In ancient Egypt there were many pharaohs throughout the centuries and while there are many scientists and archaeologists still trying to find out exactly how the Pharaohs lived, there are certain things that we know a Pharaoh did each day in keeping with the rules of ancient Egypt. Here is what a typical day in the life of a pharaoh would be like.
A bright and sunny day shines over Egypt. The pharaoh wakes among the highest amount of luxury you can imagine. He is in a bed with luxurious linens. His every whim is taken care of. When he wakes, this will be the only time in the entire day he will be on his own. The Pharaoh of ancient Egypt has a great many servants, officials and slaves who take care of every single thing he does during that day.
Once he is awake, his servants, including the one known as the Chief of Scented Oil and Pastes For Rubbing His Majesty’s Body will clean the Pharaoh from top to bottom and use special oils and pastes to ensure his good health and of course that he smells like a pharaoh. Once he is clean, he will be dressed in the finest of clothes and wears a great deal of jewellery. The jewellery he wore would tell those around him how incredibly rich and important he was.
Once he is clean and dressed he will walk into his audience chamber. This is where he holds his daily meetings. When a guest enters the room, they must prostrate themselves in front of the Pharaoh. He is after all the divine being of the ancient world and those that visit him are nothing but mere mortals. During these meetings the Pharaoh will meet with the ambassadors of foreign countries who wish to offer him tributes and gifts. There will also be military generals speaking with the Pharaoh about what the military of the country is doing. There may also be visits from the nobility of the country and in fact very important people from right around the empire.
Once the audience chamber is empty, the Pharaoh will go straight to the temple. Because he is the Pharaoh he must pray to the chief god who was known as Amen-Re. It may seem inconvenient, however if the Pharaoh does not do this his empire could possibly lose its entire divine order, this is also known as Maat. If he doesn’t pay tribute to Amen-Re then the empire could fall into chaos (known as Isfet) and the Pharaoh would be held responsible for this and would then no longer be a Pharaoh.
When the Pharaoh reaches the temple, the high priest will take him through the great temple and out to the sanctuary where the Pharaoh will enjoy cool air thick with incense. Once he is in the sanctuary he will approach the statue of Amen-Re. Here he will ask the questions he wishes to know the answers to and the high priest will give him these answers. Once the Pharaoh has finished with these questions he will be presented with a large bull. Once the prayers are finished a man known as the sacred butcher will cut the bull’s throat in a sacrificial gesture to the gods.
After this is complete, the Pharaoh will return to his palace for his midday meal. This is of course a feast that many mere mortals of Egypt could only imagine. He will then get into the royal chariot and enjoy a tour around his empire. Because this was a time in which photos did not exist, this was done so the Egyptians of the land could see their ruler and know what he looks like.
The Pharaoh is always surrounded by bodyguards and he will tour sites where new buildings are being built in his honor. It is up to the Pharaoh as to where and how these will be built and using the materials and décor he is wanting. He will also set taxes for the empire and in this way he ensures that he is kept in the style he accustomed to. Once this is complete he will go back to the palace and spend some time on his own. This can mean he sits with family and talks or he may wander the magnificent gardens that surround his palace.
During the late afternoon, the Pharaoh will return to the temple for a ceremony. The ceremony at this time of the day will mark the setting of the sun for that day. There are further prayers to be said and then he is able to take his leave of the temple.
He will then go back to his palace after this and enjoy an evening feast. When he is ready he will be cleaned and dressed ready for sleep. This is again done by his servants and once he is ready for his sleep they will take their leave. The bodyguards will remain at his door to ensure the pharaoh is kept safe at all times.
During the expansions of various empires in the Mediterranean different cultures spread out all over Europe, Northern Africa an the Middle East. Wherever these conquerors went they displaced the local rulers and governments and installed their own leaders in their stead. This led to many regions with distinctly different culture shifts. Even some of the largest and more developed cultures of the era did not escape this governmental and cultural shift, when generals such as Alexander occupied the region the local cultures were assimilated, such as when they folded much of Egypt into their rule.
