|Behold, the king is at the head of the gods and is provided as a god....the gods do obeisance when meeting the king just as the gods do obeisance when meeting the rising of Ra when he ascends from the horizon.|
he Egyptian king was given the title "pharaoh", which comes from the word 'per-aa' meaning "great house". For a long time Egypt was ruled by two kings. In the north the Red Crown of Lower Egypt was worn by one king whilst in the south the king wore the White Crown of Upper Egypt.
In 3118 BC Egypt was united by Menes, the king of Upper Egypt, who conquered the northern realm. After unification the two crowns were joined together to make the Double Crown signifying all Egypt. When going into battle the pharaoh wore the Blue War Crown.
Other indications of the unification were also used. On some carvings the symbols of the two lands - papyrus and a lily - are shown being tied together by gods. In the kings head-dress the vulture goddess of the south and the snake goddess of the north are shown side by side.
The Royal Crook and Flail
The Pharaoh is often shown carrying symbols of his authority. The most important of these were sceptres in the shape of a Crook and a Flail. The king had others such as the Sekhem (power) sceptre and he wore a false beard, symbolizing pharaoh as a god.
As the most important person in Egypt the Pharaoh was in charge of the army, the navy, the law courts, religion and the government. His daily duties included receiving advice and giving instructions to officials. As commander-in-chief of the army New Kingdom kings were often great warriors and many led their troops into battle in person.
A king could have many wives but only one queen. She was usually the eldest daughter of the previous king. This meant he had to marry his sister or half-sister. In the New Kingdom the queen was also regarded as the wife of the god Amun. This made her the High Priestess.
To show their power the Pharaohs had many fine palaces and temples built with magnificent statues. They acted like gods and carried out daily religious rituals. The people looked upon them as god-kings ruling with the power of Horus while alive. Upon death they joined Osiris to rule over the dead in the afterlife.
The House of Ramses
Ramses II built seven temples in Nubia. The huge, rock cut temple of Abu Simbel is the most impressive. Construction began around the fifteenth year of his reign and continued for about twenty years. Somewhere during this time, Ramses ordered his workmen to re-carve the scenes on the walls to portray him as an equal of the gods. When it was finished Ramses called it "The House of Ramses, Beloved of Amun." Pictured here are two of the four giant statues of Ramses II that make up the facade of the temple. They tower 66 feet above the ground.
Occasionally the Pharaoh was not a King but a Queen. In
1473 BCQueen Hatshepsut seized power after the death of her husband and ruled Egypt for 20 years.
Pharaohs ruled Egypt through a large number of officials. Those in direct contact with the Pharaoh were the people with real power, high priests and priestesses, nobles and chief government officials. Many of them were related to the Pharaoh.
Beneath the priests and nobles were the officials who carried out the main day-to-day running of the country. In this class were also the minor priests and scribes.
Next came the skilled craftsmen. Workers like stonemasons, carpenters, potters, jewellers and smiths. Beneath them were the poorest people, those considered only fit to be servants or labourers.