At the end of the III and in the II millennium BC. e. Egypt, along with Mesopotamia, remains the most advanced country of the then world. A number of new phenomena were observed in the public relations of Egypt at this time. In the last centuries of the 3rd millennium, Egypt disintegrated into semi-independent regions. Only gradually is a single state re-emerging, which is significantly different from the state of the previous time. The new period was called the Middle Kingdom, which lasted for about five hundred years, beginning at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. e. and ending around 1600 BC. e. At this time, according to the list of Manetho, there are 9 dynasties – from IX to XVII.
The fall of the Old Kingdom and the rise of the Middle Kingdom
Egypt during the collapse of the Old Kingdom
By the end of the Old Kingdom, Egypt becomes more and more noticeable – the strengthening of the importance of the local, non-metropolitan nobility. The strengthening of the nomarchs during the 6th dynasty is confirmed by the fact that during this period the construction of their tombs on the ground increased. However, in general, during the 6th dynasty, the nomarchs were not yet the highest nobility. Some of their representatives, such as, for example, the rulers of the Upper Egyptian nome Tina, who were related to the 6th dynasty, could achieve significant influence in the country, but it is enough to compare the small, rock-hewn and often poorly finished tombs of the Upper Egyptian nomarchs with huge, made of hewn stones and covered with reliefs and the inscriptions of the tombs of the capital’s nobles, to make sure of the difference in the social status of their owners.
In the inscriptions of the second half of the Old Kingdom, nomarchs painstakingly describe their benefits to the “little” people. Apparently, during this period, in the struggle against the domination of the capital’s nobles, against the tsarist autocracy, the nomarchs, diminished in their significance, tried to use ordinary people – ordinary members of the community. The strengthening of the Upper Egyptian nomarchs, who, in contrast to the ruling stratum of the nobility, were apparently supported by wider circles of the population, eventually led to the disintegration of the country into semi-independent regions. The circumstances of the fall of the Old Kingdom are not exactly known to us, but the sources still contain information about how the general Egyptian power of the pharaohs tended to decline.
The last prominent representative of the VI dynasty, Piopi II, was followed by several powerless rulers, known only from royal lists or later legends, such as the female pharaoh Nitokrida.
- the dynasty is known only from Manetho (70 kings who ruled for 70 days!).
- the dynasty, according to the same sources, was Memphis, but the little that can be attributed to the time of her reign points rather to Upper Egypt, as that part of the country over which she exercised her power.
The time of the rule of the IX-XI dynasties was full of confusion and various formidable events of internal struggle. It is possible that there were uprisings in the country, about which only vague or indirect news reached us.
We will dwell on this further, analyzing the data of the political literature of the period of the Middle Kingdom. The XI and X dynasties were from the city of Heracleopolis in the north of Upper Egypt. Despite the harsh measures of the founder of the IX dynasty, Akhtoy (Egyptian. Kheti), the ill fame of which reached the days of Manetho, the Heracleopolitan kings failed to firmly unite the country under their rule.
Lower Egypt was reunited with Heracleopolis during the X dynasty. In the south, the Heracleopolis pharaohs took possession of the Tina region. But they did not go further south. In the teaching of his son and successor Merikar (the most complete list of this teaching is kept in Leningrad, in the State Hermitage), the old tsar advises the young to live in peace with the kingdom that arose in the south of Upper Egypt. This southern kingdom grew out of the Theban nome and spread south as far as Elephantine. The local rulers (with the repeated name Intef), who laid the foundation for the XI dynasty, gradually turned from nomarchs into South Egyptian pharaohs. No matter how good-neighborly they were in Herculeopolis in relation to the South, a clash between the two kingdoms was inevitable. The struggle was fought at first with varying success, but the ultimate victory of the South was a foregone conclusion. In this war, the Heracleopolis kings depended on their nomarchs, who sometimes almost surpassed the power of the kings. At the same time, the Theban nom, overcoming the opposition of his neighbors, rallied the southern part of the country into a fairly strong state. It is believed that the Theban nome was able to solve this problem by the presence of large tracts of fertile land, while the more southerly nomes had only narrow strips of coastal soil.
Under the last pharaohs of the XI dynasty, who consistently bore the name Mentuhetep, Egypt was already reunited. We again read in the inscriptions about the victories over the neighboring tribes and about the campaigns in the quarries and even to the Southern Red Sea. Stone construction also flourished in Egypt.
