Sie sind auf Seite 1von 41

Ancient Egyptian Administration

Edited by
Juan Carlos Moreno García


© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3


The Study of Ancient Egyptian Administration ........................... 1

Juan Carlos Moreno García

The Organisation of a Nascent State: Egypt until the

Beginning of the 4th Dynasty ..................................................... 19
Eva-Maria Engel

The Central Administration of the Resources in the

Old Kingdom: Departments, Treasuries, Granaries and
Work Centers ................................................................................. 41
Hratch Papazian

The Territorial Administration of the Kingdom in the

3rd Millennium .............................................................................. 85
Juan Carlos Moreno García

Kings, Viziers, and Courtiers: Executive Power in the Third

Millennium B.C. ............................................................................ 153
Miroslav Bárta

The Administration of the Royal Funerary Complexes .............. 177

Hana Vymazalová

Balat, a Frontier Town and Its Archive ......................................... 197

Laure Pantalacci

Setting a State Anew: The Central Administration from

the End of the Old Kingdom to the End of the
Middle Kingdom ........................................................................... 215
Wolfram Grajetzki

The Royal Command (wd̠-nsw): A Basic Deed of

Executive Power ........................................................................... 259
Pascal Vernus

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

viii contents

Nomarchs and Local Potentates: The Provincial Administration

in the Middle Kingdom ................................................................ 341
Harco Willems

The Organisation of the Pharaonic Army (Old to

New Kingdom) .............................................................................. 393
Anthony Spalinger

Categorisation, Classification, and Social Reality: Administrative

Control and Interaction with the Population .......................... 479
Katalin Anna Kóthay

Crisis and Restructuring of the State: From the Second

Intermediate Period to the Advent of the Ramesses .............. 521
JJ Shirley

The Rising Power of the House of Amun in the New

Kingdom ......................................................................................... 607
Ben Haring

Coping with the Army: The Military and the State in the
New Kingdom ................................................................................ 639
Andrea M. Gnirs

The Administration of Institutional Agriculture in the

New Kingdom ................................................................................ 719
Sally L.D. Katary

A Bureaucratic Challenge? Archaeology and Administration

in a Desert Environment (Second Millennium B.C.E.) .......... 785
John Coleman Darnell

The Ramesside State .......................................................................... 831

Pierre Grandet

Administration of the Deserts and Oases: First

Millennium B.C.E. ......................................................................... 901
David Klotz

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

contents ix

From Conquered to Conqueror: The Organization of Nubia

in the New Kingdom and the Kushite Administration
of Egypt ........................................................................................... 911
Robert Morkot

The Saite Period: The Emergence of a Mediterranean Power ...... 965

Damien Agut-Labordère

The ‘Other’ Administration: Patronage, Factions, and

Informal Networks of Power in Ancient Egypt ....................... 1029
Juan Carlos Moreno García

Index .................................................................................................... 1067

Kings and Queens ......................................................................... 1067
Divinities ......................................................................................... 1070
Individuals ...................................................................................... 1071
Toponyms ....................................................................................... 1078
Egyptian Words and Selected Titles .......................................... 1085
Thematic Index .............................................................................. 1090

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3


Juan Carlos Moreno García

When Simut-Kyky stated “I have not made a(ny) protector for myself
from (other) men, [I have not attached] myself to (any) from among
the notables, not even a son of mine” (KRI III 337:3–4), he was not just
simply making a rhetorical claim—also known from other sources. He
was instead referring to a practice whose roots may be traced back to
Middle Kingdom literary texts (like the Teaching of Ptahhotep), and
even to Old Kingdom inscriptions like that of Hesi at Saqqara: “His
Majesty caused (it) to be done for me because His Majesty knew my
name while selecting a scribe because of his hand (= ability), without
any backer, (simply because) he remembered the one who had spoken
to him wisely.”1 Powerful patrons, well-placed contacts, or membership
in influential social networks were informal, but nevertheless essential
means for furthering one’s career or, simply, for gaining some protec-
tion against difficulties. They were also fundamental in ensuring that
authority circulated effectively between upper and lower social strata
and between the power core of the kingdom and the provinces. Even
if the virtuous statements of Simut-Kyky or Hezi are not to be taken
at face value, they nevertheless testify to a common practice often con-
cealed by the scribal culture and its insistence on promotion through
merit. The case of Weni of Abydos in the 6th Dynasty is worth remem-
bering in this respect: traditionally considered the archetypal dignitary
promoted on the basis of his prudence, capability, and administra-
tive skill, only on the basis of his own autobiographical claims, the
recent discovery of his tomb together with new epigraphic evidence at
Abydos reveals a quite different story.2 In fact, Weni came from a high

N. Kanawati and M. Abder-Raziq, The Teti Cemetery at Saqqara. Volume V: The
Tomb of Hesi (ACE Reports 13; Warminster, 1999), 37–38, pl. 59.
J.E. Richards, “Text and Context in Late Old Kingdom Egypt: The Archaeology
and Historiography of Weni the Elder,” JARCE 39 (2004): 75–102; Th. Herbich and
J.E. Richards, “The Loss and Rediscovery of the Vizier Iuu at Abydos: Magnetic
Survey in the Middle Cemetery,” in Timelines: Studies in Honour of Manfred Bietak

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1030 juan carlos moreno garcía

ranking family of provincial viziers (a title held by his father, by Weni

himself, and by his son), well-connected with two queens also from
Abydos. Thus his exceptional career appears in a different light, and
his success is best explained on the basis of not only his own qualities
or the political opportunities of his time (conspiracies, destitution of
high officials), but also a favorable and influential family environment.
Of course such possibilities were alien to most Egyptians, who were
used to enduring arbitrary decisions and the crude exercise of power
by the authorities; such a reality was represented in literary works (like
The Eloquent Peasant), in teachings (one example is Amenemope XXI,
3–4: “do not accept the gift ( fq¡) of a powerful man (nḫ t) and deprive
the weak (s¡-ʿ) for his sake”), and in formulae where the pious official
asserted that he protected the poor from the powerful one. In fact,
the protection dispensed by powerful men was frequently invoked in
literary texts as a crucial means of solving conflicts, even when people
had legal recourse: “do not say: ‘find me a strong superior (ḥ rj nḫ t), for
a man in your town has injured me’; do not say: ‘find me a protector
(st̠¡), for one who hates me has injured me’ ” (Amenemope XXII, 1–4)
or “do not go to court against your superior when you do not have
protection [against] him” (Ankhsheshonq 8, 11).3
Nothing of this is really new or surprising. Patronage, informal
networks of influence, factions, corruption, and favoritism ‘oiled’ the
everyday functioning of power in pre-industrial states, to the point
that all these elements could simultaneously complete, counterbal-
ance, and menace the authority of the central power.4 But, on the other

(OLA 149), ed. I.E. Czerny (Leuven, 2006), 141–49; J.E. Richards, “The Abydos Cem-
eteries in the Late Old Kingdom,” in Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Cen-
tury. Vol. I: Archaeology, ed. Z. Hawass (Cairo, 2003), 400–7; N. Kanawati, “Weni
the Elder and His Royal Background,” in En quête de la lumière: Mélanges in hon-
orem Ashraf A. Sadek (BAR International Series 1960), ed. A.-A. Maravelia (Oxford,
2009), 33–50. For previous interpretations of Weni’s career and social background, cf.
Ch. J. Eyre, “Weni’s Career and Old Kingdom Historiography,” in The Unbroken Reed:
Studies in the Culture and Heritage of Ancient Egypt in Honour of A. F. Shore (EES
Occasional Publications 11), ed. Ch. J. Eyre (London, 1994), 107–24.
M. Chauveau, “Administration centrale et autorités locales d’Amasis à Darius,”
Méditerranées 24 (2000): 99–109.
P. Vernus, “Le discours politique de l’Enseignement de Ptahhotep,” in Literatur
und Politik im pharaonischen und ptolemäischen Ägypten (BdE 127), ed. J. Assmann
and E. Blumenthal (Cairo, 1999), 139–52; A.M. Gnirs, “The Language of Corruption:
On Rich and Poor in The Eloquent Peasant,” in Reading the Eloquent Peasant (Lingua
Ægyptia 8), ed. A.M. Gnirs (Göttingen, 2000), 125–55; Ch. J. Eyre, “How Relevant
Was Personal Status to the Functioning of the Rural Economy in Pharaonic Egypt?”
in La dépendance rurale dans l’Antiquité égyptienne et proche-orientale (BdE 140), ed.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1031

hand, they also procured the kings additional tools, aside from the
‘official’ channels, to exert power, to mediate among (and manipu-
late) factions, to (re)create the ruling elite, and to penetrate into geo-
graphical areas or activity sectors resistant to external interference.5
To consider the impact of such elements in ancient Egypt as alterna-
tive paths for the exercise of power, for the display of authority, and
for the management of administration may help to balance the tradi-
tional view of pharaonic power as an all-encompassing powerful state,
efficiently served by a myriad of devoted dignitaries controlling every
aspect of the country’s life. Such a view also tends to consider ancient
Egyptian institutions like the Granary, the Treasury, the Six Great ḥ wt,
and others in terms of departments with clearly defined and delimited
functions, like our modern governmental departments, with an inter-
nal organization rigidly hierarchical, each official being competent in
well-defined areas. While avoiding the opposite view of a pharaonic
state as a too tightly organized one, where any attempt of the central
government to exert its authority would be nearly illusory, I feel that
the analysis of the Egyptian administration would remain incomplete
without considering the impact of the informal mechanisms, which
are hardly found in the official sources, but which nevertheless consti-
tuted the ‘other’ administration.

“Great is the Great One Whose Great Ones are Great”:

Kingship and Palace Factions

The first part of my study concerns Egyptian society at the turn of the
3rd millennium. Once the political instability of the First Intermediate
Period was over, new literary genres burst onto the scene in Middle
Kingdom high culture to cope with the needs of a bureaucracy and a

B. Menu (Cairo, 2004), 157–86; D. Franke, “Fürsorge und Patronat in der Ersten Zwis-
chenzeit und im Mittleren Reich,” SAK 34 (2006): 159–85; J.C. Moreno García, “La
dépendance rurale en Égypte ancienne,” JESHO 51 (2008): 99–150; Moreno García,
“Introduction. Élites et États tributaires. Le cas de l’Égypte pharaonique,” in Élites et
pouvoir en Égypte ancienne (CRIPEL 28), ed. J.C. Moreno García (Villeneuve d’Ascq,
2010), 11–50; Moreno García, “Household,” in UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, ed.
W. Wendrich and E. Frood (Los Angeles, in press); M. Campagno, “Del patronazgo
y otras lógicas de organización social en el valle del Nilo durante el III milenio a.C.,”
in Formas de subordinación personal y poder político en el Mediterráneo antiguo, ed.
M. Campagno, J. Gallego, and C. García MacGaw (Buenos Aires, 2009).
Moreno García, “Introduction. Élites et États tributaries.”

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1032 juan carlos moreno garcía

court in full reconstruction.6 One of the most popular was the teach-
ings, addressed to both kings and high dignitaries as true manuals
of practical rule and appropriate conduct. The Teaching for Merikare
and The Teaching of Ptahhotep, for instance, frequently testify to the
measures to be taken in order to preserve the support of courtiers and
followers and to guarantee social order. In fact, regicides, conspira-
cies, and the destitution of high officials were not infrequent practices
in ancient Egypt,7 thus pointing to the crucial importance of the col-
laboration of the elites for the stability of the kingdom and for the
maintenance of royal authority. To put it another way, the elites were
not mere instruments in the hands of the pharaoh, but holders of true
power, apt to limit and circumvent the extent of royal authority and,
consequently, had to be formally or informally integrated within the
administration. Delegation of power was also inevitable, and the quest
of influential partners, apt to represent the crown in the nomes or, at
least, to collaborate with agents of the king, necessarily passed through
local potentates. The fact that some families succeeded in repeatedly
assuming the most important posts of the kingdom highlights not only
their competence, but also their ability, the extent of their contacts,
and the scope of their power in order to retain a prominent position
in the open and highly competitive environment of the royal palace.

