Ancient Egyptian culture and society was very well-organized and divided according to class, status, wealth and locale. Each nome (province) had its own temple, deity, beliefs, capital, practices and even ethnic origin.
People who were born into a social class usually stayed in it till death. Wealth, social status and even careers were inherited. The individual's roles in life heavily depended on his/her family's class.
Most of the population was working class, but unfortunately the majority of the information on this class comes from the tombs of the elite. Not much information was recorded directly by them since they were usually illiterate and could not afford luxurious tombs and monuments that would last till now.
The information we do have that comes from the tombs and temples is sometimes biased or incomplete. But Egyptologists have gathered enough research to paint a picture of what the ancient Egyptian culture and society was like. The Egyptian Social Pyramid is an illustraion of the pyramid-like structure of ancient Egyptian society.
The King: As the top dog of them all, the king was the most powerful person (usually) in ancient Egypt.
The king either inherited the throne, or got it by force. He usually got divine status and was named Pharaoh. He was also the high priest of Egypt, a title he could delegate.
The Vizier: As the right-hand man of the king, he is second most powerful person in ancient Egypt.
He assisted the king, was the secretary of state, presided over trials and governed the police force. Together, they were the highest overseers of Ancient Egyptian Law.
The Priesthood: Not all priests were extremely powerful, but some had become so wealthy and popular that they accumulated power that threatened the kingship. The high priest was chosen by the king in order to carry out all the religious rituals the king is meant to do.
As men of the Gods the priests collected offerings, were given honors and titles, and they were presented with gifts and wealth. Even the king himself had to appease them in order to have them be on his side. What a position!
The Army Generals: When the army was made permanent in the New Kingdom, the king chose two generals (one for the Upper Egyptian army, one for Lower).
They were usually chosen from the royal family... this prevented one general from becoming too powerful and also kept the power in the family. They answered to the king.
The Officials: The king had a number of advisors who took care of many political and religious activities and could also help in the decision making. Some were from the royal family, and some were from the elite class.
The Mayors: Called nomarchs, these people were governors of their nome (province). Egypt had many provinces each with its own economy, taxes, and culture. The nomarchs had to answer to the king and hand in their reports and payments to him.
And up until the New Kingdom, they were called upon to conscript eligible males to the army when needed. This put the king in a position where he had to appease them in order to form a useful army.
Click here to learn about the ancient Egyptian soldiers who fought all the wars that made Egypt last for so long.
Ancient Egyptian culture and society is mostly preserved in the monuments, statues, temples and tombs; this made knowing the top classes easy.
They loved to tell their stories in order to live forever.
But, the working class is what made these monuments.
The working class fed the population, built the temples, cleaned the houses, served the nobles, washed the clothes, entertained the masses, etc...
There were many different careers an ancient Egyptian worker could have, the majority were farmers.
Experience more ancient Egyptian culture and society! Click on the following links to learn about:
The ancient Egyptian women of the working class, how they had many more rights than the royal women.
The system for ancient Egyptian marriage and divorce.
Ancient Egyptian animals had so many uses. They were worshiped as forms of gods, kept and cared for as pets, used for food and farming, and ridden during wars and hunting.
Ancient Egyptian children - how they had to choose a career and learn their craft in order to continue the civilization.
Until today, all over, it's the salt of the Earth that make the world go round!
Take a look at the Pharaonic Village in Cairo that re-enacts Ancient Egyptian Culture and Daily Life
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