The state of the productive forces of Egyptian society after the fall of the Old Kingdom
The disintegration of the country after the Old Kingdom into semi-independent and even hostile nomes and even kingdoms could not fail to respond disastrously to the drainage and irrigation network, which required coordinated supervision and management. The water distribution network was the basis of the economic well-being of Egypt, and therefore it is not surprising that the inscriptions of the time of the collapse, between the 6th and 12th dynasties, are full of reports of cases of famine, sometimes leading the population to cannibalism. The owner of one of the main Upper Egyptian nomes (Siut) in the days of the X Dynasty considered a remarkable achievement of his reign that he dug a clogged canal that could supply water in the very heat, arranged a canal for his city when the rest of Upper Egypt did not see water, forced the river flood old places, stopped strife over water and was rich in barley when the country was “aground.” About another Egyptian region it is known that by the time of the X Dynasty such swamp thickets appeared there that during civil strife they served as a shelter for people. All this urgently demanded a new unification of the country. At the same time, the disintegration of the centralized despotism could not fail to cause some revival of local economic activity, for the further successful development of which, however, the unification of the country was also required.
Social conditions favorable to a certain increase in the initiative of individual producers made it possible at this time to achieve a number of improvements in agricultural technology. Since the XI dynasty, plows with a sharp turn of the handles, which facilitated pressure when plowing, became widespread. Some improvement was the replacement, which took place no later than the XI dynasty, of a grain grater lying on the ground with a grain grater fitted obliquely on a stand. Flour now, after grinding, poured into the container located in front. The hard work of grinding grain by hand between two millstones was somewhat easier, since the worker on the grain grinder no longer had to kneel. Also, no later than the XI dynasty, a device for squeezing fruits was transformed – a bag twisted with poles with a dummy vat.
During the XI Dynasty, measures were actively taken to deliver raw materials that were poor in the Nile Valley; there is a noticeable desire to simplify relations with the places where this raw material is mined. For example, in the biography of the “treasurer of God”, that is, the trusted pharaoh for the delivery of valuables, we have heard a message about his trips to many mining industries and bringing copper, turquoise, lapis lazuli, etc. to the king. The government ship followed the fragrant resin to the Southern Red Sea by the shortest route. He set out not from the north, but from a place near present-day Coser, at the latitude of the quarries that were often visited in the Middle Kingdom. The road through the desert to the place of departure of the ships was now provided with wells.
Formation of the slave system in Egypt
Sources dating back to the beginning of the Middle Kingdom testify to the existence of slaveholding by private individuals, moreover, in a rather wide scale for such an ancient period. One dignitary – perhaps through a purchase – acquired 20 “heads” of people. The other person had 31 “heads”. For the first time in the Middle Kingdom, forced people began to be called “heads”. In the tale of the Middle Kingdom, in which the action is attributed to the time of the Heracleopolis pharaohs, even the subordinate person of the nobleman owns 6 “heads”. “Heads” passed from hand to hand and in the order of inheritance. So, the senior cattle breeder during the XI dynasty boasted in his inscription that the people of his father went to him as the property (“things”) of his grandfather and grandmother, and his people were the property of his father and mother, as well as his personal property acquired by him. At the same time, as the inscription says,
Slavery is developing significantly on the farms of individuals, including ordinary members of the community.
Images of slaves have come down from the Middle Kingdom. So, in one image, a slave is shown at hard work – grinding grain with a grain grinder. Among the slaves were foreigners.
Together with the Old Kingdom, the huge farms of the capital’s nobles go into the past. Many smaller farms appear in the country.
From the end of the Ancient Kingdom, sources begin to mention along with “big people”, that is, the highest nobility, and “small” (nedges). In the subsequent time, but not later than the beginning of the XII dynasty inclusive, the sources constantly talk about them.
The “small” ones of the Middle Kingdom, judging by their inscriptions, often turn out to be rich, even large dignitaries with high court and state ranks. In their biographies, persons who call themselves “small” willingly focus on the successes achieved “by their own hand” and on their military prowess. In the days of the XI Dynasty, even the noble nomarchs proudly called themselves “strong little ones.”
The emergence in the country of many farms, which, by their insignificant scale, did not produce all the things necessary for the economy, but had a certain surplus of some products, contributed to the development of exchange. One story tells how, during the 9th-10th dynasties, a peasant from the Salt oasis (now Wadi Natrun) went to buy bread and the capital; he was carrying local products for sale. During the 11th dynasty, a small private economy sold fabrics of its own production to the side. Although grain remained a widespread means of appraisal and reckoning (along with it, they also willingly paid with clothes), it is noteworthy that after the fall of the Old Kingdom, the mention of copper is becoming more frequent in the payment for services.
Thus, a characteristic feature of the emerging Middle Kingdom is a sharp increase in the role of medium and small slave holdings. During this period, there is also a well-known growth in commodity-money relations.