J.C. Moreno García, Études sur l’administration, le pouvoir et l’idéologie en Égypte,
de l’Ancien au Moyen Empire (Ægyptiaca Leodiensia 4; Liège, 1997); L. Postel, Proto-
cole des souverains égyptiens et dogme monarchique au début du Moyen Empire: Des
prémiers Antef au début du règne d’Aménemhat Ier (Monographies Reine Élisabeth
10; Brussels, 2004); L.D. Morenz, “Literature as a Construction of the Past in the
Middle Kingdom,” in ‘Never Had the Like Occurred’: Egypt’s View of Its Past (London,
2003), 101–117; Morenz, “Die doppelte Benutzung von Genealogie im Rahmen der
Legitimierungsstrategie für Menthu-Hotep (II.) als gesamtägyptischer Herrscher,” in
Genealogie—Realität und Fiktion von Identität (IBAES V), ed. M. Fitzenreiter (Lon-
don, 2005), 109–24.
Examples from the beginning of the 6th dynasty (Old Kingdom), from the begin-
ning of the 12th dynasty (Middle Kingdom), and from the reign of Ramesses III can
be invoked: S. Köthen-Welpot, “Überlegungen zu den Harimsverschwörungen,” in In
Pharaos Staat: Festschrift für Rolf Gundlach zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. D. Bröckelmann
and A. Klug (Wiesbaden, 2006), 103–126; H. Goedicke, “The Death of Amenemhet I
and Other Royal Demises,” in Es werde niedergelegt als Schriftstück: Festschrift für
Hartwig Altenmüller zum 65. Geburtstag (SAK Beiheft 9), ed N. Kloth (Hamburg,
2003), 137–143; P. Vernus, Affaires and Scandals in Ancient Egypt (Ithaca, 2003);
N. Kanawati, Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace: Unis to Pepy I (London, 2003);
S. Redford, The Harem Conspiracy: The Murder of Ramesses III (Dekalb, 2002);
J.C. Moreno García, “Review of Naguib Kanawati and Mahmud Abder-Raziq, The Teti
Cemetery at Saqqara. Volume VI: The Tomb of Nikauisesi (The Australian Centre for
Egyptology: Reports 14; Warminster 2000),” BiOr 59 (2002): 509–20.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1033

Here favoritism, rivalries, and intrigues made possible a quicker circu-

lation of power and of high positions among a plethora of candidates,
and any durable concentration and distribution of power was certainly
problematic; that is why negotiation, carefully planned strategies, mas-
tery of the selected resources of interaction with peers (e.g., the court
culture: rhetoric, etiquette, ‘literature’, etc.),8 but also good luck, i.e.,
being in the right place at the right moment, went hand to hand. Such
a competitive environment gave the opportunity, both to the king and
to ambitious courtiers, to develop their own individual strategies and
to nourish politics, an aspect overshadowed by the official assertions
of the all-mighty and exclusive authority of the Pharaoh. As for the
provincial world, it displays a rather different configuration of author-
ity, as a reduced number of families (sometimes only a single enlarged
family) managed to control a locality or a province for generations,
even when the royal power collapsed and was subsequently restored.9
Thus, periods of political crisis and dynastic change may serve as lenses
through which phenomena that would have remained otherwise hid-
den under the appearance of institutional stability and political con-
tinuity are brought into focus. The advent of the 6th Dynasty is an
excellent case in point.

L. Coulon, “La rhétorique et ses fictions: Pouvoirs et duplicité du discours à
travers la littérature égyptienne du Moyen et du Nouvel Empire,” BIFAO 99 (1999):
103–32; Coulon, “Cour, courtisans et modèles éducatifs au Moyen Empire,” Egypte,
Afrique et Orient 26 (2002): 9–20; Coulon, “Célébrer l’élite, louer Pharaon: Éloquence
et cérémoniel de cour au Nouvel Empire,” in Élites et pouvoir en Égypte ancienne
(CRIPEL 28), ed. J.C. Moreno García (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2010), 211–38; R. Gundlach
and A. Klug, Der ägyptische Hof des Neuen Reiches: Seine Gesellschaft und Kultur im
Spannungsfeld zwischen Innen- und Auβenpolitik (Wiesbaden, 2006); R. Gundlach,
Ch. Raedler, and S. Roth, “Der ägyptische Hof im Kontakt mit seiner vorderasiatischen
Nachbarn: Gesandte und Gesandtschaftswesen in der Zeit Ramses’ II,” in Prozesse des
Wandels in historischen Spannungsfeldern Nordostafrikas/Westasiens (Kulturelle und
sprachliche Kontakte 2), ed. W. Bisang, T. Bierschenk, D. Kreikenbom, and U. Verhoeven
(Würzburg, 2005), 39–68; K. Spence, “Court and Palace in Ancient Egypt: The Amarna
Period and Later Eighteenth Dynasty,” in The Court and Court Society in Ancient Mon-
archies, ed. A.J.S. Spawforth (Cambridge, 2007), 267–328; R. Gundlach and J.H. Taylor,
Egyptian Royal Residences: 4th Symposium of Egyptian Royal Ideology (Königtum,
Staat und Gesellschaft Früher Hochkulturen 4/1; Wiesbaden, 2009).
For some Old Kingdom examples, see J.C. Moreno García, “Temples, adminis-
tration provinciale et élites locales en Haute-Égypte: La contribution des inscriptions
rupestres pharaoniques de l’Ancien Empire,” in Séhel entre Égypte et Nubie: Inscrip-
tions rupestres et graffiti de l’époque pharaonique (Orientalia Monspeliensa 14), ed.
A. Gasse and V. Rondot (Montpellier, 2004), 7–22; Moreno García, “Deux familles de
potentats provinciaux et les assises de leur pouvoir: Elkab et El-Hawawish sous la VIe
dynastie,” RdÉ 56 (2005): 95–128.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1034 juan carlos moreno garcía

The end of the 5th Dynasty and the first reigns of the 6th seem
to have been one of such periods.10 Monumental art and architecture
exhibit hardly any trace of crisis and display an appearance of undis-
turbed stability. Yet data from the Memphite necropolis, as well as
some administrative innovations, reveal that things were quite differ-
ent. An unconfirmed tradition stated that king Teti, the first sovereign
of the 6th Dynasty, was murdered and succeeded by an ephemeral
usurper, one Userkare. Later on, king Pepy I was confronted with
some troubles in the palace which led to the trial of a queen and the
destitution of several courtiers. The reality of such events is confirmed
by fresh archaeological and epigraphic evidence from the necropolis of
Teti at Saqqara.11 It points to a period of instability, when some of the
highest positions of the kingdom (especially that of vizier) were held
by a high number of dignitaries during a brief period, sometimes at
a surprisingly young age, while many tombs show traces of damnatio
memoriae. The provinces also began playing a more relevant role in
the politics of the kingdom: permanent necropoles with richly deco-
rated tombs flourished all over Upper Egypt, eminent local potentates
were bestowed the new title of ḥ rj-tp ʿ¡ ‘great chief ’ of a province,
a network of royal and administrative centres (the ḥ wt) covered all
the country, and regional authorities (like the jmj-r Šmʿw ‘overseer of
Upper Egypt’) were appointed in the South.12 All these circumstances
point to certain adjustments in the balance of power within the Egyp-
tian elites, where the provincial potentates appear as a crucial sup-
port for the new dynasty. Many of them were educated at the court,
with the princes, before being entrusted with high responsibilities in
the central administration or in their nomes. Dynastic marriages were
another instrument profusely employed by the pharaohs to seal alli-
ances with prominent families or with powerful courtiers.13 King Teti,
for instance, married many of his daughters with some of the highest

Moreno García, “Review of Naguib Kanawati”.
Kanawati, Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace, passim.
J.C. Moreno García, Ḥ wt et le milieu rural égyptien du IIIe millénaire: Économie,
administration et organisation territoriale (Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes—
Sciences Historiques et Philologiques, n° 337; Paris, 1999); Moreno García, “The State
and the Organization of the Rural Landscape in 3rd Millennium BC Pharaonic Egypt,”
in Aridity, Change and Conflict in Africa (Colloquium Africanum 2, ed. M. Bollig,
O. Bubenzer, R. Vogelsang, and H.-P. Wotzka (Cologne, 2007), 313–30.
Moreno García, “Review of Naguib Kanawati”; N. Kanawati, “The Vizier Nebet
and the Royal Women of the Sixth Dynasty,” in Thebes and Beyond: Studies in Honour
of Kent R. Weeks (CASAE 41), ed. Z. Hawass and S. Ikram (Cairo, 2010), 115–25.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1035

dignitaries of the kingdom, while Pepy I took as many as eight spouses,

some of them of provincial origin.14 The sources also speak of the suc-
cessful careers followed by some officials of provincial pedigree, like
Weni of Abydos (cf. above), Tjeti-Kaihep of Akhmim, Qar of Edfu,
and Mehu of (probably) Mendes.15
Tjeti-Kaihep lived during the 6th Dynasty and entered the service
of the king when he was a young man.16 Some inscriptions from El-
Hawawish state that he was the son and brother of two great over-
lords of the nome, while his own titles are exceptional for a provincial
official (overseer of the Double Treasury, chief of the royal harem,
and Great Seer) and point to a career expected to be continued at the
highest level in the central administration. It is also probable that a
contemporary tomb built for a high official from El-Hawawish at the
cemetery of Teti at Saqqara was in fact intended for him. Nevertheless,
Tjeti-Kaihep returned to his province, where he became great chief of
the nome and chief of priests, two positions controlled by his fam-
ily for generations. Tjeti’s unexpected return to El-Hawawish may be
interpreted as the consequence of the premature death of his older
brother in the absence of an heir, and it also suggests that he pre-
ferred to ensure the control of his family’s traditional local power base
instead of developing a high rank career in the capital. What makes
the case of Tjeti-Kaihep so exceptional is that it provides a rare insight
into the strategies of power pursued by a provincial elite family at
both the local and palatial level. In fact, analysis of the inscriptions
from Akhmim during this period reveals that the positions of great
chief of the nome and chief of priests remained in the hands of the
dominant branch of the ruling family of the nome, while other titles,

C. Berger-El Naggar and M.-N. Fraisse, “Béhénou, ‘aimée de Pépy’, une nouvelle
reine d’Égypte,” BIFAO 108 (2008): 1–27; A. Labrousse, “Huit épouses du roi Pépy
Ier,” in Egyptian Culture and Society: Studies in Honor of Naguib Kanawati (ASAE
Supplément, Cahier 38), ed. A. Woods, A. McFarlane, and S. Binder (Cairo, 2010),
vol. I, 297–314.
Moreno García, “Deux familles de potentats provinciaux”; Moreno García, “La
tombe de Mḥ w à Saqqara,” CdE 161–2 (2006): 128–35; N. Kanawati, “Interrelation
of the Capital and the Provinces in the Sixth Dynasty,” BACE 15 (2004): 51–62.
R. Bussmann, “Der Kult für die Königsmutter Anchenes-Merire I. im Tempel des
Chontamenti: Zwei unpublizierte Türstürze der 6. Dynastie aus Abydos,” SAK 39
(2010): 101–19, pl. 11–12, suggests that queen Iput I could be from Coptos, while
H. Goedicke, “A cult inventory of the Eighth Dynasty from Coptos (Cairo JE 43290),”
MDAIK 50 (1994): 82, n. 74, has suggested Ahkmim as her birthplace, in which case
Jpwt is to be understood as a nisbe of Jpw ‘Akhmim’.
Moreno García, “Deux familles de potentats provinciaux”.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1036 juan carlos moreno garcía

related to the central administration (like that of vizier) were held by

a secondary branch of the same family or by the minor sons of the
principal one. Integrating the local magnates into the governmental
apparatus of the kingdom, as well as shaping a local elite devoted to
the service of the king, interested in collaborating with the monarchy
and attached to the values of the palatial culture, are also evident from
the autobiography of Qar, educated at Memphis in the company of the
princes and the sons of other provincial potentates and later returned
to Edfu as local governor. Finally, Mehu of Mendes was a simple ḥ q¡
ḥ wt who managed to become vizier and to secure this position for
his offspring, in all probability thanks to his ties with the royal family
and with prominent dignitaries at the court, like the noble Shepsipup-
tah and the royal mother Zeshzeshet, mentioned in the inscriptions of
his tomb.
Similar procedures were apparently operative in the nevertheless
different setting of the Middle Kingdom. The provincial potentates
maintained collaboration with the monarchy while following strategies
seeking to preserve their local authority; marriage alliances with other
powerful provincial families and the support of the king appear as the
most effective instruments at their disposal.17 But later on, during the
13th Dynasty, the rapid succession of an astonishingly high number
of short reigns, together with the ascent to the throne of kings who
proclaimed on their monuments the non-royal status of their parents
or who may have been high officials before they became pharaohs,
suggest profound changes in the organization of power within the
ruling elite and the monarchy.18 Quirke has convincingly argued that
these events may suggest an underlying oligarchic structure of govern-
ment, when royalty circulated among a number of important families
by irregular rotation, perhaps as a consequence of an elite ill-prepared,
after two centuries of rule by one family, to supply a successor family.
There is no evidence of strife at this period among the elite, the rela-
tion between king and officials provides no evidence of change, and

A. Lloyd, “The Great Inscription of Khnumhotpe II at Beni Hassan,” in Stud-
ies in Pharaonic Religion and Society in Honour of J. Gwyn Griffiths, ed. A.B. Lloyd,
(London, 1992), 21–36; D. Franke, “The Career of Khnumhotep III of Beni Hasan and
the So-called ‘Decline of the Nomarchs’,” in Middle Kingdom Studies, ed. S. Quirke
(New Malden, 1991), 51–67.
W. Grajetzki, The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (London, 2006), 162–3;
K. Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period,
c. 1800–1550 BC (CNI Publications 20; Copenhagen, 1997).

