Ancient Egypt for Kids
Pharaohs were the kings of ancient Egypt. A couple were women, but most pharaohs were men. In ancient Egypt, whether the pharaoh was a man or a woman, all pharaohs were kings. Pharaohs were the leaders of government and religion. There were about 170 different pharaohs over time, but there was only one pharaoh at a time. In ancient Egypt, the people referred to a pharaoh not "the" pharaoh, but simply as Pharaoh.
Pharaoh Ruled Everything: As you research ancient Egypt on the web, you will see pharaohs referred to as living gods, or like-gods, or as the go between mortal man and gods, and other god related positions. During the Old Kingdom, pharaohs believed themselves to be living gods. But they were mortal. During the Middle Kingdom, pharaohs no longer thought of themselves as living gods, but rather as the representatives of the gods on earth. Pharaoh was the king of Egypt and the High Priest of all temples. His (or her) power was absolute and overwhelming. He was not worshipped. He was obeyed.
Pharaoh Owned Everything: The ancient Egyptians believed that all the wealth of Egypt and all the wealth in the world belonged to Pharaoh. Every house, brick, stone, animal, amulet, jewelry, statue, man, woman, child, clothing, temples, store houses, tombs, eggs found along the Nile, everything, absolutely everything belonged to Pharaoh. In exchange for all Pharaoh owned and controlled, Pharaoh was responsible for Ma'at - for the health and happiness of ancient Egypt. If Pharaoh did not do his or her job, the Nile would not rise and leave rich soil behind for planting as the waters receded. If the people did not obey Pharaoh, the Nile would not rise.
Pharaoh, like everyone in ancient Egypt, had a job to do. His (or her) job was to take care of the people. Every decision made had to be in the best interest of the people. For example, if Pharaoh announced that all bread was free for everyone, that might sound very nice, but it would put people out of work. Bakers would not be able to trade for what they needed. That would not be in the best interest of all the people. So Pharaoh rarely made a snap decision. Everything was thought through, and Pharaoh received advice from his many advisors and government officials, whose job was to help Pharaoh run the country.
Viziers: In the early centuries of ancient Egypt, the people could talk directly to Pharaoh. As time went by, and the population grew and expanded, the Egyptian kings began to rely on the Vizier to talk for them to the people. The Vizier was the highest rank in government, next only to Pharaoh. From the lowest to the highest, each adviser had to submit an oral or written (by a scribe) report each day to the official above him. These officials reported to those above them, and so on, until all reports reached the Vizier. Each day, the Vizier reported to Pharaoh everything the Vizier had done, including all the decisions he had made, in case Pharaoh wished to change anything, along with a recap of reports the Vizer had received that day from lesser officials all over Egypt. It was an amazing system of government. It worked for over 3,000 years!