The role of norms
At the time of the weakness of the royal power under the 9th and 10th dynasties, the independence of the nomarchs was especially great. Another ruler, not calling himself openly a king and recognizing in words the right of his “ruler” to confirm him in the rank of nomarch, essentially behaved like a king: he kept chronology according to the years of his own reign, called himself the son of a local deity in imitation of the Pharaoh title “son Ra “, etc. The military forces of individual nomarchs could be quite significant at that time. Tephib, the powerful ruler of the Siut region in the middle part of the country, whose support in the fight against the South, the X dynasty owed a temporary reprieve to its death, boasted of the victory won by his army even over the united forces of the southern kingdom.
When the disintegration of the country into isolated and hostile kingdoms, so destructive for the development of agriculture, was outlived, the significance and role of the nomarchs still did not significantly change. They only became more obedient to the supreme authority. Even when the founder of a new, XII dynasty, Amenemkhet I , who began to revive the Egyptian statehood in its ancient form, took the throne , the position of the nomarchs remained essentially unshaken.
The rise of the Middle Kingdom
Development of the productive forces during the heyday of the Middle Kingdom
In the field of the development of the productive forces during the heyday of the Middle Kingdom, significant successes were achieved. First of all, it should be noted that from the time of the XII dynasty, a certain number of objects, including tools of production, from an alloy of copper and tin, where the share of the latter is so significant, have survived, that one cannot call the alloy otherwise than bronze. Some figurines made from it can be attributed to the time on the eve of the XII dynasty. However, the vast majority of found metal objects from the Middle Kingdom period were made of copper without artificial fusion. The types of tools in the Middle Kingdom significantly multiplied and improved. New types of cutting tools come across, one of them is a rather complex device. The metal part of the axes of that time was much larger than in the old days,
However, stone tools continued to exist in the Middle Kingdom. In the city ruins of the XII dynasty, not far from the then capital and very close to the royal pyramid, flint axes, tesla, knives, small scrapers or knives, sickle blades were found. A leather bag was also found there, in which – just like in ancient times – the remains of copper tools, pieces of flint knives and flint knives were lying side by side. In two tombs of the time of the XI and XII dynasties – however, a little further from the capital – the production of flint knives was depicted. These facts indicate a certain stagnation of technology in the slave society of Egypt.
Nevertheless, under the XII Dynasty, a new branch of craft began to emerge – glassmaking.
With the beginning of the XII dynasty, as a result of the reunification of the whole country, the state of the irrigation network has significantly improved. News of the famine is dwindling. By the end of the XII dynasty, it was possible, by drying, to reclaim large areas of fertile land near the lake lying at the junction of Upper and Lower Egypt in the western desert, in the area that is now called Fayum. When, after the XII dynasty, the time of endless turmoil came, a new decline of the irrigation economy followed: in the inscriptions from that time, references to the hungry years again become more frequent.
In the field of farming techniques during the XII dynasty, there are indications of the emergence of plows, anticipating the plows of the New Kingdom with steep handles.
Images of the XII dynasty time speak of innovation in cattle breeding: along with the ancient breed of rams with spreading horns, a new breed with bent horns appears; this breed was destined to replace the first one over time.
Development of external relations of Egypt
During the XII dynasty, external relations of Egypt expanded. Deposits of copper and turquoise on the Sinai Peninsula were covered with Egyptian inscriptions during the XII dynasty. At that time, inscriptions appeared near some deposits for the first time. For the first time, at the beginning of the XII dynasty, we hear about the development by the Egyptians of copper mines in Northern Ethiopia, between the Nile and the Red Sea. The piles of waste from that time in different mines testify to the significant amount of copper mining there.
Gold, which was generously used in the Middle Kingdom, was now mined not only in Upper Egypt – in the Eastern Desert, but also in Ethiopia. By the end of the 12th dynasty, the goldsmiths reached an amazing skill in the manufacture of headdresses. Judging by the finds, during the Middle Kingdom they began to use, as it were, more silver than during the Old Kingdom.
Ties became close with the supplier of the selected forest – Phenicia, where the city of Byblos became so Egyptian that some of its rulers ordered to inscribe their seals and utensils in Egyptian, calling themselves the same title as nomarchs in Egypt.
Ties were maintained with the Northern Mediterranean. During the Middle Kingdom, Cretan dishes were used in Egypt, and Egyptian products in Crete.
The situation of slaves in Egypt
Monuments from the heyday of the Middle Kingdom provide an idea of the position of the exploited masses and the nature of the exploitation of that time. The most important here are two features: this is, on the one hand, the significant development of slavery in private households; on the other hand, a change in the position of the farmers.
