Vizier of Egypt
The Ancient Egyptians lived in a well ordered culture and society which was administered by law enforcers, judges and courts. All classes of society paid taxes which in turn paid for the government and army. The Pyramid of Power started with the Pharaoh who was the absolute ruler of Ancient Egypt. The role of the Vizier in Ancient Egypt was an extremely important one, equivalent to a Prime Minister. He was the highest court official and the deputy of the Pharaoh. Successful ministers and especially the vizier, were rewarded by large grants of land from the royal domain. The vizier therefore became extremely wealthy. The vizier wielded great power in Egypt and was both feared and respected. The Egyptian name for a vizier was 'tjaty'. During periods of Ancient Egyptian history a vizier was made a god and another vizier became Pharaoh.
History of the Vizier
During the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, the vizier was exclusively a son of a king, but from the 5th Dynasty this was no longer the case. The powerful position of vizier could be obtained by an Egyptian of non-royal lineage. From the 18th dynasty onward, the office was split between a northern and southern vizier, both holding an equal amount of power. Towards the end of the Middle Kingdom there was a virtually dynastic line
of viziers when the role was passed on from father to son.
The Role of the Vizier
The vizier was traditionally the head of the government administrators, the court officials. However as his power grew a vizier might also be the chief priest. One of the later titles held by a vizier was the High Priest of Heliopolis. Important documents were only considered legal if they had the seal of the vizier. The role of the vizier was therefore quite varied and changed through the various generations. Through the ages of Ancient Egypt the Vizier was responsible for the following:
- The appointment of government officials
- Master of Works for the royal monuments including labor and resources
- Hearing major legal disputes
- Controlling civil order
- Controlling the food supply and distribution
- Conducting a census of the population in order to collect taxes
- Managing important industries
- Controller of the Archives - All important legal issues were documented including wills, trials, deeds, census lists, conscription lists and inventories
- Recording rainfall and water levels of the Nile - Nilometers were gauges which were set up to measure water levels. Levels above and below the average indicated catastrophes such as floods or famine. Good years indicated the level of taxes which could be obtained from the farmers
The Vizier Imhotep
A famous Egyptian vizier was called Imhotep. Imhotep was the vizier and architect of Pharaoh Djoser and was responsible for the famous Step Pyramid. Imhotep achieved such a high position in the court that he was later deified. Imhotep was regarded as the Son of Ptah, the Lord of all Builders. Scribes began a tradition of sprinkling a drop from their water bowl in honor of Imhotep whenever they started work. The signature of Imhotep the famous vizier and architect can still be read today. The hieroglyphic signature of Imhotep can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on the base of a statue of King Djoser.
The Grand Vizier Ay
The name of the vizier during the reign of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten was Ay. He was believed to be a native Egyptian from Akhmim. Ay was the son of Yuya, who was a nobleman in the court of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and was the father of Tiye, the chief Queen of Amenhotep. So although he was a commoner Ay was raised in the royal court circles of the New Kingdom was the uncle of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten. He rose to become the Grand vizier of Tutankhamun, King Tut, and after the boy-king's untimely death became Pharaoh of Egypt.
The Vizier & Egyptian Society - The Social Pyramid of Power
The Pyramid of power, which provides and overview of the social structure and jobs undertaken in Ancient Egypt was as follows:
The Great Royal Wife
Members of the immediate Royal Family
Priests and Priestesses
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