Ancient Egypt Part 1

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Question1: Maintaining Ma’at by the Egyptian society

Egyptianspersonified the term “Ma’at” as the goddess, which was expectedto offer Egyptians with cosmic order that came into existence whencreation drove out chaos. Ma’at, according to the Egyptians,represents a female goddess who in turn symbolized balance andjustice (Simpson 6). The goddess has an ankh that symbolizes life.Ma’at stands or sits with wings spread and an ostrich featherplaced over the head. The ostrich feather symbolizes the existence oforder and balance that exist in Egypt. Egyptians used the word Ma’atto cover different notions, such as justice, order, and truth. Allthese phrases mean the opposite of evil, chaos, and lies.

Ma’atrepresents the most significant concepts in the state of Egypt. Ma’athad a deeper significance and meaning to the people of Egypt comparedto other states because the Egyptians had more urge to comprehend thebalance that existed in their world. The desire to understand thebalance was derived from the fact the culture of Egyptians revolvearound the idea of order, while many things (such as activities,religion, climate change, and governance) that define a society weredirectly linked to the world. Therefore, the social chaos thatoccurred in the world brought Ma’at or balance to Egyptiancommunity.

Egyptiansbelieved that the goddess had given all people the responsibility ofmaintaining balance and observing justice in their respectivecommunities. This responsibility lasted until an individual persondied, after which the preserved universe could be handed back toone’s created. Pharaoh, being the leader of the Egyptians, had theprimary responsibility of overseeing Egyptians and ensuring that theyplay their role of maintaining the balance, justice, and truth.Therefore, any King of Egypt served as the priest of the Ma’at.

TheEgyptians held that goddess Ma’at worked out her plans through theking, Pharaoh. In other words, Pharaoh’s chief responsibility wasto maintain universal harmony and balance in the state as per thewill of the goddess. However, individual kings were at liberty tointerpret the will of the goddess in a correct way and make thenecessary actions as they deemed right. The freedom of the king tointerpret and act upon the will of the goddess explains why Pharaoh’sleadership was characterized by warfare. This is because Pharaohsbelieved that warfare was among the key tools that could help themmaintain the balance and therefore, accomplish the will of thegoddess (Simpson 6). In addition, Pharaoh could also attack theneighboring communities if such an action could bring harmony inEgypt.

Theidea of balance, which was associated with goddess Ma’at, played acritical role even in life after death. Egyptians believed that ifthe heart of a dead person failed to balance with Ma’at on a scale,the dead person had failed to observe Ma’at’s principles ofjustice, order, and truth (Simpson 6). This is because the heart,according to Egyptians carried one’s thoughts and memory, whichmeans that it could be used to determine the compliance of the deadperson with the will of the goddess while during the lifetime. Heartsthat failed to balance with Ma’at were left to be devoured by thedevil. This narrative pressured Egyptians to observe desirable valuesof harmony, truthfulness, and justice.

Evolutionof the concept of writing in Egypt

Thehistory of the concept of writing in Egypt dates back to the periodbetween c 150-23 AD, when the hieroglyphic writing was discovered byClement of Alexandria. The term hieroglyphic was used to mean sacredwords. Egyptians called them the words of the gods. Hieroglyphicwords were first discovered in Egypt on ivory tags, bones,impressions of clay seals, and pottery vessels (Wimpson 108). Thepottery vessels were recovered from pre-dynamic burial sites in theregion of Abydos. The last of these discoveries was made in 394 Philae temple. Hieroglyphic writing got lost until the lateeighteenth century (1790) when Jean-Francisco made a script on theRosetta stone. Although the literature on the evolution of theconcept of writing in Egypt is quite limited, it is believed that theidea of using writings to express ideas by the Egyptians was borrowedfrom Mesopotamia.

Therole of magic in the lives of Egyptians

Egyptiansbelieved that magic could serve a similar role as sacrifices thatwere offered to the Egyptian gods or prayers made to different gods.Members of the Egyptian community were allowed to solicit the help ofmagicians whenever they needed to communicate with deceased personsor divine forces. The use of magic was a reliable way of getting theintervention of the supernatural powers since mortal beings had noother means of interacting with the supernatural power and the dead.Magic was considered to be sacred, which made it central to thereligious beliefs of the Egyptians. To this end, magic provided anopportunity for Egyptians to practice justice and overcome irrationalor the evil powers (Wimpson 108). Moreover, the Egyptians could usemagic to bring harmony between the dead and the supernatural powersby compelling the supernatural beings to accept with the wish of thedead.


Simpson,W. and Ritner, R. Theliterature of ancient Egypt: An anthology of stories, instructions,stelae, autobiography, and poetry.New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. Print.

Wimpson,T. Therise and fall of ancient Egypt.New York, NY: Random House. Print.