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Old Kingdom

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 The Beginning: the 3rd dynasty
3 The Golden Age of the Old Kingdom: the 4th dynasty
4 The decline of the Old Kingdom: the 5th and the 6th dynasty


The Old Kingdom covers the history of Egypt from the Third to the Sixth Dynasties. Many Pyramids were constructed at this time. Its capital was Memphis, where Djoser established his court.

The Beginning: the 3rd dynasty

Egypt reached a great splendour during the Old Kingdom. The first famous pharaoh of the Old Kingdom was Djoser (2630 BC-2611 BC) who ordered the construction of the first pyramid (the Step Pyramid) in Memphis's new necropolis, Saqqara. An important person during the reign of Djoser was his vizier Imhotep, who oversaw the construction of the necropolis in Saqqara.

The Golden Age of the Old Kingdom: the 4th dynasty

The absolute height of the Old Kingdom was reached under the 4th Dynasty, when royal power reached its zenith. The dynasty began with Snefru (2575 BC-2551 BC), who built three pyramids, one mysterious pyramid in Meidum (a failure), the famous Bent Pyramid in Dashur (another failure) and the small Red Pyramid, also in Dashur. Because of this three pyramids he used a greater mass of stones then any other Pharaoh. Snefru was succeeded by his (in)famous son, Khufu (2551 BC-2528 BC), who built the Great Pyramid of Giza. The infamy comes from the character of his reign. Later Egyptian literature labeled him as a cruel tyrant, who imposed forced labour on his subjects to complete his pyramid. There are rumour that after his death quarrel broke out between his sons Djedefre (2528 BC-2520 BC) and Khafre (2520 BC-2494 BC). The latter built the second pyramid and the Sphinx in Giza. The later kings of the Fourth dynasty were Menkhaure (2494 BC-2472 BC), who built the smallest pyramid in Giza, and Shepseskaf (2472 BC-2467 BC)

The decline of the Old Kingdom: the 5th and the 6th dynasty

The 5th dynasty began with Userkhaf (2465 BC-2458 BC), who initiated terrible reforms weakening the power of Pharaoh and the central government. After his reign civil wars arose as the nomarchs (regional governors) didn't belong to the royal family anymore and powers were given to them. The civil wars became how later the worse, undermined unity and energetic government and also caused famines. But regional autonomy and civil wars weren't the only causes of this decline. The massive building projects of the 4th dynasty exceded the capacity of the treasury and the populace and weakened the foundations of the Kingdom. Rulers of the 6th dynasty saw themselves confronted with the worst excesses of civil war. The Old Kingdom was devoured by civil war after the very long reign of Pepy II (2246 BC-2151 BC).