Ancient Egypt's Government: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jason Brunken

Jason is a certified teacher with a Masters in Educational Technology and over 12 years of classroom teaching experience.

Ancient Egypt was the longest lasting and most stable civilization in world history. At the center of that stability were the pharaohs, Ancient Egyptian kings who ruled as gods, and the other officials who helped them rule and build the amazing monuments that we can still see today.

God Kings!

Legend holds that Egypt was founded and first ruled by the gods themselves. Later, of course, a man sat as king of Egypt, but these men were considered gods on Earth because the 'spirit' of the gods were supposed to be inside the king.

Imagine, having the ruler before you be a god and then everyone in the kingdom thinking you are a god and expecting you to act like a god! So, how does a god act? In Ancient Egypt, a god acts like the Nile River, the center and lifeblood of all of its people: calm, benevolent, merciful, and just.

As you can imagine, the Ancient Egyptian concept of 'king' was very different than how we think of kings today. This is why the Egyptian kings were called pharaohs, which comes from the Egyptian word per-aa meaning 'palace'. Pharaohs had absolute power, meaning he had complete control of every aspect of the country.

Egyptian Pharaoh

By the Power of Heaven

Pharaohs ruled through divine right, the idea that someone (usually the king) has been chosen by god or the gods to rule the people. This belief made sure the king got to stay in power. After all, how can you, a lowly human, tell a god he is doing a bad job?

Of course, this was not an easy job. Pharaohs had many duties. They judged people's crimes, planned public works, managed the other government officials, and made all major decisions for the kingdom, like whether to go to war or not. This power also helped the pharaohs to get the people to build such massive tombs, like the pyramids, for them. I mean you wouldn't want an angry king sending a plague your way after death, now would you?

The King's Crew

You can't rule a large kingdom like Egypt by yourself. Pharaohs had many lesser officials that helped them rule the country. The most important of these were the viziers. Viziers were like American governors. They had control over one of the three parts of the country: Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt, and Nubia.

Each vizier had a set of officials who looked after different departments of the government, like collecting taxes, the army, the Royal Works, and more. These department officials helped do all of the tiny, but important jobs that a pharaoh didn't have time for, like collecting taxes and handling local matters.

Structure of the Ancient Egyptian government

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