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Viziers of the Old Kingdom
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/10/12
By: Yona Williams

While the pharaoh was the most powerful individual in Egypt, the second most powerful official related to the Egyptian kingdom was the vizier. In this article, you will learn about the responsibilities that a vizier took on, as well as some that have served throughout the many different kingdoms, such as Imhotep.

Viziers were often chosen from the ranks of the scribes, and they became the most trusted advisor of the pharaoh. Sometimes, they belonged to a family that produced many viziers. He was responsible for overseeing the different functions of government that were quite important, such as the state archives, construction projects, and the state judiciary system. In a way, he acted much like a prime minister.

Other supervisors and officials (like tax collectors and scribes) would report to the vizier. At any time, the pharaoh could make his decisions known over any aspect of government – overriding anything that the vizier had put into effect. The vizier was also in charge of supervising the security of the pharaoh and the rest of the palace. Other duties associated with the vizier include recording trade, making royal seals, and assuming a position in the High Court.

As written in the 'Installation of the Vizier,' there were certain traits and actions that the vizier was expected to perform. Viziers were supposed to act by the law, judge fairly, and do not show any willfulness or headstrong characteristics.

Viziers have accompanied the pharaoh on his journey of ruling Egypt throughout the New, Old and Middle Kingdoms. During the New Kingdom, there were two viziers chosen – one to represent Upper Egypt and another for Lower Egypt.

Below you will encounter some that served in the Old Kingdom period:

Imhotep

During the 3rd Dynasty, Imhotep served as the vizier for Djoser in the Old Kingdom. Early historians praised Imhotep for being a leader (or one of the first) architects, engineers and physicians.  Imhotep was so significant to the pharaoh that he is one of very few non-royals to become a part of a pharaoh statue. He was also one of the only few commoners that was given a 'divine status' after death.

Because of his talents, Imhotep  possessed a great deal of titles: Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor, and Maker of Vases in Chief.

The Viziers of Khafra

During the 4th Dynasty, Khafra was the pharaoh best known for building the second largest pyramid in the Giza Necropolis complex. When choosing his viziers, Khafra stayed within his own family, as all of them were related to him in one way or another. Many modern Egyptologists give him credit for the construction of the Great Sphinx. His viziers included:

Ankhhaf was an Egyptian prince who served as vizier and overseer of works to Khafra, who was actually his nephew.

Nefermaat II was also an Egyptian prince during the 4th dynasty, who took on the responsibility of vizier of Khafra. He was his cousin.

Minkhaf I was the son of Khafra and served as vizier at one time. Because of this, he was given a host of titles that included "Eldest king’s son of his body, Chief Justice and Vizier."

Khufukhaf was a son of the pharaoh Khufu and the full brother of Khafra. When he served as vizier, it was most likely towards the end of Khufu's reign or during his brother Khafra's reign.



 

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