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A new kingdom. Egypt’s internal situation

The statue of Horus. Probably the 19th dynasty, c. 1293-1185 BC. Wood, plaster and polychrome finish.

The statue of Horus. Probably the 19th dynasty, c. 1293-1185 BC. Wood, plaster and polychrome finish.

In the middle of the second millennium BC, Babylonia, as a result of internal processes and external invasions, lost its leading role in the slave-owning world. Assyria gradually becomes the most powerful of the Central Asian powers, but its political power begins to be felt in full only in the last quarter of the second millennium. The predominant position among the slave-owning powers in the middle of the second millennium passed to Egypt.

The period of the New Kingdom, which began with the defeat and expulsion of the Hyksos, who conquered most of Egypt at the end of the Middle Kingdom, lasted about 500 years, ranging from the XVI to the XII century BC. e. It accounted for three Manethonic dynasties:

  • XVIII—approximately XVI-XIV centuries BC
  • XIX-approximately XIV—XIII centuries BCXX-a
  • pproximately XIII—XII centuries BC

The time of the New Kingdom is a period of further growth of slave-owning relations and significant development of private slave farms. The tsarist government at this time is trying to rely on the broader layers of slaveholders, seeking to limit the power of the nobility. It was the reliance on the wider free population that allowed the kings of Thebes, who led the southern kingdom, which was more or less independent of the Hyksos who had conquered Northern Egypt, to take the lead in the struggle against foreign invaders.

During the New Kingdom, the Egyptian slave state was no longer confined, as before, to the Nile Valley below the first cataracts. The war with foreign conquerors was replaced by aggressive campaigns outside Egypt. The Pharaonic kingdom became a huge power at that time. However, the lion’s share of the spoils from these campaigns was received by the nobility, while the masses of the people suffered want and privation. From the time of the New Kingdom, we have received information about the performances of artisans, about the uprisings of the masses at the end of the reign of the XIX dynasty.

Changes in the economy and public life

The development of productive forces in the New Kingdom

Watering the garden with the help of shadufs. A painting from the tomb of Ipui in Thebes. Egypt. XIX dynasty.

Watering the garden with the help of shadufs. A painting from the tomb of Ipui in Thebes. Egypt. XIX dynasty.

An important feature of Egyptian production during the New Kingdom period is the widespread use for the manufacture of tools (starting from the XVIII dynasty), along with copper, also an artificial alloy of copper with tin — bronze.

From the middle of the XVIII dynasty, there are images of castings of even such large objects as temple doors. Forged products were also made of bronze. However, copper in its natural form continued to be widely used in the New Kingdom. There is no reason to believe that the scanty deposits of tin recently discovered in Egypt were already known in antiquity; therefore, tin or an alloy of copper with tin must have been imported during the New Kingdom.

Iron is also mentioned by sources — a certain number of iron products were preserved from the New Kingdom, but even at the end of the XVIII dynasty, iron was considered almost a precious metal and products from it were sometimes set in gold.

Despite the significant value of copper and bronze and the unusual iron, the population continued to use stone tools. Flint blades from wooden sickles were repeatedly found during excavations; in such a large city as Hermopolis, not only such blades, but also flint knives, knives, scrapers were found where, apparently, the poor lived. However, the New Kingdom belongs entirely to the Bronze Age.

It is possible to name a number of other significant inventions and improvements in the field of technology, which were first used or received a noticeable spread.

The loom of the time of the Middle Kingdom was horizontal, it was served by two or three workers. No later than the middle of the eighteenth dynasty, a vertical loom appeared, requiring only one weaver, and only with a special width of fabrics, two weavers were needed; on such a loom, it was convenient to weave wider fabrics.

Previously, coppersmiths blew the horn with their mouths through pipes; in the middle of the XVIII dynasty, foot bellows appeared, and each of the two coppersmiths who blew the horn wielded two bellows. The management of several tools at the same time was typical for some other New Egyptian industries. The bead drillers drove up to five drills at once instead of one, and the spinner could work simultaneously on two suspended spinning wheels. In the images of the time of the XVIII dynasty, you can see a lot of craft tools that were not found in the images of earlier periods.

Harvesting. A mural from the tomb of Sennedjem in Deir al-Madinah (opposite Thebes). XIX dynasty.

Harvesting. A mural from the tomb of Sennedjem in Deir al-Madinah (opposite Thebes). XIX dynasty.

Great improvements are also observed in the construction of agricultural implements. Ploughs with vertical handles and crossbars, which were still rare in the Middle Kingdom, were now generally accepted and provided with hand holes at the top of the handles. The earthen clods were crushed by plowing not only with hoes, but also with hammers on long sticks. A comb-shaped board was used to remove flax seeds. In horticulture, water-lifting cranes (shadoofs) were used for watering.

Glassmaking has developed into a large craft industry. Already from the XVIII dynasty, many glass vessels and small crafts made of colored glass have come down to us. Several glass-making workshops were found, both from the time of the XVIII dynasty and later.

In the buildings of the New Kingdom, burnt bricks are occasionally found. Everything is noticeably new. Hollow images were cast from copper. Watering on dishes under the XVIII dynasty reached a strength that was not typical of the previous one. Different means were used to paint the glass. Gold with a light scarlet surface was prepared with the help of iron oxide. It should be mentioned that mummification reached unsurpassed perfection during the XVIII—XIX dynasties. This indicates the growth of knowledge in the field of applied chemistry. Wheeled carts were widely used. Although chariots were used for military purposes or for the trips of the nobility, and sledges were still used to transport heavy loads, but in the middle of the XVIII dynasty, military vessels were transported from Phoenicia to the Euphrates for the Pharaoh on wheeled carts drawn by oxen. It is known that a significant number of ox carts were sent to the quarries during the XX dynasty.

