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Social Structure of Ancient Egypt: Pharaoh
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/10/12
By: Yona Williams

If the social structure of ancient Egypt were a mountain, standing at the peak would be the pharaoh – the most powerful individual of the land. In this article, you will learn more about his position, as well as some of the pharaohs that are often discussed when ancient Egyptian history is discussed.

The Pharaoh

The ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods were called the pharaoh – a title used in many modern circles, which is connected to the royal palace. The first time that the title was used for a king was during the New Kingdom, which occurred sometime during the middle of the 18th dynasty. The term Pharaoh translated into 'Great House' and was initially used to refer to the king's palace. However, when Thutmose III was the ruler of Egypt in the New Kingdom period, from around 1479 to 1425 BC, the term had come to mean a way to address the king as a person.

In Egyptian society circles, the pharaoh was at the top – serving as the political, religious, and economic leader of his people. During those times, the pharaoh had absolute political power. When he commanded, whatever he said became the law of the land and he was seen as the final judge for appeals of judgments that were made against individuals. As for the military, he was the supreme commander for matters of protection and war.

As for religion, the pharaoh was thought of as a god – considered a on of Ra or the incarnation of Horus, who was the son of Orsirus. This is why pyramids played such an important role in the life of a pharaoh. Building the best made sure that the pharaoh was able to reign in the afterlife. The pharaoh was not only responsible for controlling the lives of Egyptians while he was alive, but also when they joined him in the afterlife. It was these kinds of religious beliefs that gave the pharaoh endless power over his people.

The pharaoh was also a prominent figure when it came to the economics of the land. Being the most powerful in Egypt meant that he owned all the land, people, and possessions. He was in direct control of the majority of the land even though it was managed by royal officials. The nobles owned a small portion of the land, and other land was reserved for the building of temples. The pharaoh would collect a heavy amount of taxes that were used to fund large government project, including pyramids and temples. The taxes also went towards paying the wages of skilled workers, scribes, artisans, and military personnel. The money additionally paid for large projects that peasants built during times of flooding.

Famous Pharaohs

Over the years, archeologists have learned a great deal about influential leaders in ancient Egypt’s past, including the following pharaohs:

Djoser – ruled for nearly 30 years. The oldest known life-sized Egyptian statue depicts Djoser and can be found at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Khafra – Ruling over Egypt from 2558 to 2532 BC, this pharaoh was the son of Khufu, and is remembered for the impressive tomb (the Second Pyramid at Giza) that has the Great Sphinx guarding it.

Amenhotep I – Ruling from 1525 to 1504 BC, Amenhotep led the Egyptian army to battle in Nubia. He is also responsible for founding the workmen's village at Deir el-Medina.


 

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