• Egyptian society

  • The ancient Egyptian society consisted of a social pyramid, a hierarchical structure with absolute power residing in the Head of the pyramid which included the following social classes:

    Social Pyramid:

    Cultural Identity

    1. Children

      - were precious to ancient Egyptians, great rejoicing always followed the birth of a baby
    2. Clothes

      - Elite Egyptians cared about their appearance and clothing which indicated their social status
    3. Demography

      - very high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy
    4. Domestic Trade

      - Small scale commerce in the hands of ordinary men and their wives
    5. Family

      - Strong emphasis on the nuclear family unit
    6. Festivals

      - Most ceremonies were cultic, rather than civil
    7. Food

      - When Egyptians evolved from hunters to settled farmers, a revolution occurred in food production and diet.
    8. Houses

      - The typical house was square in shape and consisted of at least three rooms
    9. Marriage

      - contracts were seen as a means of regulating the transfer of property
    10. Sex

      - Sexual behaviors for both men and women were restricted by society
    11. Sports

      - games were practiced widely by the general population for fitness and entertainment
    12. Women

      - Compared to other areas of the ancient world, they held stronger social positions and expanded legal rights.

    Timeline of Social Developments

    Dynastic Period Social Developments
    Early Dynastic Period
    • Formation of the Social pyramid - a hierarchical structure with power residing in a headman who was believed to be able to control the Nile flood.
    • The headman's power rested on his reputation as a "rainmaker Pharaoh ".
    • The Social pyramid developed during the Early Dynastic Period remained virtually intact and changed little over the centuries
    Old Kingdom
    • Strong Pharaohs commanded great resources, and built the most elaborate pyramids
    1st Intermediate
    • Nobility Power - country's bureaucratic authority was now in the hands of local officials
    • Weak Pharaohs
    Middle Kingdom
    • Powerful Viziers
    • Pharaohs relied on close allies rather than Nobles which previously challenged the central authority
    • End Nobility Power
    2 Intermediate
    • Asiatic immigration of Hyksos
    • Egyptians were subjected for the first time to foreign influences and technologies
    New Kingdom
    • 18th dynasty Strong Queens - some women such as Hatshepsut raised to power for the first time, others were deified such as Nefertari and Nefertiti
    • 19th dynasty slavery increased from captured territories. a central army was formed with large numbers of mercenary soldiers.
    • Strong military commanders from not Royal blood raised to power such as Ramses 1 and Horemheb
    • 20th dynasty strong Priests - at the end of this dynasty the High Priests of Amun at Thebes became the effective de facto rulers of Upper Egypt
    3rd Intermediate
    • Disunity and Libyan settlement in Egypt
    Late Kingdom
    • Nubia assimilated the Egyptian culture
    • They adopted Egyptian customs, beliefs, religion, and kingship in their own culture
    • They adapted the hieroglyphic script for writing their own language
    • Amun became the state gods of Nubia
    • During this period there was a large influx of foreigners into Egypt. Phoenicians came as traders ; Greeks and Carians came as mercenaries.
    • Immigrants from the Near East, Libya, the Aegean, Nubia, and elsewhere settled in Egypt
    2 Persian
    • Persians rule the country through local representatives based at Memphis .
    • They established juridical guides for Egypt published in both in the demotic Egyptian script and Aramaic.
    Ptolemaic Period
    • High officials were Greek, while local administration remained in Egyptian hands
    • Greek became the official language of the government . Demotic, however, was still used by the majority of the Egyptians and used in lesser administrative offices
    • Prominence of women and Queens
    • Increase in slavery
    • Scientists become important members of society