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1037

circulating succession might have allowed the elite to maintain stabil-

ity in the absence of a single ruling family.19
Therefore two solutions emerge from the study of the conditions
prevailing at the beginning of the 6th Dynasty and at the end of the
Middle Kingdom: in both cases the stability of the monarchy rested
on the alliance between the pharaoh and certain prominent families of
the country, while the rapid succession of pharaohs and of high offi-
cials reveals the adjustments in the balance of power between the royal
family and different factions of the elite. The analysis of the inscribed
material from Edfu and Elkab also reveals a remarkable continuity of
the local dominant families from the end of the Middle Kingdom to
the advent of the 18th Dynasty. They went on providing senior officials
to the royal administration during this troubled period and, like their
predecessors of the Old Kingdom, the control over their respective
nomes was not incompatible with their participation in the state affairs
or the Court.20 It is quite probable that their support was crucial for
the Theban kings of the 17th Dynasty, and documents like the Stèle
Juridique of Karnak epitomize such reality of power as it shows, on
the one hand, the efforts of the dominant family of Elkab to keep the
position of local governor under their hands and, on the other hand,
the strong links of their members with the Theban kings, as the stela
was placed in the temple of Karnak.21
Such strategies seeking to preserve a solid local basis of power and
to expand it through alliances with peers, both in other provinces and
at the court—without neglecting a close contact with the king him-
self—exemplify the basic mechanisms of the ‘horizontal’ integration

S. Quirke, “Royal Power in the 13th Dynasty,” in Middle Kingdom Studies, ed.
S. Quirke (New Malden, 1991), 123–39.
A.J. Spalinger, “Remarks on the Family of Queen Hʿ.s-nbw and the Problem
of Kingship in Dynasty XIII,” RdÉ 32 (1980): 95–116; Ch. Bennett, “A Genealogical
Chronology of the Seventeenth Dynasty,” JARCE 39 (2002): 123–55; Bennett, “Geneal-
ogy and the Chronology of the Second Intermediate Period,” ÄuL 16 (2006): 231–43;
D. Farout, “Trois nouveaux monuments de la famille des gouverneurs d’Edfou à la
Deuxième Période Intermédiaire,” RdÉ 58 (2007): 41–70, pl. 9–15; M. Marée, “Nou-
velles données sur l’élite d’Edfou à la fin de la XVIIe dynastie,” Égypte, Afrique and
Orient 53 (2009): 11–24; Marée, “Edfu under the Twelfth to Seventeenth Dynasties:
The Monuments in the National Museum of Warsaw,” British Museum Studies in
Ancient Egypt and Sudan 12 (2009): 31–92; W.V. Davies, “Renseneb and Sobeknakht
of Elkab: The Genealogical Data,” in The Second Intermediate Period (Thirteenth–
Seventeenth Dynasties): Current Research, Future Prospects (OLA 192), ed. M. Marée
(Leuven, 2010), 223–39.
P. Lacau, Une stèle juridique de Karnak (ASAE Supplément 13; Cairo, 1949).

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1038 juan carlos moreno garcía

of central and provincial elites essential for the stability of the king-
dom. As in the case of the Middle Kingdom nomarch Khnumhotpe II
of Beni Hassan (cf. above), the high priest of Osiris Wenennefer of
Abydos, who lived under the reign of Ramesses II, might be invoked
as a good illustration of this practice (KRI III 447–460). His family
dominated the highest priesthood at Abydos from the beginning of
the 19th Dynasty and Wenennefer’s descendants continued to hold
high priestly offices there for generations. Moreover he also displayed
family and ‘inter-peer’ connections with many other members of the
high-ranking society of his time, including holders of prestigious
priestly functions and eminent dignitaries of the court of Ramesses II.
His ‘brothers’, for instance, included the vizier Prehotep (in reality,
his maternal uncle), the vizier Nebamun (born to a different father
from Wenennefer), the high priest of Onuris at Thinis, and the high
priest of Anhur Minmose. As for his wife, she was the daughter of
the superintendent of the double granary of the South and the North
Qeny, who came from a line of granary overseers going back to the
late 18th Dynasty, rooted at Asyut, in Middle Egypt. Erecting statues
was a privileged means to display the importance of such connections
and to strengthen ties with prominent members of the court, includ-
ing the king himself. Thus Wenennefer claimed in one of his statues:
“The city-governor and vizier Nebamun (etc.): (it is) his ‘brother’,
the high priest of Osiris Wenennefer [who perpetuates his name? . . .]”
and “the city-governor and vizier Rahotep (etc.): (it is) his ‘brother’
who perpetuates his name, the high priest of Osiris Wenennefer”
(KRI III 451–452); several fragments of an inscription found in his tomb
also record many royal statues erected (?) in the years 21, 33, 30+x,
38, 39, and 40 of Ramesses II and endowed with offerings of wine and
milk as well as with substantial amounts of land (30 arouras in one
case: KRI III 457:3–13), a policy which recalls similar claims from
other members of the Ramesside elite like Penniut of Aniba (KRI VI
350–353). To sum up, the ‘political’ and marriage alliances established
by Wenennefer included powerful families from other provinces, high
members of the court, and the king himself, a strategy that in no case
neglected control over the local priesthood, the true basis of power
for him and his family. It is no wonder that, under these conditions,
Wenennefer could proudly boast about being “a prophet (ḥ m-nt̠r),
skilled in his duties, a great magnate (ḥ rj-tp ʿ¡) in Abydos” (KRI III

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1039

What emerges from this evidence is that the support of prominent

families of the kingdom was crucial for the stability of the monarchy.22
It also made possible the effective implementation of royal decisions,
the exercise of royal authority, and led to complex strategies where
marriages, alliances, appointments, favoritism, and destitution were
common practices. The upshot was that regicides, conspiracies, and
palatial intrigues among factions were also frequent, as the cases of
Teti, Pepy I, Amenemhat I, and Ramesses III show. In all, the system
opened many possibilities to ambitious courtiers, favorites, and the
younger sons of the elite to develop prominent careers.
The palace was a rather favorable environment for such maneuvers,
but the scarcity of Egyptian sources makes it almost impossible to dis-
cern what part of such troubles was due to politics (e.g., diverging
long-term strategies about the organization of the state among high
dignitaries and factions) and what part to short-term distribution
of power among elite factions. The ‘Amarna episode’ and the harem
conspiracy of Ramesses III might be interpreted, respectively, as good
illustrations of such possibilities. The so-called reforms of Akhenaton
were apparently an attempt to reinforce and centralize the authority
of the king at the expense of some traditional powers in the Theban
area, an aim which met with opposition on the part of some frac-
tions of the elite, even if it apparently never manifested itself overtly
during the king’s life. In the case of the Ramesses III, the conspiracy
arose quite significantly in the harem and involved not only several
of the pharaoh’s concubines, but also palace dignitaries like harem
cupbearers and inspectors and high officials like treasury-chiefs, a
troop-commander of Kush, a general, as well as several priests, mili-
tary figures, and scribes of the House of Life, among others. But the
core of the conspiracy was the lady Tiyi, probably a secondary spouse

Some other examples may be invoked: D.A. Aston and J.H. Taylor, “The Family
of Takeloth III and the ‘Theban’ Twenty-third dynasty,” in Libya and Egypt c. 1300–
750 BC, ed. A. Leahy (London, 1990), 131–54; D. Polz, “The Ramsesnakht Dynasty
and the Fall of the New Kingdom: A New Monument in Thebes,” SAK 25 (1998): 257–
93; Ch. Raedler, “Die Wesire Ramses’ II.—Netzwerke der Macht,” in Das ägyptische
Königtum im Spannungsfeld zwischen Innen- und Aussenpolitik im 2. Jahrtausend v.
Chr (Königtum, Staat und Gesellschaft früher Hochkulturen 1), ed. R. Gundlach and
A. Klug (Wiesbaden, 2004), 277–416; J.J. Shirley, “Viceroys, Viziers and the Amun
Precinct: The Power of Heredity and Strategic Marriage in the Early 18th Dynasty,”
JEH 3 (2010): 73–113; G. Broekman, “Theban Priestly and Governmental Offices and
Titles in the Libyan Period,” ZÄS 138 (2011): 93–115.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1040 juan carlos moreno garcía

of Ramesses III and her son, the prince Pentaweret, with the Chief
of a Department, Peibakkamen, playing the role of link between the
conspirators inside and outside the harem and carrying the messages
of the ladies involved to their brothers and mothers. The bonds of
some prominent families with the royal family thus appear clearly,
with women being sent to the harem as wives or concubines, while
their male relatives occupied prominent positions in the palace and in
the administration (KRI V 350–366). The fate of queen Tiyi, wife of
Amenhotep III and native from Akhmim, is exemplary in this respect.
While her parents did not belong to the royal family, her accession to
such a prominent position was followed by the promotion of several
officials from her province and by some royal building activity there.23
Finally, rebels could arise to dispute the authority of the dominant
power and try to establish themselves as rulers. Their fortunes, obvi-
ously, varied, ranging from success (typified by the Theban monarchy
of the First Intermediate Period), to death or exile (as the Chronicle of
prince Osorkon24 and the bannissement stela demonstrate),25 even by
royal pardon and the right to preserve their local power basis (as the
victory stela of Piye shows).26
To sum up, the administration of the country necessarily relied on
the collaboration of the elites, a support itself subject to changes over
time due to the different modalities of integration of the provincial
potentates, to the local scope of their authority, to the changing balance
of power between provincial and central elites, to conflicts between the
traditional nobility and dignitaries freshly promoted (including cur-
rent favorites), and to the balance of power between the king and the
different factions of the elite. Finding the most advantageous equilib-

Th. M. Davis, G. Maspero, and P. Newberry, The Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou
(London, 1907); J.E. Quibell, Tomb of Yuaa and Thuiu (Cairo, 1908); B.G. Ockinga,
A Tomb from the Reign of Tutankhamun at Awad Azzaz (Akhmim) (ACE—Reports 10;
Warminster, 1997); Y. El-Masry, “New Evidence for Building Activity of Akhenaten
in Akhmim,” MDAIK 58 (2002): 391–98, pl. 40–41. In general, cf. Ch. Herrera, “De
la KV 46 aux nécropoles d’Akhmîm: À la recherche de l’élite ‘akhmîmy’ du Nouvel
Empire,” Égypte, Afrique and Orient 50 (2008): 37–46.
R.A. Caminos, The Chronicle of Prince Osorkon (AnOr 37; Rome, 1958);
R.K. Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy: Inscriptions from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period
(Atlanta, 2009), 348–77 [82].
J. von Beckerath, “Die ‘Stele der Verbannten’ im Museum des Louvre,” RdÉ 20
(1968): 7–36; Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 124–29 [28].
N. Grimal, La stèle triomphale de Pi(‘ankh)y au Musée du Caire (Cairo, 1981);
Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 465–92 [145].

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1041

rium must have been both a source of concern for the king and an
opportunity to renew alliances and to mediate among factions in order
to strengthen his own position. At a more basic level, shaping a core
of select and trusted high officials was an important concern for the
sovereigns. The sources reveal that the association of prominent offi-
cials with the mortuary complex of the king or with the temples (and
with the income associated with them), the education of the children
of the nobility with the princes (as ‘royal pupils’, like the sd̠t nswt of
the Old Kingdom or the children of the kap), as well as the existence
of some kind of royal council, helped in consolidating such a ruling
elite, further integrated thanks to a common high culture and values,
and cemented by marriage.27 In some particular cases, like the end
of the Middle Kingdom, they also provided for indispensable insti-
tutional stability when a multitude of ephemeral kings occupied the
throne of Egypt.28 The struggle for power within this context could be
ruthless, not only in the more extreme cases of regicide, but also when
the death of the sovereign opened the way to the ambitions of several
pretenders to the throne. The trial of a queen in the reign of Pepy I,
the request for a Hittite husband by an anonymous queen of the
18th Dynasty,29 and the trial of the conspirators against Ramesses III
highlight a neglected, but essentially constitutive element of the ‘other’
administration: politics. Politics fixed the realistically desirable limits
of collaboration among factions of the elite. Beyond such limits the
cohesiveness of the ruling elite melted down, thus leading to territorial
division, military conflict, and the periodic primacy of narrow inter-
ests and reorganization of the ruling elite. It is also quite probable that
politics underlies the transfer of the capital from one city to another,

Moreno García, “Introduction. Élites et États tributaires”; Moreno García, Études
sur l’administration, le pouvoir et l’idéologie en Égypte, 93–151; B. Mathieu, “L’énigme
du recrutement des ‘enfants du kap’: Une solution?,” GM 177 (2000): 41–48; S. Quirke,
Titles and Bureaux of Egypt 1850–1700 BC (London, 2004), 27–29; B.M. Bryan,
“Administration in the Reign of Thutmose III,” in Thutmose III: A New Biography, ed.
E.H. Cline and D. O’Connor (Ann Arbor, 2006), 96–97.
S. Quirke, “Royal power in the 13th Dynasty,” in Middle Kingdom Studies, ed.
S. Quirke (New Malden, 1991), 123–39.
F. Pintore, Il matrimonio interdinastico nel Vicino Oriente durante i secoli XV–XIII
(Orientis Antiqui Collectio 14; Rome, 1978), 46–50; T.P.J. van den Hout, “Der Falke
und das Kücken: Der neue Pharao un der hethitische Prinz,” ZA 84 (1994): 60–88;
T.R. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites (Oxford, 1998), 193–99; H. Klengel, Geschichte
des hethitischen Reiches (HdO Abteilung 1/34; Leiden, 1999), 161–64; Klengel, Hat-
tuschili und Ramses: Hethiter und Ägypter—Ihr langer Weg zum Frieden (Mainz,
2002), 43–47.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1042 juan carlos moreno garcía

perhaps as a response to internal tensions or to conflicts of interest

among the ruling elite. The exercise of royal power thus appears less
absolute and rigidly bureaucratic than expressed by the official ideol-
ogy. Coping with the elite was crucial in this respect.


