For Ancient Egypt was characterized by extreme slowness in the evolution of the social structure, the determining factor of which was almost undivided dominance in the economy of the state tsarist-temple economy. In the context of the general involvement of the population in the state economy, the difference in the legal status of certain sections of the working people was not considered as significant as in other countries of the East. It was not reflected even in terms most used among which was the term denoting a commoner, – Mint. This concept had no clearly expressed legal content, as was the controversial concept of “servant of the king” – a semi-free, dependent worker who existed in all periods of the unique and long history of Egypt.
The main economic and social cell in ancient Egypt in the early stages of its development was the rural community. The natural process of intra-community social and property stratification was associated with the intensification of agricultural production, with the growth of the surplus product, which the top-level community began to assign, which concentrated in its hands the leading functions for the creation, maintenance and expansion of irrigation facilities. These functions subsequently moved to a centralized state.
The processes of social stratification of ancient Egyptian society are especially amplified at the end of the IV millennium BC. when the dominant social stratum is formed, which included tribal noma aristocracy, priests, well-to-do communal peasants. This layer is increasingly separated from the bulk of the free community-members of the peasantry, from which the rent-tax is levied by the state. They are also involved in forced labor to build canals, dams, roads, etc. From the first dynasties to ancient Egypt, there were known throughout the country periodic censuses of “people, livestock, gold,” on the basis of which taxes were established.
The early creation of a single state with a land fund centralized in the hands of the pharaoh, to which the functions of managing a complex irrigation system are transferred, the development of a large tsarist-temple economy contributes to the virtual disappearance of the community as an independent unit linked by collective land use. It ceases to exist together with the disappearance of free farmers who are independent of state power and are not controlled by it. Some kind of communities are permanent rural settlements, whose heads are responsible for paying taxes, for the smooth functioning of irrigation facilities, forced labor, etc. At the same time, the ruling elite is strengthening its economic and political positions, replenished mainly by the local noma aristocracy, the emerging centralized administrative apparatus and priesthood. Its economic power is growing, in particular, due to the early established system of royal grants of lands and slaves. From the time of the Ancient Kingdom, the royal decrees have been preserved, establishing the rights and privileges of temples and temple settlements, testimonies of the royal grants of the aristocracy and the temples.
In the tsarist economy and economy of the secular and spiritual nobility, various categories of dependent bonded people worked. These included powerless slaves, prisoners of war or tribesmen brought to slavery, “servants of the king,” who carried out the norm of work prescribed by him under the supervision of the tsarist overseers. They owned a small personal property and received meager food from the king’s warehouses.
The exploitation of the “servants of the Tsar”, divorced from the means of production, was built both on non-economic and economic coercion, since land, implements, draft animals and so on were the property of the tsar. The boundaries separating the slaves (which in Egypt never was much) from the “servants of the king,” were expressed vaguely. The slaves in Egypt were sold, bought, handed over by inheritance, as a gift, but sometimes planted on the ground and endowed with property, demanding a part of the harvest from them. One of the forms of the emergence of slavish dependence was the self-sale of Egyptians for debts (which, however, was not encouraged) and becoming criminals slaves.
The union of Egypt after the transition period of turmoil and fragmentation (XXII century BC) by the Theban nomas within the borders of the Middle Kingdom was accompanied by successful conquest wars of Egyptian pharaohs, development of trade with Syria, Nubia, the growth of cities, expansion of agricultural production. This led, on the one hand, to the growth of the tsarist-temple economy, on the other – to the strengthening of the positions of the private economy of noble dignitaries and temple priests, organically connected with the first. The nominee nobility, who in addition to the lands granted to the service (the “house of the nomarch”) inherited lands (“my father’s house”), seeks to turn his holdings into property, resorting to the help of temple oracles, who could attest to its hereditary character.
The early ineffectiveness of cumbersome tsarist economies, based on the labor of forced farmers, promotes the widespread development of the allotment and rent form of exploitation of the working people at that time. The land began to be given to “servants of the king” for rent, it was processed by them mainly with its implements in a relatively isolated economy. At the same time, the rent-tax was paid to the treasury, the temple, the nomarch or the noble, but labor service was still performed in favor of the treasury.
In the Middle Kingdom, other changes are revealed both in the position of the ruling circles and in the lower strata of the population. An increasingly noticeable role in the state, along with aristocracy and priests, begins to play a non-titled officialdom.
