Ancient Egypt was a fascinating and complex place. Luckily for historians, Egyptians had made great strides in record keeping which have made studying their culture and society easier than some previous historical eras. Ancient Egyptians were a people who were intensely religious, deeply divided by gender roles and a strong hierarchy, and quite advanced for their period in terms of their technological and economic innovations.
Egyptians were deeply religious, and religion played a role in nearly all aspects of their daily lives. When the ancient Egyptians experienced periods of peace and prosperity, they attributed credit for the success to their deities (Slaughter, 5). The Egyptians experienced centuries of remarkable stability and considered this state to be the ma’at, which was Egyptian for the “natural order” (Slaughter, 5). Even though they considered good order and balance in their society to be natural, it had to be protected by the pharaoh, who was considered to have been born mortal but imbued with godhood upon receipt of the throne, and was expected to be an earthly presence of the divine (Slaughter, 5). His religious standing gave the pharaoh a unique legal and authoritative position in ancient Egyptian culture. The pharaoh was expected to defend the nation, take responsibility for all administrative duties, declare all of the laws, and own all of the land (Slaughter, 5). For practical reasons, much of the pharaoh’s responsibilities were delegated to a bureaucracy (Slaughter, 5). Within this bureaucracy, staffed mostly by men, success was measured by the degree to which a person promoted order and prosperity within their stewardship (Slaughter, 5-6).
Ancient Egypt had a strong social hierarchy, where a small group of the population, mostly the male elders, formed an elite class that that tightly controlled the rest of society (Slaughter, 7). This hierarchy was rooted in a wide variety of economic, political, religious and social causes that imbued those in power with authority in almost all areas of society (Slaughter, 7). The nature of most economic and commercial activity at the time created great “wealth, power, and opportunities” for elite men, while putting other men and all women in a position of submission to or dependence on the elite (Slaughter, 7). The division of labor that arose based at first on survival needs created societal attitudes about the roles, attributes, and abilities of men and women (Slaughter, 7). Men were the rulers and hard laborers, while women were the family caretakers (Slaughter, 7).
The fertility and sexuality of a woman was her main contribution to...