Ancient Egypt Government

By: Keona D. Burrell

The Old Kingdom

Ancient Egypt's government became more centralized during the Old Kingdom. Building large stone pyramids meant the pharaoh had to make changes to the government. Pharaohs from Dynasties Three and Four maintained a strong central government and they had almost absolute power. Earlier pharaohs created a strong government that allowed them to summon large work forces. They appointed their high officials, and they chose members of their family. These men were loyal to the pharaoh. The government then let the pharaoh gather and distribute enough food to support huge numbers of workers, which allowed them to build large stone pyramids. During Dynasties Five and Six, the pharaoh's power lessened. Government positions had become hereditary and the district governors, called nomarchs, grew powerful. By the end of the Old Kingdom, nomarchs were ruling their nomes (districts) without the oversight of the pharaoh. When the pharaohs lost control of the nomes, the central government collapsed.

The Middle Kingdom

he Old Kingdom's government served as a base for the Middle Kingdom's. The pharaoh made changes, including the addition of more officials. Titles and duties were more specific which limited each official's sphere of influence. The central government became more involved in the nomes and had more control of individual people and what they paid in taxes. The pharaoh tried to limit the power of the nomarchs. He appointed officials to oversee their activity and he weakened the nomes by making towns the basic unit of the government. The mayors of individual towns became powerful. Officials based taxes on an assessment of cultivable land and the flooding of the Nile. During periods of low flooding, officials reduced taxes, while the government levied a poll tax on each citizen, which they paid in produce or craft goods.

The New Kingdom

The pharaohs of the New Kingdom continued to build their government on the foundations of earlier governments. One change they made was a decrease in the land area of nomes and an increase in their number. During this period, the pharaohs created a standing army and created military positions. Before this, the pharaohs formed armies using conscripted people. The 19th Dynasty saw the beginning of a break-up in the legal system. Before this dynasty, government appointed judges made decisions based on evidence presented to them. During this period, however, people began obtaining verdicts from oracles. Priests read a list of suspects to the state god's image, and the statue indicated the guilty party. This change represented an increase in the priesthood's political power. It was open to corruption.

Ancient Egyptian Government

Dynastys of Ancient Egypt

!st Around 3000 BCE King Djet

3rd Around 2700 BCE Kind Djoser