Egyptian Social Hierarchy • Pharaoh • Viziers & High Priests • Royal Overseers • District Governors • Scribes • Artisans • Farmers & Laborers
A Few Famous Egyptian Pharaohs Thutmose III1504-1450 B. C. E. Ramses II1279-1212 B. C. E. Tutankhamen1336-1327 B. C. E.
Egyptian Pharaohs • The title of "Pharaoh" actually comes to us from the Greek language and its use in the Old Testament. • It originates in the Egyptian Per-aa, meaning "Great House", a designation of the palace, which first came to be used as a label for the king around 1450 B.C.E., though it only became common usage some centuries later. • For most of the time, the usual word for the king of ancient Egypt was nesu, but a whole range of titles were applicable to any full statement of a king's names and titulary. • Menes (Narmer) was the first pharaoh of Egypt & unified Egypt. • Kings were not only males, and unlike in modern monarchies, the ruler of ancient Egypt, whether male or female, was always called a king. • In fact, Egypt had some very noteworthy female rulers such as Hatshepsut and others.
Egyptian Pharaohs • In ancient (Pharaonic) Egypt, the pinnacle of Egyptian society, and indeed of religion, was the king. Below him were the layers of the educated bureaucracy which consisted of nobles, priests and civil servants, and under them were the great mass of common people, usually living very poor, agricultural based lives. • Except during the earliest of themes, when the highest official was apparently a Chancellor, for most of Egyptian history, the man or men just under the king were Viziers, (tjaty), a position that was roughly similar to a modern Prime Minister.
Duties of an Egyptian Pharaoh • The king himself (or herself) was the figure upon whom the whole administrative structure of the state rested. • These god-kings usually commanded tremendous resources. • The Pharaoh was the head of the civil administration, the supreme warlord and the chief priest of every god in the kingdom. • All offerings were made in his name and the entire priesthood acted in his stead. • In fact, he was himself a divine being, considered the physical offspring of a god. • The myth of the ruler's divine birth centered on the god assuming the form of (or becoming incarnate in) the king's father, who then impregnated his wife, who accordingly bore the divine ruler. • Of course, the king was also subject to some rather grave responsibilities. • Through his dealings with the gods, he was tasked with keeping the order, or ma'at of the land, and therefore keeping out chaos, often in the form of the enemies of Egypt from foreign lands. • But he was also responsible for making sufficient offerings and otherwise satisfying the gods so that they would bless Egypt with a bountiful Nile flood, and therefore a good enough harvest to feed his people. • When he failed at these tasks, he could bear not only blame, but a weakening of the state and thus his power. • In drastic cases, such as at the end of the Old Kingdom, this could actually lead to a complete collapse of the Egyptian state.
Egyptian Nobility • The elite ruling class was called paat, and the rest of the people were called rekhyt. • At first all high officials were royal relatives, especially princes, sons of the king. • Much of the evidence detailing the administration comes from inscriptions on vessels and seal-impressions. • Egyptian nobility had more privileges, served in government, had free time, & ate better than lower classes
Egyptian Nobility • A census of the country took place every other year, called the "following of Horus," wherein the king would supervise gathering of tribute. • The treasurer of the king of Lower Egypt, or sedjauty bity, was in charge, and the biennual census eventually turned into more or less regular dispatches of produce to the royal palace.
Viziers • The position of vizier (tjati) existed since the Old Kingdom. • The office insignia was a figure of Ma’at carried on a chain. • His job was to carry out the orders and decisions of the pharaoh, and he acted as a diplomat in the royal court, was in charge of tax collection and public works. • It was therefore often filled by close relatives of the king. • Viziers were civil servants. • On the whole, they wielded the real power as long as the pharaohs were too weak to wrest it from them. • In theory everybody was equal before maat which was expected to guide the administrators. • This set the king apart from everybody else, be they commoner or noble, and protected his position. Towards the end of the 18th dynasty, maat lost at least part of its importance as the guiding principle and personal loyalty towards the king became paramount.
Egyptian Priestly Class • Priests in ancient Egypt had a role different to the role of a priest in modern society. • Though the Egyptians had close associations with their gods, they did not practice any form of organized religion, as modern times would define it. • The priests did not preach, proselytize, or care for a congregation. • They were not messengers of any "divinely revealed truth." • There was no single Holy Book on which the religious system of Egypt was based.
