Ancient Egypt covers thousands of years of history and many changes in leadership, culture, and society. As early as 5000 B.C., ancient man lived first by hunting and gathering wild foods. They resided in the Nile Valley were they learned to grow grain crops and to raise livestock. The rain then was very seldom so the River of Nile used to play a very important role in their lives. Ancient men Egyptians were working together to get water from the River Nile for their crops and family needs, and so the Early Egyptians became organized into communities. Protected by the foreign invasion by the dessert and the cataracts, the early agricultural villages by the river grew and prospered. In times a few leaders joined villages together into small kingdoms, or monarchies, each under the rule of its king.
By 4000 B.C. ancient Egypt consisted of two large kingdoms: Lower Egypt in the north, in the Nile Delta, and Upper Egypt in the south, in the Nile Valley. Around 3000 B.C., Narmer, also known as Menes (MEE neez), a king of Upper Egypt, gathered the forces of the south and led them north to invade and conquer Lower Egypt. He then established the first government that ruled all the country. He united Upper and Lower Egypt and governed both lands from a capital city he had built at Memphis, near the border of the two kingdoms. Narmer’s reign marked the beginning of the first Egyptians dynasty, or line of rulers from one family. From 3000 until 332 B.C., a series of 30 dynasties ruled Egypt. Historians have organized the dynasties into three great periods: the Old kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom lasted from about 2700 to 2200 B.C. During the first centuries of the unified kingdom, Upper and Lower Egypt kept their separate identities. In time however, Egypt built a strong national government under its kings. It also developed the basic features of its civilization.
People today probably know the most ancient civilization in the valley along the Nile River. People still wonder at its remains in modern Egypt especially the gigantic Sphinx, the wondrous pyramids, and the mummies buried in the lavish tombs. Temples were the principal medium for worshipping the gods, but they were also an element in the preservation of political unity.
An Egyptian had hierarchical arrangement of integration by means of contrast and distinction in the society. The construct does not necessarily indicate equal opportunity for all, as people define themselves, and are define by others an the basis of their differences in status.
Structure of ancient Egyptian society was not an undifferentiated mass, and subsequently, not all were afforded equal treatment before the law.
A person is characterized according to their interaction within a network of relationships. Egyptians are arranged hierarchically. Each person has a role and status in the society. Within ancient Egyptian administration, it is the official who kept things in order by setting his subordinates into motion, i.e., by issuing instructions in the form of rules and norms. In this way, superior, and other were identical. The respective function determines the role in society, and certain types of labor can be superior/inferior based. Such divisions in any society are viewed as the personal difference in quality among people.
Additional arrangements or status’s take place over the lifetime of an individual, i.e., each phase in life has other significant events, such as marriage, becoming a parent, a new job, etc., all with new social settings and demands. Some, but not all of these different roles include: Childhood, minors who are not yet socially competent: adulthood, generally socially competent individuals performing a variety of major contributions and responsibilities: elderly, that is, persons who are usually beyond the stage of required obligations.
An Egyptian child was taught great respect for his or her parents and their society, with son particularly expected to maintain his father’s tomb. Offices of state were hereditary among the elite class, and it was desirable for a son to follow his father in office.
In Egyptian culture, the rank of “son” played a particularly important role, primarily that of heir, who was responsible for the survival of the father in his new “surroundings” in the hereafter. Therefore the classification of “son” was not indicative of kinship, rather, it was more incorporeal and devotional in nature, and could be used for different grades of relations.
Equality of sexes
Ancient Egyptian was known to have an Equality of men and women in terms of legal status. Same as men, women could act their own and were responsible for their own actions. Women also, could own property and dispose of it at will; they could enter into contracts and initiate court cases; they could serve as witnesses, sit on juries, and witness legal documents. After getting married, a woman has a right not give up property rights to her husband. Further, a divorced woman could claim part of her former husband’s wealth to support herself and her children. When a man went to war, the wife ran the family business in his absence. Women typically had full charge of the home. Although women in Egypt enjoyed some rights, they were also limited. They shared in the economic and professional life of the country at every level except one: women were apparently excluded from formal education. Most women in Ancient Egypt were not educated to read or write. The professional bureaucracy was open only to those who could read and write. As a result, the primary route to public power was closed to women, and the bureaucratic machinery remained firmly in the hands of men.
