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Question about Egyptian slavery

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Question about Egyptian slavery
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LallapalalableUser avatarPosts: 1205Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:35 pmLocation: That place between childhood and adulthood Gender: Male

Post Question about Egyptian slavery

Ive heard here and there that those who built the pyramids werent slaves, but laborors doing the work voluntarily. Im not sure how accurate the sources, so I figured I would ask.

I did have an off topic idea, from that I hear this as testament to how slavery in biblical days wasnt that bad, and they werent all bad off justifying slavery in the bible. It goes that those who worked on the pyramids were slaves, but because they were on the government's tab they were treated well enough, as slaves go. Im also assuming that far more slaves of that day were in private ownership, and life just sucked balls.

And even if the pyramid builders werent slaves, it still must have been a horrible, horrible job that you still had to do because, well, pharaoh said so.
"I'm not stupid, I just have a command of thoroughly useless information." Watterson
Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:07 pm
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lrkunUser avatarPosts: 3831Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:37 pmLocation: R. Gender: Tree

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery



What do you think?
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Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:16 pm
RichardMNixonUser avatarPosts: 1047Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:45 pmLocation: USA Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

I'm not qualified to answer about Egypt, but as for the "slavery wasn't so bad back then," argument, I always reply with these:

Exodus 21: 20-21 wrote:And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

It's ok to beat your slave to death as long as he/she clings to life for a day or two after the beating. A day, or two, really, god's not picky.

Luke 12:47-48 wrote:TAnd that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

Jesus says only punish them lightly if they mess up by accident. If they mess up on purpose though, beat the snot out of them.
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Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:19 pm
Ibis3User avatarPosts: 121Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:29 pmLocation: Clarington, Ontario, Canada Gender: Female

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Lallapalalable wrote:Ive heard here and there that those who built the pyramids werent slaves, but laborors doing the work voluntarily. Im not sure how accurate the sources, so I figured I would ask.

I did have an off topic idea, from that I hear this as testament to how slavery in biblical days wasnt that bad, and they werent all bad off justifying slavery in the bible. It goes that those who worked on the pyramids were slaves, but because they were on the government's tab they were treated well enough, as slaves go. Im also assuming that far more slaves of that day were in private ownership, and life just sucked balls.

And even if the pyramid builders werent slaves, it still must have been a horrible, horrible job that you still had to do because, well, pharaoh said so.


I studied history at uni, and took quite a bit of classical history (though my period of specialty was Late Roman, early Medieval). What I remember being told at the time was that it was believed that the builders of the pyramids were free Egyptians who were required to put in a certain amount of labour each year to the state (i.e. Pharaoh). In other words, instead of paying taxes in money or in kind, they paid in man-hours.

It will be interesting to see if they can map the genomes of any of these remains to see if we can figure out where they came from.

Why would pyramid building have been any worse a job than any other construction project before the industrial revolution?

Oh, and slavery is slavery. You might be lucky and end up with a kind owner, but you're still a piece of property and that in itself is bad.
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Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:44 pm
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Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

I've heard the same thing. The Nile only floods once a year which means that the Egyptian farmers needed something to do in the off-season and so big construction projects became feasible. Like the AP video said, the labourers were paid in bread and beer which were made from the cereals they grew on their farms.
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Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:01 am
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DepricatedZeroChat ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 1333Joined: Fri May 28, 2010 11:43 amLocation: Cincinnati, OH Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

There is some question as to the authenticity of the claim that there were Jewish slaves. The bible is clearly making shit up and didn't do the research on this one.

Exodus is "believed" to have happened prior to 1400bc, while there is no evidence of Jews in Egypt earlier than 650bc.

I've heard the same concept about labor tax in regards to construction of the pyramids. Basically, instead of paying money as tax you donated time or land. As I understand it, Egyptians were pretty good to their slaves, in general - treating them more as one might a paid servant.
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Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:23 pm
NautyskinPosts: 252Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:29 am Gender: Tree

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Aught3 wrote:Like the AP video said, the labourers were paid in bread and beer which were made from the cereals they grew on their farms.

It didn't actually say that, though. It said the beer and bread were for the workers in the afterlife, which is a fair assumption. I don't know that that could be construed to mean it was also what they were paid. Perhaps, as certainly looks the case due to the pyramids being built in the first place, that someone passing into the afterlife were something to be especially celebrated. Looking at the find with this view in mind would point to the bread and beer being, perhaps, greater than anything they'd received while alive.
Religion: Giving people hope in a world torn apart by religion.
Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:40 pm
Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Nautyskin wrote:It didn't actually say that, though. It said the beer and bread were for the workers in the afterlife, which is a fair assumption. I don't know that that could be construed to mean it was also what they were paid. Perhaps, as certainly looks the case due to the pyramids being built in the first place, that someone passing into the afterlife were something to be especially celebrated. Looking at the find with this view in mind would point to the bread and beer being, perhaps, greater than anything they'd received while alive.
Bread and beer were their basic food stuffs. You've got to keep your workers fed if you want to keep them building.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Sun Aug 15, 2010 12:01 am
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NautyskinPosts: 252Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:29 am Gender: Tree

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Aught3 wrote:Bread and beer were their basic food stuffs.

Okay. I don't know the history of Egypt, really, at all, so am learning this stuff for the first time, so when I saw you say:

Aught3 wrote:Like the AP video said, the labourers were paid in bread and beer

I knew they didn't say that in the clip.