Egyptian Priestly Class • The most common title for priest was hem netjer, meaning servant of the god. • Career priests were appointed to each temple, their numbers depending on the importance of the deity and the wealth of the temple. • The King was the chief priest of every cult of Egypt, though to be practical he delegated his authority to his appointees. • Though there was no Sacred Holy Book of Scripture, there were ritual and religious texts, applicable to temple practices, which the priests used. • The phraseology of spoken ritual must have been transmitted by word of mouth for generations before the written language could deal with it. • The surviving religious literature of the Old Kingdom suggests the existence of priestly colleges or centers of religious learning where the mythologies were developed. • The largest body of religious literature from this time is the Pyramid Texts. • Priests had to learn writing and reading, and learn certain religious manuals by heart to understand some theology. • Ritual texts however, were often read directly from scrolls, not said by heart, since even one word out of place would negate the powerful ritual act in progress. • The highest-ranking priests also attended councils of state in the royal palace, and accompanied the king during his jubilee celebrations or on his trips abroad.
Egyptian Priestly Class • In fact, the various cosmogonies developed at Heliopolis, Memphis and Hermopolis are each different and even contradictory. • The various myths and legends surrounding the gods were totally incompatible with the development of one coherent system of belief. • One version of how the sun traveled across the sky described how Ra was ferried in his sacred boat, the Solar barque, whose divine crew the deceased King hoped to join upon his resurrection. • According to another myth, the sun was born each morning on the eastern horizon to the sky-goddess Nut and traveled across the vault of heaven, which was her body, to be swallowed by her at sunset on the western horizon. • A third explanation was that a giant scarab beetle, the god Khepri, pushed the fiery ball up through the horizon at dawn and rolled it across the sky.
Egyptian Priestly Class No preaching was required because every Egyptian accepted the validity of the traditional religious theology, i.e. the world was created, ordered and governed by the gods, through the intermediary the king, the only actual priest in Egypt. It was accepted that people tried to live good lives in the hope of earning merit for the life to come; they didn’t need to be "converted" to a way that was already considered to be theirs. The authors of religious works had no responsibility for instructing the people as a whole in the ways of the gods. The same was true for the ritual priests. Egyptian priests did have a vital role in the religious ritual of daily and festival life. Whereas today a god may be worshipped who is believed to bestow his grace upon his followers, the Egyptian priest offered and performed material and ritually magic services to the god of his temple, to ensure that god’s presence would continue on earth, and thus maintain the harmony and order of the world as it had been created. That was why the priests were called "servants of the god," or hem-netjer, the traditional title for a priest.
Royal Overseers • The key areas of administration were the Treasury, the Department of Agriculture, the Ministry of Works, the judiciary and the army. The most prestigious title, the chief advisor and administrator of the king, was the tjaty, the vizier or prime minister. • Appointments of officials were generally the viziers' privilege, but kings often granted favorites placed loyal retainers in some positions. • The reasons given for promotions of officials differed under the various kings. • Keeping the administration efficient was a constant concern. • Officials at times arrogated privileges, embezzled payments and extorted forced labor for their own benefit.
Royal Overseers • Little seems to have been achieved without its involvement. • Civil servants, which included judges, were answerable directly to the vizier or to his representative • Each vizier had a treasurer under him, a superintendent of cattle, the mayors of the cities (Pi-Ramesse and Memphis in the north, Thebes in the south), the village chiefs and a whole army of minor officials. Sebekhotep was a senior treasury official of the reign of Thutmose IV (1400-1390 B.C.E.). Three men carrying luxury items characteristic of their country: gold rings, jasper, ebony logs, giraffe tails, a leopard skin, a live baboon and a monkey.
