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By Lionel Casson

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The seasons were three: "Inundation", the time of flood, approximately from June to September; "Emergence of the fields from the water", which began in October and left the soil moist from then until about February; and "Drought", the time that lasted until June, when the cycle was repeated. Out of this observation came the first practicable calendar, and the one from which the modern Western calendar is derived. From these seasonal divisions also came social organization, for the river and its behaviour determined work assignments.

The upper classes of Egypt led a luxurious life. , reveal the grace and comfort for which the city was built. It spread over a crescent-shaped plain about eight miles long and three miles wide, and was laced with broad boulevards. The palace and the villas of the wealthy stood in the central quarter, which was designed with the demands of the climate well in mind. There were ample gardens, high reception rooms decorated with gay murals, balconies oriented towards the evening breeze, and outside sleeping porches, bedrooms, bathrooms with lavatories and basins fed by running water.

In the south Nubia broke away and in the north a rival to the Theban rule arose, a dynasty founded by foreigners. These were the Hyksos. Egypt, the nation that for so long had had nothing but scorn for neighbours, n o w endured the humiliation of foreign rule. Hyksos, which was long translated "shepherd 53 kings", is today rendered as "foreign chieftains". They were Asiatics, probably mostly Semites f r o m Palestine, w h o filtered in across the desert, settled near the eastern border of Egypt and extended their control over much of the Delta.

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