Patronage appears to be a basic pillar of Egyptian society. It put into

contact people from different social strata, constituted an essential
path for the circulation of power and authority, and represented a
fundamental means of social influence for potentates, while providing
some measure of protection and access to authority to common peo-
ple. The sources are quite informative in this respect, as they reveal, for
instance, that the composition of Egyptian households varied greatly
depending on their social status, but usually included not only people
linked together by blood relations, but also other persons defined as
co-residents, serfs, clients, ‘friends’, and dependents—the respective
nuances often being quite difficult to distinguish (cf. ¡bt, wḥ jjt, mhwt,
h¡w, hnw, h̠ nw, h̠ rw etc.).30 Some formulae in the Coffin Texts, for
example, enumerate the categories of people encompassed by the term
¡bt (extended family) and constituting the household of the dead; its
core was formed by his father, mother, children, brethren, and serfs
(mrt) (CT II 151, 152, 154–5, 164, 181–183; III 52), as well as by other
people related to him by social, not family links, such as fellow citizens
(dmj), companions (jrj-rmnw), friends (ḫ nmsw), beloved ones (mrjjt),
associates (sm¡w), and concubines (mt-ḥ nwt) (CT II 181–183). Broadly
speaking, a distinction was made between his (extended) family (¡bt,
including his serfs) and his dependents, subordinates, and acquain-
tances (hnw) (CT II 174–177; Urk. IV 1398: “all his kindred together
with the household”), a distinction outlined by other sources where
the extended family (h¡w, also including the serfs b¡kw), together with
the friends (ḫ nmsw), constituted rmt̠.j nbt ‘all my people’.31 However,
a late Ramesside letter makes clear the distinction between the rmt̠
‘people’ and the smdt ‘servants’ of the writer.32 The illustration of such

D. Franke, Altägyptische Verwandtschaftsbezeichnungen im Mittleren Reich
(Hamburg, 1983), 178–301; Moreno García, “Household.”
D. Franke, Altägyptische Verwandtschaftsbezeichnungen, 219–20.
Cf. pBibl. Nat. 198, I, ligne 12 = J. Černy, Late Ramesside Letters (Bibliotheca
Ægyptiaca 9; Brussels, 1939), 66; E. Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt (Atlanta, 1990),
198 [320].

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1043

a system may be found in the correspondence of a moderately well-off

official, like the early Middle Kingdom Heqanakht. On the one hand,
he mentions eighteen people belonging to this household, including
his mother, his second wife, his son, two daughters, his older aunt or
daughter, his youngest brother, his foreman (and this man’s depen-
dents), three cultivators, and three female servants.33 But, on the other
hand, the letters and some accounts from his archive record twenty-
eight men with whom Heqanakht had financial dealings. The most
prestigious one was Herunefer, addressed as Heqanakht’s social supe-
rior and identified as a jmj-r T¡-Mḥ w ‘overseer of the Delta’. He seems
to have been the owner of some fields in the same area as Heqanakht.
Two other neighbors were apparently fairly prosperous landowners
who sold or leased substantial amounts of land to Heqanakht. Finally,
twenty-five people (also neighbors in some cases) owed him barley
and emmer, including a ḥ q¡ ḥ wt ‘governor of a ḥ wt’. Thus, the social
network built around Heqanakht included people from different social
environments (from higher, equal, and lower strata), where a single
person could simultaneously occupy different social positions (as a
subordinate of Heqanakht, while controlling other dependents, or,
like Heqanakht himself, as subordinate of Herunefer, while being the
head of a substantial household) and where all the people mentioned
could be roughly ascribed to the household proper and to an extended
network of social relations.
Other sources, like the ink inscriptions found on many jars at the
elite necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa, and dating from the late 3rd mil-
lennium, provide detailed insight into the composition and social life
of the households of several local high officials, with their tombs being
foci of rituals and deliveries of offerings which tied together their kin
as well as a dense web of relations, including clients and eminent local
personalities.34 In the particularly well-documented case of tomb 88,
which belonged to the ḫ tmw-bjtj ‘treasurer of the king of Lower Egypt’
and smr wʿtj ‘Unique friend’ Henababa, it was his apparently younger
brother, Sobekhotep, who was in charge of the pr-d̠t and provided
the bulk of the offerings to the tomb. But the actual offerings were

J.P. Allen, The Heqanakht Papyri (New York, 2002), 116–17.
Cf. an example in M. Höveler-Müller, Funde aus dem Grab 88 der Qubbet el-
Hawa bei Assuan (die Bonner Bestände) (Wiesbaden, 2006); Höveler-Müller, “ ‘Tales
from the Crypt’: What the Inscribed Pottery from the Qubbet el-Hawa Can Tell
Us,” in Zwischen den Welten: Grabfunde von Ägyptens Südgrenze, ed. L.D. Morenz,
M. Höveler-Müller, and A. El-Hawary (Rahden, 2011), 254–65.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1044 juan carlos moreno garcía

presented by many people, including not only Sobekhotep’s grand-

mother, father, mother, brother, sisters, and daughters, but also other
prominent members of local society, like two overseers of priests, a
noble woman of the king, two ladies bearing the title ‘Ornament of
the king’, the pr-d̠t of Henuzau, and other individuals without titles.
Even in the tomb of his parents the greater part of the offerings came
from the ‘house’ of Sobekhotep. So, we can conclude that this official
succeeded in achieving eminent status in the local society, to the point
that he provided not only for his own funerary cult, but also for that
of his parents, thus reinforcing the solidarity of his kin and becoming
the focus of a family cult. But Sobekhotep was not only a recipient of
offerings. He was also a donor to other members of the local society,
like Inihotep. Nevertheless, Inihotep also received funerary gifts from
other eminent citizens apparently not related to Sobekhotep, as they
were not mentioned in the tomb of the latter.35 So, Inihotep seems to
have been involved in social circuits slightly different from those of
Sobekhotep, even if both belonged to the local elite. Therefore, Egyptian
households appear as multifaceted social networks embracing more
distant relatives, serfs, clients, subordinates, and dependents, especially
at the uppermost levels of pharaonic society. From this perspective, the
silos in the richest villae of Amarna have been interpreted as a mark of
status as well as the foci of a redistributive system involving not only
their owners, but also their relatives and dependents, also considered
members of the household.36 ‘Middle class’ papyri and houses show
that the same principle was operative, although on a smaller scale,
in the households of relatively modest officials and individuals.37 The
fact that the households of the highest members of the elite could
include hundreds of people (including dozens of servants), many of
whom were also officials or members of a lesser elite (e.g., the Old
Kingdom Saqqara tombs of Ti or Niankhkhnum and Khunmhotep)38

On Inihotep, see E. Edel, Die Felsengräber der Qubbet el Hawa bei Assuan. II.
Abteilung: Die althieratischen Topfaufschriften. Band: Die Topfaufschriften aus den
Grabungsjahren 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 un 1965 (Wiesbaden, 1970), tomb 93.
B.J. Kemp, Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization (London, 1991), 309–10.
Allen, The Heqanakht Papyri; M.D. Adams, “Household Silos, Granary Models,
and Domestic Economy in Ancient Egypt,” in The Archaeology and Art of Ancient
Egypt: Essays in Honour of David B. O’Connor (CASAE 26), ed. Z.A. Hawass and
J. Richards (Cairo, 2007), vol. I, 1–23.
J.C. Moreno García, “La dépendance rurale en Égypte ancienne,” JESHO 51
(2008): 115–16.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1045

and who could be of memphite or provincial origins,39 it is not difficult

to imagine the scope of their social influence.
One particular environment—the royal palace—provides rich infor-
mation about the organization of such patronage networks among
the elite. More precisely, data from the funerary complexes of the
pharaohs of the Old Kingdom allow for a privileged insight into the
marks of status, the bonds of dependence, and the allegiances linking
together the members of the palace at a given moment. Certainly, the
most eminent courtiers were routinely represented on the walls of the
temples in impersonal rows of courtiers paying homage to the pha-
raoh. However the archives offer additional information about their
internal hierarchy. As the mortuary temples were indeed important
economic centers, the high officials (who were also holders of lucrative
prebends), were the main beneficiaries of royal largesse. Even Sabni
of Aswan, a prominent official residing in the southernmost province
of Egypt, was bestowed a substantial amount of land belonging to the
pyramid of a king (Urk. I 140). The administrative archives from the
mortuary temples of Neferirkare and Reneferef, from the 5th Dynasty,
reveal that many courtiers, high dignitaries, and provincial officials
participated periodically in the feasts and rituals of the temple and
obtained in exchange substantial income.40 Nevertheless, given the
nature of their ordinary occupations, they usually delegated the practi-
cal performance of such ritual activities to other subordinate dignitar-
ies. Thus, the papyri frequently state that a specific duty was effectively
accomplished by another man, qualified as d̠t ‘dependant’ or sn-d̠t
‘brother of the endowment’. Other tasks documented for the 3rd mil-
lennium sn-d̠t included building tombs for deceased persons, replac-
ing the head of a family in the accomplishment of some works or in
the provision of offerings and rituals for the dead, and representing or
substituting another person in ceremonial activities or in compulsory
work. Their activities were thus quite specific and independent of any
actual family relationship between them and their ‘patrons’, as the fact

S.J. Seidlmayer, “People at Beni Hassan: Contributions to a Model of Ancient
Egyptian Rural Society,” in The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt: Essays in Hon-
our of David B. O’Connor (CASAE 26), ed. Z.A. Hawass and J. Richards (Cairo, 2007),
vol. II, 351–68.
P. Posener-Kriéger, Les archives du temple funéraire de Néferirkarê-Kakaï
(les papyrus d’Abousir): Traduction et commentaire, 2 vols. (BdE 65; Cairo, 1976);
P. Posener-Kriéger, M. Verner, and H. Vymazalová, The Pyramid Complex of Ranef-
eref: The Papyrus Archive (Abusir X; Prague, 2007).

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1046 juan carlos moreno garcía

that true brothers, sons, or wives of the ‘patron’ could also be designed
by this term. But the best-documented role played by the sn-d̠t as a
substitute or middleman was that of administrator of goods belonging
to an endowment (pr-d̠t) for the benefit of his ‘patron’ (also owner of
his own pr-d̠t), a procedure which allowed for keeping the two pr-d̠t
formally separate while allowing the ‘patron’ to enlarge the range of
goods at his disposal and to accumulate additional ritual functions.
Usually, only one sn-d̠t was in the service of a ‘patron’, while in some
cases two or three are also attested. The case of Ptḥ -ḥ tp II, with his
fifteen or sixteen (at least) snw-d̠t, suggests an exceptionally promi-
nent economic and social position, even for the standards of his time,
when, from about the middle of the 5th dynasty on, the ‘patrons’ of
the sn(w)-d̠t were viziers or officials involved in the administration of
the vizier’s bureau. The case of the sn-d̠t is a good illustration of the
kind of links which tied together the members of the Memphite elite.
In this respect, it is worth remembering that the sn-d̠t were often rich
enough to own their own tombs, could be represented at the same
size as their ‘patrons’ in the tombs of the latter, and usually displayed
important titles. These elements confirm their social status as members
of the Egyptian elite, to the point that they could also have their own
Thus, the vertical integration provided by the patronage system
strengthened the links between peers while at the same time putting
common people into contact with patrons of lesser status related in
turn to powerful potentates. Such was the case of Peteti, the depen-
dent (d̠t) of the acquaintance of the king Itysen, but owner of his own
tomb and, in turn, patron of a woman described as dependent (d̠t) and
m¡t̠(r)t ‘mourner’.42 In fact, people called pr-d̠t or n(j) d̠t ‘(member) of
a (personal) endowment’ are well known from many inscriptions at
Elkab or Saqqara.43 In general, the private funerary monuments offer