Of the total mass of “servants of the king” are allocated the so-called nedges (“small”), and among them “strong nedges.” Their appearance was associated with the development of private land ownership, commodity-money relations, the market. Not accidentally in the XVI-XV centuries. BC. in the Egyptian lexicon for the first time appears the concept of “trader”, and the measure of value in the absence of money becomes silver.
* 1 g of silver was equal to the cost of 72 liters of grain, and the slave cost 373 grams of silver.
Neces, along with craftsmen (especially those specialties that are scarce in Egypt, such as stonemasons, goldsmiths), being not so firmly connected with the royal and temple economy, acquire a higher status, selling part of their products on the market. Along with the development of handicrafts, commodity-money relations, cities are growing, even a semblance of shops, associations of artisans in specialties, appears in the cities.
The expansion of the concept of “home”, previously designating a family-clan group of members of the family, relatives, servants-slaves, etc., who was under the authority of the patriarch, also testifies to the change in the legal status of wealthy groups of the population. The niggas could now head the house.
Strong Neces, together with the lower links of the priesthood, of the petty bureaucracy, and the prosperous artisans in the cities make up the middle, transitional layer of small producers to the ruling class. The number of private slaves is growing, the exploitation of dependent farmer-donors is increasing, bearing the main burden of taxation, military service in the tsarist troops. Even more poor city poor. This leads to an extreme aggravation of social contradictions at the end of the Middle Kingdom (intensified by the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos), to a major uprising that began among the poorest strata of free Egyptians, later joined by slaves and even some of the wealthy farmers.
The events of those days are described in the colorful literary monument “The Reverence of Ipuvera”, from which it follows that the insurgents seized the king, drove the noble dignitaries from their palaces and occupied them, seized the royal temples and temple coffers, defeated the court chamber, destroyed the books of accounting of yields and so forth. “The earth turned over like a potter’s wheel,” writes Ipouver, warning the rulers against the recurrence of such events, which led to the period of internecine wars. They lasted 80 years and ended after years of struggle with the conquerors (in 1560 BC) by the creation of the New Kingdom by the Theban king Yahmos.
As a result of victorious wars, the Egypt of the New Kingdom becomes the first largest empire in the ancient world, which could not but affect the further complication of its social structure. Weakened the position of noma clan aristocracy. Ahmose leaves on the ground those rulers who showed him full obedience, or replaces them with new ones. The well-being of the representatives of the ruling elite now directly depends on the place they occupy in the official hierarchy, how close they are to Pharaoh and his court. The center of gravity of the administration and all the support of the pharaoh shifts significantly to non-titled layers of people from officials, soldiers, farmers and even close slaves. Children of strong nedges could attend a course of study in special schools administered by tsarist scribes, and upon completion of it receive one or another bureaucratic post.
Along with the Neces, a special category of the Egyptian population appears at this time, close to it by position, denoted by the term “Nemhu”. This category included farmers who had their own farm, artisans, soldiers, small officials, who, by the will of the Pharaoh administration, could be promoted or lowered in their social and legal status, depending on the needs and needs of the state.
This was due to the creation of a system of nationwide redistribution of labor as centralized in the Middle Kingdom. In the New Kingdom, in connection with the further growth of the numerous imperial, hierarchically co-ordinated layer of officialdom, the army, etc., this system has found further development. Its essence was as follows. In Egypt, censuses were systematically carried out, taking into account the population for the purpose of determining taxes, the recruitment of the army according to age categories: children, young men, men and old people. These age categories were, to a certain extent, associated with a kind of class division of the population directly employed in the royal economy of Egypt, the priests, the army, officials, masters and “ordinary people.” The peculiarity of this division was that,
“Attire” for a permanent skilled work, such as an architect, jeweler, artist, attributed the “common man” to the category of masters, which gave him the right to official possession of land and inalienable private property. Until the master was transferred to the category of “ordinary people,” he was not a powerless person. Working in this or that economic unit on the instructions of the tsarist administration, he could not leave it. All that was produced by him at the time was considered the property of the pharaoh, even his own tomb. What was produced by him in after-hours was his property.
Officials and masters were contrasted with “ordinary people,” whose position differed little from the position of slaves, they could not only be bought or sold as slaves. This system of distribution of labor affected the bulk of allotment farmers a little, which accounted for this huge army of officials, military men and masters. The periodic recording and distribution of the basic reserve of labor in Ancient Egypt to work was a direct consequence of the underdevelopment of the market, commodity-money relations, the complete absorption by the state of Egyptian society.