District Governors • District Governors controlled the local nomes into which Egypt was divided • At the local level, Egypt’s government was composed of a series of administrative districts called sepat, known by the Greek term, nome. Rekhmire was a governor of Thebes during the reigns of Tuthmosis III, 18th dynasty
District Governors • The nomarch, or governor, the chief of the provincial administration, was originally a royal appointee or member of the royal family. • He also bore titles such as judge and overseer of priests. By the 6th dynasty, it is evident that nomes were grouped administratively into larger units, and an overseer interacted with the respective nomarchs. • Nomarchs were given titles and estates, and as the greatest Old Kingdom reward, some were granted the right to build their own tomb in the royal necropolis. Djehutihotep, a governor who ruled during the 12th dynasty of Amenemhet II, about 1850 B.C.E.
Egyptian Scribes • Scribes belonged to a well-defined and rather exclusive caste, standing out from the surrounding illiteracy by his command of the secret skills of reading and writing. • These qualifications were considered a privilege, and perhaps a mystery, shared only with the rulers and the gods. • Writing things down was only one aspect of the scribe's profession. • He was in effect a civil servant of the king, dignitary or temple institution, fully competent in his particular field, equipped for independent thought, decision-making and management. • The records he kept enabled him to make judgments designed to bring order into every field, to ensure that things ran smoothly and would continue to do so.
Egyptian Scribes • Along with the higher-ranking priests and some of the educated dignitaries, the scribes constituted the intelligentsia of ancient Egypt. • They occupied the upper rungs of the social ladder to the very top, and enjoyed due recognition accordingly. • We are indebted to their industry in leaving behind a wealth of documentation, from everyday reports to literary texts ofhigh merit. • The scribes were well aware of their status and guarded their professional secrets jealously. • Free from physical labor, they had soft hands, clean clothes and minds unencumbered by bodily fatigue. • They were the managers who gave orders, checked results, took records, granted or withheld permission. • The ordinary Egyptian turned to them for all kinds of help, from drawing up a will or a marriage contract to simply reading and writing letters. • Scribes were usually the sons of scribes and few members of other professions, or even their offspring, managed to penetrate the group.
Papyrus Paper Hieratic Scroll Piece Papyrus Plant
Making Papyrus • To make writing material the Egyptians had to slit the papyrus stem into thin strips which were laid close together and then covered with a second layer running at right-angles to the first. • These were sprinkled with water and beaten hard with stone hammers, not only to flatten them but to release the natural viscous juices that bonded them together into a strong but pliant sheet, usually between 15cm and 50cm wide. • Once dry, the white surface could be written on without the ink running or fading for a very long time. • The sheets were finally glued together in strips and wound cylindrically on wooden rods. • The resultant scrolls were often of considerable length, as much as 40m and more for literary texts.
Scribes & Record Keeping • For short records and notes, accounts, certificates and draft texts the scribes also resorted to a cheaper material - fragments of broken pottery or limestone sherds, ostraca. • These were sometimes used for more permanent records too, such as inventories, but even private legal records and contracts. • From texts and from numerous tomb-wall illustrations we can visualize how the managerial and auditing functions of the scribes entered into people's daily life. • All kinds of routine records, for the most part lists and summaries, were their doing. • Everything, it seems, had to be noted down, from the number of bags of grain harvested to the size of herds, amounts of seed-grain and materials issued from store, types and quantities of objects manufactured, building supplies, tools and artisans' requisites. • Records were kept of: • work attendance, wages paid, kinds and quantities of booty seized, numbers of hands and phalluses cut from the bodies of fallen enemies all as punctiliously as the inventories of gifts that followed the deceased into the next world or were daily sacrificed in his honor by the funerary priests. • Other documents from the scribe's pen included: • regulations issued by various bodies, court proceedings and records of private contracts dealing with sale and purchase, loans, hire, financial arrangements between spouses, inheritance, receipts, taxes, accounts and so on. • We also find many documents of a private character, such as letters. Where the writer is the scribe himself his own name appears on them. • We possess for example a set of 54 letters, in whole or part, exchanged between the scribe Butehamun in the artisans' village of Deir el-Medina and his father Djehutimose in far-off Nubia. Scribes also penned letters, in return for payment, on behalf of illiterate clients.
Hieroglyphics “Alphabet” 24 “letters” + 700 phonetic symbols
Egyptian Math & Draftsmanship What number is this?
