The timeline of Ancient Egypt is often confusing for beginners because ancient Egyptians did not count the time the way we do.
They had no centralised calendar at all. Their dating system was based on regnal years of individual kings. For example, instead of saying that something happened in 1350 BC, they would say it was in year 2 of Akhenaten; 1275 BCEwas year 4 of Ramesses II, and so on.
In the third century BC, the Egyptian historian and priest Manetho noticed that the old way of counting time was not useful and invented the dynastic system.
He divided the 3000 years long history of ancient Egypt into three kingdoms and three ‘intermediate’ periods between them and grouped the Egyptian kings into 31 dynasties.
- Predynastic Period: around 5500-3100 BCE
- Egyptians invented a written language and shaped two distinct cultures in Upper and Lower Egypt.
Early Dynastic period
- Archaic of Early Dynastic period: Dynasty 0–2, around 3150–2686 BCE
- King Narmer unified Upper and Lower Egypt and ruled from Memphis.
- Culture and economy flourished.
- Important religious symbols were defined and depicted at the Narmer Palette.
- Old Kingdom: Third to sixth dynasties, around 2686–2181 BCE
- The age of pyramids
- The third dynasty founded by Djoser
- Fourth dynasty pharaohs Sneferu, Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaure were great pyramid builders.
- The fifth dynasty kings build temples to the sun god Ra.
- The sixth dynasty introduced nomarchs – local governors on nomes.
First intermediate period
- First intermediate period: Seventh to tenth dynasties, around 2181–2040 BCE
- The seventh dynasty: 70 pharaohs ruled for 70 days.
- Dynasties eight to eleven ruled locally and fought each other.
- Middle Kingdom: 11th to 12th dynasties, around 2040–1782 BCE
- Mentuhotep of the eleventh dynasty reunited Egypt.
- Amenemhet I founded the twelfth dynasty.
- Senusret III was the most powerful pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom.
- The thirteenth dynasty brought new disintegration of power.
Second intermediate period
- Second intermediate period: 13th to 17th dynasties, around 1782–1570 BCE
- The thirteenth dynasty pharaohs governed Egypt from Itjtawy.
- The Hyksos (the fifteenth dynasty) ruled from Avaris, and the seventeenth dynasty ruled from Thebes.
The New Kingdom
- The New Kingdom: 18th to 20th dynasties, around 1570–1070 BCE
- Ahmose I of the seventeenth dynasty expelled the Hyksos.
- Thutmosis III of the eighteenth dynasty (“the Napoleon of Egypt”) conquered nearby land.
- Akhenaten changed the state religion.
- Ramesses I founded the nineteenth dynasty.
- The twentieth dynasty founded by Setnakhte, the father of Ramesses III
Third intermediate period
- Third intermediate period: 21st to 26th dynasties, around 1080–525 BCE
- Smendes I of the twenty-first dynasty ruled Lower Egypt from Tanis.
- Shoshenq I of the twenty-second dynasty reunited Egypt.
- The Nubian (twenty-fifth) dynasty brings restored the empire’s glory.
- The Assyrians routed the Egyptians and appointed client kings.
- Late period: 27th to 30th dynasties, around 525–332 BCE
- Psamtik I reunited Egypt, ruled from Sais.
- The Persians conquered Egypt.
- Greco-Roman Period (332 BCE – 642 CE)
- Macedonian Dynasty – Alexander the Great, Philip Arrhideaus, and Alexander IV
- Ptolemaic Era (from Ptolemy I to Cleopatra VII)
- Roman Era (from Augustus to Constantine I)
- Byzantine Era – until the Arab conquest in 642 CE
What did you learn?
Who divided the ancient Egyptian history into three kingdoms and intermediate periods?
It was Manetho – a priest and historian from the Ptolemaic era.
Which period in Egyptian history is known as the age of pyramids?
It is the Old Kingdom.
During which period the Hyksos ruled Egypt?
During the Second Intermediate Period
Which two great empires conquered Egypt near the end of the Third Intermediate Period?
The Assyrian and Persian empires
Who ruled Egypt after the Persians were expelled?
The Greeks and Romans
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