J.C. Moreno García, “Nfr (CGC 57163) and Pttj (tomb G.S.E. 1923): Two New
Old Kingdom Inscriptions from Giza and the Problem of sn-d̠t and d̠t in Pharaonic
3rd Millennium Society,” JEA 93 (2007): 117–36.
Z. Hawass, “The Tombs of the Pyramid Builders—The Tomb of the Artisan
Petety and His Curse,” in Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies
in Honour of Donald B. Redford (PdÄ 20), ed. G.N. Knoppers and A. Hirsch (Leiden,
2004), 21–39.
Cf. LD II 117 [l, p, u]; G. Jequier, Tombeaux de particuliers contemporains de
Pepi II (Cairo, 1929), 101, fig. 116. Cf. also titles like ḥ wt-ʿ¡t ‘(member) of the ḥ wt-ʿ¡t’,
pr-ʿ¡ ‘member of the palace’, and so on.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1047

more accurate evidence of the importance of patronage, especially

from the Middle Kingdom on, when it became customary to repre-
sent the dead, his extended family, and other dependents or clients.
The Middle Kingdom chief of sculptors and overseer of the temple,
Seshenu, for example, dedicated an altar at the funerary temple of king
Snofru at Dashur. Nevertheless, the inscriptions recorded the piety
not only of Seshenu, but of about fifteen other men of lesser status,
mainly wab priests, a lector-priest, and a sculptor. Judging from the
references to their mothers, it is evident that they were not members
of Seshenu’s family. Consequently, the monument was erected by a
small community of priests and artisans under the control of Seshenu,
whose superior status was thus enhanced.44 As for the Senior Scribe
Ramose [I] in New Kingdom Deir el-Medina, he left a large number
of monuments (twenty-one stelae), the reason for which lies in his
social prestige as instigator and overseer of Ramesses II’s cult within
the Deir el-Medina community, with his own associated Hathor cult,
while being also associated to his superior, the vizier Paser.45 In turn,
many other individuals stressed their relationship to Ramose [I] by
evoking him and vizier Paser in their tombs and on their monuments,
and their social status was boosted thanks to their association with
higher-ranking individuals with whom they could display a relation-
ship. As for Ramose [I], he benefited in a similar fashion by inclusion
on monuments of others, confirming his place in the monumental
record and his central position within the community. Other officials
from Deir el-Medina also erected a series of royal statues and provided
for their cult by means of private donations,46 a practice which empha-
sized both their proximity to the court and to important patrons and
their familiarity with the codes of high culture. Finally, it was not

P. Tallet, “Les équipes d’ouvriers royaux en Égypte au Moyen-Empire,” in Les
régulations sociales dans l’Antiquité, ed. M. Molin (Rennes, 2006), 129–37, esp. 133–36.
In other instances, the guild of artisans might have provided some protection for the
widows of their members: K.A. Kóthay, “The Widow and Orphan in Egypt before
the New Kingdom,” Acta Antiqua Academiae Sciantiarum Hungaricae 46 (2006):
K. Exell, “The Senior Scribe Ramose (1) and the Cult of the King: A Social and
Historical Reading of Some Private Votive Stelae from Deir el Medina in the Reign of
Ramesses II,” in Current Research in Egyptology 2004, ed. R.J. Dann (Oxford, 2006),
51–67; Exell, Soldiers, Sailors and Sandalmakers: A Social Reading of Ramesside Period
Votive Stelae (Egyptology 10; London, 2009), 135–36.
W. Hovestreydt, “A Letter to the King Relating to the Foundation of a Statue
(P. Turin 1879 vso.),” Lingua Aegyptia 5 (1997): 107–21.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1048 juan carlos moreno garcía

uncommon for a dignitary to erect a stela in honor of his patron. The

‘domestic-servant’ (ḥ rj-pr) Ptahaa described himself in a late Middle
Kingdom stela as a ‘guard’ (šmsw) of the King’s Son Bebi, and declared
that he had dedicated the monument to Bebi “like a servant who loves
his master should do” (m jrj ḥ m mrr nb.f ).47 Another Middle Kingdom
stela, erected by a family from Qaw, but working in Abydos, includes
an exceptional ḥ tp-dj-nswt formula that mentions the king, Osiris, and
the ḥ ¡tj-ʿ ‘governor’ (of Qaw) W¡ḥ -k¡ as sources of the offerings.48 Later
on, about 731 B.C., Horbes dedicated a stela to his father, the prophet
of Ptah Pasherienptah, while also requesting the protection of Osiris-
Apis for the Libyan chief Ankhor, a prominent local leader.49
As for the local influence of some patrons, it can be measured
thanks to some information contained in titles and administrative
quotations. While towns and villages were the basic territorial units
from an administrative point of view, in some cases the pr ‘house,
domain’ of a dignitary or a local potentate played a similar role. The
ink inscriptions from Djeser’s pyramid, the Gebelein papyri, and some
titles born by Metjen, all dating from the late Early Dynastic and
the early Old Kingdom,50 reveal, for instance, that each of these
‘houses’ encompassed several localities and was a source of deliveries
for the administration; shortly afterwards they disappeared from the
administrative record until the end of the Old Kingdom, when the pr
recovered its former importance. In all these cases it was quite com-
mon that the designation of a circumscription-pr was formed after
personal names, a feature which might hint at the existence of local
potentates. One notorious example is pr-Ḫ ww ‘the house/domain of
Ḫ ww’—Ḫ ww being a governor of Edfu at the end of the Old King-
dom—a term used to designate the three southernmost provinces of

Stela Cairo CG 20578 = S. Kubisch, Lebensbilder der 2. Zwischenzeit: Biographis-
che Inschriften der 13.–17. Dynastie (SDAIK 34; Berlin, 2008), 145–47.
Stela Cairo CG 20549 = J. Wegner, “External Connections of the Community of
Wah-Sut during the Late Middle Kingdom,” in Perspectives on Ancient Egypt: Studies
in Honor of Edward Brovarski (ASAE Supplément 40), ed. Z.A. Hawass, P. der Manu-
elian, and R.B. Hussein (Cairo, 2010), 437–58, esp. 442, 455 fig. 5.
Stela Louvre IM 3078 = O. Perdu in Tanis: L’or des pharaons (Paris, 1987), 156–
57 [37].
Cf. P. Lacau and J.-Ph. Lauer, La pyramide à degrés. Vol. IV: Inscriptions gravées
sur les vases (Cairo, 1959); Lacau and Lauer, La pyramide à degrés. Vol. V: Inscriptions
à l’encre sur les vases (Cairo, 1965); P. Posener-Krieger, I Papiri di Gebelein—Scavi G.
Farina 1935 (Turin, 2004); Urk. I 1–5.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1049

Upper Egypt.51 In other cases the geographical provenance of teams of

workers was indicated either by the name of the locality from which
they came or by the name of the official in charge of a specific region,
as if his name had some kind of toponymic connotations, like the
teams coming from the rmnjjt ‘domains’ or from the fields-ḫ bsw of
some potentates.52 Even more extraordinary is the case of the officials
designated as bw ‘place’, whose names were followed by the deter-
minative of a town so as to express the geographical provenance of
certain groups of workers.53 What this evidence reveals is that promi-
nent dignitaries and local potentates were responsible for the delivery
of workers, that the workforce thus mobilized depended in some way
of its ‘patrons’, and that such ‘patrons’ were recognized as heads of
their circumscriptions; in any case, the system seems compatible with
other ways of getting manpower, like the lists of available workers
prepared by the scribes and recorded by the administrative sources.54
The importance of such personal bonds in recruiting and organizing
teams of workers is also apparent in the light of Old Kingdom graffiti,55
Middle Kingdom papyri,56 and New Kingdom ostraca.57

Cf. J. Vandier, Mo‘alla: La tombe d’Ankhtifi et la tombe de Sébekhotep (BdE 18;
Cairo, 1950), 163–64. In general, S. Quirke, “The Egyptological Study of Placenames,”
DE 21 (1991): 59–71.
F. Arnold, The South Cemeteries of Lisht 2: The Control Notes and Team Marks
(New York, 1990), 26; W.K. Simpson, Papyrus Reisner II: Accounts of the Dockyard
Workshop at This in the Reign of Sesostris I (Boston, 1965), pl. 13.
Simpson, Papyrus Reisner II, pl. 12. Cf. also P. Andrássy, “Symbols in the Reisner
Papyri,” in Non-Textual Marking Systems, Writing and Pseudo Script from Prehistory
to Modern Times (Lingua Ægyptia, Studia Monographica 8), ed. P. Andrássy, J. Budka,
and F. Kammerzell (Göttingen, 2009), 113–22.
Moreno García, “Households.”
G. Castel, L. Pantalacci, and N. Cherpion, Balat V: Le mastaba de Khentika: Tom-
beau d’un gouverneur de l’Oasis à la fin de l’Ancien Empire (FIFAO 40; Cairo, 2001),
147–49; P. Andrassy, “Builders’ Graffiti and Administrative Aspects of Pyramid and
Temple Building in Ancient Egypt,” in 7. Ägyptologische Tempeltagung: Structuring
Religion (Königtum, Staat und Gesellschaft früher Hochkulturen 3/2), ed. R. Preys
(Wiesbaden, 2007), 1–16.
J.C. Moreno García, “Les temples provinciaux et leur rôle dans l’agriculture
institutionnelle de l’Ancien et du Moyen Empire,” in L’agriculture institutionnelle en
Égypte ancienne: État de la question et perspectives interdisciplinaires (CRIPEL 25), ed.
J.C. Moreno García (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2006), 113–19.
As in the case of the three men recruited from the household of a priestess for
the purpose of carrying sand, or the three individuals who provided, respectively,
19, 18 and 20 + x (?) workers according to oDAI/Asasif 56: M. Römer, “Die Ostraka
DAI/Asasif 55 und 56—Dokumente der Bauarbeiten in Deir el-Bahri und im Asasif
unter Thutmosis III.,” in Zeichen aus dem Sand: Streiflichter aus Ägyptens Geschichte
zu Ehren von Günter Dreyer (MENES 5), ed. E.-M. Engel, V. Müller, and U. Hartung

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1050 juan carlos moreno garcía

It thus becomes clear that the ideal of self-sufficiency proclaimed

in many private inscriptions was hardly achievable for many Egyp-
tians, who were obliged to depend on powerful or influential fellow
citizens and to join their patronage networks, to the point of being
considered part of their households. Such networks provided a kind of
‘vertical integration’ in addition to the ‘horizontal’ one constituted by
the family and neighbors, hence linking high officials to minor ones,
local potentates to courtiers, officials to ordinary workers and citizens,
and so on. A New Kingdom ostracon, for instance, reports that fugi-
tive oarsmen were found in the company (under the protection?) of
prominent officials at different locations in the Delta.58 Old Kingdom
lists of personnel frequently state that workers were actually replaced
by their wives, fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, or by other persons
(referred to with terms like sn-d̠t or d̠t) when performing their duties.59
Middle Kingdom papyri from Lahun confirm this practice: in one case
the names of several workers were accompanied by annotations speci-
fying that they should be brought in person or replaced by their wives,
mothers, or Asiatics (serfs?);60 in another case, a governor requested
two workers or, in their place, men or women from among their own
dependents (h̠ rw);61 finally, another papyrus not only listed a labor
force, but also identified the persons (usually priests and officials) for
whom the worker answered the call (in one case the substitute was a h̠ r

(Wiesbaden, 2008), 619–24. Cf. also J. Budka, “Non-Textual Marks from the Asasif
(Western-Thebes): Remarks on Function and Practical Use Based on External Textual
Evidence,” in Non-Textual Marking Systems, Writing and Pseudo Script from Prehis-
tory to Modern Times (Lingua Ægyptia, Studia Monographica 8), ed. P. Andrássy,
J. Budka, and F. Kammerzell (Göttingen, 2009), 179–203.
M. Gabolde, “Des travailleurs en vadrouille,” in Hommages à Jean-Claude Goyon
offerts pour son 70e anniversaire (BdE 143), ed. L. Gabolde (Cairo, 2008), 181–96, esp.
187–90, 196 fig. 2. Cf. a similar case in pStrasburg 39: S. Allam, Hieratische Ostraka
und Papyri aus der Ramessidenzeit (Urkunden zum Rechtsleben im alten Ägypten 1;
Tübingen, 1973), 104–5, 307–8; Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt, 206 [332].
Moreno García, “Nfr (CGC 57163) and Pttj (tomb G.S.E. 1923)”, 126–29.
U. Luft, Urkunden zur Chronologie der späten 12. Dynastie: Briefe aus Illahun
(Wien, 2006), 92–93. Cf. a recently published Middle Kingdom stela on which sev-
eral members of the owner’s household are labeled as Asiatics or bear foreign names:
H. Satzinger and D. Stefanović, “The Domestic Servant of the Palace rn-snb,” in From
Illahun to Djeme: Papers Presented in Honour of Ulrich Luft (BAR International Series
2311), ed. E. Bechtold, A. Gulyás, and A. Hasznos (Oxford, 2011), 241–45.
U. Luft, “Papyrus Kairo JdE 71582 (früher Papyrus Berlin P. 10020),” in Egyp-
tian Museum Collections around the World: Studies for the Centennial of the Egyptian
Museum, Cairo, ed. M.M. Eldamaty and M. Trad (Cairo, 2002), vol. II, 743–52.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1051

‘dependent’).62 In one instance, several men were even listed as ‘men of

N’, N being a priest or an official.63 New Kingdom sources also men-
tion tenants acting as agents of scribes (Wilbour papyrus A 90, 8) or
cultivators ( jḥ wtj) dependent on a dignitary, like the pr n jḥ wtj P¡
n( j) sš ʿ¡-nrj ‘the house(hold) of the cultivator Paysen attached to the
scribe Aanery’.64
In exchange for their services, the superior was to take care of his
subjects (for example, in case of illness, lawsuits, etc.).65 Such bonds
linking clients and subordinates to their patron’s household were
explicitly marked by the use of kinship terms. Thus, compulsory work-
ers were sometimes described as the ‘sons’ of prominent citizens: “N,
he is called the son of Senbebu, a priest of Thinis,” “N, he is called the
son of Hepu, a commander of soldiers [of Thinis].”66 Such practice
was in no way limited to people of lesser status, as palatial officials
were also explicitly labeled ‘friends’ (ḫ nms.f ) or ‘(pseudo-)children’
(h̠ rd.f ) of their superior.67 More clearly, the relation patron/client was
sometimes formalized by means of legal contracts,68 even by fictitious
adoptions which masked what, in fact, constituted the voluntary ser-
vitude of the person called šrj ‘son’.69 In other cases, people in trouble