So their workers continually just drank beer? I've worked physical labor jobs with people who have been drinking beer. They aren't all that productive :lol:
Religion: Giving people hope in a world torn apart by religion.
Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:53 pm
Anachronous RexLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 2008Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:07 pmLocation: Kansas City, MO Gender: Male

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Nautyskin wrote:
Aught3 wrote:Like the AP video said, the labourers were paid in bread and beer

I knew they didn't say that in the clip.

So their workers continually just drank beer? I've worked physical labor jobs with people who have been drinking beer. They aren't all that productive :lol:

It would have been watered down. A great many ancient peoples (and even some less ancient ones) added alcohol to their water to prevent disease.

Although they couldn't have known it at the time, even a fairly small amount of alcohol will kill quite a variety of bacteria and parasites. They would have picked up on the results of this fairly quickly.



As an interesting side-note, the Egyptians also invented straws. This is probably due to the fact that their water and beer supplies were none-too-clean, and they wanted to avoid ingesting any large particles.
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Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:05 pm
BoundToTellUser avatarPosts: 13Joined: Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:33 pmLocation: Georgia, US Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Well, in Ancient Egypt, you have the ma'at, which essentially would amount to a strict social order. This concept was personified as a god, but that distinction is made just for clarity. The ma'at was the embodiment of the incredible conservative nature of the civilization. In this order, no one was supposed to be without work. So, to elaborate and clarify both on what I've said and on what others have posted, I'm going to quote a passage from Charles Van Doren's, "A History of Knowledge."

Egyptian agriculture was efficient and fruitful partly because of the fertile soil the great river brought down each year. Consequently, there was usually a surplus of labor. According to the Eyptian interpretation of social order [ma'at], no one should be idle, and so the surplus was used for immense construction projects. The building of the Great Pyramids during a four-hundred-year span from about 2700 to about 2300 B.C. would tax modern abilities, yet the Egyptians did not even have metal tools which to work the stone (their knives and chisels were made of obsidian, a black volcanic glass). Daunting as were the physical challenges, the economic ones surpassed them. And the army of workers, who for the most part were not slaves, appears to have labored willingly.


Essentially, it was essentially cultural. It's not so much as working because the Pharaoh said so, but rather because the ma'at demanded it. It's more akin to a call of duty than slavery, though, I think it seems to be fairly similar. The key difference is that the people within the culture were largely willing to keep everything the way it is. Ancient Egypt was intensely conservative. Not often does one see greater adherence to the rule, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If the civilization was functioning and strong, then there was no need to change anything. This attitude is probably one of my favorite things about Ancient Egypt, as it represents a bit of a polar opposite to me due to my questioning everything.

I hope that's helped a bit, as I said, to elaborate and clarify.
"I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it." - Herodotus, 'Father of History'

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Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:59 pm
Doc.User avatarPosts: 642Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:14 pm

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

[quote="Anachronous Rex"] It would have been watered down. A great many ancient peoples (and even some less ancient ones) added alcohol to their water to prevent disease.
[quote]

And how does adding water to beer prevent disease? I thought they just did that because it killed thirst more effectively, and of course it got you less drunk.
Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:34 am
BoundToTellUser avatarPosts: 13Joined: Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:33 pmLocation: Georgia, US Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Doc. wrote:And how does adding water to beer prevent disease? I thought they just did that because it killed thirst more effectively, and of course it got you less drunk.


While my field of study is definitely not ancient history, I think it might be more appropriate, given what Rex said about alcohol killing bacteria, to view it as "beer-ed up" water, instead, if this is indeed the case. Either way, all three effects are achieving. The drink has less disease causing agents, it quenches thirst more effectively, and they're not so drunk that they can't work or do whatever it is that needs to be done.
"I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it." - Herodotus, 'Father of History'

YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/BoundToTell
Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:18 am
LallapalalableUser avatarPosts: 1205Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:35 pmLocation: That place between childhood and adulthood Gender: Male

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Ibis3 wrote:Why would pyramid building have been any worse a job than any other construction project before the industrial revolution?

I probably projected my own distaste of physical labor onto one of the biggest construction projects in history right there :lol:

Ibis3 wrote:Oh, and slavery is slavery. You might be lucky and end up with a kind owner, but you're still a piece of property and that in itself is bad.


But yes, that is what I was getting at. As you said, their tax system required time or land to be temporarily donated, so the poor, with no money or land, had to do physical labor whether they wanted to or not. But I also guess that having a steady job and food supply was downright awesome for the poor in those days, so it could be construed a number of ways.
"I'm not stupid, I just have a command of thoroughly useless information." Watterson
Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:17 pm
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Anachronous RexLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 2008Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:07 pmLocation: Kansas City, MO Gender: Male

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

Doc. wrote:
Anachronous Rex wrote: It would have been watered down. A great many ancient peoples (and even some less ancient ones) added alcohol to their water to prevent disease.


And how does adding water to beer prevent disease? I thought they just did that because it killed thirst more effectively, and of course it got you less drunk.

It doesn't, but adding beer to water does, and they would have done so with virtually all the water they drank.

They would have still drunk pure beer on special occasions, of course, but for most of the year it would have been important to ration the supply. The Nile is a very large river, and a lot of things poop in it; If you run out of beer you effectively run out of clean water.
Our prefrontal lobes are too small. Much too small. That's a problem of the birth canal, I'm very sorry to say for those that like their birth canals... tight.
-C. Hitchens.
Mon Aug 16, 2010 5:25 pm
Doc.User avatarPosts: 642Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:14 pm

Post Re: Question about Egyptian slavery

I see, thanks Rexy
Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:30 pm
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