Introduction to Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian Culture

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Egypt thrived for thousands of years (from c. 8000 BCE to c. 30 BCE) as an independent nation whose culture was famous for great cultural advances in every area of human knowledge, from the arts to science to technology and religion. The great monuments which ancient Egypt is still celebrated for reflect the depth and grandeur of Egyptian culture which influenced so many ancient civilizations, among them Greece and Rome.

The name 'Egypt' comes from the Greek Aegyptos which was the Greek pronunciation of the ancient Egyptian name 'Hwt-Ka-Ptah' ("Mansion of the Spirit of Ptah"), originally the name of the city of Memphis.

To the Egyptians, life on earth was only one aspect of an eternal journey. The soul was immortal and was only inhabiting a body on this physical plane for a short time. At death, one would meet with judgment in the Hall of Truth and, if justified, would move on to an eternal paradise known as The Field of Reeds which was a mirror image of one's life on earth. Once one had reached paradise one could live peacefully in the company of those one had loved while on earth, including one's pets, in the same neighborhood by the same stream, beneath the very same trees one thought had been lost at death. This eternal life, however, was only available to those who had lived well and in accordance with the will of the gods in the most perfect place conducive to such a goal: the land of Egypt.

To the Egyptians, life on earth was only one aspect of an eternal journey. The soul was immortal and was only inhabiting a body on this physical plane for a short time. At death, one would meet with judgment in the Hall of Truth and, if justified, would move on to an eternal paradise known as The Field of Reeds which was a mirror image of one's life on earth. Once one had reached paradise one could live peacefully in the company of those one had loved while on earth, including one's pets, in the same neighborhood by the same stream, beneath the very same trees one thought had been lost at death. This eternal life, however, was only available to those who had lived well and in accordance with the will of the gods in the most perfect place conducive to such a goal: the land of Egypt.

 Ancient Egyptian Culture

Photo by Jeremy Zero

 

 

 

Field of Reeds (Aaru)

A'Aru (The Field of Reeds) was the Egyptian afterlife, an idealized vision of one's life on earth (also known as Sekhet-A'Aru and translated as The Field of Rushes). Death was not the end of life but a transition to another part of one's eternal journey.

Everything thought to have been lost at death was returned and there was no pain and, obviously, no threat of death as one lived on in the presence of the gods, doing as one had done on earth, with everyone the soul had ever loved.

People already believed in the immortality of the soul and the survival of bodily death in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000 - c. 3150 BCE) as evidenced by grave goods included in burials. This belief developed throughout the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150 - c. 2613 BCE) and was fully integrated into the culture by the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE). Although some form of afterlife was envisioned from the earliest times, its details changed as the concept developed further.

A FIRM BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH WAS CENTRAL TO EGYPTIAN CULTURE, THE MOST ENDURING BEING THE VISION OF A'ARU.

Religion

Egyptian religion was a combination of beliefs and practices which, in the modern day, would include Egyptian mythology, science, medicine, psychiatry, magic, spiritualism, herbology, as well as the modern understanding of 'religion' as belief in a higher power and a life after death.

Religion was fully integrated into the lives of the ancient Egyptians. The gods were not faraway entities but lived close at hand in their temples, in trees, rivers, streams, and the earth itself. The gods had created order out of chaos in the dark beginnings of the world and had made Egypt the most perfect and pleasant land for humans to live in. Life in ancient Egypt was considered the best one could experience on earth - as long as one lived in accordance with the will of the gods.

 

The Gods

The underlying principle of Egyptian religion was known as heka (magic) personified in the god Heka. Heka had always existed and was present in the act of creation. He was the god of magic and medicine but was also the power which enabled the gods to perform their functions and allowed human beings to commune with their gods. He was all-pervasive and all-encompassing, imbuing the daily lives of the Egyptians with magic and meaning and sustaining the principle of ma'at upon which life depended.

Source: https://www.worldhistory.org/egypt/

Ancient Egyptian Culture

Photo by Jeremy Zero

 

 

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