From the time of birth on, people are constantly engaged in different roles and parts, corresponding with some of the different phases in life, each with a different mask. Everyone was expected to do their part of duties in the society. Persons were engaged in creating luxuries for the wealthy. Goldsmiths and lapidaries produced beautiful jewelry. Sculpture carved stone and ivory into exquisite figurines and vessels. Apothecaries made ointments, lotions, and fur fumes, and craftsman shaped delicate alabaster vials to contain them. A socially capable person is one who can satisfy his/her individual needs by adjusting conduct in accordance with the expectations of society. People are not born civilized; they are made. Such a process is accomplished by means of interactions that acquaint persons with various settings and situations. Therefore, individuals are made of structures that govern the acceptable ways of communication.
- THE FAMILY
In ancient Egypt, the transition to married life was characterized by establishment of a house. However, this change in status was both a physical and a social transformation.
A family unit is a system of action. What the family has in common with other system is that it deals with norms and rules, and has a hierarchical arrangement.
- relational orientations
The notion of family kinship need not be biological, and that family ties did not cease with the immediate members: Within time, burial was no longer performed solely by the personnel of this institution, and that the bonds of kinship can include a network of relationships that, although not biological, would be treated as such. Further, Funeral cult and burial were the duties of extended ken.
Regulations emerge within social institutions, group and associations, such as marriages and families—a multiplicity of overlapping systems. Better said, the prevailing traditional construct is complemented by a scheme consisting of a network of social relationships consisting of systems of actions. The key components and elements by which order and co-existence are possible is that of the social structure of expectation.
Acquisition of knowledge was more the result of learning by copying, with the family members for example, the father being the responsible for instruction. Thus, ideally speaking, the appropriate skills were passes in, and the person would be prepared for life in the community.
For example, to ensure the royal succession, the pharaoh had several wives. The oldest son of the chief wife was the heir; if she had no sons, the throne could go to the son of another wife. If the chief wife had only daughters, one of them might be married to a half brother, son of lesser wife, reinforcing his right to the throne assuring it to the chief wife’s descendants.
The authority in the family rested in the hands of men. The figure of the father is the embodiment authority, and it is this influence that is the basis of the son’s obedience. Moreover, certain forms of socialization, in order to create a socially competent being on the part of the son, were incumbent on the father.
- positional role behavior
Each family either the man or women; the son or daughter, must interact within different spheres of society. A well adjusted individual is one who can live up to the expectations of his/her social surroundings. It was the adaptation, or insertion of the individual into the community that was seen as the primary virtue. Although, each individual of the family has a different role to play in order to fulfill the aims of the group the paternal figure supplied the required instruction concerning social behaviors and attitudes.
Society in ancient Egypt does an excellent job of representing the causes and effects of social mobility. The primary reason ancient Egyptian society flourished to the degree it did is, in a nutshell, the relative predictability of its crop cycle. A flood season bringing rich soil nutrients into the Nile’s flat and accessible flood plain is followed by a long uninterrupted growing season, followed in turn by a bountiful harvest.
Because travel by boat is known to Egypt, there is an easy contact to the neighboring country. Egyptians sailed to other countries to trade goods. Further ancient Egypt was known for their achievements in Science. Pyramids, temples, and other monuments, their walls covered with paintings of deities, people, animals, and plants bear witness to the architectural and autistics achievement of Egyptian artesian. But these works would not have been possible without advances in disciplines such as mathematics. The Egyptians develop number systems that enabled them to calculate area and value, and they used principles of geometry to survey flooded land. The Egyptians worked out an accurate 365-day calendar by basing their year not only on the movement of the moon but also on Sirius, the bright Dog Star. Sirius rises annually in the sky just before the Nile’s flood begins. Egyptians also developed medical expertise recognized through the ancient world, having first learned about human anatomy in their practice of embalming. Egyptian doctors wrote directions on papyrus scrolls for using splints, bandages, and compresses when treating fractures, wounds, and diseases. Other ancient civilizations would acquire much of their medical knowledge from the Egyptians. Egyptians achievements in many activities stand as a milestone in the history of civilization.
Burgess, E.W & Locke, H. J. (1945). “The Family: From Institution to Companionship.” 213.
Earl, T. & Johnson, A.W. (1987). The Evolution of Human Societies. From Foraging Group to Agrarian State, p19; p314; p320.
Henecka, H.P. (1989), Grundskurs Soziologie. Second Edition, p75.
McCoy H. T. (2000). “Women in Society in Greek and Roman Egypt.” A sourcebook: Journal of Women’s History, Spring, p230.
Rowlandson, J. (1998). “Women in Society in Greek and Roman Egypt.” A Sourcebook, Cambridge University Press, xviii + 406 pp.;ill.; maps. ISBN 0-521-58212-1 (cl); 0-521- 58815-4 (pb).