Crime in Ancient Egypt

 Egyptians were courteous, law-abiding people. Society was generally orderly and peaceful. Men and women were treated equally according to Egyptian law and custom. So were the members of different social classes. Egyptian law was based on custom, tradition, and  ma’at. An offense against law and order was an offense against  ma’at. Laws covered crimes, arguments about land, business deals, wills, property transfers, and arrangements made for the eternal care of tombs. 

Crime in Ancient Egypt
 
 Legal arguments could be complex. One such case about land ownership among several generations of a feuding wealthy family went on for decades; there were many trials overseen by a series of viziers. All judgments were made in the king’s name. There were no profes- sional lawyers. Trials were speedy and punishments were swift. Impris- onment was considered expensive and unproductive. Prisons were only used as courthouses, storehouses for legal records, and to hold prison- ers who were waiting for their trial. 
 
Crime in Ancient Egypt
 
For serious offenses, a criminal would have his nose or ears, or both, cut off. He might also be sentenced to hard labor in the mines of Nubia, or be sent to a faraway frontier fort. Disgrace and banishment were considered worse than death. For lesser crimes, beatings and whippings were common. Occasionally, an entire family was punished for a relative’s crime. The death penalty was rare. It had to be approved by the king and was reserved for only the most horrible crimes. 
 
Children who killed their parents faced especially terrible deaths, such as being eaten alive by crocodiles. A merciful king might allow a condemned criminal to commit suicide. While this all may sound harsh to us today, Egypt’s laws and punish- ments were generally less cruel than those of most other ancient cultures.
 
 



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