Big changes were also observed in cattle breeding. The horse that had spread since the time of the Hyksos, small and very slender, had no use in production: she went only in battle and traveling chariots. But horse breeding, which served the chariot army, was widely supplied. Many horses were captured by the Egyptians during the wars in Syria and Palestine; horses were also received from there as tribute. In the same way, a lot of cattle and even more small ones, as well as donkeys, came from there. Mules also appear. Ethiopia sent oxen as tribute; oxen and donkeys were captured there and during wars. The ancient sheep breed with spreading horns, which did not produce wool, was finally replaced by a modern one. Skeins of some kind of wool have come down to us from the end of the XVIII dynasty. Although the image of a camel next to a man is still from the time of the VI dynasty, however, the oldest images of the “ship of the desert” with luggage belong to the New Kingdom.

The sources are full of names of useful plants that were not used until that time (including such as lentils). Even during the XVIII dynasty, trees were brought from the shores of the Southern Red Sea region and planted in the capital’s temple, giving incense resin. There is evidence of the planting of foreign plants in the Nile Valley and during the XX dynasty.

Commodity-money circulation

During the preceding centuries, domestic trade had not played a major role. Even the word “merchant” is attested only from the time of the New Kingdom. Even during the New Kingdom, the economy continued to be basically natural, but still the internal exchange under the XVIII dynasty was already quite lively. This is proved, in particular, by the curious trading diary that has come down to us. It shows that a certain temple farm daily handed over to merchants bull heads, spine, legs, pieces of meat, wine, cookies, bread, pieces of pies. This was done day after day with rare omissions. Three or four merchants are named in the diary. The price of the transferred supplies is indicated in silver or gold. It turns out that there was a significant circle of buyers of food supplies and the sale of leftovers — obviously, temple sacrifices-was established. A school manuscript from the time of the twentieth dynasty describes how merchants travel down and up the river and deliver the “things” of one city to another. Often the merchants were representatives of the temples and were subordinate to a special chief or a particular priest. In the second half of the New Kingdom, merchants are known to be in the service of private individuals — the chiefs of the warriors, the temple singer; in one case, such a merchant was a slave of his master.

A measure of value

Nevertheless, monetary circulation was still poorly developed. The main measure of value already under the XVIII dynasty was silver, although gold was also used: in the second half of the New Kingdom, the word “silver “also meant”money”. During the XIX—XX dynasties, copper competed with silver. Despite the influx of silver from Syria, Palestine and neighboring countries, the ratio of the value of gold to the value of silver in the middle of the XVIII dynasty was 5: 3; the ratio of silver to copper was 100: 1 in the XIX dynasty, at the end of the XX — 60:1.

There was no minted coin, it was replaced by the following weight units of gold, silver, and copper: in the XVIII dynasty-deben, equal to 91 g, and its 1/12-shat, equal to approximately 71/2 g; in the XIX-XX dynasties — the same deben and more convenient for calculating 1/10 of it-kedet, equal to 9.1 g. Sometimes they paid in money, but even in the XX dynasty they did not see much difference in whether to get 1 bag of grain or 1 deben of silver. As a rule, they exchanged objects for objects in the old-fashioned way, but after first evaluating them for money. So, at the end of the XVIII dynasty, a slave was sold for 2 cows and 2 calves, valued at 2 debens and 4 shats. Under the 19th dynasty, a slave was bought for 1 apron, 1 sheet, 1 linen garment, 3 fine linen garments, 1 similar garment of a different cut, 10 shirts, 3 copper bowls, 1 copper cauldron, 1 copper mug, about 1 kg of copper scrap and 1 cup of honey, all valued together at 373 g of silver.

Plunder of conquered countries and foreign trade

y plundering the surrounding countries, Egypt multiplied the stocks of raw materials for handicraft production and food, and increased the number of livestock. Although the Sinai mines were heavily developed, much of the copper available in Egypt did not come from there. From one campaign in Syria and Palestine, Pharaoh Amenkhetep II (mid-XVIII dynasty) brought at least 45.5 tons of copper. In peacetime, under the 18th dynasty, copper was delivered not only by Syrian and Palestinian tributaries, but also in the form of semi-obligatory gifts from the island of Cyprus.

Gold was consumed with fabulous extravagance — the main source of it was, of course, not the local mines in the eastern desert, but the Ethiopian mines. Under the 18th dynasty, gold was almost the main tribute to Ethiopia. In addition, a large amount of it was exported during the campaigns from Syria and Palestine. Thus, the mentioned Amenkhetep II brought over 600 kg of gold from one campaign. In peacetime, however, the Syrian-Palestinian tribute in gold was (in the middle of the XVIII dynasty) ten, if not hundreds of times less than the Ethiopian one. But Ethiopia did not contribute any silver, lead, or copper; Egypt received these metals from Syrian and Palestinian tributaries, and also took them during the Syrian-Palestinian campaigns. When the Egyptian troops under the XVIII dynasty approached the borders of the Hittite kingdom, from there the Pharaoh was sent a gift of silver, which was rich in Asia Minor. At that time, lead was probably sent by the king of Cyprus.

Despite the fact that the extraction of turquoise in the Sinai Peninsula went on as usual, it was also taken during the campaigns of the pharaohs of the XVIII dynasty in Palestine and Syria; from there, in the form of mining and tribute, the lapis lazuli stone came; it was also given to the pharaohs of the XVIII dynasty by the kings of the Two Rivers and, possibly, Cyprus. Semiprecious stones were also supplied by Ethiopia during the XVIII dynasty and later.

