Just as Mesopotamia is remembered for having the first cities, ancient Egypt is remembered for being the first united nation-state. A nation-state is a region with a single government and a united group of people. Their common experience of living in the Nile Valley and their shared religion brought the Egyptians together to form a single society.
Giver and Taker of Life
The Nile River was thought to be the "giver of life" for the ancient Egyptians. It affected all Egyptian activities, including farming, religious beliefs, and ways of governing. The Nile also helped bring together the peoples who lived along its banks.
For the early Egyptians the Nile served as a river highway To use this highway, the Egyptians became expert shipbuilders. The first Egyptian ships were made of bundles of reeds. By the time Egypt was united, some Egyptian boats were made of wooden planks and were as long as 60 feet (18 m). All year round, reed or wooden sailboats traveled on the Nile. Boats going downriver could use the river's fast currents to travel north. Boats sailing upriver relied on Egypt's steady north wind to go against the current. This two-way travel made visiting and trading easier.
No matter where they lived along the Nile River, the Egyptians had many of the same concerns. Some years the Nile, the giver of life, took life away. When rains fell too lightly upriver, the Nile did not overflow. The land lay baked by the sun, and the crops dried up. Without a harvest, people starved. But when too much rain fell at the Nile's source, the river flooded wildly. It washed away the crops and drowned people and animals. These common problems helped unite the Egyptian people. Together, the ancient Egyptians tried to understand their changing environment and developed innovations to solve their problems.
How did the Nile bring the Egyptian people together?