The Egyptian Social Pyramid
The Egyptian Social Pyramid is the representation of the social structure of Ancient Egypt. The structure is not completely rigid, with some exceptions and blurred lines. But the basic concept is based on the division of classes which was organized by status and power.
The reason it’s similar to a pyramid is because the majority of the population had the least amount of power. They were the skilled and unskilled workers.
Farmers and the workers that built the houses and monuments had the toughest working conditions. They worked long hours and were paid the least.
The Working Class in the Egyptian Social Pyramid
At the bottom of the Egyptian social pyramid, we have the workers, farmers and soldiers. Though after the creation of the standing army, ancient Egyptian soldiers were more well-off than the workers and farmers. They were trained from a young age, paid well and respected by the people. Some rose to high ranks within the military.
But prior to that, they were recruited for the duration of the campaign and then would return to their regular work of farming or manual labor.
Next we have the artists and craftsmen, who got more training and worked on much more delicate projects, such as the painting of tombs or the carving of statues and sculptures. For more on ancient Egyptian art and the techniques involved, click here.
Scribes were highly skilled and led much easier lives than most other ancient Egyptians. They were also of the privileged few that were literate and could read and write. Some worked in the Houses of Life, copying sacred texts and teaching their apprentices, and some held administrative positions.
Doctors were highly trained in both medicine and magic. Incantations and spells would usually accompany the healing procedures if the ailment was beyond a simple a solution. Some doctors and medical professional specialized in specific areas, such as dentistry or taking care of the pharaoh’s rectal health.
Engineers and architects were also highly skilled and trained, with their works still brilliantly on show all over Egypt. Temples, tombs, pyramids and obelisks, to name a few, are a testament to their artistic and mathematical abilities. One of the most famous architects is Imhotep, who also happened to be a doctor.
He was the architect of King Djoser’s step pyramid. His achievements were so great that he was eventually deified.
The Elite in the Egyptian Social Pyramid
Next up we have the very powerful priesthood and elites. Though the priesthood were supposed to serve under the pharaoh, they sometimes rivaled him in power. The Cult of Amun was so influential at one point that king Akhenaten began Atenism partly to consolidate his power and pull it from under their feet.
Of course there are social classes of the Egyptian social pyramid within this class too (just as there are classes in the working class). Not all priests or nobles had equal power.
Then it’s the Vizier, the second most powerful man in all of Ancient Egypt. It may seem odd to have a class composed of only one person, but the difference in power and status is what differentiates him from the rest.
And then finally, at the very top of the Egyptian social pyramid is, of course, the almighty ruler and pharaoh of Egypt.
Women in Ancient Egyptian Society
Ancient Egyptian women had more rights and freedoms than in any other ancient culture. They were considered the legal equals of men, though of course in daily life they were subjected to their fathers’ or husbands’ will. Still, they were allowed to work, own their own property and give their inheritance to their daughters.
Though it isn’t apparent, in the Egyptian social pyramid women held most of the roles available to men.
In the working class, most women took care of the homes, cooked the meals, reared the children and helped their husbands work the field if they were farmers. Some would provide goods and services if they had the time.
Some became dancers or priestesses, some became wet-nurses and midwives. And although royal women had much more restricted lives than regular ancient Egyptian women, some rose to such great heights of power that they became pharaohs themselves.
For more on the lives of ancient Egyptian women, click here.
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