Travel impressions II

Maybe

Intro.

The Pyramids are truly impressive, however we must make an effort to imagine how they were originally, now  the monotonous color of the sand, does not give us no clue, neither the unforgivable sellers of souvenirs , nor camels, much less the absurd multicolor procession of tourists. Herodotus describes the land of Egypt during the four months of the flood, like a sea, where the cities were like islands. Assuan´s Dam ended with the endemic epidemics and  crocodiles, but stole his magic to the Nile. The pyramids were part of a funerary quadrangular complex , designed as a city with buildings, streets and a canal that brought water from the Nile, so it is possible imagined that the whole should be adorned with gardens. Neither Herodotus nor Diodorus of Sicily made mention about the huge fourth pyramid, maybe because it was separated from the rest or perhaps because it had been already swallowed by the desert or maybe the Persian conquerors built the fortress that would give rise to Cairo with “the bowels of Atum-Ra”, “the elemental hill” that was erected  by Djedefre, seven meters and a half larger than the Great Pyramid.

We would have only two hours to try to visualize all this while we trying to get rid of the, always inopportune, vendors of beetles and turbans , besides the omnipresent police, most of them inanimate except the few unfortunate ones they were responsible for the endless task of down to the people of the enormous stone steps, where people were climbed continuously to take pictures, and is that the  portraits with the pyramid to the bottom do not provide a precise idea of the volume of such pile of stones.

The awesome Sphinx controls the access to the funerary complex of Gizah, despite of Herodotus never made mention of it,  may be it was covered with sand, in the times of Tutmosis IV just the head was free of sand. On the one hand, official arqueologists accept the -7500  as the date of manufacture and the king Khefren as its author. However, a curious group of specialists (the Professor Hawass does not want to hear about them), basing on the observation of certain signs of erosion, apparently caused by the rain, they take back until the -12500 the date on which it was carved,when certainly still rain  frequently  there, what is not happens at present. they have provided indirect evidence of astronomical kind, to support  by the moment their rickety theory, which link the alignment of the three pyramids with the alignment of the stars of Orion’s belt, and also claim that the Sphinx look at the East because it was where the constellation of the Lion appeared in  -12500. Moreover there are eminent archaeologists who see the features of Kheops on the head and not those of Khefren, opinions for every taste.

II.

The called the Old Empire begins with Menes, or Narmer or Aha, or it may be that they were all the same person, the kings had the habit of having different names, one of Horus, one nisut-bity (king of the south and north), and a few more besides the grand honorary names.

There are lists of kings, as the papyrus of Turin, or what provide us Manetón, but archeology has shown that they are not very accurate, although it seems to be some consensus and for the beginning of the dynasty was accepted as the approximate date -5000. the I and II dynasties, used all its efforts on maintaining the cohesive of the two lands , but neither the feudal princes of the South nor the  bourgeoisie of the cities of the North, put it easy.  Initially the kings tried to keep the primal institutions in each region, in the vain attempt to maintain an image of normalcy, until in the reign of King KhaseKhemui, things get ugly. As he ventured on an expedition to Nubia, the feudal prince of Nubt, Peribsen, taking advantage of his absence, was made to proclaim king and Egypt was  divided in two, one more time. The war that claimed tens of thousands dead, was won by KhaseKhemui, after which he proceeded to exclude the feudal princes from the political scene and controling the bourgeois through intendants real. Heliopolis remained a sacred city, but the monarchy will no longer require its approval, to legitimize his own power.

The institutions of both North and South were emptied of contents and filling the resulting skeleton administrative with people associate to the king. Over time administrative model of the North also ended up being used in the South.

Besides the solar cosmogony of Heliopolis which dates from the era of the kingdom of Buto,  the Thot´s cosmogony survives in Hermopolis , somewhat different, more physical and perhaps more ancient, still influenced by the Asian cosmogony. Solar religion reveals that in the primordial chaos (Nun), although anything had been created yet, Atum, however, was already diluted on it , as the power of generating  or the spirit of life, then after  recognizing to itself , came to existence, for later, unfolding to itself , to give rise to the god Ra, the concience of Atum.

Atum-Ra created the air (Shu) and the fire (Tefnut)  of whose union was born the god Earth (Geb) and the goddess of sky (Nut), parents of Osiris, Isis, Seth and Neftis, two couples who come to signify the principles of good and evil. Nine gods in total, the Ennead of  Heliopolis clearly syncretistic is a real jumble that somehow summarizes the various stages through which society had to pass since its inception. Osiris besides of representative of the goodness assumes the role of creator of humanity and all life, also he is Nepri, god of grain, provider of new life,  symbol of the resurrection although his main role is the king of beyond, in fact one of his epithets is “The first of the Westerners”. The myth of Osiris is very well known thanks to Plutarch, the legend of this god-man developed since the beginning of the Predynastic period, it seems clear that not only reflects the differences between gods, but also those of the ancient kingdoms of the north and south, also summarizes the close relations between Egypt and coast of Syria from the early times.

