Starting in the Neolithic period (5500 to 5000 BC), Egypt developed an agricultural system. In an effort to stave off the powerful effects of famine and the economic dissatisfaction that accompanies it, the Egyptian dynasties built their civilization based on agricultural cores. These agricultural cores, with about 2,000 temples at their center, attracted a high degree of agricultural activity. There was government-sponsored “encouragement” to make a success of these farm communities. Such incentives would include exemption from taxation and exclusion from compulsory work requirements.
With the success of these models of economic and spiritual cores, during the years of the Twelfth Dynasty, the government initiated expansion projects that cultivated over 21,000 acres near the city of Faiyum. Since the New Kingdom, the border lands, which the irrigation water did not directly reach, were given free of charge to temples, officials, and warriors to reclaim and plant.
As Egyptian civilization advanced, so did its needs for extra land to continue the agricultural prosperity. Ramesses' reign saw the beginning of special attention to the Delta region. While the Delta was mostly a grazing range, the government efforts were positive and increased the cultivable lands from 8,000 to 13,000 square kilometers. In the Ptolemaic era, Egypt continued the agricultural expansion adding over 310,000 acres near Faiyum, Egypt’s agricultural belt. With totals of about 7 million acres, the Egyptian model of agricultural cores was considered very acceptable.
During the Roman period, Egypt became a province of Rome. Roman civilization brought prosperity to the areas of Germania and Northern Europe but actually had the reverse effect on Egypt’s agricultural economy. Canals and streams were neglected, resulting in the shrinking of cultivated land to about half its area in the Ptolemaic era. This shrinkage continued from the 7 million down to 1.5 million acres during the reign of Al-Muezz Lideen Allah.
At its height, Egypt’s prosperity was bolstered with the introduction of winter wheat, making food shortages non-existent. Flax, broad beans, lentils and onions were the staple crops, while the prosperity of the plantations brought an abundance of grapes and fruits, such as dates, figs, rhamnus, sycamore, pomegranates, as well as acacia and date palm trees. Beer and bread from barley met the needs of their people, which allowed for the exportation of grains during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.
Since the seventh century AD, Egypt became the main source for feeding the peoples of the Mediterranean region, which made it a target for invaders. This situation lasted after the Arab conquest. However, Arabs introduced new crops, such as rice and sugarcane, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD. This ancient system shows the impact of a government-sponsored economy on the evolution of a civilization.