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The Bureaucracy


Vizier. The tjaty (vizier or prime minister) was the second most important political figure after the king. According to a text called The Duties of the Vizier, dating to either Dynasty 13 (circa 1759-1630 b.c.e.) or to the reign of Thutmose III (circa 1479-1425 b.c.e.), the vizier met daily with the king to report on affairs of state. He coordinated and supervised the king’s business. He probably also served as mayor of the capital city. The office of mayor was perhaps the original source of his power. Beginning in Dynasty 5 (circa 2500-2350 b.c.e.) there may have been two viziers, one for Lower Egypt and another for Upper Egypt.

Overseer of Royal Works. The Overseer of Royal Works was similar to a present-day U.S. Secretary of Labor. He was responsible for organizing labor for agriculture on the land that the king controlled directly and for royal building projects. In order to complete these tasks he had control over the work crew and the vast resources used to pay the workers, such as foodstuffs and clothing. This office existed in the Old Kingdom (circa 2675-2130 b.c.e.) and New Kingdom (circa 1539-1075 b.c.e.). In the Middle Kingdom (circa 1980-1630 b.c.e.) Senwosret (Sesostris) III (circa 1836-1818 b.c.e.) replaced it with the Office of the Provisions of the People.

Overseer of the Treasury. The Overseer of the Treasury collected, stored, counted, and disbursed commodities paid as taxes to the king. Many different products were included such as grains, vegetable oils, wood, metal, manufactured food, cloth, equipment, and weapons.

Overseer of the Granary. The Overseer of the Granary was closely linked with the treasury and was responsible for managing grain revenues. In some periods the Granary and the Treasury were combined in one department. This office must have been important because Egypt was an agrarian country.


Ronald J. Leprohon, “Royal Ideology and State Administration in Ancient Egypt,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, volume I, edited by Jack M. Sasson (New York: Scribners, 1995), pp. 273–287.

Jaromir Malek, “The Old Kingdom (c. 2686-2125 BC),” in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, edited by Ian Shaw (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 89–117.

William J. Murnane, The Penguin Guide to Ancient Egypt (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1983).

David O’Connor, “New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, 1552-664 BC,” in Ancient Egypt: A Social History, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, and others (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 183–278.

The Bureaucracy

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