Ancient Egyptians social structure was destined to gain power for the making of a formidable nation in history. With all its strength, affluence, and grandeur, Egypt has shown the world what it takes to have a lasting civilization.

You can’t deny that ancient Egypt was established several thousand years ago and stood the test of time until the Romans took control in 30 BC. Can you imagine a government that victoriously emerged from 3000 BC to 30 BC? That’s how Egypt evolved, and there’s no other civilization that lasted as long as ancient Egypt did.

Organized. Humanitarian. Just. These probably built the cornerstone of the ancient Egyptian social structure. Egypt is a nation like no other.

It’s where civilization was born, and the Egyptians taught the world that no nation could have been born without fairness, concern, and structure. To make their government work, they honored their ruler and showed fairness to the workers. Such undertaking could only be achieved through wise counsel.

Behind Ancient Egypt’s Social Structure

Ancient Egyptian society was built like a pyramid, with gods on top of the kingdom. They were succeeded by the pharaoh, who was followed by his right hand, the vizier. Next in rank were the nobles and priests in the same level, and the subsequent rank was composed of the scribes and soldiers.

Then, you should not forget the craftsmen, and finally, the farmers and slaves, who comprised the largest group in the system. You can see that it was arranged from the most powerful down to the weakest, but these weak people were the most needed to build an empire. Probably, they knew that the gods could not do hard labor in their society, such that slaves were considered a vital part of the labor force.

Egyptian social classes started with gods as the supreme rulers. The people honored Ra, Isis, Osiris, Horus, and many other gods who were believed to control the universe and practically everything about the Egyptians’ social pyramid.

Would you believe that these gods were involved with the people’s childbirth, labor, fortune, misfortune, and death? Because of this belief, the lives of the people revolved around how to please their gods and deities. It was the central point of their existence to make the gods happy and bless them in the end.

Considering the power of these gods and how they could make or unmake their future, the people have learned real worship and surrender. Let’s look at some of the major gods at that time. By knowing them, you will have the answer to why the people adored these deities.

– Ra, the Sun God and the Creator

Ra or Re, in ancient Egyptian culture, was the divine god of the sun and the creator of old Egypt. He emerged as the most powerful after he struggled with eight other divine beings, making him the hawk-headed sun god Ra, the most important god of all.

He represented the sun, light, and creation because of his ability to fight the snake god Apophis every night in the underworld and emerge as the winner in the morning. Presented with so much power and authority, Ra was given the highest honor by the people from all walks of life. In return, it was believed that Ra was generous to answer their needs and protect them from harm.

– Osiris

Osiris was Egypt’s god of the underworld, who represented death, resurrection, and the flow of the Nile River, which they needed for successful farming every year. He came to the limelight when he took over Ra.

He was a benevolent god who was honored for his mercy and grace. People paid homage to Osiris to assure them of their lives after death. You could see how people offered supplications to Osiris for their peaceful voyage to the underworld.

According to myths, Osiris was killed by his brother Seth by cutting off his body to pieces, but his wife Isis brought him back to life. It was believed that she rejoined his body parts, which enabled him to be resurrected.

He had a son named Horus, who was destined to avenge his death. You must know that of all the gods, it was only Osiris who came back to life. Hence, he got the power over death, for which he was revered.

– Isis

Isis was the daughter of Geb and Nut, the deities of the earth and sky, respectively. She was also the sister of Osiris, Seth, and Nephthys. Her brother Osiris was also her husband, with whom she had a son named Horus.

Isis is known as the goddess of the moon, life, marriage, healing, protection, and magic. People worshipped her to ask for supplication, such as the protection of women, care of children, and healing of the sick. As generous as her family, Isis was known for her support of women who were giving birth, as well as those who were taking care of their babies.

All of these gods were believed to have supernatural power to control Egypt and the universe. The people worshipped them and paid homage by presenting offerings, flowers, gold, songs, and prayers.

It was very important for them to revere their gods and make them happy because their life and death depended on these deities. You must know that these gods had the power to bring them good fortune if they were pleased and destruction when they were annoyed.

Egypt was predominantly agricultural at that time, and they all depended on the Nile. Thus, the people prayed for a good harvest each year. They had to satisfy their gods to make it happen, or the very same gods could bring drought, famine, and even death to Egyptian households. From this point of view, you could tell that the ancient people in Egypt were determined to live a triumphant life.

– The Pharaoh

Leadership is one important facet of ancient Egyptian society, and gods called some chosen people to lead. These leaders were called pharaohs, who served as kings over the entire land of Egypt.

They were given the highest respect and honor and were believed to be gods on earth or gods in the form of humans bestowed with wisdom to know the paths to heaven and the way on earth. You have to offer your highest honor to the pharaoh to gain his blessing.

Egyptians also presumed that the pharaoh was symbolizing Horus on earth. Presented as a man with a falcon’s head, Horus was the god of the sky, war, and hunting. He symbolized the highest authority, and a ruling pharaoh was considered a representative of Horus.

With absolute power over the land of Egypt as well as its people, the pharaoh was the principal authority, ruler, and human god who had the right to own the land and its produce. He was the absolute power and king in the social structure of the ancient Egypt.

Do you know that a pyramid was built in honor of the pharaoh? Hence, when he died, he was buried inside this huge tomb. It was an immense ceremony to honor the pharaoh on his death as he was laid to rest in the chamber in the pyramid together with everything he would need in his journey to the afterlife.

Alongside the pharaoh’s power was a great responsibility to rule over Egypt. The people revered him with high honor and expected him to stand as the commander in chief of the military to protect his people.

You must fully understand that life at that time was unstable due to wars with neighboring kingdoms, and these wars would test the wisdom and prowess of their beloved pharaoh.

