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Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

The pharaoh was a semi-divine figure and belonging to a succession of dynasties that controlled life in Ancient Egypt. The cooperation of this civilization was governed by a system of religious beliefs where Pharaoh guaranteed the unity of the people. How was life organized under the power of the pharaohs? Which were the most important?

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

How were they?

As mentioned earlier, Pharaoh was considered a semi-divine figure that ruled in ancient Egypt. In other words, the term Pharaoh (of biblical origin) is synonymous with king.

In Egyptian, Pharaoh it means big house, but this term could only be used in purity, that is, when Egypt became so as from the New Empire (c. 1550 BC-1070 BC) after the reign of Hatshepsut.

The pharaohs identified with the god horus (Hellenic term that means the elevated; in Egyptian called Hor), who was the celestial god of Egyptian mythology.

He was considered the initiator of the ancient Egyptian civilization. This divine being was represented with a semi-human aspect, that is, with a hawk's head and a man's body. On his head he wore a Double Crown, considered one of the most distinctive symbols of the pharaohs and gods of Ancient Egypt.

God Horus, Ancient Egypt

Together with the pharaoh he should always live his Great Royal Wife. He played the role of ritualist in the different court parties, such as the Opet party in Karnak, where the king and queen emulated the divine existence of several Egyptian gods. The Great Royal Wife was, in short, the great support of Pharaoh during his reign.

How did they rule?

For the pharaohs and, consequently, the civilization of Ancient Egypt, everything that happened on a day-to-day basis had to do with religion. This included its form of government, which was governed based on a religious belief system.

If there is something in which historians agree it is that for the Egyptians, Pharaoh was considered a God and had a very close relationship with the rest of the gods of Egyptian mythology. The following video-documentary explains how Pharaoh Akhenaten ruled, who is considered to have changed Egypt during his rule:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FXVXTtVP3g

The form of government was the Theocracy, that is, government of God. Pharaoh himself ruled until his death, so that his power was life and hereditary, since, after his death, one of his sons would become the new pharaoh. In exceptional cases, such as if the pharaoh had no children or was too young to access the throne, it would be the priests and the nobles who would provide a solution.

The rest of the inhabitants of Ancient Egypt were considered subjects: they could neither participate in the government, nor choose who would govern them, nor participate in the laws nor, of course, change them or oppose them.

Pharaoh was considered a god

Pharaoh lived with his Great Royal Wife, who played the role of queen and transmitter of the royal lineage. During the history of the Ancient Egyptian, many have been the great queens who have assumed absolute power after the death of their husbands, such as Queen Hatshepsut.

However, below the Great Royal Wife, the pharaoh could have as many women as he wanted and even raise them to this rank if he preferred.

Pharaoh next to Great Royal Wife

How did they dress?

The dress of the Egyptian pharaohs had some peculiar characteristics, among which the crown stood out above all the elements. There were numerous types of crowns, although, however, 7 are the best known classes in our day and whose meaning is known:

  • Red Crown or Desheret: It was the symbol of Lower Egypt, an area that covered from the Mediterranean Sea to Dashur (about 40 km from Cairo).
  • White Crown or Hedge: It was the symbol of Upper Egypt, that is, the southern part of the country (from Memphis to the first Nile River waterfall).
  • Double Crown or Sejemty: It was the symbol of unified Egypt. This is the crown worn by the god Horus, of which we have spoken above. It is called double precisely because it is a superposition of the Red Crown and the White Crown.
  • Osiriaca crown or Atef: It was used in some funeral rites as a sphere of influence of the god Osiris.
  • Feathered Crown or Shuty: it was used by the Great Royal Wife and the Divine Worshiper of Amun, which was the guarantee by which the transfer of powers from one pharaoh to another was facilitated.
  • Hemrem or Triple Crown Atef: Many historians agree that this crown had a solar function. It is called Triple Atef because it is a superposition of three crowns Atef.
The different crowns of the Egyptian pharaohs

Apart from the crown, the pharaohs dressed in linen clothes, since this was the native plant of the region. His dress stood out for being practically transparent, a quality that was used as a representation of his wealth.

On the head, they carried the characteristic piece of linen with which the pharaohs are usually represented. This fabric is called nemes.

At the waist, the cloth that was tied was the shendyt, which was wrapped around the body, from back to front, and a tunic was placed on top.

As for makeup, this one was called khol and they were applied around the eyes to reduce the sun's reflection and prevent infections.

