Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plan of the Villa of a Great Egyptian Noble

Image from
It was by chance that I´ve found this depiction of the ¨plan of the villa of a great Egyptian noble¨, at project This web site is amazing. It has 30000 books you can read on line, some of them can be downloaded. Most of those digital books are really old, I´m not sure if they have incunables.
The book where I took this great image is History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia and Assyria. By G. Maspero, who is introduced as ¨Honorable Doctor of Civil Laws, and Fellow of Queen´s College, Oxford; Member of the Institute and Professor at the College of France¨. Edited by A. H. Sayce, professor of Assyriology, Oxford. The Grolier Society, London. I couldn´t find the date of publication.
This plan was taken from a Theban tomb of the XVIIIth dynasty. The text in the book related to this plan is the following:

¨It was there, doubtless, that Amten ended his days in peace and quietude of mind. The tableland wheron the Sphinx has watched for so many centuries was then crowned by no pyramids, but mastabas of fine white stone rose here and there from out of the sand: that in which the mummy of Amten was to be enclosed was situated not far from the modern village of Abusir, on the confines of the nome of the Haunch, and almost in sight of the mansion in which his declining years were spent. (Note: The site of Amten´s manorial mansion is nowhere mentioned in the inscriptions; but the custom of the Egyptians to construct their tombs as near as possible to the places where they resided, leads me to consider it as almost certain that we ought to look for its site in the Memphite plain, in the vicinity of the town of Abusir, but in a northern direction, so as to keep within the territory of the Letopolite nome, where Amten governed in the name of the king.)
The number of persons of obscure origin, who in this manner had risen in a few years to the highest honours, and died governors of provinces or ministers of Pharaoh, must have been considerable. Their descendants followed in their fathers' footsteps, until the day came when royal favour or an advantageous marriage secured them the possession of an hereditary fief, and transformed the son or grandson of a prosperous scribe into a feudal lord. It was from people of this class, and from the children of the Pharaoh, that the nobility was mostly recruited. In the Delta, where the authority of the Pharaoh was almost everywhere directly felt, the power of the nobility was weakened and much curtailed; in Middle Egypt it gained ground, and became stronger and stronger in proportion as one advanced southward. The nobles held the principalities of the Gazelle, of the Hare, of the Serpent Mountain, of Akhmîm, of Thinis, of Qasr-es-Sayad, of El-Kab, of Aswan, and doubtless others of which we shall some day discover the monuments.
They accepted without difficulty the fiction according to which Pharaoh claimed to be absolute master of the soil, and ceded to his subjects only the usufruct of their fiefs; but apart from the admission of the principle, each lord proclaimed himself sovereign in his own domain, and exercised in it, on a small scale, complete royal authority.
Everything within the limits of this petty state belonged to him—woods, canals, fields, even the desert-sand: after the example of the Pharaoh, he farmed a part himself, and let out the remainder, either in farms or as fiefs, to those of his followers who had gained his confidence or his friendship. After the example of Pharaoh, also, he was a priest, and exercised priestly functions in relation to all the gods—that is, not of all Egypt, but of all the deities of the nome. He was an administrator of civil and criminal law, received the complaints of his vassals and serfs at the gate of his palace, and against his decisions there was no appeal. He kept up a flotilla, and raised on his estate a small army, of which he was commander-in-chief by hereditary right. He inhabited a fortified mansion, situated sometimes within the capital of the principality itself, sometimes in its neighbourhood, and in which the arrangements of the royal city were reproduced on a smaller scale.

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