Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 21The feudal system was general throughout ancient Egypt, and the Pharaoh was chiefly employed in keeping his greater subjects in check. These modelled their principalities upon the central power, and even such as had no claim to royal blood kept up establishments of considerable magnitude. Officials swarmed in the Nile valley, and it does not seem that they were actuated by a very high standard of political morality, or, at least in practice, they fell short of it. Members of the royal family were generally granted high office, and this meant that the country was in effect administered by an hereditary bureaucracy. A chancellor or vizier was directly responsible to the monarch for the condition of the country—its business, finance, and legal administration.
Scene representing the driving of a large herd of cattle
on an Egyptian farm From a Tomb at Thebes, XVIIIth Dynasty
Reproduced by Permission from "Wall Decorations of Egyptian Tombs,"
published by the Trustees of the British Museum—
We know but little concerning the commercial affairs of ancient Egypt. In all probability open-air markets were held. Currency was unknown until the era of the Persian invasion, and until then rings of gold, silver, and bronze were employed in exchange. Barter, however, prevailed universally. Corn was, of course, the staple produce of Egypt, and seems to have been exported to some extent to other countries, as were papyrus rolls and linen; but practically all silver and copper had to be imported, as had precious woods, the pelts of rare animals, ivory, spices and incense, and stone for the manufacture of rare vessels. Many of these supplies reached Egypt in the shape of tribute,