In the Middle Kingdom, ordinary officials and even non-officials often had people who belonged to them. The nobility, of course, had many more people – one dignitary of the XII dynasty took with him only 50 people to the quarry – but even among ordinary mortals the number of people belonging to them was quite significant.
Some of them served their masters and were called chashniks, kravchi, guides, others were farmers, gardeners, bakers, brewers, laundries, etc.
Servants and workers, each at his own work, are depicted on the walls of the master’s tombs, on the master’s memorial slabs, and also in the form of wooden figurines that were placed in the tombs so that they serve the deceased.
In the paintings of the tombs of the nobility, workers usually work together in the open air or in a workshop; the figures are already connected together, depicting a weaving, carpentry, bakery, etc.
Often, workers are directly called slaves. Usually they are slaves; male slaves are mentioned less frequently. Slaves are often found among non-innocent persons, and among the rich there are a lot of them.
Often, private individuals had, as the monuments indicate, “Syrians” who, of course, must be classified as slaves. On one of the monuments, we see two Syrians employed in the personal household of a certain official under the supreme dignitary, either harvesting (a man reaps, a woman picks up ears of grain), or brewing.
There were quite a lot of wars during the Middle Kingdom, and a significant part of the foreign slaves probably came from prisoners. The stories about the wars of the XII dynasty with their western neighbors – the Libyans and the southern Ethiopians – explicitly say that these wars were accompanied by the capture of not only cattle, but also prisoners.
A bill of sale for the Syrian slaves: two women and children has been preserved. From the time of the XII dynasty, there are two wills, in one of which the clerk handed over his people to his brother-priest, and in the other, this brother gave 4 “heads” to his wife. Slaves were bequeathed, re-bequeathed, and allowed to be passed on by the recipient to any of their children. Pharaoh also favored “heads”. One of the associates of the warlike king of the XII dynasty Senusret IIIsaid that when he was enrolled in the royal bodyguards, he received 60 “heads”, and in the production of chiefs of bodyguards after the Ethiopian campaign – another 100 “heads”. In a fairy tale, a person appointed as a bodyguard was given “heads”. At the same time, the “heads” in both cases complain without land, although in the biography of one of the leaders of that time we read about the awarding of 20 “heads”, as well as 50 aruras, that is, over 13.67 hectares, of arable land.
However, at the same time, the tsarist economy, nomarchs and private individuals exploited people who could not be classified as slaves.
From the beginning of the XII dynasty, in two treaties of the nomarch with the priests of the local gods, it is said that “every one of his farmers from the rudiments of his field” will contribute his share in favor of the priests. If he could give such promises to the priests, then it is clear that the economy of the nomarch was based to some extent on the labor of the farmers who cultivated each piece of land.
With the advent of the Middle Kingdom, some changes took place in the position of farmers. “Tsarist” people, known to us in the days of the Old Kingdom as persons who were involved in the personal economy of nomarchs during the difficult time, are now often found in private households.
In the tomb of one dignitary of the end of the Middle Kingdom, 20 “royal” people are listed among his servants. Similar inscriptions are found on some other monuments. That these were farmers is proved by the use of the appropriate designation for them in the times immediately before and after the Middle Kingdom. “Tsarist” people – the general designation of the free agricultural population of Egypt in the first half of the New Kingdom. It is highly probable that the landowners were also called “royal” during the Middle Kingdom.
“Detachments”, as in the old days, were on the ships, but there seem to be no monuments that would speak of detachments in field cultivation, as we observed in the Old Kingdom, or at least about the chiefs, leaders, mentors, scribes of such detachments.
The position of artisans during the Middle Kingdom
Some changes took place during the Middle Kingdom in the position of artisans. If in the Old Kingdom only individual craftsmen achieved a relatively well-off position, then in the Middle Kingdom such artisans are more common. From simple artisans, such as a laundryman, a brewer, a potter, a stonemason, a goldsmith, a coppersmith, etc., stone slabs with inscriptions and images and even inscribed statues have come down.
Craftsmen united by occupation and in the aggregate represented a certain social force. Stonecutters even made up a special “army” with developed management and subdivisions.
Officials, in particular the chiefs of artisans, judging by the images on their monuments, did not disdain the society of simple craftsmen, even sometimes were related to them. The chiefs of artisans were themselves experts in their craft, and some of them, like ordinary artisans, took over the craft from their fathers, while others were the children of minor officials or distant relatives of high-ranking people.
