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Ancient Egypt was divided into small districts called nomes. The segregation of Egypt into different nomes occurred before the dynastic period. Egypt was made up of 42 individual nomes, each governed by a nomarch. The nomarch's gained more and more individual power, and by the end of the Old Kingdom nomarchs possessed individual rule over their nome. The early half of the Middle Kingdom marked the beginning of a shift from individual power of the nomarch back to the overseeing of the king. The nomarch was selected by heredity during the Old and Middle Kingdom, but during the Twelveth Dynasty much of the nomarch's individual power was taken away and nomarchs were appointed by the king. The nomes were completely overseen by the main government of Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the unsupervised rule of the nomarch came to an end.

The nomarch had such duties as collecting taxes from his district, overseeing local courts and judicial systems, and orchestrating projects and work on different jobs within the nome. The nomarch's even had their own armies that they commanded during the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.  However, they did have to supply some of their men to the central army of the king.

This division into nomes was a effective way to govern such a large mass of land and such a large body of people in the Old Kingdom. The nomarch's did progressively take their toll on Ancient Egypt and the central government though. The periodic shift of nomarch's from nome to nome was phased out as the role of the nomarch was replaced by hereditary factors. The only nomarchs of a specific nome were those of rich families that possessed the power of a nomarch for a long period of time. This stationary growth of power took the power of the central government away and the nomes and they began to become decentralized from one another. One obvious sign of this is the moving of nomarch's burial sites from the Egyptian capital, Memphis, to their nome where they had rather extensive tombs. King Sesostris III regained the power for the centralized government by eliminating the hereditary system of nomarchs during the Twelve Dynasty. The nomarchs still existed but they were under close supervision and were more faithful to the centralized government.


Nomes of Ancient Egypt, 11/5/2002

Dr. Hawass, Zahi, The HLLA Reference Library, 11/5/2002

James T. G. H., Pharaoh's People, The Bodley Ltd., London; 1984

Cottrell Leonard, Life Under the Pharaohs, Holt,Rinehart & Winston, New York; 1960

Silverman David P., Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, New York; 1997

David Rosalie, Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt, Facts on File Inc., New York; 1998

Written by Mitch Oachs, 2002 

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