M. Collier and S. Quirke, The UCL Lahun Papyri: Accounts (BAR International
Series 1471; Oxford, 2006), 44–45.
Cf. pBerlin 10104 = S. Quirke, “ ‘Townsmen’ in the Middle Kingdom,” ZÄS 118
(1991): 145.
Cf. pBM 10068 v° 3:22 = T.E. Peet, The Great Tomb-Robberies of the Twentieth
Egyptian Dynasty (Oxford, 1930), 95, pl. 14.
Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt, 56–57 [64]; M. Chauveau, “Administration
centrale et autorités locales d’Amasis à Darius”; M. Müller, “The ‘El-Hibeh’-Archive:
Introduction and Preliminary Information,” in The Libyan Period in Egypt: Histori-
cal and Cultural Studies in the 21st–24th Dynasties (Egyptologische Uitgaven 23), ed.
G.P.F. Broekman, R.J. Demarée, and O.E. Kaper (Leiden, 2009), 264.
Cf. pBrooklyn 35.1446, r°, I, lignes 5, 6 et 10 = W.C. Hayes, A Papyrus of the Late
Middle Kingdom in the Brooklyn Museum (Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446) (New York,
1955), 25–26, 30, pl. I.
The use of kinship terms to express actual patron-client relations is well known
in Middle Kingdom sources: D. Franke, “Sem-priest on Duty,” in Discovering Egypt
from the Neva: The Egyptological Legacy of Oleg D. Berlev, ed. S. Quirke (Berlin, 2003),
74. For a similar case attested in Mesopotamia, in which individual dignitaries are
declared ‘sons’ of many other men simultaneously, cf. M. Widell, “Reflections on
Some Households and Their Receiving Officials in the City of Ur in the Ur III Period,”
JNES 63 (2004): 283–90.
P.W. Pestman, Les papyrus démotiques de Tsenhor (P. Tsenhor): Les archives
privées d’une femme égyptienne du temps de Darius Ier (Studia Demotica 4; Leuven,
1994), 37.
M. Malinine and J. Pirenne, Documents juridiques égyptiens (Deuxième série)
(Anvers, 1950), 76–77.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1052 juan carlos moreno garcía

sold themselves or delivered their goods to a patron in exchange for

protection,70 to the point that a formal distinction between ‘free men’
and serfs was established in Late Period contracts. It is apparent, for
instance, in some papyri from the first half of the first millennium that
mark a sharp contrast between jr b¡k ‘acting like a serf ’ and jr nmḥ
‘acting like a free man’,71 an opposition seeking to display the social
status of people. A papyrus from the reign of Darius I specifies that
only some priests could become lesonis and, in contrast to the nomi-
nee who was the servant of another man (p¡ ntj-jw b¡k ‘one who is a
servant’) and had thus been rejected, an acceptable nominee should be
a man of social stature and therefore subservient to no other (rmt̠ ʿ¡
‘great man, man of importance’). A man who was the servant of
another man was not a free man (rmt̠ nmḥ ), but had sold himself and
his descendants to another by a contract of servitude; such an inden-
tured person was the opposite of a ‘great man, man of importance’.72
In fact, later sources, like the Ptolemaic self-dedications, document a
practice whereby a person declared himself the ‘slave’ (b¡k) of a god,
entered his service, and engaged to pay an annual fixed sum, either
forever or for a period of ninety-nine years. In return the ‘slave’ could
expect protection from the patron.73 It is difficult to assert if such
ίεροδουλοι/b¡kw continued a pharaonic tradition.

Cf. the stela Cairo 27/6/24/3 = A.M. Bakir, Slavery in Pharaonic Egypt (CASAE
18; Cairo, 1952), 85–86, pl. 2–4; Louvre E 706 r° = ibid., pl. 17; pLouvre 7832 =
K. Donker van Heel, Abnormal Hieratic and Early Demotic Texts Collected by the
Theban Choachytes in the Reign of Amasis (Leiden, 1995), 176–82; pRylands V =
F. Ll. Griffith, Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the John Rylands Library (Man-
chester, 1909), vol. 3, 53–54.
Cf. pBibliothèque Nationale 223, r° 2–3 = M. Malinine, Choix de textes juridiques
en hiératique “anormal” et en démotique (XXVe–XXVIIe dynasties) (Bibliothèque de
l’École des Hautes-Études 300; Paris, 1953), 50–55; pRylands VI 2–3 = F. Ll. Griffith,
Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the John Rylands Library, vol. I, pl. XVII–XIX;
vol. II, pl. XVII–XVIII; vol. III, 54–55, 213–15; pLouvre N 706, 3–5 = Malinine and
Pirenne, Documents juridiques égyptiens, 73–74.
Cf. pBerlin 13540 = G.R. Hughes, “The So-Called Pherendates Correspondence,”
in Grammata Demotika: Festschrift für Erich Lüddeckens zum 15. Juni 1983, ed.
H.-J. Thissen and K.-Th. Zauzich (Würzburg, 1984), 75–86, esp. 77–84. On rmt̠ nmḥ
cf. H.J. Thissen, Die demotischen Graffiti von Medinet Habu: Zeugnisse zu Tempel
und Kult in ptolemäischen Ägypten (Demotische Studien 10; Sommerhausen, 1989),
39–40 [9].
J.A.S. Evans, “A social and economic history of an Egyptian temple in the Greco-
Roman period,” Yale Classical Studies 17 (1961): 199; J.G. Manning, “Land and Status
in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Status Designation ‘occupation title + b¡k + divine name’,”
in Grund und Boden in Altägypten, ed. S. Allam (Tübingen, 1994), 147–75; M. Dep-
auw, A Companion to Demotic Studies (Papyrologica Bruxellensia 28; Brussels, 1997),

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1053

Indeed, ‘great men’ quite often appear in the written record from the
end of the second millennium as prominent members of their com-
munities. The famous trial of Mose, for example, shows them playing
the role of witnesses in the assignation of land to the members of a
settlement (KRI III 429:8–9) and taking the oath before the delegate of
the Court sent to the village to judge between parties (KRI III 433:3).74
Later, the demotic literature presents the notables of the villages as the
main local authorities, as if the localities were entirely in their hands,
with no royal authority even mentioned.75 Their ties to the local tem-
ples further strengthened their authority, as in the case of a demotic
literary text where a local potentate (lit. a ‘great man’) was also a priest
in the local temple, a profitable source of income, as he obtained part
of the agricultural income of the sanctuary because of his condition
of priest and, in addition, he also exploited some fields of the temple
as a cultivator in exchange for a part of the harvest; the considerable
wealth thus amassed allowed him to pay wages to the personnel of
the temple, who were thus considered his clients (the text states that he
had ‘acquired’ them) and he could even marry his sons and daughters
to priests and potentates (lit. ‘great men’) of another town.76
Quite probably, the chiefs of a village (ḥ q¡ nwt, ḥ ¡tj-ʿ) came from this
social milieu, and their condition of real local authorities in troubled
political times is expressed, for instance, in a passage of papyrus Har-
ris I referring to the anarchy prevailing at the end of the 19th dynasty:
“the land of Egypt was in the hands of chiefs (wrw) and of rulers of
towns (ḥ q¡w nwt)”.77 The sources confirm that their social position was
further enhanced because of their role as mediators between the royal

136–37; S. Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte (Einführungen

und Quellentexte zur Ägyptologie 5; Berlin, 2008), 164–65.
On the rmt̠ ʿ¡ and the role they played, see S. Allam, “Elders (Πρεσβύτεροι),
Notables and Great Men,” in Acts of the Seventh International Conference of Demotic
Studies (Copenhagen, 23–27 August 1999) (CNI Publications 27), ed. K. Ryholt (Copen-
hagen, 2002), 1–26; Allam, “Chief of the qenbet?,” ZÄS 128 (2001): 84–85. Sometimes
the term had a negative nuance: W.J. Tait, “P. Carlsberg 207: Two Columns of a Setna
Text,” in The Carlsberg Papyri, 1: Demotic Texts from the Collection (CNI Publications
15), ed. K.-Th. Zauzich, J. Tait, and M. Chauveau (Copenhagen, 1991), 30.
D. Agut-Labordère, “Les ‘petites citadelles’: La sociabilité du tmy ‘ville’, ‘village’
à travers les sagesses démotiques,” in Espaces et territoires de l’Égypte gréco-romaine
(Cahier de l’atelier Aigyptos 1), ed. G. Gorre and P. Kossmann (Paris, in press).
J. Tait, “Pa-di-pep Tells Pharaoh the Story of the Condemnation of Djed-her:
Fragments of Demotic Narrative in the British Museum,” Enchoria 31 (2008–2009),
113–43, pl. 13, esp. 115–24.
Cf. pHarris I 75:4 = P. Grandet, Le papyrus Harris I, vol. I, p. 335.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1054 juan carlos moreno garcía

administration and the population in general, especially when pay-

ing taxes, delivering products at the mooring-posts, providing man-
power when requested, or cultivating the fields of the crown and of the
temples.78 Nevertheless, and in spite of their local relevance, the chiefs
of the villages are almost invisible in the archaeological record, and only
exceptionally did they have access to the prestigious goods reserved to
the elite.79 Sometimes the tombs of apparently wealthy peasants or of
people richer than their neighbors reveal such social differences in the
countryside.80 The administrative sources of the New Kingdom, like
the Wilbour papyrus or the Ramesside administrative documents, fre-
quently mention cultivators ( jḥ wtjw) who worked substantial pieces
of land; some of them were even able to deliver thousands of sacks of
cereals at different localities. Their position was obviously not that of
the poor jḥ wtj of the literary texts but, quite the contrary, that of true
rural potentates capable of mobilizing enough manpower to cultivate
large tracts of land and to cope with heavy fiscal obligations.81 This
might explain why one such jḥ wtj acted as an agent for the ḥ ¡tj-ʿ of

Some examples in Posener-Krieger, I Papiri di Gebelein, passim; Urk. I 294;
Moreno García, Ḥ wt et le milieu rural égyptien du IIIe millénaire, 229–32; statue Lou-
vre AF 9913 = E. Delange, Catalogue des statues égyptiennes du Moyen Empire, 2060–
1560 avant J.-C. (Paris, 1987), 220–23; G.P.F. van den Boorn, The Duties of the Vizier
(London, 1988), 98–109, 234, 286–87, 336–37; N. de G. Davies, The Tomb of Rekh-
mi-re at Thebes (New York, 1973), pl. 29–35, 40 [1]; Cl. Traunecker, “Amenhotep
IV percepteur royal du Disque,” in Akhénaton et l’époque amarnienne (Paris, 2005),
145–82; pTurin 1895+2006 2:5, 14 = A.H. Gardiner, Ramesside Administrative Docu-
ments (Oxford, 1948), 37; Gardiner, “A Protest against Unjustified Tax-Demands,”
RdÉ 6 (1951): 115–33. As for the mooring posts, cf. Urk. IV 2149:14–2151:13;
J.-M. Kruchten, Le Décret d’Horemheb: Traduction, commentaire épigraphique,
philologique et institutionnel (Brussels, 1981), 96–99, 109–14; D.B. Redford, Egypt and
Canaan in the New Kingdom (Beer-Sheva 4; Beer-Sheva, 1990), 56–61; R.A. Caminos,
“The Nitocris Adoption Stela,” JEA 50 (1964): 74, pl. 8. Cf. also pReisner II section D =
Simpson, Papyrus Reisner II, 20–21, pl. 7–7a.
As in the case of two statues of the Old Kingdom belonging to two ḥ q¡w (nwt):
J.C. Moreno García, “Ḥ q¡w “jefes, gobernadores” y élites rurales en el III milenio
antes de Cristo: Reflexiones acerca de algunas estatuas del Imperio Antiguo,” in . . . Ir
a buscar leña: Estudios dedicados al profesor Jesús López, ed. J. Cervelló Autuori
and A.J. Quevedo Alvarez (Barcelona, 2001), 141–54; A.O. Bolshakov, “ʿnḫ -wd̠.s:
St. Petersburg–Cambridge,” GM 188 (2002): 21–48; Bolshakov, Studies on Old King-
dom Reliefs and Sculpture in the Hermitage (ÄA 67; Wiesbaden, 2005), 17–32, pl. 1–8.
W. Grajetzki, The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: History, Archaeology and
Society, (London, 2006), 149–51; K. Woda, “Provincial Society and Cemetery Organi-
zation in the New Kingdom,” SAK 36 (2007): 349–89.
J.C. Moreno García, “Les jḥ wtjw et leur rôle socio-économique au IIIe et IIe
millénaires avant J.-C.,” in Élites et pouvoir en Égypte ancienne (CRIPEL 28), ed.
J.C. Moreno García (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2010), 321–351.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1055