In 332 BC Alexander the Great, King of Macedon invaded the region known as the Achaemenid satrapy of Egypt. He travelled to Memphis and visited the oracle there, who declared him a legitimate son of the god Amun. Alexander showed a great deal of respect for the Egyptian religion and the Egyptian empire soon accepted his rule. This lasted until Alexander’s death in Babylon in 323 BC. During the succession crises that followed Alexander’s death one of his generals Perdiccas ruled as regent for Alexander’s family and during this time he appointed Ptolemy as representative or satrap for the conquered Egyptian region. In 321 BC Ptolemy defended Egypt when Perdiccas attempted to re-conquer the region, which solidified his position as ruler. In 305 BC Ptolemy declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt and took the name Ptolemy I Soter or Ptolemy the Savior.
The Ptolemy rulers respected many Egyptian customs, both in worship and in ruling style. They did not seek to displace the local region, and in fact continued building great temples for the various Egyptian gods as they ruled. Unfortunately, with Ptolemy the second they also adopted one of Egypt’s less beneficial customs, the practice of rulers marrying their sisters in order to keep the family line pure. Unfortunately, this led to significant problems down the line, as the incestuous inbreeding meant that birth defects and mental dementia showed up increasingly frequently in the family line. The two often jointly ruled as well, so that both family members exerted equal influence. They also adopted the shared name tradition; all male rulers took the name Ptolemy, while all female rulers took the name Cleopatra.
It was the seventh ruler that most mean when they speak of the Egyptian Cleopatra. She ascended the throne as Pharaoh at the age of 18 and during her rule quickly increased Egyptian ties to the growing Roman Empire. Cleopatra the Seventh was famous for her numerous affairs with the leaders of that Empire. She seduced and bore a son from Julius Caesar in 47 BC and later, most famously, seduced and became the consort of Mark Antony after the split between Mark Antony and Octavian.
Unfortunately the alliance of Mark Antony and Cleopatra the Seventh turned out to be the end of the Ptolemy dynasty, as the Roman Senate quickly declared Cleopatra a sorceress, and accused her of using magic, drugs, or anything else to secure Antony’s loyalty, especially when they found his will which declared he wished to be buried in Alexandria. Octavian declared war on Cleopatra, and in 30 BC entered Alexandria and captured Cleopatra. How she committed suicide is still a matter of some debate, but most accounts say she used a poisonous snake to do the deed. With her death, there was no succession, as the Roman Empire declared Egypt a Roman Province, and under their rule.
There are thought to be three main stages of the Egyptian Predynastic period spanning from 5,500BC to 3,100BC:
The shift into the Predynastic period seemed to be a smooth transition, with cultural and domestic changes happening smoothly over time. Burial customs specifically seemed to take a great change – prior to the Predynastic period, the majority of burials were carried out near to or located inside a settlement, purely for convenience reasons. The change saw cemeteries move further away from civilization with the deceased no longer buried within their homes with the major reason thought to be of a fear of the dead and the instigation of beliefs that there was a life after death, a belief that would become much more widespread. At this stage, the deceased were buried with provisions that would prove useful in the next life.
The Chalcolithic period saw a spurt in crafting in the southern Badarian farmers and the northern Faiyum oasis dwellers. The creation of blades through stoneworking in particular became very popular along with furniture, both reaching levels that would see the creation of many artifacts that would stand the test of time. Such objects were created for both necessity for survival and also for aesthetics, with pottery being painted and decorated, figurines, tableware and jewelry all being created, standing the Egyptians as more advanced than most of the world as it was.
During the Amratian period, pottery saw a major change, previously being painted with simple colors and bands, but in the Amratian period around 4500 BC, geometric shapes and animals were being carved into the pieces. Dancer figurines made of clay, specifically those of women with upraised arms were created in this period, which were used purely for decoration only. Having said that, arguably the biggest change and creation in this Egyptian period was that of the to-be traditional rectangular clay brick houses that would later become standard in the Old Kingdom, again proving that the Ancient Egyptians were clearly much farther ahead of the rest of the world in terms of advancement.
