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The Ancient Egypt

The idea behind this article is to imagine that, as an ambassador to the Egyptian court, I have been held back in the country longer than expected after I have completed my mission there. So as to keep myself busy, I decide to write two articles on the ancient Egyptians based on Pharaoh, and another one on slaves and foreigners to my wife back at home. Basically, this research paper is meant to inform on some issues in the Ancient Egypt.

The Pharaoh-man, god and ruler

The word pharaoh is traced back in the old kingdom. In the ancient Egypt, a king could not be identified with this name because the kingship remained unchanged until when Christianity came and the old ways discarded (Elizabeth, 1981, p2). In most cases, majesty was yet another name for Pharaoh. The ancient Egyptian pharaoh had several responsibilities in the society. Pharaoh worked closely with Horus who was spiritual ruler in the whole country (John, 1850, p34). The ruler got his power from Re. His key responsibility was to guarantee the ancient people security, justice, and to see to it that Nile was raising everyday and the people in return would offer sacrifices to him. In most cases, the god identified himself with pharaoh. He was not powerful as God the creator but was just a representative of power from above (Elizabeth, 1981, p2).

Anytime the need arose for taking of oaths, it was done by the gods and in some situations pharaoh would assume the responsibility. In the old and middle dynasty after the pharaoh had died, he was believed to have joined the gods in heaven. The cult celebrations of a dead pharaoh would go on time without end but in some situations they would be forgotten as soon as they had died (Elizabeth, 1981, p3). A classic example is that of Ptolemy II who was mourned for over twenty years and his name was worshiped in Alexander the great shrine and the same was repeated for the pharaoh who took over from him. Compared with other pharaohs, their responsibility as guardians was retained even after they were dead (Elizabeth, 1981, p3). Generally, in the legacy of ancient Egypt the pharaohs were deemed by the people as having some divine authority. To the people, unlike other gods the pharaoh united them with the creator. They were regarded as being the initial beings to get back to life even after they had succumbed (John, 1850, p37).  

The king was very different from the rest of the people. To his credit, he had been assigned people to serve him alongside diplomats who sat with him in the dynasty. Among his key responsibilities was to safeguard the poor from being exploited by the strong in the ancient Egyptian society (Elizabeth, 1981, p9). The king would head the management in all perspectives and he would in addition represent the country in other countries in case of a meeting with them. In addition to all these, the king headed the armed forces. He was the leader of the soldiers and would sometimes accompany them to war and in a situation where he was not present his eldest son would take over. The king was in charge of the welfare of his subjects (John, 1850, p38).

The king and his cabinet were not easily associated with the ordinary civilians. In case the diplomats had any issue with the king, they did so with a lot of care and respect. The praise of the king was a must thing (John, 1850, p40). In some cases, some of the king’s subject would regard the pharaoh as the sun and they would regard themselves as dust in the feet. In case one rubbed shoulders with the pharaoh there was a call for purification (John, 1850, p42). This happened in most cases to those who opposed the pharaoh and would not go to the palace unless purification had been conducted on them. The people very close to the king respected some ceremonies which were deemed special although much is not known concerning this. At the onset of the late era, the people started looking at pharaohs as sons of god (Bob, 2004, p.219).

Each ruler who came to the throne adopted his own style of doing things. The succession of the pharaoh was being observed in the ancient Egypt. This was carried out with a lot of care to avoid getting somebody who would not care for the poor in the society. Unless there was a disaster, people did not like the idea of having to change the pharaoh. They believed in maintaining the foundation of the throne no matter what (Bob, 2004, p.220). On a normal circumstance, kingship was hereditary from the elderly to the son. If this happened the eldest son took over from the father. If the pharaoh had by any chance acquired power in a dubious way, they would first appease the gods with gifts (Bob, 2004, p.221). Starting from the middle kingdom, the incoming prince would be familiarized with his awaiting position to serve the people as a pharaoh. If the ability of the son was being questioned by the king and the pharaoh alongside people the son would be legitimized by the father. Anytime a new king was taking over it would call for ceremonies to be conducted in honor of the incoming king. As witnessed, the taking over power was not sometimes a peaceful mission as required by the tradition (Bob, 2004, p.222).

The pharaoh was deemed as the highest serving servant of the gods, but he never carried out his responsibilities as expected of him. As senior as he might appear, he was not in charge of the temple. When pharaoh would amass a lot of power from his subjects, he would play a political role (Bob, 2004, p.223). Kings would try to influence people to their side so as to keep their opponents at bay. The pharaoh on his side would appoint some of the influential people to positions like military commander so as to satisfy his political ego. A god example is given by Honemheb while trying to counter his opponent Hatti when he went to the army and appointed the commander general to the post of the king (Bob, 2004, p.223).

The Mayan nurses were in charge of raising kids in the royal palace and they were highly respected. Even in some situations, the nurses would take the responsibilities of the biological mother in case of her death (Elizabeth, 1981, p180). But all the same the women in authority preferred to have their children taken care of by the nurses. The academic issue of the king was taken care of by a special group of dignitaries (Elizabeth, 1981, p181).

