Slavery in Egypt

Egypt has had a long history of slavery. From the earliest pharaonic times to the present, slavery has existed in various forms. Slaves were obtained from several sources. Many slaves were war captives, returned with the Pharoah as a living monument to his glory. Other slaves were obtained as tribute from subject nations (see pic of Nubian slaves), sentenced to servitude for crime, or purchased for other uses. Amenhotep III ordered forty girls from Milkilu, a Canaanite prince, paying 40 kit of silver for each. The order survives:

“Behold, I have sent you Hanya, the commissioner of the archers, with merchandise in order to have beautiful concubines, i.e. weavers; silver, gold, garments, turquoises, all sorts of precious stones, chairs of ebony, as well as all good things, worth 160 deben. In total: forty concubines – the price of every concubine is forty of silver. Therefore, send very beautiful concubines without blemish.”

In ancient Egypt, some slaves appeared to have been assigned to farms and were tied to the land. Large numbers of captive slaves were donated to the temples. Others served in the houses of the wealthy or worked in the mines. Debtors and their children could be sold to discharge an unpaid debt. Children born to slaves were slaves, however, changes in status were possible. Records exist documenting the marriage of former slaves to relatives of their owners, even instances of slaves being made heirs to their masters have been discovered.

Rita’s Note: When researching this post, I discovered numerous references that asserted that slavery, as we know it, did not exist in Egypt—even claims that there were no documentation of slavery inEgypt. This rewriting of history is not uncommon and is the subject of my post (Rewriting History) at the The Writers Vineyard on Monday, Feb 6. Check it out at:    Tomorrow, Slavery in Rome. Rita Bay


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2 responses to “Slavery in Egypt

  1. Very interesting. Slavery in any form is just wrong but it seems it used to be look upon as a way of life. Sad.

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