Some 500 years later, Egypt moved into the Gerzean Predynastic period with the Northern Egyptians exerting their culture heavily onto the Egyptians in the south. Again, pottery was incredibly popular and saw a huge advancement with animals engraved on to the pieces designed, indicating that the Egyptians were moving away from the Nile due to the types of animals that existed on the pottery, for example Ostriches and Ibexes. More excitingly, the Gerzean period could have possibly been the first depictions of Gods, being shown as carrying standards in boats.
The transition from Predynastic to Dynastic was largely down to technological advancement as well as the early use of hieroglyphics, using pictures of animals and Gods to create stories on their pottery that would later become extremely symbolic in the modern world as we know it today.
A New Queen
Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, Egypt into a family with many siblings consisting of 3 sisters, Cleopatra VI, Berenice IV, Arsinoe IV and 2 brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. At the youthful age of 18, Cleopatra began her reign of the Egyptian empire following the death of her father, Ptolemy Auletes in 51 BC. She was to share the empire with her brother, Ptolemy XIII who was still a young boy at the age of 12 at the time. Egyptian law stated that Cleopatra was to be forced to have a consort throughout her reign and for it to be a brother or a son and so she married her younger brother Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra showed her dominance from an early age, dropping her husband’s name officially which was completely disregarding the Ptolemic way of the male being first in a period of co-ruling.
The young couple came into rule in the troubled times of the Ptolemy reign – having been forced to succumb to the Roman power that was sweeping the lands, the Ptolemies were allied with the Romans, however more and more of their land was to become known as Roman land and with it the Ptolemic strength fading. With the death of Ptolemy Auletes, it appeared that the Romans were on the brink of conquering Egypt, however Cleopatra was to resist the flood of the Romans.
Only 3 years into her reign along with her younger brother, Cleopatra was already raising eyebrows. History has it, for example, that she had mercenaries hired to kill the Roman Governor of Syria when he requested aid against the Parthians. Such actions were to be her undoing when a half-greek general, Achillas and a eunuch Pothinus, overthrew her from the throne and aided her younger brother to be the ruler with the pair becoming Ptolemy XIII’s council of regency. Cleopatra is thought to have fled to Thebaid as a result and her brother continued to turn the screw on his older sister by refusing any food shipments to any Egyptian city other than Alexandria.
Cleopatra and Caesar
In October of 48 BC, Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria having amassed an army of some 3,200 legionaires, 800 hundred cavalry and a dozen soldiers representing the Roman government who carried the Badge of Authority, signalling Caesar’s intentions that he was there to take over the rule of Egypt. Caesar was successful and shortly started to begin his reign over the Egyptian empire, with Ptolemy having fled to Pelusium.
Ptolemy’s eunuch, Pothinus brought the young ruler back to Alexandria with the intention of entering discussions with the Roman leader, however Cleopatra had already turned on her charm, being delivered to the Casear wrapped up in a carpet and unravalled in front of his very nose – they shortly became lovers which naturally enraged Ptolemy as he clearly understood Caesar’s intentions of making Cleopatra the sole ruler of Egypt.
The following month, the Alexandrian War broke out between Ptolemy and Caesar with Caesar defeating the young ruler’s 20,000 force of soldiers and killing Pothinus and Ptolemy drowning in the Nile whilst trying to flee the battle. His death meant Cleopatra was now the sole ruler of Egypt, as Caesar had planned, since he believed he could create a puppet of Rome in the Egyptian beauty. His future position in Egypt was strengthened with Cleopatra falling pregnant and giving birth to their son, Ptolemy Caesar on June 23, 47 BC.
Caesar’s actions of bringing Cleopatra back to Rome, along with Cleopatra’s arrogance and confidence riled the Roman people, specifically the Republicans. Acts such as declaring herself the new Isis, having a gold statue placed in the Roman temple of Venus Genetrix and Caesar’s plans of marrying Cleopatra despite her being married to her other brother Ptolemy XIV were to be the death of Casear, with an assassination attempt on his life by members of the Senate ending his life in March of 44 BC.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony
Cleopatra naturally fled Rome and returned to her native Egypt, to the capital of Alexandria. Here, she watched in earnest upon Rome as to who would likely be the successor to Julius Caesar – she felt her life and her family’s life was in grave danger. Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus in 41 BC where she would plan to seduce him with the luxuries that Egypt had to offer travelling dressed as Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Cleopatra knew full well of Antony’s weaknesses and planned to exploit them and as such dressed and behaved in a way so he wouldn’t be able to resist her allure.
