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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Nile River: History and Myth

The Nile River, located in Egypt, the world's longest river, flows 4,132 miles (6,650 kilometers) north of the Mediterranean Sea (a very unusual direction for the river to take). It was considered a source of life by the ancient Egyptians and has played an important role in the country's history. The Nile River flows from two different sources: the White Nile from equatorial Africa and the Blue Nile from the Abyssinian Highlands. The historian Waterson wrote, "The Nile played an important role in the creation of Egypt, a process that began about five million years ago when the river began to flow northward into Egypt" (7-8). Permanent settlements began gradually along the banks of the river. 6000 BCE and it was the beginning of Egyptian civilization and culture which became the world's first recognizable nation state by c.3150 BCE. Since the Nile was seen as the source of alll life many important myths of the Egyptians concern the Nile or make significant mention of it; Among these is the story of Osiris, Isis and Set and how the order was established on the land.

History of Nile river among Egyptians

In ancient times, primitive Egyptians settled on the banks of the Nile River, where they built simple houses and huts to live in, grew many crops, and domesticated some animals, and since then the first steps to Egypt's glory was began. The initial place of cultivation was due to the overflowing of the Nile River, due to silt deposition that covered neighboring lands along the banks of the Nile and made them fertile. Wheat was the first crop the ancient Egyptians cultivated, which at the time relied on the Nile River as a solution to the threat of starvation and food shortages. On the other hand, they used some animals such as water buffalo and camel to feed, plow and carry goods. In short, the Nile is essential for people, crops, and livestock. Gradually, most Egyptians migrated to the Nile Valley, where they could maintain themselves. As the ancestors joined together on the Nile, they produced the ancient Egyptian civilization, one of the greatest civilizations in ancient history, with many temples and tombs built with precious treasures and ornaments. The influence of the Nile River extends to Sudan where it contributed significantly to the establishment of Sudanese states.

Myth of Nile river

Among the most popular stories in ancient Egypt about Neil is betrayal and murder by the god Osiris and his brother-god Set. Set was jealous of Osiris's power and popularity and therefore pretending to take him inside an elaborate coffin (sarcophagus) he gave her as a gift that was the best in him. After Osiris is inside, Set slams the lid down and throws Osiris into the Nile. Osiris's wife, Isis, went in search of her husband's corpse to give it a proper burial and, after looking at several places, noticed some children playing by Neil, who told him where he could find the coffin. This story draws the ancient belief of the Egyptians that the children had the gift of divine because they were able to tell the goddess something they could not find themselves.
The coffin floated down the Nile River until it was left in a tree of Byblos (in Phenicia), which quickly grew around and surrounded it. The king of Biblos praised the strong, stern-looking tree and brought it to his court and stood as a pillar. When Isis arrived at the Biblios, during her search, she recognized that her husband's body was inside the tree and found herself in front of the king and considered the column a favor. Isis then brought her dead husband back to Egypt to give him life. This sequence of events will inspire the Djed column, a symbol seen in Egyptian architecture and art in the country's history, symbolizing stability. The Djed, according to some interpretations, represents the backbone of Osiris when he was surrounded by trees or, according to others, the tree from which Isis removed Osiris' body to bring him back to life. .

Once back in Egypt, Isis leaves Osiris in her coffin by Neil to prepare herbs and potions to bring him back. He left his sister, Napthys, to protect the body from the set. However, upon hearing that Isis had gone in search of Osiris, he was searching for the body himself. He arrives in Naples and forces her to tell him where her brother's body is hidden. Finding it, they cut the corpse into pieces, and scattered them throughout Egypt. When Isis returns to revive her husband, the nephews shed tears and confess that her sister vows to find out what Set did to Osiris's body.

Isis and Napthys went in search of Osiris' remains and wherever they found a piece of him, they buried him and built a temple according to proper rituals. This was the account for several mausoleums of Osiris in ancient Egypt and was also said to have established the nomes, the thirty-six territorial regions (similar to a county or province) of ancient Egypt. Wherever a part of Osiris was buried, a nome eventually erupted. She managed to find and bury every part of her except her penis, which Set had thrown into the Nile River and eaten by the crocodile. It is for this reason that the crocodile was associated with Sobek, the god of fertility, and anyone eaten by a crocodile was considered lucky in a happy death.
As he was unfinished, Osiris could not return to life but became Lord of the Afterlife and Judge of the Dead. Neil, who had got Osiris's penis, was made fertile because of this and gave life to the people of the land. Osiris' son, Horus, defeated his father set and drove him off the ground (in some versions of the story, killing him) and therefore restored balance and order to the area. Horus and Isis then ruled the land in unison.

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