Ancient Egyptian Towns

Ancient Egyptian towns were created along the banks of the Nile River which was the main source of transportation.

Building along the Nile River offered more advantages to the ancient Egyptians like fertile farmland and drinking water was available to the communities. Ancient Egyptian towns were classified with regards to its location.

Upper towns were situated along the southern section of the Nile River or headwaters and Lower towns were near the Mediterranean Sea or the mouth of the Nile River.

Ancient Egyptian towns were constructed with walls around the outer limits and offered two entrances. Inside the walls there was one main road that was bisected by numerous streets forming a grid type pattern.

Houses were built from sun baked mud blocks. If a house was destroyed due to a natural disaster like a flood, someone would simply rebuild over the older house. Lower towns contained large areas of agricultural land where small houses were clustered around crops.

Political or Governing Towns

The first capital city in ancient Egypt was Thinis located in the Upper region. The city flourished during the first to third dynasties.

During this time many of the first pharaohs were laid to rest in the city. The city itself has never been found and is also known throughout ancient documents as being the cult center for the war god, Anhur.

The second political or governing town in ancient Egypt was Memphis. This Lower ancient Egyptian town was vibrant from 2950 until 2180 B.C.E.

The town served as a religious center for Ptah, the god of craftsmen as well as the creator god. Memphis is believed to have been the largest city in the world by some researchers.

Memphis began its decline after the construction of Alexandria during the Greek-Roman period occupation.

Thebes was an important religious and political city in Upper ancient Egypt like Memphis. The city was the capital of Egypt from 2135 B.C.E. until 1279 B.C.E. during the middle and new kingdoms.

Within the city of Thebes are the temples of Luxor as well as Karnak. Across the Nile River from the city lays the Valley of Kings and Queens. The main god worshipped in Thebes was Amun, King of the Gods.

Alexandria was the capital city of ancient Egypt from 332 B.C.E. after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great until 641 C.E. This Lower ancient Egyptian city is considered to be the intellectual center of the ancient world and contained the world’s largest library.

Situated along the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria still proves to be a very wealthy city for trading goods. Much of the older buildings have been destroyed, primarily through warfare.

Towering more than 100 meters into the sky, the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World until it was destroyed in 1480 C.E.

Religious towns

Heliopolis also known as the City of the Sun was the most powerful pre-dynasty religious town in ancient Egypt. The city is the birthplace of Atum, the sun god.

Ancient Egyptians flocked to this city in order to worship and give offerings to Atum. The Lower ancient Egypt town is home to the single enduring monument of pre-dynasty Egypt which is the Temple of Re-Atum obelisk.

Abydos is considered to the burial place of Osiris, the Judge of the Dead and Lord of the Underworld. Osiris was the brother-husband to Isis a very important ancient Egyptian god.

Located in Upper ancient Egypt, the town is home to the Temple of Seti I which aided historians in figuring out the succession of Egyptian kings from Menes to Seti.

Although there were many important towns in ancient Egypt, researchers would not have been able to break the code of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics without the town of Rosetta. In 1799, Jean-Francois Champollion found the Rosetta Stone which has been instrumental in breaking the hieroglyphic codes.

Founded in 800 C.E., the Lower town of Rosetta was situated near the Nile River and Mediterranean Sea which helped the town grow as a major center for trading goods.

Important facts about ancient Egyptian towns

  • Ancient Egyptian towns are referred to as Lower or Upper cities with Lower cities near the mouth of the Nile River and Upper cities closer to the headwaters of the Nile River.
  • Alexandria was an important city created by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E.
  • Thebes was an important capital city in ancient Egypt during the middle and new kingdom dynasties.
  • Memphis was the dominate city in ancient Egypt from the first to third dynasty.
  • Cities were constructed for religious, political or agricultural purposes.
  • Towns in the Lower region contained vast swaths of land for agriculture.
  • Heliopolis is considered to be the birthplace of Atum, the god of sun.
  • The Rosetta Stone was found in 1799 and has been instrumental in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Questions

  • What was the first capital city of ancient Egypt?
    Thinnis
  • Which god was worshipped in Heliopolis?
    Atum
  • Where is Osiris believed to be buried?
    Abydos
  • What year was the Rosetta Stone found by Jean-Francois Champollion?
    1799