Dress of the Pharaoh and the Great Royal Wife

How did they live?

The daily routine of the Ancient Egyptian civilization is summed up in the customs and traditions of its inhabitants, including from their trades to the economy, which was based mainly on agriculture.

Livestock was also a very important economic activity at this time, thanks to the domestication of animals and harvesting.

The Egyptians created a revolutionary irrigation system that gave rise to a new concept of economy and storage, which, in turn, contributed to the development of writing, algebra, astronomy, etc.

In the educational field, there was the so-called House of Life, institution dedicated to advanced level education. In it were the library, the archive and workshops for copying manuscripts.

Only scribes and priests had access to the House of Life, which already existed in the Old Kingdom as historians confirm. It also tended to be the seat of the royal palace.

Kom Ombo Temple

The ladies of the court were educated at the Jeneret House, where they were instructed in music and dance. There they learned to play instruments such as the lute, harp or flute and learned rituals and melodies that, it was believed, could appease even divinities.

As for the houses, the first known dates from the Predinastic Period and were built with adobes, with a log roof covered with palm leaves and mud.

Usually, they were small, semi-underground houses with sloping roofs, similar to those that exist today. Currently, there are remains of this type of housing in Amarna and Deir el-Medina.

Then we leave you with a documentary where the daily life in Ancient Egypt was shown in detail:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxT8G_xzK-8

What did they eat?

As we mentioned in the previous section, the Egyptians lived on the basis of livestock and agriculture, so it is clear that their diet was based on products of this type.

What is known today about the cuisine of Ancient Egypt is thanks to the different engravings and hieroglyphs found in temples and tombs.

He bread and the beer (call heneket) were the staple foods.

Fish and meat were also part of the staple foods. Generally, pork, sheep, poultry and cow meat were the most used, although the last two were usually reserved for special occasions.

Whatever the type of meat, the way of preparation was roasted, dried and, finally, preserved in salted meat. The most consumed fish was the mullet, from which the motley, a recipe that is still consumed throughout the Mediterranean.

Botarga: typical dish of Ancient Egypt

Garlic, onion, beans, peas, lentils, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, leek, radishes … these were the most consumed vegetables in Ancient Egypt.

On the other hand, dates, grapes, pomegranate, melon and sycamore were the favorite fruits of this civilization. Finally, honey was used both in the preparation of desserts and in the preparation of many natural remedies.

How many dynasties were there?

The first dynasty of Pharaohs began in the so-called Archaic Period, back in the year 3000 BC. C., and it was known as Dynasty I. From there, a succession of the throne would begin that would end in the Hellenistic Period. In total, there were 33 dynasties. The following list shows the different periods in chronological order along with the dynasties that ruled within each one:

  • Archaic Period (3000-2686 B.C.): Dynasties I and II.
  • Ancient empire (2686-2181 B.C.): Dynasties III, IV, V and VI.
  • First Intermediate Period (2181-2025 B.C.): Dynasties VII and VIII, and Dynasties IX and X.
  • Middle empire (2125-1773 BC): Dynasties XI and XII.
  • Second Intermediate Period (1773-1550 B.C.): Dynasties XIII, XIV, XV, XVI and XVII.
  • New Empire (1550-1069 BC): Dynasties XVIII, XIX and XX.
  • Third Intermediate Period (1069-656 B.C.): Dynasties XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV and XXV.
  • Late Period (672-332 B.C.): Dynasties XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX and XXXI.
  • Hellenistic Period (332-30 BC): Macedonian and Ptolemy Dynasties.
Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

How were they buried?

In Ancient Egypt, the Egyptians carried out a series of burial rituals necessary to, according to their religious beliefs, ensure the immortality of the deceased after death.

The main funeral custom was the mummification, which followed a series of protocols that included magic spells to the inclusion of concrete objects within the graves. Below is a video documentary that explains step by step what the mummification process consisted of:

By mummification, the corpse was prevented from reaching the state of natural rot and, thus, the preservation of its material body was ensured so that it could join the soul in the Hereafter and continue on its way.

The Egyptians believed that every human being was made up of ba and the ka, the first being the soul and the second the awakening in his new life. With mummification, it was intended that both elements be reunified in the body in order to achieve immortality.

The process consists of placing the body on a flat board. Once there, a cut is made in the abdomen. This step was usually carried out by a priest with a mask of god Anubis, the funerary god of Ancient Egypt.

Then, the body was washed with palm wine and all vital organs were removed except the heart, which should be left intact. Finally, they recited a series of spells taken from the Book of the Dead.

