Travel Impressions III

Seth

III.

There seems to be no break in the dynastic line between the IV and V dynasty. Sahure and Userkaf could be the children of Shepseskaf, although it is also possible that Userkaf was in fact the son of Princess Neferhetepes, daughter of Djedefre and some high priest of Heliopolis. In any case the essential fact is that, Heliopolis recovers again its influence, and the kings of Dynasty V  do not try to supplant to Ra, as Cheops did it, but now appear as their fervent followers, hereinafter: Ra, Hathor and King formed a divine triad. The confrontation existing from Shepseskaf, among the priests of Ra and those of Ptah, it was resolved in favor of Heliopolis, because the Memphite priests appear carrying a title like servants of Ra.

The solar cult acquire hegemony over other religions. The temple of Ra, who as creative consciousness, does not need a house as the other gods, because its liturgy is held outdoors, is really a large terrace with an altar, behind which stands a pyramid truncated from which emerges an obelisk.

During the V Dynasty, the kings donated lands from their own assets to the temples and with those, the priests come to enrich themselves, perhaps to ensure their loyalty, King Neferirkare also granted tax exemptions for the temples, a privilege that ultimately will cost expensive to the crown. The clergy will establish as a new social class, consisting of the hereditary nobility, the “Iry Pat”, the princes, the “Rekh nisut” , who are the relatives of the king, and the “Imakhu”, the faithful. Also the vizier, who is the most senior civil, will adquire the title of Iry Pat, which makes him comparable to the children of kings, I imagine that to support their absolutist policy, the kings of V dynasty  were forced to make big concessions. A new type of worker appears, the “perpetual servants” who work in a regime of semi-slavery, although probably many of them, given the circumstances, live significantly better than many free men, as the small landowners outside the nobility, that could not compete with the princes and their amazing real perks.
To cover the enormous costs arising from the luxury of the Court, of the worship and the big constructions, was put in place a new administrative model.The forty-two prefectures (nomos) that make up the country, in administrative matters were reduced to two, the Upper and Lower Egypt, governed by two “directors”.Besides Upper Egypt was in turn split into two, Upper Egypt predominantly agricultural, and the “new towns” from the  Middle Egypt, infested of merchants. At the same time, step by step, the nomos will be feudalise, with the approval or consent of the monarchy. Since the reign of Sahure specifically, the prefecture of Un (Hermopolis Magna) is given to the family of Serefenka in a hereditary way . Must see this fact perhaps, the distancing that had emerged between royalty and the common people and the need of the monarchy to be linked to an elite increasingly bulging, created at that purpose.

The solar theology , so closely linked to the royalty, will see decreasing its influence in the country proportionately to the decline of the control of the king, so that over time, the nomos will resurrect their own local cults to the detriment of the solar worship .  Appear in that moment the famous “Texts of the Pyramids “, dating back to the Predynastic period, filling the walls of the pyramid of Unas, an archaic trend that reflects the social crisis that represents the boom of the aristocracy and oligarchy, in front of the fall of religion solar and the monarchy, indeed after the death of Unas, his successor Teti, founder of the VI dynasty, came to power thanks to the aristocracy and oligarchy. Really the priests, transformed into princes, will be those that now will govern effectively their nomos, in fact, during the reign of Pepi I, the”nomarch”of Un carries the title of Hatia, hitherto reserved for the vizier and viceroys of Nekhen. At the end of the reign of Pepi I, almost the entire Upper Egypt is in the hands of princes whose office is from hereditary nature and at the same time, they are the great priests of the local god.

The son of King Pepi I, Merenre despite his youth, aware of what was coming over, he tried to curb the power of the feudal princes, placing them under the magnifying glass of a man of his confidence, Uni, who  will take the responsability of the justice which was had split into the High Justice (only for the noble), whose power still retained the king, and the Baja Justice, in the hands of the prince of nomos.

Merenre had still certain military power, thanks to the bands of nubians that the King Teti had brought in order to ensure a minimum enough, since the military staff used to be harvested in the nomos and the princes could be reluctant.

The control of income tax, the only economic resource of the king, so small because of the immunities of the temples, also was entrusted to Uni, obviously the king had no trust about the good willingness of the “nomarchs”. King Merenre dies in an unexpected way, fortunately(?)for the feudal princes, and is his brother Pepi II who accesses the crown with just five years old.During the ninety years of his reign, is consummated the collapse of the Ancient Empire. At the end of his reign the own King will do an attempt to regain power, declaring void all the tax immunities granted during the last two hundred years, but the damage in the economic and social situation was so serious and so ridiculous the influence of such decrees, which was forced to unsay.

Given the weakness and disruption of the royal army , the borders of the delta were perfectly transparents to the Eastern tribes who invaded the territory, and were installed around the cities, replacing in many cases to the local workforce. Groups of “Asiatics archers” looted  the cities of the delta at intervals, until reaching the Upper Egypt, as a result of these permanent assaults, trade was paralyzed, the fields were abandoned and people had lost their jobs were revolted. Rural areas came to be highly insecure and in all cities including the capital itself, Memphis, was formed such uproar that would not leave puppet with head: the title deeds of the nobility disappeared, most of rich people were despoiled completely, with the support of the petty bourgeoisie and the staff of the civil service. During this period the aristocracy had to beg  work to those who were their servants. Merenre II, after a year of his reign, will disappear dragged out by a mob of insurgents. The centralized monarchy finally succumbed in the North, where cities would prosper again now  as independent bourgeois republics, while in the South, the feudal princes would fight for the sovereignty.

Now beginning a chaotic period which presents a confusing political landscape, actually known as the first interim period, during which three dynasties coexist simultaneously, in Memphis we have the VII dinasty of what Manetón says that, seventy kings reigned for seventy days, in the other hand, it is find the VIII dinasty with NeferKauhor Neteribau in Abidos, a mere puppet of the prince Shemai from Koptos and finally the IX dinasty with Meribre Kheti I,at Heracleopolis. Dynasty VIII disappears without trace after Demedjibtaui Uadjkare, the successor of Neferkauhor. The independent republics of the cities in the delta and the new towns of middle Egypt, accept the authority of the king Kheti once it reinforced the borders with the support of their own urban militias, but the feudal South rise their weapons against the X heracleopolitan dynasty. In its effort to regain control of the territory, Neferkare of Heracleopolis would push to his ally the prince Hetep of Hierakompolis (Nekhen) and then the son of this, Ankhtifi, to attack the prince Khui of Edfu, an ally of the prince  Antef of Thebes. Ankhtifi obedient, resulted victorious and as new Prince of Edfu, then attacked Thebes, allying with the prince of Elephantine. While at beginning did not seem to have gone wrong, the war suffered a slowdown because of a widespread famine that struck the country, after which we do not know how,  is the king of Thebes Antef who is presented as a founder of the dynasty XI, who face directly with Neferkare of Heracleopolis. Both Neferkare and Antef died the same year, 2120 before the current era.

Text  of  Weni (Uni).