Protection was a priority in this scenario, and the people were looking up to the pharaoh’s command and strategy in times of war. True to his throne, the pharaoh had to present himself as fierce and invulnerable.

As a leader, the pharaoh was also an economist to foresee the economic prosperity of Egypt. There was a time in Egypt when there was a famine for years. Before it happened, the pharaoh asked the farmers to store grains in warehouses. Since then, the people were asked to pay taxes in the form of grains or their produce.

It was enacted to feed the people in times of severe famine or drought. Historically, there have been accounts of when the wisdom of the pharaoh was triumphant over the unimaginable drought that hit the country and its neighboring lands. This eventually paved the way to a more stable Egypt because people regarded it as a beacon of hope in times of famine.

The Chain of Command

The Egyptians’ social pyramid evolved as an acclaimed kingdom with a chain of command. Strategically, the leaders were given specific roles and responsibilities to divide the work equally. Hence, social classes in ancient Egypt emerged as a way of classifying the groups of people in the country.

– The Vizier

You must consider that not everyone could lead or not everyone would wait for commands. Likewise, no single authority could lead the vast land of Egypt, such that the pharaoh appointed the vizier or his chief minister as the highest official to serve him.

As the main supervisor, the vizier was appointed to oversee the tax collection, administration, and overall official operation of the kingdom. He had to approve plans and documents on behalf of the pharaoh. There were times when the vizier was acting as the high priest as well. His other tasks included giving advice to family feuds.

– Nobles

The nobles were the members of the royal family, as well as the priests, scribes, or high military officials. Also included in this social system were the doctors and lawyers.

They belonged to the higher status in the society, and they helped the vizier in managing the agricultural lands. They had to ensure that the farmers were paying taxes to the government, and you must know that taxes at that time were in the form of grains, crops, or cattle. The collected taxes were used by the officers in paying the skilled workers who were rendering services for the government.

– The Priests

Part of the culture in ancient Egypt was religion, which taught the people to pay reverence to gods and deities, including Isis, Ra, and Osiris. The priests spearheaded ceremonies and rituals intended to honor the gods.

They worked at the temples and were responsible for the clothing, feeding, and taking care of the stone images of their gods. These gods had assigned bedrooms in the inner part of the temple, where they were given proper care and veneration.

In mortuaries, the priests performed ceremonies to cleanse the deceased body of the pharaoh or nobles. They wore white gowns made of linen and headed the ceremonies for purification.

You must know that the higher-ranking priests were considered the first servants of the gods. In contrast, the lower-ranking priests were asked to perform tasks, such as studying and writing the hieroglyph, teaching new members, and carrying out the duties in the temples.

Their key responsibilities were to keep the order in the land, teach the people to respect the order in the country and make the gods happy.

– Scribes

Only a few individuals in ancient Egypt knew how to read and write because only the children of scribes could have the chance to acquire knowledge. Scribes studied for four to five years at scribe schools and specialized in writing hieroglyphic contents by using a kind of paper called papyrus. It was made from the papyrus plant, which was the only material for writing.

They were under the supervision of the nobles and vizier, and their primary goal was to record activities of everyday life at that time. They were also tasked to write about astonishing events and people, with the records all meticulously kept in their registry.

– Soldiers

Egyptians were originally farmers and not warriors because they had a peaceful life in ancient times. It was also needless to fight because their land was surrounded by the desert on one side and the sea on the other side.

They had friendly relationships with their neighboring countries, such that they were not trained to fight. You could probably imagine the glorious life that Egyptians enjoyed in ancient times because it was pure prosperity.

However, well-trained soldiers became indispensable when the Hyksos conquered Lower Egypt. Then, they learned that soldiers were important to protect the land and its people. Soldiers were tasked to defend the country from invaders and to maintain peace and order in the land. Soldiers shared their loot, and most of all, they were rewarded for their valor and patriotism.

– Craftsmen

Craftsmen in ancient Egypt were trained and skilled workers regarded as a very special group of workers. Respected for their artistic skills, they usually lived a simple yet comfortable life. They were tasked to decorate the tombs of pharaohs and royal families. They consisted of pottery makers, sculptors, painters, carpenters, draftsmen, masons, and other skilled laborers who were given a community for artists as their specific residence.

– Farmers and Slaves

With love of their agricultural skills, farmers were given food, housing, and clothes. Some of the tenants were leasing a piece of land from their landlords and were asked to pay tax for their harvest and rental fee.

Interestingly, you must know that slaves were kept as prisoners of war. Yet, slaves were serving the families of the pharaoh and other royal families, and there were slaves who were tasked to work in sanctuaries.

Conclusion

Ancient Egyptian society was structured like a pyramid, with gods and deities in supernatural control at the highest level. The pharaoh was considered a human god and was given the highest honor and respect in the hierarchical system, whereas the farmers and the slaves remained at the bottom of the society.

Next in power to the pharaoh was the vizier, and he was the chief of the operations in the entire land. The nobles and priests were there to support the vizier in collecting taxes and managing the day-to-day operation of the agricultural lands.

You must remember that the people needed to pay reverence to the gods because they had the power to make or unmake their lives. With a strong belief in gods, the people were taught to worship and adore their various gods and deities because they can cause the Nile to overflow for their farms or to bring drought that could lead to famine.

The scribes, soldiers, and craftsmen, together with the farmers and slaves, all constituted the ancient society in Egypt. Evidently, the groups of individuals closest to the highest rank in the society were the most affluent and powerful.

You can clearly see in this social system that the making of a great nation depended on the gods’ provisions, the pharaoh’s mercy, and the people’s luck. It took years to build the ancient Egyptian social structure, and the power that made this nation great was beyond measure.

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