The Pyramid of Egyptian Society
The social structure of ancient Egypt was a kind of pyramid. At the top was the pharaoh who ruled the kingdom. Just below him were the priests and the noblemen. The priests were to keep the gods happy through prayers and sacrifices and to teach reading and writing to scribes. Below this rank were the soldiers who also enjoyed great prestige. Next came the middle class of merchants and craftsmen who provided the much needed goods and services for the culture. On the bottom half of the pyramid were the workers and peasants who toiled in the fields and farms along the Nile. Most peasants were free citizens unlike the slaves who, at the very bottom of the pyramid, were assigned to domestic work and work in the mines.
Point to Ponder
Historians often describe ancient Egypt and the life of the pharaoh as a colorful and glamorous period in the history of early civilization. Think about what your life would be like if you were a member of the pyramid of Egyptian society. Where on the structure would you be? What if you were at the very top? The very bottom? How would your life be different?
Project to Pursue
Compose a short diary entry for a particular event that could have taken place around 3100 B.C. in an Egyptian community. Write about this event from the perspective of the pharaoh, a priest, a soldier, a merchant, a peasant, and a slave. How might their viewpoints differ?