Why are viziers always angry?
Sole ruler over Egypt
A pharaoh's primary duty was to make justice reign among his people. For this every pharaoh had a close confidante, the vizier. This in turn delegated an army of judges, clerks and directors.
So the Pharaoh was indeed the sole ruler, but already in ancient Egypt he had a huge bureaucratic apparatus under him who regulated worldly matters for him. With a few exceptions, the ancient pharaohs seem to have been rulers, but not dictators. On the other hand, they had a sophisticated legal system.
When speaking of ancient Egypt, the names of well-known pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, Cheops or Menes are often mentioned. What they all have in common is that they were the sole rulers of Egypt in their dynasty. It is easy to overlook the fact that there are millennia between the lifetimes of these pharaohs, during which entire parts of the culture were destroyed and forgotten or newly developed.
Tutankhamun (around 1333 to 1323 BC), for example, probably didn't know much more about Pharaoh Menes (around 3032 to 3000 BC) than we do - after all, the two are separated by more than 1,000 years of history. Without a precise breakdown of the epochs, it is easy to lose track.
The old kingdom (around 2707 to 2170 BC)
Historians often divide the history of Egypt into three epochs: the old, middle, and new empires. In the fourth millennium BC, more and more tribes settled in the Nile Valley. The sedentary lifestyle brought with it a higher standard of living, which attracted more and more nomads to the cultural center on the Nile.
This was the basis for the old empire, the age of the pyramid builders. It is considered to be the greatest epoch in the entire history of Egyptian civilization. Civil and religious laws and scriptures were established. The Pharaoh was seen as a divine being and had to maintain the world order, even after his death.
The first pharaohs
One of the first pharaohs of this time was Djoser (around 2690 to 2670 BC). Not much is known about his political actions - but it was he who made the construction of the gigantic pyramids of the Giza Plateau possible in the first place with his step pyramid of Saqqara.
Sneferu (around 2639 to 2604 BC), his son Cheops (around 2604 to 2581 BC), his grandson Chephren (around 2572 to 2546 BC) and his great-grandson Mykerinos (around 2539 to 2511 BC) are among them most famous pharaohs at all. The reason for this is not only the gigantic pyramids that they could be built, but above all that they led Egypt into a heyday.
Sneferu started expeditions to other countries and established trade relationships. Except for Cheops, the rulers from the middle of the old empire are said to have been very gentle. By the way, Mykerinos was married to his sister - back then people still thought that connections between nobles kept blood pure. Not infrequently, this misjudgment led to disabled offspring.
One reason for the downfall of the old empire could have been climatic changes in the time around 2250 BC. Scientists suspect that the Nile did not overflow its banks for a long time due to a dry spell, leaving the soil barren. During this time, up to 20 percent less precipitation should have fallen.
The Middle Kingdom (around 2060 to 1785 BC)
The so-called first intermediate period lay between the old and the middle empires. In her the empire fell apart. For many decades there was anarchy, the time was marked by social upheaval and famine. Various kings tried to usurp power.
It took around 200 years for peace to return. King Mentuhotep managed to tie power to himself for a longer period of time around 2040 BC and to unite the country. He spent 40 of the 50 years of his tenure with wars in his own country. He is considered the founder of the Middle Kingdom.
After reunification, the capital of the empire was moved from Memphis to Thebes, near the "Valley of the Kings". Among the greatest pharaohs of this period - Amenemhet, Sesostris I, Amenemhet III. and Sesostris III. - the country achieved a wealth that had never been seen before.
Sesostris III. occupied Nubia in what is now Sudan and advanced as far as Palestine. But the middle empire was soon destabilized by internal power struggles for the throne. It was only a matter of time before another people tried to rule over the fertile land.
The New Kingdom (around 1570 to 1075 BC)
Around 1650 BC, the Hyksos, an Asian tribe, took power in Egypt. They caught the Egyptians by surprise with their weapons made of iron, which had been unknown to the people of the pyramid builders until then.
The new rulers also had a significant influence on the culture. They brought horses and chariots to Egypt. It took around 100 years for the Egyptian princes to unite and defeat the occupying army.
With the victory over the Hykosians, the third epoch in ancient Egyptian history was ushered in: the new empire. The many gods were finally replaced by the imperial god Amun, Thebes became the religious and Memphis the military capital. In the first centuries the Egyptians experienced a new heyday: The borders of Egypt were expanded further and further, Crete and Cyprus were incorporated into the empire.
The way to decadence
A curiosity of this time: The wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut, took over the throne in the 15th century BC and wore men's clothes and an artificial beard for almost the entire 22 years of her reign.
There were no wars under their rule. But the Amun religion and the cult of the imperial god became more and more of a problem for the future pharaohs. The priests grew in power and a state within a state was formed.
The cult of Amun was forbidden for a short time in the 14th century BC under Amenhotep IV, who later renamed himself Akhenaten. But in the following years he came back all the stronger.
The internal division into religious and secular rule weakened the new empire lastingly. Extravagance and decadence, inner turmoil and attackers from outside ended the era of the new kingdom in 1075 BC. The pharaohs had long since lost their reputation and were no longer considered gods incarnate.
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