Ancient Egyptian economic surplus
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Ancient Egypt is such an interesting and amazing society to study due to the various factors that allowed the city and population to thrive. The culture, quite different to other cultures around the world in ancient times, developed quite unique traditions, technologies and ideas. Small features of this society including aligning the 4 corners of the pyramids and being able to divide the year into 365 days makes it truly fascinating, The main reason that this society was able to thrive and be successful can be attributed to the great Nile River. Due to this people were able to settle which lead to the creation of a surplus, which could be sustained for around 2000 years. How is the Surplus Created and Sustained?
The Nile River is the main reason why this ancient civilization was able to grow and survive for around 2000 years. It was used to create a surplus, which could be managed and sustained for years and years. The Nile attracted visitors from a large area of Africa creating a “Cultural Melting Pot” (Lockard, 2011). The people of ancient Egypt were able to discover that the river flooded at exactly the same time each year, which allowed them to irrigate their fields and crops. Farmers planted their crops in the muddy flats, which allowed for good crops almost each and every time. The people of Egypt settled along the river from the Mediterranean Sea down to Aswan, approximately 750 miles apart (Lockard, 2011). Egyptian writing (hieroglyphics) was created and only strengthened the surplus as this allowed communication between people and the kingdoms. Who Controls the Surplus?
The pharaohs in ancient Egypt times were considered to be the rulers of all the land and people in Egypt. The pharaoh governed a centralized city of Memphis, which was strategically placed along the Nile. Egypt was divided into around 40 different areas that were run by a governor appointed by the king. Along with the governor, a chief minister was also appointed to ensure that taxes were collected, grain was properly stored in warehouses, and money was paid to those who worked in the government.
The Old Kingdom from Ancient Egypt was considered to be the most successful part of their history. The economic surplus was great and the Pharaoh was ruling all of Egypt successfully. This allowed the civilization to thrive and led to the construction of the great pyramids. However the people of ancient Egypt had the biggest roles in controlling the economic surplus as they grew crops and constructed buildings for the population to grow and flourish. Who Protects the Surplus?
As well as controlling the surplus, the Pharaoh had the head duties of protecting it. The ancient Egyptians used many unique factors to help protect their civilization. Soldiers were used, much like in other ancient civilizations, to protect the Nile River, expand their land settlement area and support the rule of the Pharaoh. During the New Kingdom, Egyptian armies became a powerhouse and very active allowing for expansion. Ancient Egypt could be protected quite well due to environmental factors including the river and desert. The river being surround by 1000’s of miles of desert made it easier to predict where attacks may come from. The Nile itself was also be able to used thanks to its slow moving nature. This provided a great highway that promoted economic and political stability and uniformity (Lockard, 2011). How are those within the civilization who do not control or protect the surplus affected by it?
The people within the ancient civilization lived decent lives. The civilization flowed quite nicely mainly due to the fact that all of the people believed in their Pharaoh as they thought that they were the offspring of the sun god Re, the creator of heaven, earth and humans (Lockar, 2011). Within the population there were many occupations that people could have, the best being priests, nobles and scribes. Middle class people were called peasants and they controlled the irrigation and crops. Due to the Nile flooding around the same time annually, this allowed for the Egyptians to live in villages and market towns that were scattered along the river.
Peasants generally lived good lives as crops were relatively easy to plant and heavy plows were not needed. At the bottom of society were the prisoners and slaves, which made up around 10-15 percent of the population (Lockard, 2011). Egyptians valued security and safety more than equality, therefore these people often did not live good lives. The class of the person was more often than not determined by their parents meaning the job that their parents owned often would be the same job that they would have. What happens and who is to blame if the Surplus disappears?
A surplus, once created, can be difficult to be controlled and often can be destroyed as shown by this ancient civilization of Egypt. During the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, each were ruled by various leaders and in the middle of each of the three kingdoms saw disorder or foreign conquest. Along with these periods, other periods of political disorder or weak central government lead to poverty and famine, which struck the whole land. During these periods, peasants often were put to grueling labor along with slaves. The people often seemed to be in disarray during the periods between the different kingdoms, but by the 1075 the ancient civilization of Egypt fell victim to the empire of Western Asian and other African people (Lockard, 2011).
Ancient Egypt is truly an amazing society to study and read up on. The way they lived was simple but effective and in many ways reflects the way that we live today. The people used environmental factors to the best of their abilities to strengthen their society and help them survive. Many different factors allowed this society to be a powerhouse by creating and sustaining and economic surplus and survive for around 2000 years.
Lockard, Craig A. “Ancient Societies in Africa and the Mediterranean, 5000-600 B.C.E.” World. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. 50-56. Print