Thebes in another province in the 18th Dynasty.82 In other cases, local

notables apparently not related to the circle of the scribes, nomarchs,
or agents of the crown, nevertheless imitated the noble monuments in
use by the higher elite like, for instance, (collective) mastabas.83 Fur-
thermore, the fact that rich anepigraphic provincial tombs were sur-
rounded by minor burials suggest the existence of patronage networks
controlled by otherwise unknown local potentates.84
Lastly, the definition of such elusive sub-elites, whose support was
nevertheless crucial in order to enforce the orders of the king and of
his representatives, is quite a difficult task, as they very seldom pro-
duced documents of their own.85 That the priest Sobekaa boasted about
serving noblemen and overseers of Upper Egypt at the end of the 3rd
millennium is nothing extraordinary in itself.86 However, when other
contemporary priests and scribes proudly proclaim that they worked
for simple village governors (ḥ q¡w), chiefs (ḥ rjw-tp), and administra-
tors (jmjw-r pr), they reveal the real importance of these authorities,
usually hidden under the stereotypical iconography of the punished
or bowing chief of a village.87 The simultaneous existence of several

Cf. pBerlin 10463 = R.A. Caminos, “Papyrus Berlin 10463,” JEA 49 (1963):
S.J. Seidlmayer, “Die Ikonographie des Todes,” in Social Aspects of Funerary Cul-
ture in the Egyptian Old and Middle Kingdoms (OLA 103), ed. H. Willems (Leuven,
2001), 205–52; Seidlmayer, “Vom Sterben der kleinen Leute: Tod und Bestattung in
der sozialen Grundschicht am Ende des Alten Reiches,” in Grab und Totenkult im
Alten Ägypten, ed. H. Guksch, E. Hofmann, and M. Bommas (Munich, 2003), 60–74.
Cf. also J.C. Moreno García, “La gestion sociale de la mémoire dans l’Égypte du IIIe
millénaire: Les tombes des particuliers, entre utilisation privée et idéologie publique,”
in Dekorierte Grabanlagen im Alten Reich—Methodik und Interpretation (IBAES 6),
ed. M. Fitzenreiter and M. Herb (London, 2006), 223–32; W. Grajetzki, “Multiple
Burials in Ancient Egypt to the End of the Middle Kingdom,” in Life and Afterlife in
Ancient Egypt during the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (Egyptol-
ogy 7), ed. S. Grallert and W. Grajetzki (London, 2007), 16–34.
S.J. Seidlmayer, Gräberfelder aus dem Übergang vom Alten zum Mittleren Reich:
Studien zur Archäologie der Ersten Zwischenzeit (SAGA 1; Heidelberg, 1990).
J.C. Moreno García, “Élites provinciales, transformations sociales et idéologie à
la fin de l’Ancien Empire et à la Première Période Intermédiaire,” in Des Néferkarê
aux Montouhotep: Travaux archéologiques en cours sur la fin de la VIe dynastie et la
Première Période Intermédiare (TMO 40), ed. L. Pantalacci and C. Berger-El-Naggar
(Lyon, 2005), 215–28.
Hieroglyphic Texts from Egyptian Stelae, etc, I1 (London, 1911), pl. 54.
Examples: J.-J. Clère and J. Vandier, Textes de la Première Période Intermédi-
aire et de la XIème dynastie (Bibliotheca Ægyptiaca 10; Brussels, 1948), 1 [1], 2–3 [3];
J. Černy, “The Stela of Merer in Cracow,” JEA 47 (1961): 5–9, pl. I; Urk. I 258: 3 =
T. Säve-Söderbergh, The Old Kingdom Cemetery at Hamra Dom (El-Qasr wa es-
Saiyad) (Stockholm, 1994), 48, pl. 25.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1056 juan carlos moreno garcía

such chiefs in a single province again confirms the existence of local

potentates whose authority extended beyond the limits of a locality,
so as to encompass a circumscription; it also provides some evidence
about the pr ‘house’ of prominent men, whose traces can occasionally
be detected in the topography.88 Only in the case of the governors of
a city is the information about their social origins somewhat more
detailed, usually revealing that they enjoyed a higher status: a graffito
from Sayala in Nubia, from the end of the 3rd millennium, states that
the overseer of artisans, Irunetjeru, was the father of the governor
(ḥ q¡) of Hierakonpolis,89 whereas the lady Aset from Edfu, who lived
under the 17th Dynasty, was the daughter of a ḥ ¡tj-ʿ and wife, mother,
and daughter-in-law, respectively, of three ‘Sons of the King’, the title
referring to the military chief of a city.90

Informal Paths of Authority and “Vertical”

Circulation of Power

Given the official nature of the bulk of the sources at our disposal,
any mention of conflict or misconduct is simply ignored or, at best,
treated in an exemplary way so as to contrast reprehensible as opposed
to virtuous behavior in order to ensure the final triumph of the maat.
Therefore, only self-explanatory proclamations, judicial affairs, or pri-
vate documents like letters, usually restricted to inter-elite trouble,
make it possible to learn about disputes, crimes, and intrigues, as well
as about the means mobilized by the confronted parties in order to
prevail or, at least, to gain support from their superiors. In such cases,
the description of the informal resources employed for mobilizing
authority—not necessarily alongside with formal or ‘legal’ ones—allow
a glimpse of the importance of patronage, social influence, well-placed
contacts and corruption in everyday affairs.
To being with, we can turn our attention to temples. Being privi-
leged poles of social and economic power in ancient Egypt, their

Moreno García, “Élites provinciales, transformations sociales et idéologie,” 222–23.
H. Satzinger, “Felsinschriften aus dem Gebiet von Sayâla (Ägyptisch-Nubien),”
in Timelines: Studies in Honour of Manfred Bietak (OLA, 149), ed. E. Czerny, I. Hein,
H. Hunger, D. Melman, and A. Schwab (Leuven, 2006), vol. III, 140–41 [inscr. n° 4].
M. Marée, “Nouvelles données sur l’élite d’Edfou à la fin de la XVIIe dynastie,”
in Égypte, Afrique and Orient 53 (2009): 20. Cf. also his important contribution “Edfu
under the Twelfth to Seventeenth Dynasties.”

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1057

control paved the way for frequent clashes among priests or between
the temples and the dominant powers, thus giving unique insight into
the social relations built around them and into the conflicting interests
among factions in Egyptian society. As has been mentioned above,
only local potentates were considered eligible as lesonis in the temples
under Darius I reign. In fact, the income, prestige, and influential
social relations associated with temple prebendes explain why priest-
hood—especially middle and high ranking functions—was reserved to
members of the elite during the Pharaonic past,91 with severe measures
taken to restrict access to such coveted positions. Alternatively, bribes
were used as a means of joining the temple staff, to the point that royal
decrees were periodically enacted in order to prevent this fraudulent
practice.92 In other cases, sacerdotal functions were openly bought and
sold.93 And it was not uncommon for former beneficiaries of prebends
and fields of the temples that they could be dispossessed by force or
see their rights usurped by others,94 including cases in which officials
occupying high positions in a temple were removed from office by
royal decree as a result of their involvement in conspiracies, while
their supporters were threatened with retaliation.95
The troubled times of the Third Intermediate Period witnessed
many disruptions in the normal life of sanctuaries, and internal con-
flicts among their personnel became common currency in the sources.
In one case, simple cultivators had become wab-priests in the temple

In some cases it was explicitly stated that noblemen and their offspring, as well as
military personnel, were to be recruited as personnel of the temples: Urk. IV 1670:10–
11; 2029:9; 2120:9–11. Cf. the contempt expressed by certain priests at the possibility
that a son of a merchant could also enter the priesthood (papyrus Turin 1887 r° I,
12–14): B. Porten, The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-Cultural
Continuity and Change (Leiden, 1996), 47–48.
Cf., for instance, the decrees by Horemheb and Sethi II: Kruchten, Le décret
d’Horemheb, 151, 159. The practice is described, for instance, in the pTurin 1887 r°
I:12–14: Gardiner, Ramesside Administrative Documents, 75.
Cf. pUC 32055: M. Collier and S. Quirke, The UCL Lahun Papyri, 102–3.
Cf. pBerlin 3047: KRI II 803–6; pBM 10373: J.J. Janssen, Late Ramesside Letters
and Communications (London, 1991), 43–47, pl. 26–29; pBM EA 75016: R.J. Demarée,
The Bankes Late Ramesside Papyri (London, 2006), 9–10, pl. 5–6. Cf. also KRI III
41–43; Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 258–61 [62], as well as Amenemope VI, 16–17: “do
not remove a servant (b¡k) of the god so as to do favours to another”. Cf. also pMu-
nich 809 (W. Spiegelberg, “Ein Gerichtsprotokollaus der Zeit Thutmosis’ IV”, ZÄS 63
[1928], 105-115), where the claims of a soldier over some revenue due to Hathor of
Gebelein were disregarded by a court.
Cf. the decree of Antef V: W. Helck, Historisch-biographische Texte der 2. Zwis-
chenzeit und neue Texte der 18. Dynastie (Wiesbaden, 20023), 73–74 [106].

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1058 juan carlos moreno garcía

of Khnum at Elephantine, and the authorities felt it necessary to send

their representatives in order to restore the temple and to return such
cultivators to their former condition.96 In another case, the installa-
tion of the high priest Menkheperre followed the displacement of an
unnamed rival and the exile to the Kharga Oasis of the defeated fac-
tion, who were later formally forgiven and recalled by Amun with the
full agreement of Menkheperre.97 Finally, an oracular procedure from
Karnak records the fiscal abuses inflicted against the Theban lesser
clergy by higher clergy and bureaucrats, perhaps in the framework
of competing factions surrounding the rival high priests Osorkon (B)
and Harsiese (B), the former one being apparently supported by the
lower clergy while the latter backed by the local elite.98 The Chronicle
of prince Osorkon contains the most detailed account of such fights
among Theban factions, including several exiles of Osorkon (B),
his return and retaliations against his rivals, and his many endow-
ments to the temples.99 In such a stormy context, the king could be
tempted to establish his own sons at the head of all prominent offices
of the country, as in the case of Osorkon II: “[You (= the gods) will]
fashion my seed, the semen come forth from my body [to become]
the great [ruler]s of Egypt, the Hereditary Princes, First Prophets of
Amon, King of the Gods, great chiefs of the Ma, [great] chiefs of the
foreigners and prophets of Harsaphes, King of the Two Lands, after
I have commanded (it)” and “You will establish my children upon
their [offices . . . that] I gave to them, without a brother being resentful
of his brother.”100
Later, after the restoration of an unified monarchy during the Saite
period, the conflicts around the temples continued, especially under
the reign of Amasis. A memorandum from Thebes, for instance,
records that raising taxes from the temples in the area of Elephantine

S.J. Seidlmayer, MDAIK 38 (1982): 329–34, pl. 72; K. Jansen-Winkeln, Inschriften
der Spätzeit. Teil I: Die 21. Dynastie (Wiesbaden, 2007), 120–21 [33].
Von Beckerath, “Die ‘Stele der Verbannten’ im Museum des Louvre,” RdÉ 20
(1968), 7-36; Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 124–29 [28].
P. Vernus, “Inscriptions de la Troisième Période Intermédiaire (IV): Le texte
oraculaire réemployé dans le passage axial du IIIe pylône dans le temple de Karnak,”
Cahiers de Karnak 6 (1973–1977), 215–33; Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 380–82 [85].
Caminos, The Chronicle of Prince Osorkon; Jansen-Winkeln, Inschriften der
Spätzeit, vol. II, pp. 161–68; Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 348–77 [82].
H.K. Jacquet-Gordon, “The Inscriptions on the Philadelphia-Cairo statue of
Osorkon II,” JEA 46 (1960): 12–23; Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy, 283–88 [74].

