During the Age of the Pyramids, the King was a semi-divine figure, an embryo god, identified as "Son of the Sun". Despite this, at least one king was assassinated, and the Ancient Egyptians felt comfortable to tell stories about their rulers. King Khufu and the Magicians is one of the best. In this story, kings are presented as very human, with bad tempers and some foolish notions of their own importance.

The king was the focus for all efforts: religious, social, governmental or military.

Kings were the intermediaries between humans and the gods. Many of the king's duties were religious; he had to participate in the cult of many gods, and we often see him performing ceremonies. On earth, he was the nefer netjer - the good god. In statues and wall reliefs, he is the only human shown in company with the gods. Gods embrace him as a friend, and goddesses give him their milk. When he died, he joined the gods.

Egypt had been unified by warrior-kings, and each king, whatever his own aptitudes, had to be prepared to lead his men in battle. He was responsible for keeping Egypt safe from foreign enemies, and also from the forces of chaos which threatened to overwhelm the world of Law and Order. When we see pictures of kings fighting, dispatching prisoners, or even hunting in the desert, we may not be looking at reports of things the king actually at a particular time or place. Rather, these are images of the King fighting against Disorder. The king's most important task was to uphold Ma'at truth, justice, and the good order of the universe. As long as the king ruled in accordance with Ma'at, Egypt would be stable and prosperous.

In the Age of the Pyramids, royal sons often had serious responsibilities in the military, but the ability to raise men and organize their labour for huge construction projects was just as important. While a prince was learning the skills he'd need if he became king or vizier, he was also getting to know, personally, all of the important people of the land. His understanding of human nature was probably his most important skill.

Though some evidence suggests that kings seldom showed themselves to the common people, they were able to form close friendships with nobles, as Pepy I with Weni, and Pepy-nakht, also called Heka-ib, with young Pepy II.

Most pharaohs were the sons of the previous king, but from time to time the line of succession would be broken and a new family or dynasty would take over. Kings often had several wives and many children. With so many marriages between the royal children and the children of the high officials, it's hard to see sometimes why a particular man is considered to begin a ‘new dynasty.'

There was no term for queen. The Egyptian titles are King's Wife or King's Mother. Similarly, the people that modern books call princes and princesses have the titles of King's Daughter or King's Son in the hieroglyphs. During the Third and Fourth Dynasties, the highest officials, such as vizier, were royal sons. However, during the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, competence seemed as important as blood in attaining high office. Were there royal sons who did not become either kings or high officials? What did they do?

The term ‘pharaoh' comes from the Egyptian per -a'a, which meant ‘great house.' During the Old Kingdom, it was not used for the king.



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