The timber was being cut down in Lebanon at that time. During the XVIII dynasty, the use of Ethiopian timber for shipbuilding is known, but most of the timber for the construction of Egyptian warships came from Phoenicia. The valuable wood was exported from Syria and Palestine as booty and tribute, or was donated by the Hittites and possibly Cyprus. Ethiopia supplied black wood, which was also imported from the Southern Red Sea region.

Ivory was a type of Ethiopian tribute, but it was also donated by Cyprus during the eighteenth dynasty: there were still elephants in Northern Mesopotamia at that time, and Cyprus probably received ivory from there.

It is not necessary to say how much grain and other supplies were seized on the spot or obtained in the form of taxes, especially in the north.

It is not without reason that relations with the Southern Red Sea Region were facilitated by a canal dug between the Red Sea and the Nile in northeastern Egypt-a grandiose structure for that time.

Local sources of raw materials were also used more widely. The gigantic construction of New Kingdom temples in Thebes first led to the widespread use of sandstone quarries found in Southern Egypt.

Foreign trade

Mural depicting soldiers carrying branches and axes. Hatshepsut's trade expedition to the land of Punt. It is located in the burial temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor (Thebes). New Kingdom, ca. 1479-1458 BC

Mural depicting soldiers carrying branches and axes. Hatshepsut’s trade expedition to the land of Punt. It is located in the burial temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor (Thebes). New Kingdom, ca. 1479-1458 BC

With the country’s wealth in raw materials and its shameless seizure from its neighbors, the need for foreign trade had to be limited. The correspondence of the pharaohs of the late eighteenth dynasty with the great powers of the Middle East and the subordinate kings of Syria and Palestine about trade in the exact sense of the word says very little. The exchange of gifts between the pharaohs and the heads of other major powers, although bordering on trade, was still not. These gifts were at first most likely one-sided, since the kings of the Near East cajoled the Pharaoh with them, trying to free themselves from the military threat; Later, for example, the kings of Babylon begged the Pharaoh for gold, and he tried to bend them to his will with his golden handouts; the kings of Asia Minor could not pay Egypt with any equivalent gifts.

In the Syrian-Palestinian possessions of Egypt at the end of the XVIII dynasty, arbitrariness reigned, and the local rulers, together with representatives of the Egyptian authorities, robbed the merchants of the Babylonian king. The latter, complaining to the Pharaoh, pointed out the difficulty of driving through Syria and Palestine on the Babylonian side — for merchants, and on the Egyptian side — not for merchants, but for ambassadors.

The famous voyage in the middle of the XVIII dynasty of ships with the warriors of the pharaoh-woman Hatshepsut to the Southern Red Sea (the country of Punt) was more of a predatory than a commercial enterprise. The Egyptian ambassador brought as a gift to the local goddess vessels with sacrificial supplies and “all sorts of good things”:

  1. Rings
  2. Necklaces
  3. The axe
  4. The dagger.

When they sailed back, the Egyptian ships were loaded to overflowing with all sorts of herbs, heaps of incense and trees that produced it, ebony, various other valuable wood, ivory, gold, incense, ointments, as well as monkeys, greyhounds, leopard skins, and, finally, slaves and their children. The embassy was accompanied by the establishment of Egyptian rule over Punt. The local leaders went with the Egyptians to the capital to bow to the queen. The Egyptians themselves considered the gifts of Punt a tribute.

However, trade exchanges with foreign countries were not unusual, at least in the second half of the New Kingdom. Special merchants sailed on the temple ships and bought the necessary things for the temples. In the school prescriptions of the XIX dynasty, the rich man is referred to as the owner of a ship that sailed to the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

In school prescriptions, Babylonian stallions, bulls of the Hittite country, Cypriot cows, oil of the Hittite country and Mesopotamia, etc. are mentioned. From another script, we learn about the spears of the Hittite country. During the excavations of the new capital of the Pharaoh Amenkhetep IV (late XVIII dynasty), buildings were discovered in which, apparently, Mycenaean merchants stayed.

Development of slavery

In the New Kingdom, slavery reached an unprecedented level. Slaves were often owned even by people with a relatively modest social position:

  • shepherds and artisans
  • gardeners and porters
  • shipwrights and merchants
  • charioteers and warriors
  • minor priests and officials
  • simple commoners-townspeople.
Captive Ethiopians (slave market). Relief from the tomb of King Haremheb. Egypt. XIX dynasty.

Captive Ethiopians (slave market). Relief from the tomb of King Haremheb. Egypt. XIX dynasty.

In the decree of the beginning of the XIX dynasty, which exempted the temple of Osiris in Abydos from all kinds of state duties and prohibited encroachments on its property and rights, it was forbidden, in particular, for officials to encroach on the working people of this temple in Ethiopia. The decree forbade taking them, as well as their wives and slaves, to another district in the order of plowing, reaping, or other duties, on pain of severely beating the culprit and giving him to work in the temple in compensation for each day spent by the temple man with the culprit. Thus, the temple workers could have their own slaves; among these temple workers are ” plough keepers, farmers, gardeners, winegrowers, [teams? cargo ships, merchants with foreign countries, gold diggers, gold miners, shipbuilders, and anyone who does their work ” in the temple. Further, the ban extended to the temple shepherds and their slaves. The prohibition of attacks on priests, magi and various temple employees, their wives and slaves was specifically stipulated.

At the end of the XVIII dynasty, one shepherd had at least a slave and two female slaves, the gatekeeper-at least three female slaves; in the second half of the New Kingdom in the tombs of two minor priests was depicted-one has 7 female slaves with children, and the other-9 slaves, men and women. At the beginning of the XVIII dynasty, the son of a ship’s warrior, who himself served as a warrior and only later served as a chief of oarsmen, owned 9 slaves and 10 female slaves, all or almost all of which were obtained by him before being promoted to chief. Under the XIX dynasty, according to school instruction, a boy accepted for training as a chariot fighter was accompanied by 5 slaves, of which, however, only two were left for him there.