Artisans • The materials Egyptian craftsmen worked with since prehistoric times were stone, clay, plant matter such as wood and fibers, animal matter i.e. bone, ivory, feathers etc. Later metals were added: gold which was found in its metallic state, silver, at first as an adjunct of gold and ores which had to be smelted - copper and tin, their alloy bronze and finally iron.
Artisans • The uses for clay were discovered very early. Enamel pearls were found in tombs of the early 4th millennium. Quartzite sand was made into glass on a significant scale since about the 16th century.
Artisans • To produce their artifacts they had to fashion tools which became evermore sophisticated. • Every trade had its own set of implements • Types of Artisans: • Carpenters • sculptors • stonemasons and builders • gold- and silversmiths & other metal workers such as iron smiths and foundry workers • weavers, spinners, and dressmakers • Potters & basket makers • glass-blowers • Surgeons • scribes.
The Egyptian Market • Ancient Egypt had a barter economy. • There was no coinage until the latter half of the first millennium B.C.E., but people may have used pieces of metal of given weights as a kind of proto-currency, though no such standardized metal pieces have been found.
The Egyptian Market • The woman on the left is showing two white vessels containing some liquid to the crouching man. • Woman: "This is nemsit (nmsT) essence to please you."Man: "msx.t (?)"
The Egyptian Market • The buyer (on the left) wants to exchange a pair of red sandals for a vessel full of some liquid. A second client is holding a little casket. • Vendor: "Here's sweet sat beverage for you."Buyer: "Here's a pair of sturdy sandals for you."
The Egyptian Market A seller of vegetables is in conversation with a buyer. A second buyer is holding a fan in his hand. Buyer: "Here's a bracelet for you, excellent for your arm. Here's what's your due (?)."Greengrocer: "Let's see! Give the equivalent."Second buyer: "Here's a fan for you. Fan yourself (?) ...."
FIshIng • The ancient Egyptian civilization was among the first to regard hunting and fishing as both a sport and a source of food. • While many professional hunters and fishermen lived from their trade, sportsmen enjoyed leaving the towns behind • They would spend a few days in the company of other men and measure their hunting skills with those of professionals, as they still do today.
Builders & Pyramid Construction • The planning of Egyptian architects and stone-masons was meticulous. • It included ground-plans, sections and contours drawn on surfaces covered with grid lines. • The administrators had to plan too. • While they interfered little in the way residential districts of towns grew, they were responsible for the erection of public buildings, among them temples built of stone. • Expeditions to the quarries were complicated enterprises.
Builders & Pyramid Construction • Hundreds, at times thousands, of workers, soldiers and scribes had to be fed and housed in inhospitable areas, the quarried rock moved to the Nile and barges built just before the beginning of the inundation. • Timing was crucial. The rocks had to be loaded onto barges and shipped downriver. • This generally had to happen during inundation, as moving heavy loads on boats was much easier than dragging them on sledges and one could go farther by boat when the Nile was covering large tracts of land.
Corporal Punishment for Workers • Corporal punishment of workers was commonplace and seen, at least by some employers, as an inevitable part of existence and likely to be part of the next life as well, just as the decorator of Menna's tomb depicted it. • Foremen and supervisors did not escape being beaten either, if they were seen to have been slack in their duties. Worker being punished, from the tomb of Menna
Farming: Plowing, Planting, & Sowing In most countries heavy plows have to be used to turn over the soil, so that the growing plants get enough nutrients, but in Egypt the Nile flood deposited the nutrients on top, and the plowing served just to break up the top soil before sowing or for covering the seed afterwards. The Egyptian plough was lightly built and tied to the horns of the cattle. Cows were generally used for plowing, which caused their milk production to decrease during plowing time. A helper, often a child, led the animals, sometimes urging them on with a stick. When draft animals were unavailable, humans would pull the plow. The sower walked back and forth over the still moist field, a bag in one hand and spreading the seed with the other, or having a two handled woven basket tied around his neck, both his hands free for sowing. Sometimes a plow covered the seeds with earth. Driving hogs or sheep over the field served the same purpose.
Farming in Ancient Egypt: Harvesting • Harvest time was a time of intense labor. People worked from sun-up to sun-down, taking occasional breaks for drinking and eating. • If they were working for somebody else, an overseer would see to it they didn't dawdle. • The payment for the harvest season's work was generally the amount of grain a worker could reap in one day.