Whenever the pharaoh died, many people came forward claiming to know him. The monarchs were very strict on this issue. They argued that, it was very hard for the pharaoh to make many friends basing their argument on the nature of his work. The only people who were recognized were the close family members (Elizabeth, 1981, p182).


Concerns have always been raised whether there was any slavery in the ancient Egypt. The sharp differences have emanated from how slavery is explained. How the Egyptians carried out slavery is different from the Greek society or even the Romans where slaves were left at the mercies of their masters and the community did not care at all. It is deduced that it is different from the rest of Africa (Jacqueline, 2001, p.21).

Hem, another word for slave, means an individual with limited privileges assigned a particular responsibility such as serving a god or the administration. Hem, is said only in the perspective of private individuals toward the last days of the old kingdom (Jacqueline, 2001, p.22). After sometimes, it is said that, slaves from other countries and especially from Asia became so many. These were either people who had been arrested during war or sold by slave traders. Upon coming, their enslavement was based on the mistake done. Those who had been captured because of not paying their debts were released upon serving for a specified period of time (Jacqueline, 2001, p.23).

Some slaves were meant to serve specific persons yet others were specifically entitled to mosques and high ranking individuals basically taken form a military field or appointed by the nobles. A number of Egyptians were taken to slavery due to huge credits and yet others decided to sell themselves owing to poverty (Bruce, 1983, 194). Once sold as a slave an individual did not lose civil rights and to some extent, after working for sometime and regaining economic stability, freedom would be returned. Slavery related to debts was later scrapped off as time went by. To some extent, some found themselves as slaves on being punished by the vizier. If a female servant wanted to work in the temple she had to pay some tribute to it after which she was allowed to work there (Bruce, 1983, p194).

Although slaves had been there in the ancient Egypt, their population came to shoot up in the new kingdom period upon Pharaohs’ dedication in foreign matters where he would poach them. During the era of Thutmose, he managed to get some Hittites as a token who were sixteen in number (Jacqueline, 2001, p.28). Upon being defeated in war by the Egyptians, the Nubians were taken as slaves and they were forced to pay taxes. Although not many, they were used to extract gold from the mines. Upon the ancient Egyptians defeating the Sea People, many were taken as slaves (Jacqueline, 2001, p.30).

The poor people who were taken captive were referred to go work as servants in the dangerous mines of gold and copper which were located in parts of Nubia and partly in Sinai regions where going by the dispositions made by the Greeks, water was hard to get and many lost their lives from getting tired and total dehydration due to high temperatures in the desert. All those in jail were exposed to enslavement and some were taken to be trained as soldiers yet others were taken to go serve as security personnel (Bruce, 1983, p237).

Hundreds of slaves worked on the large plantations owned by pharaohs, the nobles’ ant the clergies. Seti 1 is said to have so many slaves who were kept in the temple. Ramse III is associated with over one hundred thousand servants. Those slaves who worked in the wealthy families were deemed to be very fortunate (Bruce, 1983, p239). Comparing them with those who worked in the small farms of the ordinary farmers, they were seen to enjoy life just like their masters. Basically, some of their kids who were well talented and intellectually gifted became well known to their heads and they obviously made them big personnel in their families to handle respectable matters such as family businesses and finances. This even went to an extent of some of them marrying from those families (Bruce, 1983, p244).

In the British dynasty, the young ones of slaves took after their parents in terms of their reputation. To some extent even the Egyptian servants tended to borrow this idea. Sometimes when there was an increase in demand of slaves even old women were not spared either. In some situations it was even an ugly situation where the women were raped. In one of the documents it indicates where a slave master received complaints from a family of a woman who had been raped demanding for compensation (Bruce, 1983, p244). These cases were also very rampant in the Roman dynasty when police were introduced in the first millennium. Strangers were even more exposed to a great threat. Referring to the scriptures Joseph got into slavery upon being sold by his people. This and so many other incidences were so rampant in the ancient Egypt. Lonely travelers in foreign regions were easily kidnapped and taken to places where their people could not trace them easily and in those days one could not solicit for aid anywhere (Bruce, 1983, p244).

Comparing ancient Egypt slave and Roman dynasty one can easily see that unlike in the latter where slave business was far and wide being controlled by affluent people, the former had only very little of that (Bruce, 1983, p302). In the era of pharaohs there are no traces of any slave market. But although slavery was not so much in the ancient Egypt as it was in the British and Greek empires, it came to take a different direction later. Slaves were traded in the entire region of Middle East, and partly Egypt who became good partners as time progressed. This business would later spread in the world. In most cases, slaves were put a special mark so as to differentiate them from the rest (Bruce, 1983, p309).

The prices of slaves were quite affordable to most people who were relatively affluent. Men in most cases were very cheap compared to their female counterparts. His largely depended on the work they were going to do as well as their experience. In the 21st century, the prices were very different unlike in the new kingdom era. It is therefore advisable to very alert while comparing the prices (Bruce, 1983, p312).