And how zealously and persistently such people sought slaves! Even at the beginning of the struggle against the Hyksos, the king’s army behaved “like lions” when capturing prey, primarily slaves, and shared the spoils “with a joyful heart”. At the beginning of the XVIII dynasty, the distribution of prisoners served as the main means of encouraging soldiers. A certain “fighter of the ruler” under the XVIII dynasty, accompanying his king, ” got “”people 46 heads”, apparently, for himself.

During the civil strife in Egypt itself under the XX dynasty, an Ethiopian warrior captured a slave, which he then sold.

Slave prices

It was not only in the war that people were eager to acquire slaves. During the nineteenth dynasty, a townswoman, the wife of an official, was so attracted to a Syrian girl from a merchant that the buyer borrowed various items from friends to pay the seller with them. At the end of the XX dynasty, the wife of a gardener, having got rich in stolen goods in the cemetery, exchanged it for slaves. Under the XVIII dynasty, even individual “days” of his female slaves were readily bought from slaveholders. Such transactions were sometimes concluded between the closest relatives. From one shepherd, five deals on the employment of female slaves were preserved. At the end of the XVIII dynasty, when buying a slave, cattle were once given for 28 shats, or 210 g of silver; for comparison, we note that, for example, a cow then cost 6-6 ½ shats, 1 arura, or 0.27 ha, arable land cost 2 shats, a goat – ½ shat.

In the second half of the New Kingdom, the price of slaves was much higher. Thus, for the Syriac girl mentioned above, things were given for 373 grams of silver; at the end of the XX dynasty, a slave was paid in silver, copper, grain and clothing with a total value of more than 360 grams of silver. However, at the end of the same XX dynasty, a slave was once bought for 182 g of silver. At this time, one gram of silver could buy 72 1/2 liters of grain.

The pursuit of slaves, the purchase of them, despite their high cost, cannot be explained otherwise than by the increased need of small farms for slave labor.

When the founder of the New Kingdom, Yahmes I, rewarded his ship’s warrior with slaves, he each time gave allotments of arable land: the first time he gave 5 “heads” and 5 arur, the second time-3 “heads” and also 5 arur. In the first case, the entire squad of rowers was awarded this way. The inscription of the end of the New Kingdom from Ethiopia reports the transfer to the hereditary possession of the temple singer of land and at the same time slaves and female slaves from the property (“things”) of a certain head of the granary.

Number of prisoners and slave labor

Especially many slaves were concentrated in the farms of the kings and temples. In them, the main source of labor was victorious wars with neighbors and tribute from them.

Syrian slaves make bricks for the storage workshop of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes. Tomb of the Vizier Rehimir, ca. 1450 BC.

Syrian slaves make bricks for the storage workshop of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes. Tomb of the Vizier Rehimir, ca. 1450 BC.

In the middle of the XVIII dynasty, Pharaoh Amenkhetep II led 89,600 people from one campaign in Syria (so according to the total given by the inscription itself; when counting individual components, even 101,218 is obtained). Other known numbers of prisoners under the eighteenth dynasty are far behind this number; usually the number of prisoners did not exceed three, or even one thousand, or even several hundred people. Amenhetep II himself brought only 2015 men from another campaign in Syria and Palestine. However, at the end of the XIX dynasty, under the Pharaoh Merenptah, more than 9 thousand prisoners were taken from among the tribes attacking Egypt. Since wars were a constant occurrence, the influx of prisoners had to be significant. The number of people who came in a year in the form of tribute from Syria and Palestine, was in the middle of the XVIII dynasty, under the Pharaoh Thutmose III, several hundred people (the largest of the surviving numbers — more than 700 people). From Southern Ethiopia, according to the surviving data, there were then no more than 100 people a year (the largest number — 134); Northern Ethiopia, according to the same data, was limited to sending 10 to 30 people a year. The captives were driven by ropes tied together by their necks, with their hands held in wooden stocks or twisted in such a way that it caused incredible torment. In the second half of the New Kingdom, captives were branded like cattle with red-hot seals with the royal name.

A significant part of the captives went to the temples, mainly to the temple of Amun-the god of Thebes and the patron saint of the kings of the New Kingdom. The bringing of captives for the temple of Amun is constantly mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions from the time of the New Kingdom. In what seems to be a very short period of time, Pharaoh Thutmose III (18th dynasty) donated 1,588 Syrians and some other Ethiopians to Amon. Ramesses III (IV) at the beginning of the XX dynasty gave the main temple of Amun 2607 Syrian-Palestinian and Ethiopian prisoners, and the temple of Ptah — 205.

The choicest slaves worked in the temple workshops-warehouses where sacrifices were prepared. In the middle of the XVIII dynasty, the weaving workshops of Amun were also full of prisoners, where they made various types of linen — from coarse to the finest. The slave weavers received a year’s worth of anointing and clothing, which implies that they had a special dwelling or at least a separate storehouse; in the second half of the New Kingdom, the slaves in the artisan detachment of the metropolitan cemetery received grain allowances for a month in advance. The prisoners were used during the 18th dynasty in the temple of Amun, as well as in brick production and construction. From the time of the XIX dynasty, there seems to be an indication of slaves among the ship people of the temple, although it is not known whether they were foreigners.

