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Lots of Battle Scenes, set in ancient Egypt as it began to Fail
on 7 September 2007
All great cultures eventually fail: Egypt, some historians say, was around as a great unified culture, religion,& united people, by far the longest ever: over 4000 years. Eventually it too had to end & by then the top was rotten; there was a lack of what would be called patriotism or love of the nation; and at all levels of the nation were non-Egyptians, not that thats bad in itself but many immigrants had brought in other religions which had watered down the traditional religions---you don't have to be religious yourself to see that this weakened a nation where only 2% of the people were literate. There was corruption; they had lost most of their empire; the pharaohs were less considered to be god-kings than before, again, that may seem a good or forward-looking move to us, but it wasn't as far as keeping together a society that for nearly 5 millenia had believed the king was a god and spoke to the gods for the people. At any rate, everything had changed, and Egypt was a rotten fruit, and all the surrounding Empires were waiting to conqueror it.
Of course, quite soon Alexander the Great would conquer it for good and put his relatives on the throne--- his relatives'most famous descendent was there when the Romans came to conquer it again a few hundered years later ---was Egyptianized but not an Egyptian at all but rather the descendent of a Macedonian general and kin of Alexander named Cleopatra.
Anyway, this book is interesting, I do read a lot, both fiction and non fiction, about ancient Egypt and this is the first I've read where Egypt is at this point of total decay and there are hardly any Egyptians in the main story line: there are Greeks, Phoenicians, Libyans, Jews, Arabs, and others, all peoples who have moved into Egypt for a better life over the past generations and thrived there. So, that was new and different as a book for me.
Some reviewers didn't like the main character Barka, I think as a great warrior he was believable enough. He managed to survive great battles but as he is described as a battle hardened veteren, this would mean, to me, the more he survived, the more chance he has to keep on surviving. At that time, the skills to win in war were ones where a man who was gifted by nature with certain genetic abilities, like an athlete, would be able to have a great head start surviving over others, as long as simple bad luck, like an infected wound, didn't kill him.
An interesting read. Less about Egypt per se than war, and how men act in war.
A note: I don't know about the Medjay at the time the time period the book is set, but originally they were a Nubian (African) tribe that had fought as warriors and allies of the last descendents of the pharaohs and helped them regain their throne and free Egypt in the years when the Hyksos tribes had conquered Egypt, hundreds & hundreds of years earlier. (about 2135BC) That alliance can be read about in Pauline Gedge's excellent historical fiction trilogy: "The Lord of the two Lands".
Eventually the Medjay, by then completely assimilated into Egyptian culture and religion, became the hereditary policemen of Egypt, many fiction and non fiction books mention them in this regard, Lauren Haney has a good series of detective/mystery books where the Medjay who guard the frontier in Queen Hatshepsut's time are the main characters, under their fictional leader LT Bak.
In the triogy about Pharaoh Akenaten and King Tutankhamun by Paul C. Doherty, "The Evil Spirit out of the West/ The Season of the Hyeanas/ The Year of the Cobra" the Medjays are also referred to in their role as police. A recent book by Nick Drake, "Nefertiti: the Book of the Dead", a mystery, has a Medjay detective as its lead character.
So, my question is: by this late date in Egypt, 535 BC, were the Medjay made up of just anyone who wanted to join? Because my understanding is that for much of their existance they were a tribe/ ethnic group as well as the word for policeman or a type of warrior tribe. Or did the author not do research on this? Anyone know?