Thursday, May 7, 2015

Historians talk about Rome all the time, but what if Ancient Egypt never fell?

Guest post by Rebecca Stirling.
The Grand Union in 400 AD.
Egypt; now a small, nile-dependent nation on the coast of North Africa. One of the first places where mankind stretched its legs, Egypt is now a shadow of what it once was. It used to be the only world power, ruling over the nile and all of known Africa (at the time). Around 3500 BCE, Egypt was one of the first empires to form. It ruled as a major power until the 1st millennium BC, when it began to decline and was taken over by Macedonia.

In order to understand just how long Ancient Egypt would have to survive to get to the present day, we would need to first visualize how much it’s been through in the past five thousand years. From 30 BCE to 641 AD, Rome ruled over Egypt. The Sassanids would then rule over it for a decade afterwards, before it was passed to the Arabs. The Fatimids held it through the 11th century, and the Ayyubids had it after that. The Mamluks held it for 300 years, before the Ottoman Empire took it from them in the 1500s. The 1800s and 1900s were hard on Egypt, as it went through a French Occupation, British rule, and many years of strife before it finally gained independence once more in 1914.

The main thing we have to consider is if there even is a way for Ancient Egypt to survive that long. In order to keep the Romans away from their conquests, Egypt would have to have been much more powerful. However, finding a point of divergence might be a much harder task. To get Egypt powerful enough to keep out foreign invaders, we need a PoD far back enough that keeps Rome from existing entirely. In my TL on this subject (aptly entitled Grand Union), we use a divergence point from 3100 BCE, during the rule of Pharaoh Hor-Aha. If we attempt to make him much more successful, there are many things that could branch off from there. Before we go on, we must remember that we are at the beginning of civilization, and that everything after this point changes severely. Many things will be different by the time we get to the present day.

Firstly, the immediate effects will change the fate of many of the greatest empires on earth. If Macedonia manages to still form two thousand years later, it might attempt to go west (into Italy) instead of east. If it still attempts to capture Egypt and Persia, it might be completely absorbed by the much more powerful Egypt. Egypt could have expanded well into the Levant and Anatolia by this time, but they might instead have chosen to expand militarily, only focusing on internal matters. They might have outposts on the African coast, perhaps for primitive hunting or trading with Asia. Phoenicia might have never existed, and Carthage might still have existed well into the first millennium. Trade up and down the nile might cause many more African city states to form, maybe deep into the Great African Lakes and as south as OTL Tanzania. By 0 AD, definitely no people from OTL would exist, as most of the world has been affected from our point of divergence (except for the Americas, of course). Most nations from around that time period (in OTL) might not exist either.

Secondly, a more powerful Ancient Egypt would change the fate of religion entirely. Jews would probably still exist using this PoD, but their fate and lore might be much different. The Egyptians would probably take control of the Jewish Holy Land at some point, possibly kicking the Jews out and northward. They might settle in Anatolia or Arabia instead, or might scatter to places in Africa. Either way, Christianity would never form and gain a foothold in Europe. If a dark age ever happened, possibly after the collapse of a large Macedonia or Celtic Empire, there would be no Papal States or Holy Roman Empire. Germany might be more united, or might not be able to form nations until centuries later. Polytheistic religions would probably be the norm up to today, with Hinduism possibly gaining a foothold in all of Asia, and Greek and Norse religions gaining followers in Europe. The Egyptian religion would probably morph and change over time, possibly dividing into sects similar to Christianity. Judaism might be one of the most powerful religions, gaining followers only because of it’s leniency to people and their morals.

Thirdly, most (if not all) languages and cultures around the world would change entirely. For example, if Macedonia decided to go west as described in the third paragraph, anything coming from Latin origin might be crushed completely. Germanic runes, which carried Italian roots as far back as the 8th century BCE, would probably be safe due to them existing so long before Rome itself. The English language, however, full of Latin characters and root words, would not be. It would probably get influence from a more powerful Egypt or Macedonia, or might be completely based off of Germanic and Norse characters. In the Grand Union timeline that I mentioned above, we use a much more Greek-influenced version of Old English (Avƿeale Ægiπtiςc is how you say the Egyptian Empire in “Anglish”, notice the old Greek characters). Anatolia would probably be more Greek-influenced as well, due to a major lack of Islam, Arabs and Turks in general. India would probably be more fractured in its culture, possibly only being connected through the Hindu religion. The Americas might be much less civilized and ordered, due to many more African nations joining in on the exploration. Migrations would be quite weird; the Serbs might be forced northwards, while the Romans and Italians might be pushed south into Sicily and possibly Libya. The cultures of Europe would probably change the most, while Africa would be ruling over the south.

Again, most things that I’ve said above aren’t for certain. Just like how we can’t predict how the world would be if Rome survives, we can’t even come close to predicting something like this. These are only speculations, and it could tell us more about the political makeup of Egypt itself. Hope you enjoyed it!

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Rebecca Stirling is an Alternate History writer from New York. When not slacking off, she draws random shit and makes terrible maps. She’s also extremely single, probably due to the fact that she is an Alternate History writer. To read more about her work and projects, check out her profile on the Alternate History Wiki.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent analysis, Rebecca. However, you forget to take into account the Hand that directs history. Jesus would have been born, though perhaps not in Bethlehem (though even that could be possible IF Micah's prophecy was made in the 7th century BC). The temple would have remained in Jerusalem, but would have fallen to it's Egyptian overlords about the same time because of Jesus' own prophecies.

    How Jesus would have died would have depended on what torturous death the Egyptians would have devised by that time. Christianity would have developed differently, with perhaps different disciples drawn from the Jewish population (for the only NECESSARY personage is Jesus himself!). The spread of Christianity would probably be within the Egyptian Empire first, making Africa and the Levant its original home.

    Perhaps the spread of Christianity would follow the path of OTL Islam, eventually reaching around the world from Africa rather than from Europe. Egyptian Coptic Christianity would fill the place of Roman Catholic Christianity, while an Orthodox Church would have arisen to the North. The 'Great Schism' would be between Northern and Southern churches.

    Again, just my speculations, salted with my faith. Thank you for providing food for thought.

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    1. I like that idea, however, I don't think that the Point of Divergence even allows Jesus to be born at all. Disregarding that fact, though, if Jesus managed to be born and then died in Egypt, it might have ended up adopting something similar to what the Romans did before their collapse. This could bring the end of the Egyptian Empire eventually (even though the Roman empire didn't only collapse because of that).

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  3. Are you positing that without Hellenic influence in India, that Hinduism is more apt to spread outside the subcontinent ? Not sure how Hinduism would spreaf to "all" of Asia as there would have to be a pretty strong vehicle to penetrate and flourish in China, supplanting contemporary Confucianism

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