Near Girgeh (Abydos) begins the Bahr-Yûsef, Joseph's Canal. The various articles found in these royal tombs point to a high degree of civilization by no means inferior to that of the immediately following dynasties.
It was formerly a branch of the Nile; it runs parallel to the main stream at a distance of from 5 to 6 miles along the left bank, and empties into the Fayûm (home of Arsinoe). Religion in general, and the funerary rites in particular, were already fixed, and the hieroglyphic system of writing had reached its last stage of alphabetic development (Maspéro, loc.
Near Edfu the valley widens out and becomes wider still in the neighbourhood of Esneh (Latopolis). Such is the case for the first two dynasties, which until about 1888 A. were considered by most scholars as entirely mythical.
At Luxor (part of Thebæ) it again narrows for a few miles, but after that it maintains a respectable breadth, averaging between twelve and fifteen miles. Their tombs, however, have since been discovered at Ûmm-el-Ga'âb, near Abydos, in the territory of the ancient This (Thinis), and the names of Menes, Zer, Usaphais, and Miebis have already been found.
Near Edfu the sandstone is replaced by nummulitic limestones (Eocene) of the Tertiary period, which form the bulk of the Libyan desert and a considerable portion of the Arabian desert as well. Occasionally the Egyptians resorted to counter-raids on the Syrian territory, as in the case of the Amus and Hirûshaitus under Pepi I, but, the punishment inflicted, they invariably returned to their line of defense.
The Libyan Desert is a level, or almost level, table-land averaging 1000 feet above the sea. The seat of government during the first period was several times shifted from one city to another.
The most extensive of these are now, from east to west, Lake Menzaleh between the ancient Ostium Phatniticum and Ostium Pelusiacum, Lake Borolos (Lacus Buto or Paralus) east and Lake Edkû west of the Rosetta mouth (Ostium Bolbitinum), and Lake Mariût (Mareotis Lacus) south of the narrow strip of land on which Alexandria stands. The Libyans, also, and the tribes settled between the Nile and the Red Sea had to be repeatedly repelled or conquered.
Between Lake Menzaleh and the Red Sea, on a line running first south, and then south-south-east, are Lake Balah, Lake Timsâh, and the Bitter Lakes (Lacus Amari), now traversed by the Suez Canal. The brief records of such punitive expeditions, which appear on the Palermo Stone, attribute them to dates as early as the first two dynasties.
It is still called Fayûm, from the Coptic ", "the sea". The history of Egypt can be divided into two large periods, the first of which comprises the first seventeen and the second the other thirteen dynasties.
The immense alluvial plain thus encompassed was called by the Greeks the Delta, owing to its likeness to the fourth letter of their alphabet (). Some of the ancient Babylonian and Chaldean kings, like Sargon I (third millennium B.
As soon as the river enters this plain its waters divide into several streams which separately wind their way to the sea and make it a garden of incredible fertility. C.), may have occasionally extended their raids as far as the Mediterranean Sea, but it does not seem that they ever established their rule in a permanent way.
The Fayûm, in fact, is nothing but such an oasis on a larger scale. During the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, Heracleopolis, only a short distance south of Memphis, became the official seat of government, for no special known reason perhaps simply because the pharaohs of the reigning dynasties had originally been natives and princes of these nomes.
The plateau itself is waterless and practically without vegetation. They were opposed by the princes of Thebes (Eleventh Dynasty) who finally (Twelfth Dynasty) succeeded in overthrowing them and selected their own city as capital.