Farming in Ancient Egypt: Harvesting • The harvest generally took place shortly before the beginning of the next flooding, about in May or June, at times in April. • The whole population took part and on big estates journeying harvesting teams were employed. • These itinerant reapers began the season in the southern part of the country and followed the ripening crops downriver.
Ship Building & Transportation • The slow flowing Nile was ideal for transportation and from earliest times Egyptians built boats for transportation, fishing and enjoyment. • Their importance in every day life is reflected in the role they played in mythology and religion. The river ships were propelled either by oar or sail, sometimes they were towed or just left to drift downstream.
Ship Building • As there was very little wood available, the first vessels were made of bundled papyrus reeds. Simple rafts in the beginning, they grew into sizable 'ships‘ • Transportation of heavy loads, international trade and war required stronger ships than could be built from papyrus. • These wooden vessels were similar in form to the old reed boats, had a flat bottom and a square stern. • As they were without a keel onto which it could be stepped, the mast was often bipod, fastened to the gunwale.
Ship Building & the Egyptian Navy • A number of pharaohs saw the need for a strong navy • The royal fleet was supervised by the Chief of the Royal Ships, an important administrative rather than military position • Responsible for the taxation of merchandise transported on the Nile. • Egyptian seagoing ships were inferior to those used by other peoples, despite remarkable feats achieved, among them the expeditions along the eastern coast of Africa
Food: Menu of the Rich • While the food of the common people was barely adequate at best, and during the recurring corn dearths sadly lacking, the affluent certainly knew how to live it up: • Meat, water fowls, vegetables, fruit and wine were part of their diet, as was the ubiquitous bread in one of its many guises. • On the whole, Egyptians don't seem to have overindulged; according to the testimonies we have, they looked remarkably fit.
Cooking in Ancient Egypt • The kitchen was often a corner of the courtyard or on the flat roof; at any rate it was open to the air and generally just lightly roofed with branches. • Cooking was done in clay ovens as well as over open fires. • Wood was burnt as fuel, and sometimes charcoal, even though it was scarce. • The quantities of charcoal mentioned in the Harris papyrus or the diary of Medinet Habu were small. It was transported in baskets or sacks. • For lighting the fire a special kind of wood was imported from the south. It was very precious and even an important temple such as the one at Karnak was allotted only sixty pieces a month
The Egyptian Diet: What did they eat? • Meat & Fish: • While daily fare on the tables of the rich, was eaten by the poor on festive occasions only if at all. • Apart from game hunted in the Delta or desert, people kept various kinds of domesticated animals, some exclusively as sources of meat, such as geese, some breeds of cattle and, until the New Kingdom, Oryx antelopes for temple offerings. • Fruits & Vegetables: • Many Egyptians had a garden adjacent to their house, where they grew vegetables and fruit. • Vegetables - the "crop of the year" - were grown all year round, irrigated by hand and formed an important part of their diet. • Bread: • Bread was often used as a synonym for food and hospitality & used daily as a sacrifice to gods • Made out of Barley, durah, a kind of millet, and wheat
Making Ancient Egyptian Beer According to Strabo, a geographer living in the 1st century C.E., only the Egyptians brewed beer from barley. Bread and beer were the basic foodstuffs, and while most people had some difficulty making ends meet, there was—among the better-off at least—the danger of overindulging, and educators were aware of it. Beer, together with bread, oil and vegetables, was an important part of the wages workers received from their employers. The standard daily ration during pharaonic times was two jars containing somewhat more than two liters each. It was a healthier drink than water drawn from the river or some canal, which was often polluted.
Slavery in Ancient Egypt • Debt: Some Egyptians were sold into slavery because of debts or sold themselves to escape poverty. • As indentured slaves they did not lose all their civil rights; and sometimes the economic security they gained through their new status might seem to be worth giving up some freedoms for. • By Birth: In the Roman empire the offspring of slaves inherited their parents' status • At times, similar circumstances seem to have ruled the destinies of Egyptian slaves • Capture: There were apparently times when order was barely enforced and people, above all women, were abducted and enslaved (including foreigners)