Many foreign slaves were made temple farmers. In the middle of the XVIII dynasty, Thutmose III gave some of the captives to the temple of Amun “as farmers to cultivate the fields, to produce grain, to fill the granary (of the possessions intended for) sacrifices to God.” At the end of the same dynasty, Amenhetep III gave arable land and farmers from among the captives to his temple in Memphis, the memorial temple of the same king in Thebes was surrounded by entire villages inhabited by captive Syrians. Slaves as farmers were quite common at that time. In the scribe book of the XX dynasty, more than 10 slaves are named among the “farmers” and other holders of allotments. There is even news of the sale of land by slaves to the side.

Great, of course, was the unproductive use of foreign slaves. Before the chariot of the rich man, Ethiopian runners ran; to the king under the XIX dynasty, numerous foreign youths dressed up not only brewed beer, but also served as kravchimi and were in the royal fan-bearers.

On the other hand, sources of the time of the XIX dynasty say that foreigners also performed such works as dragging stones. In the image of the middle of the XVIII dynasty, captive Syrians make bricks and lay walls under the supervision of overseers armed with sticks. What was the cost of “peaceful” trips to the quarries, can be seen at least from the fact that in one campaign under the XX dynasty, out of more than 8 thousand participants, including at least 800 foreign workers, 900 died. A letter from a military commander to another military commander about the pursuit of runaway, apparently state-owned slaves has been preserved.

But not all prisoners were turned into slaves. The captured sea robbers, the Sherdans (perhaps the ancestors of the Sardinians), were made royal bodyguards. If during the XVIII dynasty, the fortified places with settlers from captives are repeatedly but vaguely mentioned, then during the XX dynasty, it is described in detail how the captive Libyans with their wives and children, although they were branded by all, were settled in the fortress under the command of their own tribal or tribal elders. The cattle of the captives were taken away, but they, as warriors, received maintenance from the treasury. About the Ethiopians sent in the middle of the XVIII dynasty in the form of tribute, it is said that they were intended as “guides” – perhaps they were used as messengers.

Perhaps the Shardens are depicted-representatives of one of the peoples of the sea. A fragment of the bas-relief of the "Sea Battle" from the Memorial Temple of Ramesses III, in the Medinet Abu temple complex. Around 1190/1180 BC

Perhaps the Shardens are depicted-representatives of one of the peoples of the sea. A fragment of the bas-relief of the “Sea Battle” from the Memorial Temple of Ramesses III, in the Medinet Abu temple complex. Around 1190/1180 BC

The broad strata of the Egyptian people — the “children of the people” – were harshly trained and retrained on the subject of imposing various kinds of hardships on them. The “reviews” to which the people were subjected were not expressed in a single census — such as in the XVIII dynasty, cattle and poultry were subjected together with people — these reviews were also made for the appointment to a particular job. One of the monuments says about such “shows”: “They make a review of every nation, take the best of them. They give a man as a soldier, a young man as a recruit.” But this was not only taken into the army: “A child comes out of the womb of its mother — it prostrates itself (already) before the commander. A boy is a guide (i.e. a servant) for a warrior, a young man is a recruit, an old man is given to farmers, a man is given to warriors, a lame man is given to gatekeepers, a blind man is given to fatten oxen.” The “review” was also aimed at taking into account “those who know the skill”, “those who know (how to use) their hands”.

These words of the school teaching of the time of the XIX dynasty: “the old man was given to the farmers” – are not accidental. A letter from the same time refers to an “old man from the warriors” who was given to the “farmers”. The decree of the beginning of the XIX dynasty prescribed the return to the” farmers ” of the temple-after beating or maiming-of any official who encroached on the temple land and livestock or did not heed the complaints of the temple man. In one case, the decree added that the wife and children of the culprit were to be placed at the disposal of the temple steward.

Most of the “farmers” known by name of this kind had allotments on the royal and temple lands; they were subordinate to their superiors, were under their”stick”. Private farmers are also known.

Free segments of the Egyptian population

The situation of farmers in Egypt

The Egyptians – “farmers” were called “royal people”. In the scribal book of the time of the XX dynasty, very often “farmers” are listed as persons who only incidentally held this or that allotment, including even priests, and not from the lowest. The “farmers” were sometimes wealthy people who brought in large amounts of grain from their plots. Under the 19th dynasty, the temple “farmers” themselves could have slaves. Thus, the Egyptians called” farmers ” people who were heterogeneous in social terms. They were not slaves. Among the farmers there were probably quite a few community members. Only a few of the communal farmers became rich, but a significant number of them became poorer.

School teachings of the time of the XIX-XX dynasties did not accidentally warn about the hardships that await the farmer.

Of course, the most significant part of the farmers were not wealthy people.

According to school teachings, the farmer cultivates his allotment, lives in his house with his wife and children. The farmer prepares his own working equipment: during the day he makes wooden farming tools, at night he winds ropes. This he does while the arable land is flooded by the flood. When the water is gone, the farmer goes to hire working cattle for plowing. The farmer is responsible for its safety to the head of the bulls. The seed grain may also not belong to the farmer himself, and if he mismanages the grain for which he should be responsible, he will receive nothing in return. The farmer is assigned in advance how much grain he must submit. From the business papers, it can be seen that even another well-to-do farmer was supplied with sown grain. The harvest is subject to an inventory, and if for some reason there is nothing to show, the farmer is beaten and thrown headfirst into the well. The neighbors escape (this is due to the fact that they may have been bound by mutual bail). A letter from the end of the XIX dynasty also speaks about the flight of farmers from the royal lands: the farmers were beaten by the head of the palace stables, and they fled, abandoning their allotments. The farmer, forcibly separated from his allotment, as the letter of the same time says, continued to work in the new place, and his former allotment lay uncultivated. Although agricultural allotments were sometimes inherited, the farmers were by no means attached to the land.

