- Slavery -
Contrary to popular beliefs, there were no slaves in Ancient Egypt such as we know them in the histories of Greece or Rome or in pre-20th century America.
There were serfs, who, compared to our views on "slavery", enjoyed several freedoms, such as that of aquiring property. They were rewarded for their services, they could have families without fearing that the person they worked for would sell their children. Their children could enjoy education and break free of the life of servitude.
The prisoners brought to Egypt during its conquests in Nubia
and Asia were put to work in several royal ateliers and workshops, but they
could obtain their own freedom or the freedom of their children. It has even
happened that descendants of such prisoners attained high ranking positions
in the Egyptian government or in the military. A statue of the royal barber
Sa-Bastet, who lived during the reign of Thutmosis III, informs us of how
a prisoner of war could be treated:
"I have a serf who was assigned to me, whose name
is Yuwi-Amun. I (myself) have brought him (here) by force, while I was in
the Ruler's following ... He is not to be beaten, nor is he to be turned away
from any door of the king('s house). I have given to him the daughter of my
sister, Nebeta, to be his wife. Her name is Ta-Kement. She shall share (in
my inheritance) along with my wife and my sister, likewise".
Not only does Sa-Bastet explicitely state that the prisoner of war that was given to him as a "slave" is never to be mistreated, he even weds this "slave" into his own family.
The Egyptian government could call upon the inhabitants of the Nile Valley to do certain tasks. Thutmosis I and Thutmosis III both published a decree that ordered the locals of a certain part of Egypt to keep the Nile clear of rocks and rubble, allowing the safe passage of boats.
In the same way, the people of Egypt may have been called upon to help with the transportation of the stone blocks used to build the pyramids.
This, however, was not slavery and could be compared with the obligatory national service that many countries have today.
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|The Ancient Egypt Site created by Jacques Kinnaer||
Last update: 21 July, 2009