Socio-economic situation of settlements
But in general, for the entire period of the Middle Kingdom, the opposition between the top and bottom of society was striking. It can be observed with one’s own eyes on the ruins of the city near one of the royal pyramids of the middle of the XII dynasty (at the present El-Lahun at the entrance to the Fayum oasis ). The working population lived incredibly crowded, in dwellings of several tiny closets, while each rich house was a complex complex of many dozen small rooms and several larger rooms.
Unfortunately, from the ruins of this settlement near the pyramid, one cannot form a clear idea of the living conditions in which the middle strata of the townspeople were. And these strata have now acquired a certain importance in the life of society. Monuments are full of the names of the innocent “residents of the city”. They were relatives of not only minor, but also significant officials, fathers, and sons of dignitaries.
It would, of course, be wrong to imagine the “cities” of the Middle Kingdom as cities in our sense. Both the city and the village may have been a community. From the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, there are hints of the existence of councils of officials in the cities. From the end of the Middle Kingdom, a court case has come down to us about the transfer of a slave, along with her land plot, to the city of Elephantine, – therefore, the “urban” community at that time was a legal entity that owned slaves and land.
The royal economy, of course, continued to exist in the period of the Middle Kingdom. Such a characteristic phenomenon for the Old Kingdom, as food and clothing items from the royal economy, continued in the Middle Kingdom. From the second half of it, parts of the court income and expense books and other accounting records have been preserved. From them you can see which people constantly or from time to time used the state food distribution. These were ordinary people – artisans, servants, as well as bodyguards, secondary officials, secondary and highest dignitaries, members of their families, even members of the royal family who lived in their own homes. The persons who were at the temple also received food from the royal household.
Nevertheless, in the second half of the Middle Kingdom, commodity-money relations develop further.
At the end of the Middle Kingdom, gold began to serve as a measure of value: a dignitary pays another “60 debens of gold – in gold, and copper, and clothing (and) grain”, that is, he pays in gold, copper, clothing and grain a total amount of 60 debens of gold ( Deben = 91 g). At the beginning of the XII dynasty, we learn that in one case the services were paid for with “silver, gold, copper, rubbing, clothing, Lower Egyptian barley, wheat.” From this sequence, we can conclude that silver was then still more valuable than gold. By the end of the Middle Kingdom, it was already two times cheaper than gold. Grain loans continued to take place, and grain loan transactions were presumably usurious.
The rise of the Middle Kingdom
The heyday of the Middle Kingdom dates back to the XII Dynasty, which reigned around 2000 BC. e. and had a lasting power until the beginning of the 18th century BC. e. For more than two centuries, only eight pharaohs have changed:
- Amenemhat I,
- Senusert I,
- Amenemhat II,
- Senusert II,
- Senusert III,
- Amenemhat III,
- Amenemhat IV,
- Pharaoh-woman Nefrusebek.
Amenemkhet I settled not in the Theban region, but in the north, at the border of Upper and Lower Egypt, in a fortress that was meaningfully called “seizing both lands” (“Ittaui”). This fortress became the capital of the XII dynasty. It was located not far from ancient Memphis (near the present village of Lisht), and a little to the south was the “Land of the Lake”, the present Fayum, where during the XII dynasty, as already mentioned, large areas of fertile land were taken away from the lake by drying and a new one was created. a region rich in fertile land.
