The story of Ancient Egypt and the extraordinary civilisation that flourished along the banks of the River Nile can seem like a gorgeous pageant studded with exceptional events. Among them are the building of the pyramids, the conquest of Nubia, Akhenaten's religious revolution, the power and beauty of Nefertiti, the life and death of Tutankhamun, the ruthlessness of Ramesses, Alexander the Great's invasion, and Cleopatra's fatal entanglement with Rome which led to the fall of Ptolemaic Egypt. But while three thousand years of pharaonic civilisation have all the ingredients of an epic novel - glittering courts, dynastic intrigues, murky assassinations and epic battles; individual stories of heroism and skulduggery, of triumph and tragedy; and, powerful women and tyrannical kings - the real historical story is even more surprising and far more interesting. The Ancient Egyptians were the first group of people to share a common culture, outlook and identity within a defined geographical territory governed by a single political authority - concepts of nationhood that continue to dominate the planet. As the world's first nation-state, the history of Ancient Egypt is above all the story of the attempt to unite a disparate realm and defend it against hostile forces from within and without. In this magnificent history, Toby Wilkinson combines grand narrative sweep with detailed knowledge of hieroglyphs and the iconography of power, to reveal Ancient Egypt in all its complexity. For the first time we see the relentless propaganda, the cut-throat politics, the brutality and repression that lay behind the appearance of unchanging monarchy as well as the extraordinary architectural and cultural achievements for which it is justly famous.