What was the importance of the Nile River to Ancient Egypt?

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The Nile River was very important to Egyptian history. Much of Egypt was desert with the exception of the area around the Nile River. Irrigation allowed the Egyptians to grow ample crops of grain in order to feed a growing and prosperous civilization. Other crops grown included papyrus and flax....

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The Nile River was very important to Egyptian history. Much of Egypt was desert with the exception of the area around the Nile River. Irrigation allowed the Egyptians to grow ample crops of grain in order to feed a growing and prosperous civilization. Other crops grown included papyrus and flax. The Nile also flooded seasonally, thus spreading valuable silt that fertilized the soil. The Nile also provided recreational opportunities as the Egyptians had many rowing sports. The Nile also allowed the Egyptians to trade with other groups up and down the river.

In addition to economic benefits, the river also featured prominently in Egyptian religion. The river was associated with the gods Isis and Osiris. The river was considered the manifestation of the god Hapi who ensured that the river flooded and provided all who lived beside it with life.

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The Nile River essentially made Ancient Egyptian civilization possible.  In fact, the Greek historian Herodotus went so far as to call Egypt “the gift of the Nile.”  Without the Nile, there could have been no civilization in Egypt.

Essentially all of Egypt was desert.  Desert is not a good place for civilization to arise.  In modern times, it is possible to irrigate deserts and make them agriculturally useful, but this was not possible in ancient times.  However, the Nile runs from south to north through Egypt.  This meant that there was a relatively small strip of land that could support agriculture, thus making civilization possible.

The ancient Egyptians differentiated between two types of land in their area.  They talked about the “red land,” which was the unusable desert and about the “black land,” which was the land near the Nile.  The Nile would carry huge amounts of silt.  Every year, the Nile would flood its banks.  When it did, it would drop the silt on the land along the river.  This made the land extremely fertile. 

The Nile also made trade and communications much easier.  It allowed Egypt to expand its territory.  In these ways, the Nile was vitally important to Ancient Egypt

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