How Were The Slaves Treated In Ancient Egypt

Cruelty of Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Slavery existed in Ancient Egypt right from its beginnings. People were enslaved for different reasons, for example, to be laborers or to pay off their debts. Apart from these, there were also war captives who were taken into slavery and became part of the large pool of human resources available in Ancient Egypt.

The conditions of being a slave in Ancient Egypt were harsh. Ancient texts provide details about the whippings, grueling work and often-brutal treatment that slaves endured. Beatings, manipulation by their owners, and the harshness of the environment were part of being enslaved. Despite the harsh life, however, slaves of Ancient Egypt also seem to have had certain rights and privileges.

These rights include the right to own and pass down property, the right to marry, have children and, in some cases, perform religious rituals. Also, if a slave is injured in the service of their master, the master is required to look after their medical needs. This is proof of how slavery as an institution was accepted to a certain extent in Ancient Egypt.

On the other hand, the life of a slave also involved very little choice regarding their day-to-day lives. They had to follow the orders of their masters and could be harshly punished for not doing so. They were also subject to seizures of their property and were themselves essentially treated as property, like animals and other possessions of their masters.

Furthermore, slavery in Ancient Egypt also included de facto slavery, which refers to the situation in which a person lacks legal protection from exploitation. Young girls were often sold into de facto slavery, leading to a life of exploitation and abuse. The number of female slaves in Ancient Egypt is estimated to be between 200,000 to 250,000 people by the year 1350 BC.

According to expert historians, the establishment and ultimately the continuity of slavery in Ancient Egypt can be attributed to the inherently unequal relationship between male and female citizens of the nation. Women in Ancient Egypt had limited rights and resources to draw upon and were made even more vulnerable to exploitation through the institution of slavery.

At the same time, it must be acknowledged that slaves were not always treated in an inhumane manner. Many masters treated their slaves decently and even rewarded them for achievement. Also, slaves of higher social standing or those with skilled jobs were even provided with some authority over their fellow slaves.

Abolition and Freedom

The Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra, played a pivotal role in abolishing slavery. She introduced a number of policies to reduce the amount of slave labor in her kingdom and in modern day Egypt. For example, in 46 BC, New laws were established that prohibited the capture and enslavement of foreign peoples. At the same time, she also ordered that all slave laborers be given wages and that people should be punished for mistreating their slaves.

This marked a turning point in the history of slavery, as the influence of the Pharaohs and their policies reduced the amount of slave labor significantly. After the death of Cleopatra, slaves slowly began to gain more rights and freedom in Ancient Egypt.

In the 18th century, the gradual decrease in slavery was bolstered by the introduction of charitable organizations that provided support and aid to former slaves. This provided the incentive for many slaves to fight for their freedom and ultimately led to the abolition of slavery in ancient Egypt.

At the same time, however, it is also clear that some forms of slavery still exist in modern day Egypt. This is particularly true in the case of domestic workers, who are key contributors to the country’s economy and yet are routinely subjected to exploitation.

It is, therefore, evident that the abolishment of slavery in Ancient Egypt was an important milestone in human progress. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go to combat the persistence of modern-day slavery in the region.

Political and Economic Factors

The economic situation in Ancient Egypt was quite complex. It was a land of plenty and it was extremely difficult to acquire resources without owning an estate or being born into a noble family. Owning slaves was, therefore, seen as a symbol of wealth and power. This predisposition towards slavery may explain why slaves were accepted as part of the large pool of human resources available in Ancient Egypt.

It can be assumed, based on the archaeological data available from Ancient Egypt, that political factors also contributed to the prevalence of slavery. For example, captives taken in war may have been forced into slavery to avoid the potential threat of rebellion. In addition, slaves were also used as workers in the royal palace and the royal court, reflecting the political importance of slaves at the time.

Therefore, it is fair to conclude that political as well as economic factors contributed to the prevalence of slavery in Ancient Egypt. The institution of slavery was deeply ingrained in the culture and though it was seen as a symbol of wealth and power, it was also “practice [that] was accepted as simply normal” and thus perpetuated by the society.

Legacies of Slavery

The legacy of slavery in Ancient Egypt can be evidenced to this day. The links between modern-day racism and the institution of slavery should not be overlooked. It is easy to say that slavery in Ancient Egypt was simply a part of the culture in the past, and that it has no bearing on the present.

However, the legacy of slavery has undoubtedly impacted the way in which people of African descent are viewed and treated today. The correlation between historical and contemporary racism is undeniable. Therefore, it is important to understand how slavery manifested itself in Ancient Egypt in order to foster a deep appreciation for the hard-fought freedom and respect for African culture and people in the present.

Additionally, though slavery was abolished centuries ago, the scars of its history still haunt many cultures and communities. It is important to acknowledge the fact that those same people still suffer from the effects of the trauma inflicted on generations before them.

This can be seen through the discrimination which many still experience today, and the lingering scars of the inhumanity that was endured by slaves in Ancient Egypt. This is a legacy which should be remembered and a lesson that should be universally accepted, in order to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Modern Understanding

We can learn from reviewing the history of slavery in Ancient Egypt. It provides us with insights into our current society and the way in which inequality still exists. The numerous social and political factors which led to the acceptance of slavery in Ancient Egypt should be taken into consideration when examining the condition of slavery in the world today.

It is also crucial to recognize how slavery impact ed the economic and social development of civilization during this era. Slavery created a gap between rich and poor, and it is still a major issue in many modern-day societies.

Furthermore, Ancient Egypt should provide us with a lesson of caution. We must be proactive in fighting the traces of inequality which still linger in our contemporary societies. We must also remember and honor those who were formerly enslaved so that we may continue to learn from our history and strive for a future of freedom, equality, and justice.


In conclusion, the institution of slavery in Ancient Egypt served as an emblem of oppression, inequality, and exploitation. It left devastating legacies for people of African descent up until modern day.

Despite the abolition of slavery in Ancient Egypt, the effects of the institution are still deeply felt to this day. Therefore, when discussing the prevalence of slavery during this era, we must take into consideration the numerous political and economic factors which contributed to its prevalence, as well as ways in which modern-day societies can benefit from understanding its legacies. Ultimately, understanding Ancient Egypt’s history of slavery is essential if we are to combat the persistence of servitude in our communities today.

Clarence Norwood

Clarence E. Norwood is an author and scholar specializing in the history and archaeology of ancient peoples. He has written extensively on the civilizations of the Near East, Egypt, and the Mediterranean. He has authored numerous books and articles on a wide range of topics, including the evolution of the alphabet, the rise of the ancient nations, and the impact of ancient cultures and religions on modern society. He has also conducted archaeological field research in North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

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