However, under the powerful Senusret III, as well as under his predecessors, the sovereign nomarchs still sat in the localities. Although another of them was planted in his area by the king – there is a case when the area was deliberately carved out for one royal companion – the power of the nomarch was hereditary, passed from father to son or from maternal grandfather to grandson, and the king only approved a new ruler … One nomarch depicted 59 sovereign ancestors in his tomb. Even under Senusret I, the nomarch could keep chronology not only according to the years of the tsarist, but also of his own reign. As a rule, the nomarchs were simultaneously heads of the local priesthood and themselves were the high priests of local deities. Nomarchs led the army of their area. They ruled in their nomes both arable land and the king’s flock there; taxes in favor of the royal house passed through their hands. Although the “house (household) of the nomarch” as an official and his “father’s house”, as well as the “herd of the king” and the “herd of the nomarch” were strictly different, nevertheless nomarchs were and remained powerful people during the 12th dynasty. Their strength and wealth not only did not diminish, but, on the contrary, increased until the time of the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The tombs of one nomarch under Senusret II and another nomarch under Senusret III were richer than the tombs of previous rulers of the same nome. The tomb of the second nomarch, a contemporary of Senusret III, depicts the delivery of an alabaster statue of a nomarch up to 7 m in height from nearby quarries to the capital of the region; the warriors of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh. as an official and his “father’s house”, as well as the “herd of the king” and the “herd of the nomarch” were strictly different, yet nomarchs were and remained powerful people during the XII dynasty. Their strength and wealth not only did not diminish, but, on the contrary, increased until the time of the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The tombs of one nomarch under Senusret II and another nomarch under Senusret III were richer than the tombs of previous rulers of the same nome. The tomb of the second nomarch, a contemporary of Senusret III, depicts the delivery of an alabaster statue of a nomarch up to 7 m in height from nearby quarries to the capital of the region; the soldiers of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh. as an official and his “father’s house”, as well as the “herd of the king” and the “herd of the nomarch” were strictly different, nevertheless nomarchs were and remained powerful people during the XII dynasty. Their strength and wealth not only did not decrease, but, on the contrary, increased until the time of the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The tombs of one nomarch under Senusret II and another nomarch under Senusret III were richer than the tombs of previous rulers of the same nome. The tomb of the second nomarch, a contemporary of Senusret III, depicts the delivery of an alabaster statue of a nomarch up to 7 m in height from nearby quarries to the capital of the region; the warriors of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh. Their strength and wealth not only did not decrease, but, on the contrary, increased until the time of the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The tombs of one nomarch under Senusret II and another nomarch under Senusret III were richer than the tombs of previous rulers of the same nomes. The tomb of the second nomarch, a contemporary of Senusret III, depicts the delivery of an alabaster statue of a nomarch up to 7 m in height from nearby quarries to the capital of the region; the soldiers of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh. Their strength and wealth not only did not diminish, but, on the contrary, increased until the time of the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The tombs of one nomarch under Senusret II and another nomarch under Senusret III were richer than the tombs of previous rulers of the same nome. The tomb of the second nomarch, a contemporary of Senusret III, depicts the delivery of an alabaster statue of a nomarch up to 7 m in height from nearby quarries to the capital of the region; the soldiers of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh. depicts the delivery from nearby quarries to the capital of the region of an alabaster statue of the nomarch up to 7 m high; the warriors of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh. shows the delivery from nearby quarries to the capital of the region of an alabaster statue of the nomarch up to 7 m high; the soldiers of the nome and the priests took part in the delivery, that is, they dragged the statue on a sleigh.
Along with the nomarchs, the courtier was of great importance, serving the nobility, which was the main support of the new pharaohs.
At the court, as in the times of the Old Kingdom, the “friends” of the pharaoh were crowded, in the top management were the “chiefs of both white houses”, “chiefs of both houses of gold,” “chiefs of both granaries,” “chiefs of works,” etc. Poe – as before, the supreme dignitary, who is also the mayor of the capital, headed the court and often combined in his person the management of various departments, except for the military.
Who were the top officials in origin? Many people of other origins could be seen next to the representatives of the local nobility at the court and at the head of the state administration. There were dignitaries who inherited their positions from their fathers, that is, representatives of the hereditary metropolitan nobility, and there were those in whom one can see unnatural people. These were representatives of the service nobility, who owed their position and all the worldly benefits of the Pharaoh’s power. One can get an idea of their moods according to the words of the chief of the treasury under Amenemhat III: “He (ie, the king) gives food to those who are accompanied by him, he feeds those who follow him on his way; food is the king, excess is his mouth. ” Such persons could only benefit from the strengthening of the tsar’s power, and the pharaohs could rely on them in the fight against the nobility.
Organization of the troops
The armed forces of the Middle Kingdom were recruited among the masses of the population through the next selective calls of the youth. Foreign units were added to the Egyptian army, consisting mainly of North Ethiopian warriors. The armament of the troops consisted of a bow and arrows for riflemen, shields, spears, axes or clubs for other soldiers. It seems that the innovation of the Middle Kingdom was a mobile cover, from under which two warriors smashed the enemy with a long spear against the powerful fortress walls.
But during the XII dynasty, we see a special army, which consisted directly with the person of the pharaoh. These were bodyguards, who, like the servants of big masters, were called “guides”, in this case – “guides of the ruler.” The composition of the royal bodyguards was heterogeneous: some were, apparently, from among the nobility, but the majority, judging by the available data, were of common origin. Nomarchs also had their armed “guides”, but they, undoubtedly, could not bestow them as generously as the pharaoh, who granted his bodyguards several dozen people (“heads”) and awarded them with golden weapons. Some, as if unborn, “the ruler’s escort” felt himself an important person, and the associate of Senusret III, who had curried out from bodyguards to “mentors” of bodyguards, had high ranks of noblemen. He called himself “the one to whom the ruler of both lands gave his meaning ”. Pharaoh could count on such soldiers in the fight against the local nobility.