At the beginning of the XX dynasty, the head of the bulls of the temple of Amun was sent a written order to a number of persons: two guards, a trusted one, two farmers and all the shepherds of a certain “altar” of Amun — to go with a servant sent to serve duty in the fields. How the work went on in the royal fields, tells a letter-inscription of the end of the XIX dynasty, in which a young scribe reports to a mentor or manager. At noon, when the barley is “hot”, the scribe sends out workers to pick up the ears, releasing only those who have brought the lesson with the ears picked up the day before. To each reaper, the scribe gives out bread daily, and three times a month he releases oil for anointing. In particular, the scribe reports on the accounting of donkeys delivering barley to the threshing floor. Images of field work in the tombs of the nobles complement such written evidence. In the first half of the eighteenth dynasty, the nomarch, who also managed the arable land in the southern part of the state, depicted himself as overseeing the plowing, harvesting, threshing and loading of grain on ships. The workers are called “farmers”. From the song in which the worker, addressing the oxen, says that the oxen should grind grain for their masters and for themselves to feed, the correct conclusion was drawn that the working cattle did not belong to the workers. However, there is a well-known case when the nomarch’s cattle were taken by the workers themselves: one image shows how people were harnessed to one of the plows. In the images of the middle of the XVIII dynasty, you can see food stacked on the field to reinforce the workers. Men and women were involved in the work (the latter picked up the ears and winnowed), people of all ages – from teenagers to the elderly. There were certain lessons to be learned. The work was supervised by overseers. They worked in concert, several men at a time: some uprooted trees, others loosened the ground with hoes and hammers, one followed the plow, another guided the team, a third threw grain, etc.

But there were also farmers who had the means of production, such as their own working cattle. A well-to-do villager from the tale of the two brothers (a record of the end of the XIX dynasty) owned several heads of cattle, for which the younger brother went. From the scribe book of the XX dynasty, it can be concluded that some holders of allotments sowed them with their grain.

The position of artisans

A certain part of the Egyptian artisan population lived relatively well. Some artisans apparently owned land, although, according to the scribe book of the XIX dynasty, they received allotments only occasionally. Of course, the vast majority of the New Kingdom’s artisans lived very modestly.

We know best about the situation of the artisans of the capital, engaged in the service of the funeral cult in the period of the XIX and XX dynasties. The construction and decoration of tombs, as well as the production of funerary furniture, developed in Thebes on the west bank of the Nile into a kind of handicraft industry. The artisans employed here formed a working party, numbering 120 people in the first half of the XX dynasty. The detachment was divided into two halves — the right and left “sides”, each of which was headed by a chief and a scribe, who kept a diary of work and an accounting part with petty thoroughness. Among the workers were stonemasons, plasterers, painters, carvers, woodworkers, coppersmiths, potters, who were also, perhaps, masons. The workers received allowances from the state: grain, fish, vegetables, etc.To supply the detachment, there were special water carriers, gardeners and fishermen. The superiors of the detachment received a salary sometimes double or even triple in size compared to ordinary employees. Sometimes the leader of a troop would dispose of his subordinates as his servants, forcing them to prepare his tomb or even feed his bull for months.

During the XX dynasty, food for artisans was often delayed and hungry people stopped working — there were some kind of strikes. Artisans went to the memorial temples of the pharaohs, demanded that their need for clothing and food was reported to the king, accused the highest dignitary of stealing supplies. The authorities tried to calm the workers with persuasions and partial delivery of the delayed food, but then there were more delays and more violent demonstrations by artisans. These are the first such performances of the working people known to us in the history of the world.

And yet the town of Thebes, excavated on the west bank of the Nile, with the houses of cemetery artisans interspersed with the dwellings of officials and other persons, no longer had the same dreary appearance as the artisan quarters in the city near the pyramid under the XII dynasty. In a town in the west of Thebes, the entrances to artisan houses were even decorated with stone, covered with artistic inscriptions. Some cemetery artisans left tombs, partly carved into the rock, partly attached to it, full of paintings and inscriptions.

Some non-cemetery artisans lived relatively well off. This is evidenced by the funeral plates, and sometimes tombs that have come down to us from different masters — royal and temple. There are many priests who were at the same time artisans: shoemakers, coppersmiths, woodworkers, painters, etc.

Individual masters rose significantly above their environment. In his rich tomb, the sculptor of the end of the XVIII dynasty is depicted watching a whole host of subordinates: carpenters, craftsmen making precious dishes, jewelry, etc. During the XIX dynasty, a carver depicted in his tomb a crowd of apprentices, a beautiful house in the garden and watering the garden with slaves. The goldsmith of the time of the XVIII dynasty in his, however, modest tomb depicted servants and maids serving guests, workers engaged in winemaking, harvesting grapes, gutting fish, catching birds. If some of these images could be an empty convention, being simply copied from the tombs of the nobility, then others really showed the life of well-to-do craftsmen. Here is what one chief of sculptors told about himself at the turn of the XVIII and XIX dynasties. Calling himself “the least of his village,” he then says, ” My lord has recognized me, and I have been greatly honored in his heart. I have seen the king in his image as the sun in the sanctuary of his palace. He exalted me against my friends, and I mingled with the nobles of the palace… He put me in charge of the work when I was young. He found me. I was honored by his heart. I was led into the court of gold to produce statues, images of all the gods.”

