer than that other super-long lived civilization, China.

  • So there was an entire culture that lasted longer than Western Civilization has existed

  • and it had run its course beforethe Westwas even born.

  • Next week, well look at the Persians and the Greeks. I’ll see you then.

  • Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller; The show is written by Raoul Meyer

  • my high school history teacher and myself; our script supervisor is Danica Johnson and

  • our graphics team is ThoughtBubble.

  • Last week’s phrase of the week wasMale Models.” You can take your guess at this

  • week’s phrase of the week in Comments and also suggest future phrases of the week.

  • And if you have any questions about today’s video, leave them in Comments and our team

  • of semi-professional quasi-historians will endeavor to answer them as best we can.

  • Thanks for watching and as we say in my hometown: Don’t forget to be awesome.

  • [skiddilydiddilies off screen]

Hi there, my name’s John Green and this is Crash Course: World History, and today were

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Ancient Egypt: Crash Course World History #4

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    Chi-feng Liu posted on 2013/04/17
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