The ancient Egyptian empire dominated almost all the regions in the ancient near east for about 5000 years. From the old kingdom, the middle kingdom, the new kingdom, and finally to the Ptolemaic kingdom, about thirty dynasties existed in the ancient Egyptian empire. The Egyptian empire was able to survive for as long as it did, majorly because it had a centralized government. Criterial necessary to occupy any leadership position was well laid out. Therefore these positions were occupied by legitimate persons who had the support of the people. The Pharaoh governed the affairs of the centralized empire and maintained law and order.
The ancient Egyptian empire's centralization facilitated its economic growth and community development, causing it to become one of the greatest civilizations that ever existed. The importance of centralized government in ancient Egypt can be observed from the events that happened during the brief moments the Egyptian empire did not have a centralized government. This period is referred to as intermediate periods, and they were characterized by insecurity, lack of economic development, and poverty. This article shall examine the ruling system of ancient Egypt, the significance of the Pharaoh to the Egyptian culture, and the processes involved in selecting the pharaohs that ruled the ancient Egyptian empire.
The Royal Ruling System of Ancient Egypt
There was a very close connection between the ancient Egyptian ruling system and its religion. Even though the ancient Egyptian kingdom was ruled by an absolute monarchy, which draws legitimacy from the gods, he is believed to serve as an intermediary between the people of the state and the gods and goddesses; therefore, he is regarded with the utmost respect by the people. Ancient Egypt's monarchical ruling system can be traced back to around 3150 BCE when Pharaoh Narmer unified upper and Lower Egypt into a single country. Though a form of government existed before this time, there is not enough archeological evidence to determine the type of ruling system was practiced.
After the Pharaoh in the social hierarchy came the Pharaoh's visor, who served as the second in command to the king. Though the king had absolute power since he is regarded as next to the gods, the visor helped the king make decisions by giving him advice. The visor is followed by the high priests who oversaw all the religious activities in the empire. The high priests could sometimes advise the king on religious matters.
The high priest is then followed by the royal administrators who monitored the Regional governors and ensured they carried out the king's orders. The regional governors who were popularly known as Nomarchs were about 42 in number during the middle kingdom. Their function was to maintained law and order and also carried out the king's command in the regions they have been placed. At the end of the social hierarchy are the scribes, the artisans, the laborers, and other citizens in the ancient Egyptian kingdom.
Selecting a Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian pharaohs were believed to have holy blood flowing through their veins; therefore, the most important criteria for any individual to be chosen as king was the royal blood. Only individuals from the royal family had a claim to the throne. Often, the Pharaoh's first son is chosen as the next Pharaoh, but in some rare cases, the Pharaoh decides to choose the son of lesser wives as his successor. If the Pharaoh does not have a male heir to choose from, a close male relative of the Pharaoh is selected to take over the throne.
If the Pharaoh chosen is not old enough to govern the kingdom, a reagent is selected to rule the kingdom on behalf of the new Pharaoh till he comes of age. The coregent is usually the Pharaoh's mother or step-mother. The coronation ceremony of the Pharaoh took place in the temple of the Egyptian god Osiris. The ceremony is officiated by the high priest, who says prayers for the new Pharaoh, places the was-Sceptre, which was the Egyptian symbol of authority, in the hands of the Pharaoh, and then officially declares the Pharaoh as the new king of the empire.
Functions of the Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt
The position of the Pharaoh was the most important position in ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh was expected to perform some specific duties, which were aimed to bring about the frown and development of the Egyptian empire. Some of the functions of the Egyptian Pharaoh are explained below.
Maintenance of Law and Order
The maintenance of law and order was the primary duty of the Pharaoh. The ancient Egyptian kingdom had an established police force and military system, which took orders from the Pharaoh himself. The Pharaoh's responsibility is to use these military forces to ensure that the centralized state is not broken and does not descend into anarchy. People who disrupted the peace of the society or broke other land laws were swiftly arrested and punished as the Pharaoh deems fit.
Leading the Egyptian Army into War
It was also the function of the Pharaoh to lead the Egyptian army into battles and wars. These battles were necessary for the Egyptians as it was how they defended their lands from foreign invaders and also by which they took land from other nations. However, the Pharaoh was expected to ride with the army to the battlefield, sick. Old or weak pharaohs were exempted; a skilled general is often chosen to represent the Pharaoh on these occasions.
Collection of Tax
All land in the Egyptian kingdom belonged to the king; therefore, the king had the legitimate right to collect taxes from the people that worked on the land. The tax collected by the king is sent to the king's treasury. The king uses this money to pay the army or pay laborers working on government projects.
Leading the People in Religious Rituals
Since the king serves as the people's political and religious leader, it was also the responsibility of the king to lead the people in religious rituals. They were required to offer prayers, sacrifices, and perform symbolic activities on behalf of the people in religious rituals.