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

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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