Power Struggle during the Middle Kingdom
The internal struggle in the society of the Middle Kingdom was intense even in the most “calm” time, during the XII Dynasty. The kings of the XII dynasty, even during their lifetime, appointed their heirs as co-rulers, and they assumed the royal title during their father’s life. The pharaohs were constantly concerned about their safety. The capital of the XII dynasty was a fortress, its name “Ittaui” was circled with a sign depicting a fortress wall. The establishment of a bodyguard detachment was primarily an event for the protection of the pharaoh. Amenemhat I was attacked at night in his own bedchamber, which apparently cost him his life, despite his stubborn self-defense. According to Manetho, Amenemhat II was killed by the court eunuchs, but it is possible that Amenemhat II is confused here with Amenemhat I.
The kings felt the insecurity of their surroundings and saw danger everywhere. Even at the time of the X dynasty, the pharaoh, in his teaching to his son, instructed to tame the crowd, since the poor man is rebellious, to exterminate the troublemaker, dangerous by the number of his followers. A lesson was put into the mouth of Amenemhat I to his son, advising him not to trust anyone at all. The search received at this time an unprecedented significance. One high-ranking dignitary, boasting, called himself the one who stands “above the secret of the palace during the interrogation of the hidden heart,” “recognizing the husband by what he said,” those “to whom the womb revealed what is in it,” etc. Another dignitary , a contemporary of Senusret II, called himself “the king’s confidant in suppressing the troublemaker,” to him, too, the “womb” of people opened their contents. Another was “the tongue of the king in testing people, in punishing the obstinate heart.” The supreme dignitary and judge under Senusret I was called “humbling the one who rebelled against the king.” An enthusiastic adherent of Amenemhat III exclaimed: “There is no tomb for those who rise up against his majesty, his corpse (that is, the rebel) is that which is thrown into the water.”
By the middle of the Middle Kingdom, it is possible to time the compilation of the numerous written curses that have come down to us against the enemies of the pharaoh, not only external but also internal.
Restlessness was not only around the pharaoh. As in the days of the XI dynasty, the nomarchs made their exits and trips, accompanied by armed guards, they also had their own armed “escorts”. Under Senusert I, the nomarch spoke about himself in his inscription: “I am the one who removes pride from the arrogant, silences the eloquent so that he (no longer) speaks. I am the punisher of thousands of rebels, the love of my region, an ardent heart (when) he sees every criminal. I am driving the robber out of my area … ”. In the nomes, apparently, it was also restless if the rebels were numbered in “thousands”.
It was said about Amenemhat I that he eliminated “sin” in the country, restored what was captured by one city from another, and made them know their borders. But the same was then said about Senusret II, who reigned a century later. Both under Amenemhat I and at the end of the reign of Senusret I, some nomarchs depicted on the walls of their tombs battles between the Egyptians – right up to the siege of fortresses – following the example of their sovereign predecessors during the XI Dynasty.
The fear of reprisals was so acute that one courtier, by the name of Sinukhet, who went with the future Senusret I to the Libyan campaign, only having heard about the death of Amenemkhet I, at the thought of a possible turmoil after the death of the king immediately fled from the camp of the prince to Syria. This is described by his artistically processed biography – the so-called “Story of Sinukhet”; there is no reason to doubt the possibility of the narrated incident.
The time of the greatest power of state power during the Middle Kingdom coincides with the reign of Amenemhat III. Little is known about his long reign, despite the fact that many monuments have survived from these years. He alone left a structure that can be compared with the monuments of the time of the Old Kingdom. At the very entrance to the “Land of the Lake” (Fayum) a huge stone building was erected, consisting of many chambers, thousands of rooms and passages with ceilings of gigantic slabs. From the whole building there were only vague traces and scattered fragments, but the Greeks still marveled at it no less than the great pyramids. Later the Greeks called it the “Labyrinth”. The structure died, and now it is difficult to determine what it really was, but it is possible that it was a royal memorial temple with special compartments for the gods of the nomes. Apparently
It is important to note that with the accession of Amenemhat III, the chain of tombs of the nomarchs, hitherto continuous, was suddenly cut off. As you can see, Amenemhat III managed to break the power of the nomarchs. This, however, did not eliminate the complex social contradictions that tore apart Egyptian society during the Middle Kingdom. We have already said that, as the monuments testify, both the pharaohs and the local nobility were always in alarm – enemies or rebels constantly threatened their power. With the acuteness of social contradictions, with the instability of the political situation in the country, it was enough to slightly shake the state power for all contradictions to be revealed with great force.
