Ancient Egypt / Government /
Ancient Egyptian: Sepat
In ancient times, Egypt was divided into 42 nomes, 22 in Upper and 20 in Lower Egypt. Several of these were small in both size and population. Many had less than 50,000 inhabitants, while the largest ones could pass 500,000 inhabitants.
The term comes from Greek nomos, meaning simply "district", while the Egyptian term was sepat.
Nomes emerged from pre-dynastic, autonomous tribes and towns. The division between the nomes would largely survive more than 3000 years; only in Upper Egypt south of Ombos borders were more fluctuating. Still, administrative and cultic changes caused the establishment of few new nomes, as was the case with Xois and Bubastis, which were not among the original ones. Capitals of some nomes changed through time. In some cases, capitals have not been identified, which may well indicate that administration was administered from a small town.
Each nome was represented by its own symbol, symbols often used in temples.
A nome was administered by a nomarch, a governor. His duties were the same as with all ancient administration: collecting taxes, administer justice and assemble and equip an army. The office of the nomarch was in many cases hereditary, otherwise, new nomarchs were appointed by the king. In times of hardship for the central administration, many nomarchs increased their individual power, which often caused tension and war between nomes. Throughout Egyptian history, stronger nomes was often a central element in the so-called intermediate periods (First and Second).
When Egypt was reunited, this came through by certain nomes proving strong enough to place other nomes under its control, up until all of the country again was under one ruler.
The importance of the nomes was so that during Roman times, s minted their own coinage. But it would be the Romans that early in the 4th century CE dissolved the system. In its place, the smaller pagi were established, ruled by strong local rulers called pagarch. This system again was dissolved by the Muslim after they completed their conquest of Egypt in 640.
Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Ancient Egypt in
Where to begin?