The ownership of the soil was unequally divided; but it was principally distributed between the sov[Pg 4]ereign, the priests, and the officer-soldiers. The latter were obliged, in consideration of the land held, to perform military services to the prince—a sort of enfeoffment like that which rose out of the chaos that succeeded the destruction of the Roman world.

Peasants, agriculturists, and yeomen, formed the bulk of the indigenous Egyptian population. The husbandmen either owned their homestead or rented the lands from the king, the priesthood, or the military caste; and they cultivated the generous soil either with 동탄오피 their own hands or by hired field-laborers; but chattels or domestic slaves were unknown.

The primary cause of social convulsions and disturbances is always to be found in some great public calamity: such was the celebrated seven years' famine during the administration of Joseph, which resulted in concentrating in the hands of the Pharaohs numerous landed estates, and these principally the farms of the poorer yeomanry. But even then, no trace is to be discovered in history that any great proportion of the agricultural population were enslaved. Their condition then became similar, economically and socially, to that of the English peasantry during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and even if it finally degenerated into something like the condition of the Fellahs, still it was simply political oppression, and not chattelhood. The modern Fellahs are serfs, enjoying all natural human rights of worship, family and property; and are separated by a wide gulf from the chattelism of modern slavery. If, like these Fellahs,[Pg 5] the ancient Egyptians were forced to bow before the arbitrary power of a sovereign, they at least were not the personal property of an owner who had the power arbitrarily to dispose of them as his interest or caprice might dictate.