By Arianna Mackin
The judicial system was not a separate entity from the ancient Egyptian government. Egyptians did not have professional judges. In fact there was no word for judge in the Egyptian language. Even though no book of laws from ancient Egypt have been found, court records show that Egyptian law was usually based on a common-sense approach. In fact Egyptian law encouraged reaching agreements to resolve conflicts rather than sticking to a complicated set of laws.
The New Kingdom had a council of elders called kenbet. They were responsible for court cases involving small claims and minor disputes. The elders were from regional governments and priests whose official rank in the temples entitled them to be judges. The ancient Egyptian judicial system also had a ÒGreat KenbetÓ which the vizier or pharaoh chaired and the members were high-ranking officials. Usually more serious cases involving murder, major land transactions and tomb robbery were heard at this court. Plaintiffs and defendants represented themselves and much like today, swore an oath that they told the truth. Egyptian women were also allowed to seek justice, and like men could have their day in court.
The ancient Egyptians viewed men and women, including people from all social classes except slaves, as essentially equal under the law, and even the lowliest peasant was entitled to petition the vizier and his court for redress. Both men and women had the right to own and sell property, make contracts, marry and divorce, receive inheritance, and pursue legal disputes in court. Married couples could own property jointly and protect themselves from divorce by agreeing to marriage contracts, which stipulated the financial obligations of the husband to his wife and children should the marriage end.
Pharaoh owned everything. Each pharaoh had an army, a police force, and a huge number of ministers and government officials to help him rule the country. The most important of these helpers was Pharaoh's right hand man, his Vizier. The Vizier received reports from every top official every day. Every day, the Vizier gave Pharaoh a concise report on what was happening all over Egypt.
They thought all the land belonged to the gods and the pharaoh was the person alive that was representing the gods.
The head of the legal system was officially the pharaoh, who was responsible for enacting laws, delivering justice, and maintaining law and order, a concept the ancient Egyptians referred to as Ma'at.
The Citizens life
Everyone ate well in ancient Egypt. Everyone bathed daily; the rich bathed in soaking tubs with scented soap and the poor bathed in the Nile. All Egyptians were very clean. Ancient Egyptians had their own homes. They had comfortable furniture. Most ancient Egyptians worked very hard, but they left time each day for play and to spend time with their families. Family life was very important to the ancient Egyptians. Children were the heart of the family. If a couple could not have a child, they adopted a child. Children were taught to be kind and honest, to respect their parents, to help with the family business, and to care for the elder members of their family. The ancient Egyptians were not afraid of their gods. If they prayed to a god and their prayer was not answered, they might give the temple statue a little swat with a reed, but they were not really angry. The ancient Egyptians understood that you do not get everything you want all the time. But that did not stop them from praying for what they wanted. The ancient Egyptians were a happy, clever people. They did many good deeds to keep their heart light (a very important thing to the ancient Egyptians.) They enjoyed poetry and art and music. So don't let the movies scare you. The ancient Egyptians truly were an amazing people.