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The vizier, or tjaty, was the king’s top government official. He was the  king’s eyes and ears, his right-hand man, his enforcer, and his chief advisor. The vizier enjoyed enormous personal wealth, prestige,  and power, but he also carried  heavy burdens of responsibility. He consulted with the king  every day about major issues and  decisions. He planned the king’s  schedule, hired and fired royal  household staff, and supervised  the king’s bodyguards.

As manager of all the official records, he  inspected and approved government documents, issued receipts  from royal storehouses and granaries, and sent out palace messengers and diplomats. As acting  chief justice of the courts, he  judged arguments over land. He  oversaw the cattle census.  Every few months, the vizier  toured the country. He inspected  canals, reservoirs, and dams. He  supervised cutting down trees and building ships. 
 
Ancient Egyptian officials
 
He made sure  the border forts were well-supplied and secure. He organized  defenses against border raids. No  wonder Rekhmara, vizier of Eighteenth Dynasty king Tuthmosis  III, was known to wake up before  dawn and wander the streets of  Thebes!  The vizier supervised a personal staff of scribes, assistants,  couriers (people who carry messages), guards, and stewards (people who manage a household or property). 
 
Many kings had two viziers one for Upper Egypt and one for  Lower Egypt. In the early dynasties, the vizier was usually a relative of  the king. The job could be passed from father to son, but only in cases of ability and merit. Kings were advised to appoint only very rich men  as viziers, because they were less likely to be tempted by bribes. Some viziers were also architects, doctors, and astronomers. One  of the most famous, Imhotep, was vizier to Third Dynasty king Djoser.  
 
Imhotep was a brilliant architect. He designed Djoser’s Step Pyramid.  He was the first to make large buildings entirely of stone. Imhotep was  also famous as a doctor, mathematician, astronomer, magician, statesman, and wise man. He was credited with inventing the calendar. In  later years, he was worshipped as a god and was considered to be a son  of Ptah, the god of arts and learning. Like modern bureaucrats, viziers loved to add employees to their departments. 
 
Reporting to the vizier were several sub-viziers, cabinet  officers, and department heads. The chief steward, master of the horse,  scribe of the recruits, and superintendent of works also reported to the  vizier. So did the nomarchs governors of Egypt’s 42 districts (called  nomes).  The chancellor (known as director of the seal) oversaw taxes, trade,  and economic affairs. Overseers of the treasury looked after raw materials, tribute, loot, and raw materials such as metals. 
 
Overseers of the  granary managed the harvesting and storage of crops. Egypt’s government had many layers. It was bureaucratic, and very  expensive to run. It collected heavy taxes and spent a lot. Huge departments in charge of farming, granaries, taxes, borders, trade, health,  the army, shipbuilding, foreign diplomacy, law—had branch headquarters in Upper and Lower Egypt. Each had many sub-departments and  regional offices. 
 
Regional officials working throughout Egypt and in conquered  provinces reported to the vizier. One of the most powerful regional  officials was the viceroy of Nubia. He ran conquered Nubia, oversaw  military forces and border forts, and kept the southern trade routes  open. He commanded a large bureaucracy and ruled independently,  far from the king’s eye. This job was usually passed from father to  son. 
 
Egypt was divided into 42 nomes: 22 in Upper Egypt, 20 in Lower  Egypt. Throughout Egypt’s history, the nomes were the basic administrative units of government. Nome boundaries were ancient, and nomarchs  were the descendants of Predynastic tribal chieftains. The nomarch was  governor, chief judge, and high priest of the local god or goddess. Each  town or city had a Council of Elders that reported to the nomarch.
 
 

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