Their relationship was short-lived, however and Mark Antony returned home in 40 BC shortly before Cleopatra gave birth to his twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, despite Mark Antony still being married. They were to renew their relationship however and Egypt’s economy boomed as a result, with Antony’s wife Octavia remaining by his side throughout the years. In 34 BC Cleopatra and Antony declared themselves the new Isis and Dionysus, with Ptolemy XV made co-ruler with his older sister and named as King of Kings and Cleopatra as Queen of Kings.
The End of Cleopatra
Antony committed suicide in 30 BC after being defeated in battle in Alexandria. As a result, Cleopatra was taken to Octavian who announced she was to be demonstrated as a slave in her own cities. Cleopatra could not see herself living this way and so ordered an asp be delivered to her to kill her, with her death being on August 12, 30 BC. She was 39 when passing away and would receive her dying wish of to not be forgotten, since it was believed that death from a snakebite would lead to immortality.
Many historians consider Egypt the birthplace of modern civilization. Other then perhaps the Chinese, the Nile Delta and Valley contain the most evidence of organized cultures, farming and history spanning thousands of years. Most historians concentrate on the Egyptian empire, the time of the Pharaohs for their studies, as an example of a a somewhat centralized society that is easy to recognize containing many of the ‘modern’ trappings of civilization. The people living in the Nile river valley did not always live under one unified rule though, there was a time during the Neolithic period where several cultures all lived and competed in that area, many of these cultures had their own distinct history and society.
Archaeologists found evidence for cultures living all along the Nile delta as early as approximately 6000 BC. There is little archaeological record before that, but around this period, it looks like settlements exploded all up and down the upper and lower Nile. Named the Fayaium A culture, this culture showed the first evidence of any kind of farming lifestyle, including weaving, and land cultivation. This culture, through current evidence, apparently did not have any particular taboos or qualms about living around their dead, as archaeologists found remains buried with and around the artifacts that indicated the borders of the various settlements. This may have been a practical solution, or another way to add some kind of fertilizer to the soil.
Various other cultures flourished in Lower Egypt over the course of the Neolithic period. These cultures showed varied and vast differences in styles, and technological levels. Three main communities appeared over this period, including the Medimde, the El Omari, and the Maadi cultures, though each had their own cultures. The Medimde and the El Omari used stone tools during this period, though the Medimde kept animals, and apparently produced basic ceramics, while the El Omari continued living with more basic pottery, with little decoration evident during that period. The El Omari showed a higher level of technology, as they produced simple bronze tools, and this is the first culture in lower Egypt that buried their dead in organized cemeteries.
Upper Egypt hosted several other cultures that eventually developed into the Dynastic civilization most well known by archaeologists. From 6000BC to approximately 3000BC the upper Nile hosted the Tasian, Badarian, Naqada, Amyatian and the Gerzean cultures. Many similarities appeared in these cultures over time, which potentially contributed to their eventual aggregation into one culture. They shared similar styles of pottery creation and decoration, these cultures moved from reeds and temporary structure building to clay brick and more permanent structures, they went from stone tools to metals of various kinds, and these cultures also started the tradition of interring their dead into tombs separate from the main community. The cultures that developed in the upper Nile area during the Neolithic period became the core of the Egyptian culture that is familiar to us.
The Nile valley’s Neolithic period was a period of development and growth for one of the major cradles of civilization in the Middle East. Multiple cultures appeared in both Upper and Lower Egypt, with varying technological levels, societies and levels of cultivation and farming. These cultures formed the core of a society that had a lasting impact on the entire region, and we are still discovering more about them thousands of years later.