Vizier (Ancient Egypt)

Vizier (Ancient Egypt)

The vizier was the highest official in Ancient Egypt to serve the king, or pharaoh during the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. [Ian Shaw, "The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt", p.95] . Vizier is the generally accepted rendering of ancient Egyptian "tjati", "tjaty" etc, among Egyptologists. [GardinerReference|page=p.43]


The vizier, appointed by the pharaoh, but often belonging to a vizierial family, supervised the running the country, at times even small details of it. All other lesser supervisors and officials, such as tax collectors and scribes, would report to the vizier. The judiciary was part of the civil administration and the vizier also sat in the High Court. However, at any time the king could exert his own control over any aspect of government, overriding the vizier's decisions.


Old Kingdom

The first viziers were close relatives of the pharaohs. The first known vizier is a certain Menka, belonging to the Second Dynasty. [P.Lacau/J. Ph. Lauer: "La pyramide à degrees V", Cairo 1965, 1-3, pl. 1; Peter Kaplony: "Die Inschriften der ägyptischen Frühzeit" Bd 1, Wiesbaden 1963, 488-89] The vizier Nefermaat was appointed by Sneferu, and was a son of the king's predecessor by a secondary wife. [Philip W. Goetz ed., "The New Encyclopaedia Britannica", Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc 1991, p.99] Kanefer, son of Snefru's wife Hetepheres, became Khufu's first vizier, while Khafra appointed family members Henutsen and Hemiunu, son of Nefermaat. [Nicholas Grimal, "A History of Ancient Egypt", p.68]

Middle Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, roughly between 2030 BC and 1635 BC.The period comprises two phases, the 11th Dynasty, which ruled from Thebes and the 12th Dynasty onwards which was centred around el-Lisht. These two dynasties were originally considered to be the full extent of this unified kingdom, but historians now [1] consider the 13th Dynasty to at least partially belong to the Middle Kingdom. In the 13th Dynasty there was the family of the vizier Ankhu in power. Ankhu was the son of a vizier and he was the father of two viziers, demonstrating that the office remained over three generations in one family. For the Second Intermediate Period several viziers are known under the Theban rulers, some of these viziers had strong connections to the local town Elkab. There are no viziers known from the Hyksos.

New Kingdom

In the New Kingdom, the pharaoh began to appoint two viziers, one for Upper and the other for Lower Egypt, each with his own bureaucracy. The vizier of the South seems to have had precedence over his northern colleague. During this period the administration of foreign countries was separated from the vizierate; [Katheryn A. Bard, "Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt", Routledge 1999, p.118] under Thutmose I the office of the "King's Son of Kush" was created to administer Nubia. [James Henry Breasted, "Ancient Records of Egypt", Part Two, Chicago 1906, §§ 55ff]

Ancient descriptions of the office of vizier

The "Instruction of Rekhmire", a New Kingdom text, defines many of the duties of the "tjaty", and lays down codes of behaviour [M. Lichtheim, "Ancient Egyptian Literature", vol.2, pp.21ff.]


External links

* [ The vizierate]

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