Pharaoh – Egyptian King or Queen – Government in ancient Egypt

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Amenemhet III, Egyptian pharaoh (like an Egyptian king)

Amenemhet III, Egyptian pharaoh (Egyptian king)

Pharaoh: an Egyptian king or queen

The Egyptian Pharaoh (FARE-oh) owned all of Egypt, and everything in it: all the land, all the tools, all the animals, and all the people. He or she could tell anybody what to do, and they would have to do it. The Egyptian government was a monarchy. The Pharaoh was like a king or queen.

What does “monarchy” mean?
Other articles about Ancient Egypt

Of course the Pharaoh could not always be telling everybody what to do. So the Pharaohs chose people to represent them – nomarchs – and assigned the nomarchs (NO-marks) to big estates all over Egypt. These rich men and women ran the estates, and on them they could tell everybody what to do.

Who could be pharaoh?

Mostly, the Egyptian pharaoh (the Egyptian king or queen) was the son or daughter of the pharaoh who had just died. You inherited power from your father or mother. But sometimes, the pharaoh died without any children, or a different family decided to try to get power. Sometimes there was a civil war. Then another family might start a new dynasty. From the beginning to the end of ancient Egypt, there were more than twenty different dynasties. But all of the pharaohs, even the outsiders, came from rich, powerful families.

Ancient Egyptian granite statue of the pharaoh Hatshepsut - a woman

The pharaoh Hatshepsut (about 1500 BC)

Egyptian pharaohs and taxes

But even the rich people were supposed to do whatever the Pharaohs said to do, and they had to send the Pharaohs some of the food that was grown on that land. Some, at least, of these estate-holders were priests, holding the estate for the gods, but these religious estates were run in the same way, and they also had to pay some food to the Pharaohs.

Find out more about Egyptian religion

Rich people fought against the pharaoh

When the Pharaohs were weaker, especially in the First and Second Intermediate Periods, sometimes they could not make the rich people do what they wanted them to. Often the Pharaoh had to compromise with the rich people. But at least in theory, the rich people had to do whatever the Pharaoh said, and ordinary people had to do whatever the rich people said.

What happened in the First Intermediate Period?

Did you find out all about Egyptian pharaohs and Egyptian government? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing: Building a Pyramid
Old Kingdom Egypt
Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Bibliography and further reading about the government of ancient Egypt:

Or check out this pharaoh article from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

More Egyptian history
And more about ancient Egypt
More about Africa home

By |2018-11-19T07:42:09+00:00June 14th, 2017|Africa, Egypt, Government|14 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Pharaoh – Egyptian King or Queen – Government in ancient Egypt. Study Guides, June 14, 2017. Web. January 21, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. kathrin November 27, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

    this helps me alot to learn about egypt

  2. idk November 26, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

    …………………………………..what ???????????????????????

    • dogs like cookies December 2, 2018 at 8:41 am

      Same i don’t get it either!?

    • Karen Carr December 2, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      You’ll need to ask specific questions; then I can help to answer them.

  3. taehyung November 19, 2018 at 7:34 am - Reply

    what is egypt’s government like? also stream bts idol

  4. Manasvi November 14, 2018 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Does this website tell if the pharaoh is the king or not.

    • Karen Carr November 18, 2018 at 8:11 pm

      Well, I can tell you: yes, the pharaoh is often also called the king. In fact, people really didn’t start to call him the pharaoh until the New Kingdom. Before that, they called him the king (only in Egyptian).

  5. idk November 13, 2018 at 2:05 pm - Reply


  6. Kaitlyn Maria Glendinning October 11, 2018 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Can you see if this website has anymore information about Egyptian Government?

  7. bob September 18, 2018 at 9:27 am - Reply


    • Karen Carr September 18, 2018 at 10:18 am

      No, bob, you didn’t find what you wanted? Go ahead and ask your question here, and we’ll answer it!

  8. […] and knowledge of ship-building with them to Carthage. Around 600 BC, according to Herodotus, the Pharaoh of Egypt sent a Phoenician fleet of ships to sail around Africa. It’s possible that they […]

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