Anubis, the Egyptian god of death

Who were the most important?

Many are the pharaohs whose reign was a before and after for the Empire of Ancient Egypt. However, only a few have special relevance in our days for the Universal history.

From Dynasty I to the Ptolemy Dynasty, we then review the most important Egyptian pharaohs in chronological order.

Narmer or Menes

This was the first pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, who founded the first dynasty in the year 3150 BC. approximately. During his reign, he conquered the lands of the Nile Delta and founded Memphis. He also had the Ptah Temple built. His successor was Aha, who consolidated the unification of Egypt.

Hetepsejemuy

Of the dynasty II stood out the pharaoh Hetepsejemuy, who reigned between 2828 and 2800 BC.

Your name means the two powers are at peace, something that most historians relate to the fact that, during his reign, the struggles between Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt ended.

One of the main advances that happened during his reign is the step of using eponymous tablets to use cylindrical stamp impressions.

Zoser

Zoser was the second pharaoh of the third dynasty and his government lasted from approximately 2665 to 2645 B.C. It is also known under other denominations as Necherjet, Dyeser, Djoser, Djeser and Dyeser.

Step Pyramid of Zoser

Necherjet means divine body, while Dyeser and derivatives equal sublime. His grave is today in Bet Jalaf. Thanks to this pharaoh, the construction of the first monumental pyramid took place: the step pyramid of Saqqara.

Cheops

Pharaoh Keops (also called Jufu or Jops) was the second pharaoh of the IV dynasty. During his 23 years of reign, Cheops married Meretites and Henutsen and the monarchy reached its greatest power.

Its importance in the history of Ancient Egypt was such that years later, during the late period of Egypt, it was revered as a god. Without doubt, the greatest feat of this pharaoh was the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, whose completion dates approximately from the year 2570 BC.

Views of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza

Teti

Pharaoh Teti (also called Otoes or Othoes) was the first pharaoh of the VI dynasty, whose government lasted from approximately 2322 to 2312 B.C. Teti noted for his attempts to establish a centralized government, as he saw how the nomarcas were gaining more and more power.

In addition, he granted by decree lands to Abidos and exempted the region from taxes due to its poor harvests. Currently, in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo you can find the only statue of the pharaoh that has been found.

Amenophis III

Amenophis III or Amenhotep III was the most important pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, whose government comprised the period from 1390 to 1253 B.C.

Statue of Amenophis III

It also receives other denominations such as Imenhotep III, Amenophis III and Memnon, all of them Hellenized names. Commonly, it has been thought that this monarch was somewhat incapable, since he devoted much of his reign to the building of tombs and temples.

Tutankhamen

King Pharaoh Tutankhamen belonged, as did Amenophis III, to the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, between 1336 and 1327 B.C. He was also known as Ratotis, Rats or Atoris and his reign lasted a total of 9 years.

Tutankhamen

The young Tutankhamen was the last royal blood pharaoh of the dynasty. His reign is characterized by a return to normalcy in both the social and religious landscape.

Seti I

Seti I or Sethy I was the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty, who ruled a total of 15 years (1294-1279 BC). Son of Ramses I and Sitra, Seti I pacified and reordered Egypt. One of his greatest feats was to dominate the powerful priests of Ammon.

Great Temple of Abidos

The 19th dynasty was, in general, a family of warrior pharaohs, due to their military origin. Thus, the son of Seti I, Ramses II, was no exception.

Ramses II

Ramses II ruled for 66 consecutive years, specifically, from 1279 to 1213 B.C. He is known as one of the most famous pharaohs in the history of Egypt, due in large part to the numerous vestiges of his reign that have been preserved to this day.

Ramses II

Ramses II was a warrior king. Already when he was young, he accompanied his father in military campaigns to quell rebellions in Canaan and also seconded him later in the war against the Hittites.

It is also known as the builder king, since during his reign he built numerous huge temples on the banks of the Nile.

Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra VII, also known as Lagid, was the last queen of Ancient Egypt, already belonging to the Hellenistic Period.

Cleopatra VII sculpture

Daughter of Cleopatra V Trifena and Ptolemy XII Auletes, inherited the throne at 18 years of age along with her brother Ptolemy XIII, who was only 12 years old and later would become her husband (this happened frequently in Ancient Egypt) .

Always, this queen has been attributed a extraordinary beauty, but numerous writings show that his charm came rather from his personality.

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