In Hermopolis, Thot, into the role of the god Atum, is surrounded by four couples of gods: Nunu and Nunet symbolizing the primal water, Kaku and Kaket, darkness, Hehu and Hehet, space,  Niu and Niut, immobility, curiously the elements male and female  are represented as frogs and snakes, respectively. The representation of the chaos that contains to Atum (Thot) is a swamp, from which arises a primal hill, on which there is an egg, from where arises the Sun.  is a version with evolutionary dye, where things become each other, that differs from the version of Heliopolis, where Ra is the creative will. The idea of the supremacy of Ra was spreaded rapidly, primarily to replace the influence of Horus in the pantheon of gods, too tied to the still recent quarrels between the two lands, in addition, this philosophy was interesting to the royalty, more and more inclined towards absolutism, although however the Kings never left the cult of Horus.

During the III dynasty, was stablished a complex bureaucratic machine, the Civil Service is in itself a new power within the state, and the most senior bosses, over time will acquire the status previously held by the nobility. As for the priests of Heliopolis ended up being appointed directly by the king, may be the case of the legendary Imhotep, chief architect, chancellor (maximum office of the state) of the famous king Djeser and High Priest of Ra. They begin the era of the pyramids builders. By then it was began to use the cartridge (shenu) to contain the royal names.

All workers recruited by the state were free men, with all rights and obligations, only prisoners of war were considered slaves of the king, it seems that law and morality in this respect was very strict, it seems that we can affirm that during the Old Empire did not exist slavery in Egypt.

In Memphis which became a great religious center at the expense of Heliopolis, under the auspices of the monarchy, there was developed a new doctrine, consistent with the ambitions of royalty, in which, Ptah assumed the role of  Atum-Ra in the diagram of the solar cosmogony and where in fact all the gods were aspects or avatars of Ptah, emanated from him. From trend monotheistic, shows a remarkable depth, handling concepts like the intelligence or discernment (sia) represented by Horus, the determination or decision (hu) symbolized by Thot, and where Ur (Atum) ancient god of the universe was the heart (the intelligence) and tongue ( the will) of Ptah. Memphite Theology  permeated the thinking not only of Egyptians but of the presocratic greek philosophers, and through them to the modern world.

To Snefru, who inaugurated the Fourth dynasty are attributed  the crooked pyramid from Dahchur (near from which, Huni had built, shortly before the end of the III Dynasty) and the tower of Meidum clearly influenced by Asian style. While Snefru King will be remembered as a person gentle and humane, his son Cheops (Chufu) go down in history as a tyrant and a despot if we have to believe to the Memphite priests, during his tenure there was a radical break between the clergy and the palace, reaching even to be closed the temples. At this point of absolutism, the royalty is divinized, the king is Ra incarnate, and by extension, the senior management, would become great priests: judges will be priests of Maat (justice), the head of administration will be high priest of Thot (the Law, the Act), etc.

Still is discussed the authorship of the great pyramid of Giza, due to the shortage of evidence that confirm it, only has been found a squalid cartridge painted on a  place hidden inside the pyramid, containing the name of Cheops, only physical evidence if we do not take account the testimony of Herodotus, whose on the other hand Diodorus of Sicily contradicts. However, under excessive ego of Cheops, it is plausible to believe that he was the author of such a bunch of stones. The conflict with the clergy, was continued during the mandates of the sons of Cheops; Khefren (Khafra)and Djedefre, but it was relaxed with Hordjedef (who became a vegetarian and chaste, in a moment of lighting, then he wrote a “Sebayt“) and Baufre. Micerinos (Men Kaure) son of Khefren , returned to the pleasure of building pyramids, but his son Shepseskaf tried a revolution, abandoning the name of Ra, the cartridge, the pyramid and all you have to do with solar worship, maybe permeated by the Memphite philosophy, developing a policy of equality both in religious as well as the social, which earned him to be more hated by the upper classes that Cheops himself, though his memory among the most popular was near from the authentic devotion.

Bibl.: Jacques Pirenne, ” History of Ancient Egypt”.

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Travel Impressions

Cairo_at-night

Intro.

The airport was no different from other airports, long corridors and empty , where no one stops, that lead to the hall of the mechanical gateways, where everyone expects to have no lost their luggage, but this time, before going out, we had to go through the control of passports . Within his cabin, the guard sealed passports with rythmic and repeated blows of tampon, he look us something frown, as if we were partly responsible for the tendinitis that undoubtedly he has to suffer in silence. Then suddenly he made to disappear our documentation behind a curtain that divides the cockpit, where, at least, two or three women dressed almost nuns-like, piled inside that cubicle, they made hardly some kind of testing before returning us, the passport and calm.Like almost everything man, with an identical  mustache and haircut, the guide from our agency was waiting for us smiling, with a poster aloft, putting to us aside after a short greeting, as soon as we went out from the metal detector.
At night, travel by minibus to the hotel was a little shocking, move around the city at that time seemed like a really risky thing, an alluvion of vehicles, demanding the pass each other, playing repeatedly their horns, crowded the  highways in all directions, while passers with children by the hand, they crossed indolently among the traffic, apparently risking their lifes. I did not see any traffic light, it appeared that there were none, not seemed to be necessary, there was no evidence of anxiety on the faces of those involved, nor I saw any accident , it was surprisingly the normality.