After Amenemhat III – the last and only king of the Middle Kingdom, who in any way resembled the powerful pharaohs of the Old Kingdom – two short-lived rulers flashed on the throne, of which the second was a woman, and the XII dynasty ended.
End of the Middle Kingdom
Weakening of the Egyptian state
We have seen that the period of the IX-XI dynasties was the period of the most serious internal upheavals in the history of Egypt. But the XII dynasty, which saw the flourishing of the Middle Kingdom, could not firmly unite Egypt.
After the XII dynasty, Manetho names one dynasty from Thebes and one dynasty from Xois in the western part of the Delta – XIII and XIV in a row. The badly damaged royal list, written during the New Kingdom and kept in Turin, listed after the XII dynasty a great many royal names, of which only a part was found on the monuments of that time. This is not surprising: the duration of the reigns, when it can be established from scraps of the Turin list, usually does not exceed only a few years, or even months or days. The throne became a plaything in the hands of the struggling forces, the kings were overthrown one by one. Some kings directly named their non-royal parents, others on the throne retained names that sound not at all royal. How to draw the line between the XIII and XIV dynasties,
However, some of the kings of the XIII dynasty left large statues, detailed inscriptions, even traces of construction activities. The Egyptian statehood of the Middle Kingdom, in the form it took shape by the end of the XII dynasty, continued to exist during the XIII dynasty, despite the turmoil. This disintegration of the country, which followed the Old Kingdom, has never happened again. Moreover, the nomarchs did not even regain the position that they had before Amenemkhet III – to meet the tomb of a nomarch in the spirit of the XII dynasty is possible in the XIII dynasty only as an exception. Excavations in the Phoenician city of Byblos proved that the XIII dynasty retained its influence there. Apparently, until the end of this dynasty, North Ethiopia also remained under Egyptian rule.
Hyksos dominion in Egypt
The fatal blow to the weakened state was delivered from outside. At the end of the Middle Kingdom, Egypt was conquered by newcomers from the East, whom Manetho called the Hyksos.… It is possible that behind this Manetonian name of the conquerors lies the self-designation of the newcomer kings: “the rulers of the (foreign) highlands.” The tribal composition of the conquerors could be variegated. The names of some Hyksos kings included Semitic words. Over time, the Hyksos kings acted as pharaohs. They took their title, were called “sons of the sun” and declared themselves worshipers of the Egyptian gods. The latter, however, they succeeded badly, since they clearly preferred their new state god, who, although he was called Set in Egyptian, was, perhaps, only a foreign deity identified with him. One of the places of worship of Set was located just in the east of the Delta, where the conquerors mainly settled. Later, in the New Kingdom, it was customary to call the Syrian and Asia Minor gods “sets”. Foreign rule lasted at least 108 years. A century later, after the expulsion of the Hyksos (in the first half of the 16th century BC), temples stood in ruins in the country, and until Manetho’s times, there was a legend about the Hyksos invasion as a terrible pogrom. But even under the foreign yoke, spiritual life did not die out in the country, and the Egyptians were able to pass on the legacy of the Middle Kingdom to a new period. So, one of the most remarkable scientific manuscripts (a large calculating book of problems) is marked with the year of the reign of one of the Hyksos kings. and the Egyptians were able to pass on the legacy of the Middle Kingdom to the new period. So, one of the most remarkable scientific manuscripts (a large calculating book of problems) is marked with the year of the reign of one of the Hyksos kings. and the Egyptians were able to pass on the legacy of the Middle Kingdom to a new period. So, one of the most remarkable scientific manuscripts (a large calculating book of problems) is marked with the year of the reign of one of the Hyksos kings.
The Hyksos made Avaris their capital in the very east of the Delta. They really could not unite Egypt under their rule. The Egyptian kings reigned over Thebes and neighboring regions – seedy, judging by their poor monuments, but as if they were still independent. Only two Hyksos kings, Chian and Apepi, extended their power, perhaps, to the south of Egypt, since there were found seals and stones with their names, the latter – about a hundred kilometers south of Thebes. It is not known whether the conquerors overthrew the southern royal dynasty or whether it continued to exist under their rule. Be that as it may, at the end of the Hyksos dominion in Thebes, there were kings who are considered to be the XVII dynasty. The 15th dynasty consisted of the Hyksos. With regard to the XVI dynasty, it is unclear whether it was Hyksos or Theban.
From the 17th dynasty, a stubborn struggle began for the expulsion of foreign conquerors from the Nile Valley, a struggle that marks the beginning of a new era in the history of Egypt – the period of the New Kingdom.