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1059

was subject to the interference of “enemies”,101 while a contemporary

governor was said to have usurped some income from the temple of
Khentamenti in Abydos: “I gave income from the desert of the Thinite
nome to the temple, having found it in the hands of the governor, so
that Abydenes would have burials. I gave the ferryboat of the Thinite
nome to the temple, having taken it away from the governor. . . .”102 But
the most detailed evidence about the ways in which access to author-
ity could be mobilized in order to support one’s claims undoubtedly
comes from Rylands Papyrus 9. Therein an overseer of fields eager
to take revenge on a certain Hormakhoru for an unspecified reason
learned that Hormakhoru was linked to the priests of Amon in a small
provincial town in the Heracleopolitan nome, as he was the priest of
the cult of a statue of Amasis endowed with the considerable amount
of 120 aruras of land; in addition, he also learned that the priests of
this local temple had usurped 444.5 arouras from the royal domain
on an island. So the overseer of fields profited from this information
to exact his revenge by expropriating the priests all the land they cul-
tivated on the island, both legally and illegally, for a total amount of
929 arouras. The only realistically effective countermeasure available
for the priests apparently consisted in asking for help from an official
of higher rank than the overseer of fields. So they contacted a courtier
without any particular title, but who was quite close to the king and
who acquiesced to exert his influence . . . in exchange for a considerable
‘gift’, including a huge quantity of grain, oil, honey, and fowl, and the
appointment of his brother as high priest of Amon in their temple.
Having heard both parties, the king finally supported the version of
the facts provided by the overseer of the fields, returning to the priests
the domain that they legally held on the island. The influence mobi-
lized by the priests turned out to be quite ineffective in the end.103
But the story did not end there. When the brother of the courtier
was appointed by the priests as a member of the local clergy of Amon,

J. Černy, “The Abnormal-Hieratic Tablet Leiden I 431,” in Studies Presented to
F. Ll. Griffith (London, 1932), 46–56, pl. 2–7.
Statue of Peftuaneith from Abydos (Louvre A 93): M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyp-
tian Literature. Volume III: The Late Period (Berkeley, 1980), 33–36; J. Heise, Erinnern
und Gedenken. Aspekte der biographischen Inschriften der ägyptischen Spätzeit (OBO
226; Fribourg-Göttingen, 2007), 229–33.
G. Vittmann, Der demotische Papyrus Rylands 9, 2 vols. (ÄAT 38; Wiesbaden,
1998); Chauveau, “Administration centrale et autorités locales d’Amasis à Darius,”

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1060 juan carlos moreno garcía

he also learned that his nomination had no legal effect, as the former
holder of the position had not formally renounced to it. So the priests
put pressure on Udjasomtu, father of the author of the papyrus, Peteise,
to force him to sign his resignation. But Udjasomtu and Peteise fled to
Hermopolis, a circumstance that did not stop the priests from destroy-
ing Peteise’s house, throwing into the river the statues of his ancestor
formerly in the temple, and erasing a stela where his priestly titles
were displayed. Peteise nevertheless managed to become a scribe in
the service of Imhotep, the local deputy of a high Memphite dignitary.
Having won Imhotep’s affection through hard work, Imhotep agreed
to defend Peteise’s case before his superior, the Memphite overseer of
the portal, with the result that the latter dispatched two letters to the
local authorities (the governor of Heracleopolis and the overseer of
the local troops) instructing them to arrest all the people involved in
the destruction of the good Peteise’s family. Nevertheless, the priests
did not renounce easily: they denied all the accusations and continued
to count on the good offices of their own protector in the court. And
when the governor of Heracleopolis realized that the courtier and the
Memphite overseer of the portal were not certainly to quarrel about
an obscure local matter and that Peteise risked having no satisfaction
at all, he finally proposed to Peteise a relatively disappointing compro-
mise: the priests should not be punished but, in exchange, they should
pay ten deben in damages and not oppose the return of Peteise and his
family to the temple.104 Luckily enough, conflicts and rivalries did not
necessarily go so bitterly. Criticizing and running down the deeds of a
rival, while extolling one’s own achievements, might serve to gain the
esteem of a superior; such was the procedure followed by an admin-
istrator against his opponent Nedjem when the former described his
astonishing increases in agricultural produce and taxes to the steward
of the estate of Sety II in the domain of Amun, while the poor Ned-
jem “who used to be high steward, did not [approach (?)] me at all”
(KRI IV 343).
Leaving aside the temple sphere, similar procedures for obtaining
justice were operative in the ‘civil’ world. The background of social rela-
tions described in the tale of the Eloquent Peasant shows, for instance,
many parallels with the story told in Rylands Papyrus 9. Here, again,

Chauveau, “Administration centrale et autorités locales d’Amasis à Darius,”

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1061

a peasant unjustly deprived of his property by the covetous Nemti-

nakht, a “client (d̠t) of the High Steward Meru’s son Rensi,” decided to
defend his case by directly addressing Nemtinakht’s superior, Rensi.105
Even in the afterlife such bonds continued to be operative, as when
Heni, son of the governor and overseer of prophets Meru of Naga ed-
Der, implored his deceased father for aid against Seni, a d̠t of Meru
represented in the tomb of the later, murdered in the presence of Heni
and who appeared in Heni’s dream.106 In general, crimes reveal net-
works of ‘horizontal’ complicity and ‘vertical’ protection that put into
contact people of different condition. Thus, a band of thieves stole
some cloaks and garments from the temple of Anukis at Syene and
delivered them to a craftsman, Amenrekh, residing in Deir el-Medina
who ‘specialized’ in storing stolen items, on payment of a bribe to
a scribe of the treasury performing the office of mayor in Elephan-
tine.107 In another case, a boat’s captain cooperated with the scribes,
the inspectors, and the cultivators of the domain of Khnum, and stole
gold and five-thousand sacks of cereal from the divine domain of the
god.108 Finally, a tomb robber (presumably) had a prophet (ḥ m-nt̠r) of
Ptah as accomplice and used to melt gold in the house of the later.109
In other cases, the crimes reveal that complicity was expected from
powerful patrons. The robbery of the royal tombs at the end of the
New Kingdom provides detailed insight into the bitter rivalry oppos-
ing Paser, the mayor of the Theban East Bank, and Pawero, the mayor
of the West Bank, and their respective supporters following an inspec-
tion ordered by the vizier and city-governor Khaemwase. When exam-
ination of the royal tombs proved that they remained generally intact,
and that only those of many lesser persons had been plundered, Paser
alleged that the robberies had also affected the Valley of the Queens.

Cf. the excellent analysis by Gnirs, “The Language of Corruption.”
W.K. Simpson, “The Letter to the Dead from the Tomb of Meru (N 3737) at
Nag‘ ed-Deir,” JEA 52 (1966): 39–52.
Cf. the Turin Indictment Papyrus, pTurin 1887 v° I:2–3 = Gardiner, Ramesside
Administrative Documents, 78; pBM 10053 r° 7–8: P. Vernus, Affaires et scandales
sous les Ramsès: La crise des valeurs dans l’Égypte du Nouvel Empire (Paris, 1993),
227, n. 45.
Cf. pTurin 1887 v° I:9–II:16 = Gardiner, Ramesside Administrative Documents,
Cf. P. Milan RAN E 0.9.40126 + P. Milan RAN E 0.9.40128, r° col. II, x + 5 =
R.J. Demarée, “Ramesside Administrative Papyri in the Civiche Raccolte Archeolog-
iche e Numismatiche di Milano,” JEOL 42 (2010): 57, pl. I.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1062 juan carlos moreno garcía

Thus a second, personal inspection by the vizier followed, but when

examined, the tomb seals proved to be intact and, consequently, Paser’s
accusations unfounded. A mob of West Bank officials (that is to say,
under the protection of Paser’s rival, Pawero), implicated in Paser’s
accusations, crossed over to East Thebes and mocked him. Enraged,
Paser informed them that he had fresh allegations against them and
about which he intended to write to Pharaoh himself. A new court of
inquiry was then set up, but, eventually, it too pronounced the charges
against Pawero and his administration to be false, and a report to that
effect was drawn up and filed in the vizier’s archive. What emerges
from this conflict is that Paser made use of the robberies to attack his
rival Pawero, but the latter replied by minimizing the extent of the
plundering and by mobilizing the support of both his subordinates
and his superiors, including the vizier himself. In fact, the protection
dispensed by the vizier Khaemwase to his subordinate Pawero emerges
clearly from the texts: tombs initially declared intact had, in fact, been
plundered, a detail ‘passed over’ by the inspection led by the vizier
himself; the merit of the enquiry was endorsed to Pawero, while Paser
was discredited by the high dignitaries who judged the case; and the
final report was stored away in the vizier’s office.110 Of course, such
rivalries and instances of selective support were not an innovation of
the New Kingdom at all. A letter from Elephantine dating back to the
end of the third millennium barely conceals the distrust of the protag-
onist, Merrenakht, towards his superior, the governor and seal-bearer,
Iruremetju, regarding a conflict opposing Merrenakht and another
governor and seal-bearer, Sabni. Since Iruremetju and Sabni belonged
to the elite of the city and their rank was higher than that of Merre-
nakht, the latter felt (probably not without reason) that his superior
would not support him duly and that, instead, he would be ready to
compromise with Sabni.111 As for the letter sent by the chief of police
Mininuy to the vizier Khay in the reign of Ramesses II, he complained
about having being deprived of his grain and his fields planted with
vegetables and “which belong to my lord as the vizier’s share” by a

Cf. pAbbott (= pBM 10221): KRI VI 468–480. A summary of the conflict
between Paser and Pawero may be found in Vernus, Affaires et scandales sous les
Ramsès, 17–36; A.J. Peden, Egyptian Historical Inscriptions of the Twentieth Dynasty
(Documenta Mundi, Aegyptiaca 3; Jonsered, 1994), 225.
P.C. Smither, “An Old Kingdom Letter Concerning the Crimes of Count Sabni,”
JEA 28 (1942): 16–19.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1063

younger chief of police, Nakhtsobeki, who gave those fields to another

chief of police, Monturekh, and to the high priest of Montu. While
being deprived of the land formerly granted by an institution appears
repeatedly in the epigraphic and papyrological record,112 the conflict
discussed by Mininuy suggests that he was being replaced by a newly
appointed official who felt not only that he had the right to own the
goods probably devolving to his function, but that it was also wise to
seek the support of colleagues and influential men, thus bribing them.113
Finally, the richly decorated tombs of some manicurists of the king in
the Old Kingdom reveal an influence and wealth due more to their
proximity to the sovereign than to the official functions they exerted,
a situation quite similar to the case of the courtier documented in the
Rylands Papyrus (cf. above). Inversely, courtiers displaying many high
titles could well have held only honorific positions, as the lady and
vizier Nebet of the 6th Dynasty.


The picture that emerges from the evidence discussed certainly counter-
balances the prevailing image of ancient Egypt as a rigidly bureaucratic,
but in the end (almost) ‘perfectly’ structured and all-encompassing
monarchy, organized along criteria that should stand the comparison
with modern states: efficiency, clearly delimited spheres of admin-
istrative competence, availability and rational use of administrative
information when required, well-defined hierarchies of authorities,
easy implementation of governmental decisions . . . and occasional cor-
ruption. Certainly archives were used and information stored, admin-
istrative departments existed, titles placed officials into an accepted
framework of rank and status, and orders where passed on and put
into practice. Nevertheless, as in many other pre-industrial societies,
this was only part of the story. Power, authority, and influence also cir-
culated in the margins of institutions and official channels of authority.
In fact they were also exerted through networks of social and personal
relations (from marriages to favorites, from reliability to co-optation),
through the use of informal networks of power (like patronage or

Cf. above, note 92.
KRI III 41–43; E. Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt, 46 [48].

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

1064 juan carlos moreno garcía

local potentates), and also through the mobilization of immaterial

resources like prestige, charisma, and religion. Furthermore, institu-
tions themselves could evolve over time and be tempted to follow their
own increasingly autonomous interests as an institution, not those for
which they were initially intended, and to enter into competition with
other institutions and spheres of power, the main actors being the pal-
ace, the army, the temples, specific services and departments within
the administration, and so on. Distance and difficult communications,
the multiplication of intermediary instances common in a mature
bureaucracy (with its inevitable corollaries of slowing down decision-
making processes, increasingly hampered circulation of authority,
not to mention conflicts between departments about competence)
must be also considered, as well as the multiplicity of de facto local
bases of power. All these aspects further increased the difficulty for
ancient states in exerting thorough control over their territories,
resources, and subjects. To overcome such difficulties, central powers
reacted by establishing new ways of authority implementation, per-
sonal, symbolic, and institutional, in order to cope with such potential
nuclei of disruption and alternative authority and to integrate them
within controllable structures in the kingdom, not excluding the use
of violence and the manipulation of the ideological principles underly-
ing the socially accepted notions of authority, prestige, and order.114 It
would naturally have been impossible to deal in detail with all these
elements which, in fact, underlie politics in Pharaonic Egypt, the effec-
tive use of authority and the limits in the exercise of power. Only when
institutional crises erupted or when exceptional documentary evidence
records conflicts, even divisions within the ruling elite, it may be pos-
sible to catch a glimpse of such phenomena, normally concealed under

J. Baines and N. Yoffee, “Order, Legitimacy, and Wealth in Ancient Egypt and
Mesopotamia,” in Archaic States, ed. G.M. Feinman and J. Marcus (Santa Fe, 1998),
199–260; J. Richards and M. van Buren, eds., Order, Legitimacy and Wealth in Ancient
States (Cambridge, 2000). Cf. also N. Yoffee, Myths of the Archaic State. Evolution of
the Earliest Cities, States, and Civilizations (Cambridge, 2005); J. Haldon, “The Otto-
man State and the Question of State Autonomy: Comparative Perspectives,” in New
Approaches to State and Peasant in Ottoman History (Library of Peasant Studies 10),
ed. H. Berktay and S. Faroqhi (London, 1992), 18–108; Haldon, “Review of I.M. Dia-
konoff ’s, The Paths of History (Cambridge: 1999),” Historical Materialism 14/2 (2006),
169–201; P.F. Bang, “Rome and the Comparative Study of Tributary Empires,” The
Medieval History Journal 6/2 (2003): 189–216.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3

the ‘other’ administration 1065

the rhetoric of official ideology.115 Nevertheless, by focusing instead in

certain selective aspects like patronage, factions, and informal paths
of circulation of influence and authority, I hope that the importance
of the ‘other’ administration may cast some light on the reality, limits,
and capacities of ancient Egyptian bureaucracy.

For a preliminary approach based on the role of the elite, see Moreno García
“Introduction. Élites et États tributaires,” 11–50, and the bibliography quoted there.

© 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV ISBN 978-90-04-24952-3