The microbus stopped at a barrier at fifty meters from the hotel entrance, then a soldier with a trained dog was lifted from a kitchen´s chair, and a little bored, they walk around the vehicle, the guide told us,in jocular tone, that they only were seeking bombs. Soon after, we had to cross under the strict supervision of a police officer, a scanner at the entrance to the hotel, I remembered that phrase that the Doctor of Health Abroad said, a few days before , “do not worry, it’s a very peaceful country.” We just leave from the scanner, when in the center of the reception,  an elegant circular great room with large windows giving the river, suddenly, we meet to a woman, singing a soft classical melody while she was playing piano at the same time, something which I found disconcerting given the circumstances. I realized that  I was an “happy angel” when I paid 30 euros for a visa,  to enter the country, on which it had printed that it cost $ 15.
The hotel was splendid, sited in the heart of the city, nestled at the tip of an island in the middle of the river, from what it takes its name. We could sleep there only one night. We breathe, literally, when finally climbed into the room, so tired, after nine hours between shipments, waiting at airports, flights, we just would have four or five hours to rest before starting the next day’s excursion. Until then, everything had been pure routine, but in reality and despite everything, we felt that it had gone quite well. The hotel terrace offered a breathtaking view of the city, the circulatory frenzy seemed to have waned somewhat at this hour, I spent a few minutes away out there, but what kept me there was not the pretty reflection of the lights in the water, it was to know that behind the mist night, behind the lights of the city, within walking distance, on the outskirts, from several thousand years ago, what so far only had been the subject of many hours of reading.

I.

Within the triangle formed by the ancient cities of Iunu (Heliopolis), Jem (Letopolis) and Men nefer (Memphis), it is deploying on the bisector from the vertex of Heliópolis to the incenter, Cairo (Al Qahira Masra, too) is also the point from which it opens up the arms of the Nile delta.

Letopolis acquired dominance, with the approval of the holy city of Heliopolis, after the Coalition Osiríaca of Busiris in Lower Egypt, was defeated by the coalition of Nubt from Upper Egypt, in favor of Seth. Great changes occurred at this time, in the form of government of Lower Egypt and eventually into people’s lives, from the times of the social revolution of Anedjti in Busiris, where the kings were elected by the assembly, before the reign Osiris‘s own (yes, earlier) who died at 28 years of his mandate during a battle against the South, until the establishment of hereditary monarchy during the regency of Horus in Letópolis. Changes that did not like  in the coalition and caused the sedition of Hermópolis (Per Djehuti) and Sais, and  that only forged with the definitive establishment of monarchy of Horus (in the style of Letópolis) in Buto, we do not know how. We know that the reason for the discord was Abydos, Busiris´s colony in Upper Egypt, it was founded by Anedjti to support the expeditions in search of gold. Over time most of the economically strong cities in the delta, founded colonies in Middle Egypt, mainly to protect the traffic of their goods. The war was inevitable and the victory of the coalition under the mandate of Buto against the feudal lords of the South in Edfu, if did not result in the annexation of Upper Egypt, meant the destruction of feudal power. Violent social movements in Upper Egypt rose to Min (god of agriculture at the Osiris style ) to the rank of official religion at the expense of Seth, begining in Ipu (Panopolis), where someone outside the nobility, came to power by a similar process which led to Anedjti in Busiris to wrest control of the upper classes and with the probable support of Buto spread their revolution to Gebti (Koptos), which was important for its connection to the Wadi Hammamat, the route of the caravans to the Red Sea, from there the revolt is extended to all cities in the South, which all of them systematically adopted the new cult of Min, a situation that led to the advent of the monarchy in Nekhen (Hierakompolis) Two states, Nekhen and Buto, a single religion, but did not last long, The absolute power of Buto soon became unbearable for most of the nomos of Lower Egypt that eventually split off, moment that Asian tribes took advantage to invade the territory. The prints from the handle of the knife of Gebel el-Arak seem to see these events. The Hierakompolis monarchy  moved his capital downriver, to Abydos (Tinis), ready to face the situation.During this period, was born the first dynasty unified the two lands, monarchy of the south, from its new capital at Abydos took control, struggling with the Asians, and conquering at the same time the delta´s lands.  in the Narmer´s palette, you can see the ten decapitated bodies of the magistrates of Metelis (Hermopolis mikra), the city that led the last resistance after that Buto was dismantled. The kings of the south were the first to use the two crowns, the bee of Sais and Buto, with the cane of Nekhen, hieroglyphic symbols of the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. All these facts are prior to the year -5000, and contemporary  with social phenomena that marked the end of the Uruk´s age in Mesopotamia, prior to the establishment of what has been called the Archaic Period dynastic.


References: “History of Ancient Egypt”, Jacques Pirenne.