Already by the connection in the cemetery working group of different artisans, it is clear that the work, in this case on the tomb, was distributed among many craftsmen. The same can be observed in the images of large workshops. However, it is impossible to say that the distribution of work was quite well-established. At least in the cemetery unit, when the painters and carvers got to work, it happened that the other workers were inactive for several days. Nevertheless, exceptional specialization was a feature of the craft of that time. In this respect, a curious list of all kinds of designations — a kind of terminological encyclopedia-has come down to us not completely in a few copies from the time immediately following the New Kingdom. The most complete list is kept in the State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. In this dictionary, for example, among the construction workers are a miner, a stonemason, another stone worker (“breaker”), a painter, a carver, a plasterer (“plasterer”), a stone carrier, a wall builder, a “smykatel” (masonry). Five different specialties of bakers are mentioned. Weapons business is represented by the manufacturer:

  • armor
  • a charioteer
  • master by an arrow
  • master by a bow maker.

At the same time, the dictionary did not claim to be exhaustive.

The position of the New Kingdom Time Warriors

The Egyptian army of the time of the New Kingdom was on foot and charioteer. Horse riding was well known from the beginning of the XVIII dynasty or even earlier, but cavalry, as a branch of the army, did not exist. Military vessels not only transported troops, but also took part in battles. There were military units and divisions of various sizes; they had their own banners, trumpets and drums. In the service, the soldiers used the state supply. It seems that weapons were also given from the state, since in peacetime under the XX dynasty they were stored in warehouses, but when receiving horses from the state, chariot fighters, as more affluent, could buy a chariot themselves.

According to the school teachings of the second half of the New Kingdom, which tried to inspire future scribes with an aversion to military service, the infantryman was subjected to constant beatings, starvation, and from morning to night he was engaged in grueling work. In the images, the hallmark of the older warriors and the lower military leaders are the sticks in their hands; the warriors are constantly mentioned as a labor force when going to the quarries, when delivering stone blocks. The infantrymen were mostly people from the people, partly recruited as boys, partly taken into the army already in their youth and adulthood. According to a royal statement dating back to the beginning of the twentieth dynasty, the former kings took on military service every tenth person from the temple people. Under the 19th dynasty, even young men who were sent by the supreme dignitary to be ordained priests were attracted to military service. The “warriors of his Majesty” are known, including even relatives of the nomarchs during the XVIII dynasty.

Relatively higher-ranking were apparently the chariot fighters. A school lesson tells how a young man for the sake of his maternal grandfather is enrolled in the “stable” — the future fighter is there with his slaves. Then he takes good horses from the stable yard, buys a chariot for himself. Just as in the infantry there were “his Majesty’s soldiers”, in the chariot army there were “his Majesty’s chariots”, but even among the ordinary charioteers we meet the brothers of an important military man, a high priest, etc.It would be wrong, however, to imagine the chariot army consisting entirely of nobles. The temple people were not only conscripted into the infantry, they were also enlisted in the chariot army.

In the war, the Egyptian army plundered everything they could. This was done despite the fact that the local kings brought grain, wine, and cattle to feed the soldiers. There are known soldiers who served under the XVIII dynasty: one – in command of the rowers, the other-in command of the choicest part of the army; the first at the end of his life had up to 20 slaves and a lot of land; both left representative tombs. Funeral plates dedicated to ordinary soldiers, infantrymen, sailors, charioteers, have come down to us in considerable numbers, which indicates the relative wealth of these soldiers.

Throughout the entire period of the New Kingdom, there is evidence of the great attention of the Pharaonic authorities to the army. During the XVIII dynasty, the soldiers were given land and slaves, gold and silver insignia: necklaces, wrists, “lions”, “flies”; the soldiers were given a generous treat. According to the inscription of the beginning of the XIX dynasty, each warrior in the quarry was released daily about 1.8 kg of bread, a piece of fried meat, 2 bunches of greens and monthly 2 linen “clothes”.

For the most part, the army consisted of foreigners. The Ethiopians fought on the side of the Egyptians during the war with the Hyksos. Under the eighteenth dynasty, they formed almost the main part of the troops stationed in peacetime in Syria and Palestine. At the end of the XVIII dynasty, under Amenhetep IV, among the royal bodyguards were Syrians, Libyans, and Ethiopians. They were subordinated to the Egyptian military leaders. Sherdans appeared in the army under the XVIII dynasty, and under the XIX dynasty they became almost the main royal bodyguards. Under this dynasty, the army was generally filled with foreigners: in the literary papyrus, a task is given, from which it is clear that the detachment sent to Syria and Palestine to break through the “rebels” consisted of 1,900 Egyptians, 520 Sherdans, 1,600 Libyans, 100 Libyans of another tribe and 880 Ethiopians. Foreign warriors were legally equated with the Egyptians. Sherdans, for example, during the XX dynasty are often mentioned in the scribe book as holders of land plots.

Nobles (nomarchs and nobles)

Above all the ordinary Egyptian population stood the nobility. Here is how the life of a dignitary was imagined during the XIX dynasty: “You are dressed in the finest linen, you are mounted on a chariot, a golden rod in your hand… the stallions of Syria are harnessed, the Ethiopians are running ahead of you from the spoils that you have taken. You have descended into your cedar ship, rigged from stem to stern, you have reached your good country home, which you have made for yourself. Your mouth is full of wine and beer, bread, meat, cakes. Fattened oxen are slaughtered, wine is uncorked, sweet singing is before your face. Your chief of the anointings anoints with oil, your foreman of the garden-with a wreath, your chief of the fowlers delivers the ducks, your fisherman delivers the fish. Your ship came from Syria-Palestine, loaded with all sorts of good things. Your pen is full of calves. Your servants are well.” As it was said in the days of the New Kingdom, when a nobleman called one person, a thousand responded to his call. In greeting their master, servants and subordinates prostrated themselves before him.

But just as the nobles made the people grovel before them, they groveled before the Pharaoh; the court appeared to him lying on their stomachs and kissing the ground. This was not news, but in the New Kingdom there were special reasons for this: the power of the nobility was now based not so much on its private land ownership, but on its position in the state apparatus.

