The Egyptians were among the first groups of civilizations formed, and is today one of the worlds oldest continuous civilizations. Egyptian civilization spread throughout the Nile River Valley, and people found that living there provided them with a safe environment. Over time, Egypt was separated into two governments called the Upper Kingdom and the Lower Kingdom. Around 3,100 B.C.E, the ruler of Upper Egypt, Menes, conquered the Lower Kingdom, and united both kingdoms. This ushered in a line of native rulers lasting nearly 3,000 years.
During the Old Kingdom (which lasted from about 2700 B.C.E to 2200 B.C.E), Egyptian rulers were called pharaohs. The pharaoh was considered to be a living embodiment of God. This is why the Egyptians considered his power absolute. Workers and farmers were forced to build pyramids for the pharaohs. This process took a very long time and required much planning and organization. Historians came to the conclusion that slaves were not used to build the pyramids by findings of worker burial grounds near the pyramids. Slaves did not receive proper burials.
Egyptians were forced to pay taxes through goods and labor. Citizens were drafted into the army for periods of time in order to pay a labor tax called a corve. Most Egyptian people were peasants who worked as farmers along the Nile River. They had no say in government, but did not challenge this fact. During the late summer and early autumn months, when the Nile flooded their fields, the peasants would go to Giza to put in their time on the pyramids. They believed this would ensure their own afterlife; as well as benefit the future and prosperity of Egypt.
In order to keep city people kind and loving to each other, the government of Ancient Egypt told the Egyptians about Osiris. Osisis had ruled Egypt until his brother killed him and cut him into pieces. His wife, Isis, found his body, reassembled it, and brought him back to life. Osiris became the god of the dead. He would judge the souls seeking eternal life. Before people had heard of the Osiris cult, they believed that religion consisted of warding off evil intentions of various gods. The Osiris cult made people believe that they would be judged after they died and if you had been good, you would go to heaven, and if you were bad, you would go to hell. The belief in Osiris helped to create a sort of ethic in Egyptian life. Egyptians had to follow a moral code in order to have the promise of eternal life.
In Ancient Egypt, the government was very harsh to prisoners. They would beat their prisoners on the head with a mallet and cut their heads off. While slaves would be working hard, they would get beaten to work harder!
The Old Kingdom collapsed as a result of power struggles, crop failures, and the cost of building the pyramids. After a century without governing, order was returned to Egypt with the emergence of new pharaohs. This brought in the Middle Kingdom, which lasted from 2080 B.C.E to 1640 B.C.E.
During the Middle Kingdom, farming was rejuvenated, trade grew, and the arts thrived. The pharaohs of this time seemed to care about the welfare of the common people. Religious beliefs as well were slightly changed. During the Old Kingdom, the pharaohs only experienced the belief of the afterlife. During the Middle Kingdom, this belief was expanded to include ordinary people.
The prosperity of the Middle Kingdom ended when foreign invaders, known as the Hyksos, dominated the Valley of the Nile. The Hyksos dominated Egypt for more than 100 years, and were eventually driven out of Egypt. New Egyptian leaders set up the New Kingdom.
During the New Kingdom (which lasted from 1550 B.C.E to 1100 B.C.E), pharaohs created the Egyptian empire. The empire spread throughout parts of the Middle East and Africa. After the rule of several pharaohs, Egyptian power slowly declined and foreign invaders conquered the Nile region.
Centuries after the decline of the Egyptian empire, Egypt remained a center of learning and culture in the African and Mediterranean worlds. Today, Egypt is an Arab republic. Archaeologists are yet to uncover many of the secrets from Ancient Egypt that will provide more evidence on Ancient Egyptian cultures, beliefs and customs.