Society


Society
   Ancient Egyptian society consisted of two classes divided by the ability to read and write. The bulk of the population were illiterate peasants engaged in agriculture with a relatively small number of craftsmen who either lived alongside the rural communities or, like workers in faience, glass, or jewelery, were attached to wealthy private or government establishments. The literate population of not more than 5 percent comprised the royal court and the bureaucracy covering civil, priestly, and military. Although it was an Egyptian ideal for a son to follow in his father’s office, the major appointments were the prerogative of the king and the vizier, or high officials, for more minor offices, so posts often did not follow a hereditary line, although the sons of a literate official could find other positions. Thus it is inaccurate to speak of a member of Egyptian nobility. Rather there existed a hereditary bureaucratic class.
   It would have been difficult to rise from one class to another. Presumably an enterprising farmer who managed to build up a small estate, like Hekanakhte, might become literate or have his children educated so they could join the official class. Similarly the army might prove the vehicle for the acquisition of land and wealth for someone from a peasant background, but such cases appear to be rare.
   See also Marriage; Sex; Scribe; Slavery.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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