In the Ancient kingdom, the household of a nobleman was his personal household, the opposite of the “house of the king”. With the collapse of the rule of the ancient hereditary nobility, we usually hear about the “personal house “only in relation to the nomarchs, who strictly distinguished between what belonged to them personally and what, being royal, belonged to them only”by office”. With the abolition of the last vestige of the ancient power of the hereditary nobility — the powerful economy of the nomarchs – in the New Kingdom, the concept of “personal home” falls out of use.

In the eighteenth dynasty, an inscription mentions in a hollow way the possessions of a dignitary in both Upper and Lower Egypt. On the tomb walls, many people are depicted working in the field and threshing floor for the owner of the tomb. However, we have no indication that the possessions of the dignitaries of the eighteenth dynasty were close in size to the possessions of the nobles of the Ancient Kingdom or to the possessions of the nomarchs of the Middle Kingdom. The lists of dozens of settlements that belonged to the nobleman of the Ancient Kingdom have nothing to oppose from the sources of the time of the New Kingdom. When a military commander of the late eighteenth dynasty, exalted by the Pharaoh “from insignificance”, wished to boast of his new position, he could call himself the” lord ” of only one settlement.

In the eighteenth dynasty, we find a nomarch in charge of arable land in the nomes throughout the south of the country. From this we can conclude that the nomarchs seem to have ceased to be the full stewards of the lands of their own nome.

Throughout the time of the New Kingdom, there are references to private land holdings: not just allotments used under certain conditions, but land assigned to a particular person or even to his family and at the full disposal of the owner. But whether it was property or just possession-in each individual case, it is difficult to say for sure. Thus, a rich man could, according to school teachings, have his possessions on the temple land.

There were significant changes in the composition of the nobility. It is possible to name for the first two centuries of the New Kingdom, not to mention the subsequent ones, prominent and even the most prominent representatives of it, who were the children of non-Roman parents. They were originally small-time employees.

Along with the new service nobility, there was a court and local nobility, who inherited their place in society from their ancestors. The nomarchs were still the backbone of the nobility. Some of them were appointed by the king, but others were the successors of their ancestors, also nomarchs. Even in the second half of the New Kingdom, another nomarch, quite in the spirit of the Middle Kingdom, boasted of the nobility of his origin. The rank of nomarch was one of the highest: even the head of the royal treasury received it under the XVIII dynasty in the form of a promotion. Sometimes the power of the nomarch extended beyond his domain: during the eighteenth dynasty, the nomarchs of the Tin Nome were simultaneously rulers of the Southern Oasis, although the latter lay in the middle of the desert and had its own special ruler. The kings of this dynasty maintained the closest relations with the nomarchs. Some of the nomarchs held major positions in general government. The nomarchs were so powerful that as soon as the tsarist power was shaken at the end of the XIX dynasty, the country fell into their hands.

The local nobility was closely associated with the court, the metropolitan nobility, or rather, a part of it, connected with the noma by family ties or equal to it in origin and inherited social status.


Naturally, the high priesthood was no different from the other nobles. For a long time, the priests did not differ in clothing from other nobles under the XVIII dynasty: they were also fond of hunting, and sometimes the high priest remembered with pleasure how he went on campaigns with the king. If even ordinary priests were often the children of high priests and high dignitaries, then it is needless to say that the high priests and even minor ones included princes and other royal relatives, the sons of high priests, nomarchs and the most important dignitaries, up to the highest. The title of chief priest of the local temples remained an important position of the nomarch in the New Kingdom. If we consider that it was considered desirable to replenish the priesthood with noble people-natives of this area, then the connection of local temples with the local nobility will become even clearer.

A bas-relief on which the severed hands of enemies are counted. Memorial Temple of Ramesses III in Medinet Habu (Luxor). XX dynasty.

A bas-relief on which the severed hands of enemies are counted. Memorial Temple of Ramesses III in Medinet Habu (Luxor). XX dynasty.

Judging by the fact that the “house”, i.e. the economy of the main state deity of Amun, was taken over by the supreme dignitaries themselves and even another temporary worker, and the herds of Amun were scattered throughout the regions of Egypt, the capital temple of Amun under the XVIII dynasty was very rich. What size the temple possessions reached in the second half of the New Kingdom can be judged by the fact that during the thirty — year reign of Ramesses III (or according to another account-IV) at the beginning of the XX dynasty, more than 100 thousand people, about 500 thousand heads of cattle and more than 1 million people were transferred to the temples. arur of arable land, not counting other innumerable offerings and annual supplies and gifts. What was the economy of a separate large temple is eloquently evidenced by the number of people – “heads”, transferred by the same Ramesses to his newly created memorial temple dedicated to Amon (now called Medinet-Habu). There were 62626 of them. It happened that the temple economy was managed not by the high priests, but by major civil dignitaries — as was the case, for example, in the just-named memorial temple of Ramesses III (IV), but this did not become the rule.

The rank — and-file priesthood can be compared in social status with a relatively high-ranking part of the army-chariot fighters. The rich temple possessions, which were partly managed by him, provided, together with the proceeds from the sacrifices, seemingly sufficient security for him, but many priests also had other incomes. The scribe book of the XX dynasty lists many land plots that were in the possession of individual priests. The priests were the owners of a significant number of slaves. The inscriptions repeatedly declare the consecration of the sons of the local nobility, famous people, and selected military men to the priesthood. Although some of the sons of high priests or civil dignitaries did begin their service in the temple with lower priestly positions, or even stuck in them, but very many ordinary priests were the children of ordinary mortals, often the same ordinary priests. Some of the priests were engaged in crafts along the way.

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