The Government

The government stored food and distributed it to workers or to the people in times of famine.

Another important position was thechief treasurer. He was responsible for collecting and assessing taxes. The treasurer also monitored the redistribution of the items brought in through taxes. He had other officials under his command, who helped collect taxes and keep tax records.

The central government became moreinvolvedin the nomes and had more control of individual people and what they paid in taxes. The pharaoh tried to limit the power of the nomarchs. He appointed officials to oversee their activity and he weakened the nomes by making towns the basic unit of the government. The mayors of individual towns became powerful.

The 19th Dynasty saw the beginning of abreak-upin the legal system. Before this dynasty, government appointed judges made decisions based on evidence presented to them. During this period, however, people began obtaining verdicts from oracles. Priests read a list of suspects to the state gods image, and the statue indicated the guilty party. This change represented an increase in the priesthoods political power. It was open to corruption.

© Bruno Girin – The famous pyramids at Giza

Thevizierwas the most important person after the pharaoh. Each pharaoh appointed his/her vizier, who oversaw the judiciary system and the government administration. The vizier sat in the high court, which handled serious legal cases, often involving capital punishment. Egypt usually had one vizier; sometimes there were two, who oversaw either Upper or Lower Egypt.

People paid taxes with agriculture produce or precious materials.

During Dynasties Five and Six, the pharaohs power lessened. Government positions had becomehereditaryand the district governors, called nomarchs, grew powerful. By the end of the Old Kingdom, nomarchs were ruling their nomes (districts) without the oversight of the pharaoh. When the pharaohs lost control of the nomes, the central government collapsed.

Overseerwas a common title in the Ancient Egyptian government. They managed work sites, like the pyramids, and some also watched over granaries and monitored their contents.

The government of Ancient Egypt depended on two important factors; the pharaoh and agriculture. The Pharaoh was a vital part of the the Egyptian government and he appointed the other officials during most periods. The highest officials took their orders directly from the king. Agriculture was the foundation of Egypts economy and government.

During the New Kingdom, some pharaohsgavetheir officials tombs, which helps identify those who served specific pharaohs. They also reveal changes in the governments high officials. Many pharaohs appointed officials from the bureaucracy, and some appointed men who had served in the military.

Earlier pharaohs created a strong government that allowed them to summonlarge work forces. They appointed their high officials, and they chose members of their family. These men were loyal to the pharaoh. The government then let the pharaoh gather and distribute enough food to support huge numbers of workers, which allowed them to build large stone pyramids.

Certainhigh officialswereburied in the Valley of the Kings, yielding a few significant aspects, such as the position they held and whom they served. Moreover, there are mentions of honors granted by the pharaoh, who certainly valued the official, given that he was granted a tomb in the royal cemetery.

The government ran building projects, like the pyramids.

Egypt was divided into nomes, and a nomarch governed each one.

© Internet Archive Book Images – Barter trade system

© Clio20 – Stela of Minnakht, chief of scribes

Scholars have found few government records from before the Old Kingdom Period. Evidence shows that Egypt was aunited kingdomwith a single ruler, which indicates that the first pharaohs must have set up a form of central government and established an economic system.

During the Late Period, the pharaohsreunitedEgypt and centralized the government. When Persia conquered Egypt, the new rulers established a monetary economy. The Persian monarchs made Egypt a satrapy, and appointed a governor to rule. The regional administrative system was kept in place. The Greek andRoman Empireslater imposed their governmental systems on Egypt, also keeping some aspects of Egypts regional government.

The Old Kingdoms government served as abasefor the Middle Kingdoms. The pharaoh made changes, including the addition of more officials. Titles and duties were more specific which limited each officials sphere of influence.

Ancient Egypts government became morecentralizedduring the Old Kingdom. Building large stone pyramids meant the pharaoh had to make changes to the government. Pharaohs from Dynasties Three and Four maintained a strong central government and they had almost absolute power.

The vizier was the most powerful government official.

Some periods also had ageneral. He was responsible for organizing and training the army. Either the general or the pharaoh led the army into battle. Sometimes, the crown prince served as the general before ascending to the throne.

A lot of the information scholars have about Egypts government comes fromtomb inscriptions. Government officials either built their own tombs or the pharaoh gave them one. Their tombs included inscriptions detailing their titles and some events from their lives. As an example, one officials tomb had a description of a time he greeted a foreign trade embassy for the pharaoh.

High officials sealed documents detailingproperty transfers. They maintained control of any property that was brought into amarriage, even if there was a divorce. Both men and women could file for divorce, though it was easier for a man to obtain it. In the event of a divorce, the man had to compensate the woman and the government insured the people followed these rules.

The pharaohs of the New Kingdom continued to build their government on the foundations of earlier governments. One change they made was adecreasein the land area of nomes and an increase in their number. During this period, the pharaohs created a standing army and created military positions. Before this, the pharaohs formed armies using conscripted people.

© Internet Archive Book Images – People paid taxes in produce

Scholars have also found law documents, including detailed cases oftomb raiders. They mention the steps the government took to punish them and try to prevent further raiding.

Officials based taxes on anassessmentof cultivable land and the flooding of the Nile. During periods of low flooding, officials reduced taxes, while the government levied a poll tax on each citizen, which they paid in produce or craft goods.

Scribesformed the basis of the Egyptian government. They wrote official documents and could move to higher positions.

Egypts central government moved when the pharaoh changed his/hercapital. The central officials worked out of the royal compound.Thebesserved as a government and religious capital for centuries.

Modern scholars place three Intermediate Periods into the timeline of Ancient Egypts history. The Old, Middle and New Kingdoms were each followed by an intermediate periods. All three of these had unique characteristics, but they have two common features. Each represents a time when Egypt wasnot unified, and there wasno centralized government.

The pharaoh sometimes had afunerary templebuilt for one of his officials in the Theban Necropolis. They also granted favored officials land revenues to provide goods for their funerary cult.

Before the Persian Period, the Egyptian economy was abarter systemand not monetary. People paid taxes to the government in the form of crops, livestock, jewelry or precious stones. In return, the government maintained peace in the land, saved food in case of famine and conducted public works.

Viziers were second only to the pharaoh in power.

The pharaoh was the ultimate authority in Ancient Egypt.

Egypt hadmanydifferent government officials. Some operated at national level, while others were regional.

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