The Boundaries of the World
Shifting the focus from content to container, the definition of a controlled area becomes a definition of boundaries: the universal empire is a state whose political borders are identical with the borders of the world. Yet the very concept of ‘border’ or ‘boundary’ is rather complex, in ancient and modern ideologies alike. In texts of the Late Bronze period, some fundamental opposites can be pointed out: on the one hand, linear vs. zonal, fixed vs. moving or static vs. dynamic; on the other, one-sided vs. reciprocal. These result in various concepts of border that are more appropriate to either the centralist or reciprocative worldviews respectively. Conceptual differentiation found its counterpart in a lexical differentiation (even if hardly consistent in itself and with ‘our’ terminology and conceptual frame). In particular, the Egyptian terminology of border is centred on two terms whose diversity has been properly emphasized: t',š is a real (political), flexible, movable border, while drw is a mythical and fixed border ‘belonging to the structure of cosmos’. 1
In the centralist ideology of the Late Bronze period, we may distinguish two conceptions of border, the one static and the other dynamic in nature. According to the static conception, the border of the universal empire lies fixed in its optimal position, as an ideal and cosmic border unaffected by historical accidents. Located at the extreme end of a world that is limited yet quite large, it remains outside the practical experience and knowledge of the common people. It is thus linked to cosmic rather than topographical features, and is connected with the basic antitheses fixed/moving, light/dark, solid/fluid that we have already mentioned above (Chapter 1) as differentiating cosmos from chaos.
The horizon, considered not as a relative perception of space but as the concrete circumference whose diameter is daily travelled by the sun, is the most suitable feature for the purpose of defining a statically conceived