Just like it is hard to get the exact number of people who lived in those old days, it is equally hard to estimate the exact number of slaves in the ancient Egypt. It is deduced that, the number of slaves was at its peak during the time of pharaoh. And they continued to increase during the new kingdom (Bruce, 1983, p405). Records indicate that, Thutmose III is supposed to have come back from Canaan with over ninety thousand captives. Going by the number of soldiers who might have taken part in the war these were more than that (Bruce, 1983, p408). People from Egypt preferred to take as slaves those men who were well built that had been defeated in battle than to take the residents in the town most of whom were kids and women. They would in most cases take men who had a great value than their female counterparts. All said and done, those who were regarded as a treasure were the men who had skills which was outstanding compared with the rest (Bruce, 1983, p409).

Unlike the British Empire, Persians and other dealers in slave business, the Egyptians were not very dominant in Africa. The estimated number of slaves they had was very small compared to other dealers (Bruce, 1983, p410). The temples were given a piece of land and slaves to work there, in fact, they were given first priority. They are said to have owned hundreds of slaves. According to an Egyptian scholar, he tend to think that, in roman periods a relative percentage of Egyptians had been taken to slavery unlike in the Britain where most of them were taken as slaves (Bruce, 1983, p410).

In the ancient Egypt, the slaves were treated with cruelty just like in any other part. Life of a slave was only relatively good if one was working in a well to do family. Giving a nice treatment to a slave was a personal decision and if this was the case, then good treatment was just a dream (Bruce, 1983, p411). Slaves definitely occupied lesser positions as low workers in the firms to being administrators in the society while in the temple they would only be recognized as mere clerks. In some families incase one lost all family members in an accident, the only people left who could be your family were slaves. In a rather strange trend, where a king was supposed to be buried with some of his property servants were also buried with him. This trend went like that and slowly came out of the picture (Bruce, 1983, p411).

In some societies the treatment of a slave would be different all together. They would be given as gifts or be mentioned in the will. In the tradition of Canaanites, slaves were supposed to treated as close members of the family and be included in the family will. Slave masters were expected by the society to look after them. Problems arose when the master went to bed with his servants as this created a lot of havocs within the family. This would create an even bigger problem incase the slave gave birth (Bruce, 1983, p412). Having said that, it is not well known how such a case was finally rested. To some extent, when the master slept with a slave it also brought solution to an already existing raw. In case the wife of the master in question could not give birth, they would look for a girl to sleep with the husband for them to get a child (Bruce, 1983, p412).

Slaves who were regarded as property would be recaptured and brought back in case they made an attempt to escape owing to cruelty. When a slave decided to run away, the re were only two options, one would seek refuge n a neighboring country or else hide in a temple e and work there (Bruce, 1983, p414). To escape through the desert was rather very risky and only a slave in dire need to escape from the master would opt to use that route. Even if they would sometimes maneuver their way and succeed they obviously were not secure (Bruce, 1983, p414).

In a case where a slave would be released, they would sometimes be adopted in those families. But such cases were very rare. The only person in the entire history of ancient Egypt who was in captive and rose to regain freedom quickly is Joseph. This only came to happen when he helped the king to interpret his dream. Instead of him being released, he was appointed to a position of a governor (Jacqueline, 2001, p.216). The population of people who were known to have risen to top positions having been slaves was very common in the new dynasty. If they had not been servants before then they must have come from that lineage (Jacqueline, 2001, p.216). Ancient Egyptians did not have any query about this. In most cases, most people who reached these great positions were the Nubians. The reason why this was rampant is not yet known but this can be attributed to their large population. For a slave to get freedom it only happened so through hard work but it could not just happen (Jacqueline, 2001, p.217).

In the ancient Egypt, the so called free females ere less and they were entitled to many privileges and were just like their male counterparts before the community and authority. They were allowed to own assets and sell it any time they deemed it right (Jacqueline, 2001, p.217). Although they would get married, they had say and no one would posses them. Until the recent period it was the father of the woman who would point the one to marry his daughter. What is even more worrying is the age at which they decide to get married.

Many nations obviously limited the rights of foreigners and in many cases; servants would lead better lives than them. In ancient Egypt however, foreigners were treated as citizens of that country (Jacqueline, 2001, p.217). They were entitled to good security including their assets and even in some cases the king would talk on their behalf. In case of a battle, and the foreigners betrayed the society, then they were taken in as servants. The Hebrew was not treated any better and was subjected to difficult tasks in case they were taken captive (Jacqueline, 2001, p.218).


Jacqueline D. (2001) Slavery in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia New York: BT Bound 34-220

Bruce G. (1983) Ancient Egypt: a social history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1-450

Elizabeth P. (1981) The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt New York: Random House 1-192

Bob B. (2004) Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. New York: Teaching Company Limited Partnership 3-254

John K. (1850) Ancient Egypt under the Pharaohs Oxford: B. Fellowes 32-234          

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