2001 年 44 巻 1 号 p. 1-24
This paper focuses on the concept and purpose of borders or frontiers in ancient Egypt from a geographical view.
Egypt is surrounded by desert on both sides of the Nile. The natural environment and isolated geographical location formed a natural barrier from foreign invasions, as well as providing very effective internal communications through the Nile.
The borders or frontiers of ancient Egypt were not consistent throughout history. They were not easily distinguishable by the lines of demarcation. Particularly away from the Nile, aecumene regions or ‘empty lands’ were geographically stretched out very wide.
The Definition of a border or frontier in ancient Egypt is diverse and sometimes contradictory. Historically they represent delineations of geographical, political, administrative, religious and cosmological order: aspects different from the modern borders or frontiers. Two terms which may be recognized as an expression of the borders and frontiers are in hieroglyphics: t3š expresses the actual geographical borders, and drw expresses the end of the cosmos, and frontiers far beyond the range of t3š.
When considering either the borders or frontiers of ancient Egypt from a functional point of view, at least five types can be considered: natural, administrative, political, religious, and ethnic borders or frontiers. Each had its own function and geographical range.
Natural borders were very stable geographically and geomorphologically only limited to the Nile Valley down to the First Cataract and the desert margins to the both sides of the Nile in the Delta regions. Administrative borders delineated by the margins of the frontier nomes were almost equal to the natural borders during the Dynastic era. The administrative borders extended much further than the natural borders at the Greco-Roman era by the establishment of new nomes outside of the traditional range of Egypt. Political borders, de facto limits of the state, were rather dynamic in its expansion, according to the foreign affairs. Guarding the borders from the foreign invaders and bedouins was recognized as one of the most important tasks for the pharaohs to undertake as lords of not only Upper and Lower Egypt, but also of foreign lands, beyond the borders of Egypt. Ethnic frontiers were not clearly distinguishable expect through their difference in faith, language and customs.
The activities of the agricultural production were not typically in the frontier regions. The temples, military parks, custom posts and fortresses were scattered and placed in strategic points in the frontier zones, near trading centers with the neighboring countries. Their location represented the geographical distance of the frontier as well as their position with respect to their neighbors.