It is important to show that in the sixteenth century B.C., the XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasty, under Thutmose III had effectively conquered the whole eastern Mediterranean and all of western Asia.
In total, 110 foreign states were conquered and integrated into the Egyptian Empire. In one year, according to Thutmose III’s Hymn of Triumph, the Egyptian treasury collected 3,500 kilos of gold, of which 9/10ths came from the tribute paid by vassals. Western Asia was divided into administrative districts placed under the authority of Egyptian governors, charged with collecting the tributes, or annual taxes, that all these defeated states had to pay to the Egyptian treasury.
In some towns, the conquered princes were purely and simply replaced by Egyptian Generals, and the administration was direct. These conquered states kept small territorial guards trained by the Egyptian officers. But the defense of the territory at large rested on the Egyptian Army itself, so much so that the Phonecian towns would protest when they felt the Egyptian troops in charge of their defense were insufficient. Egyptian garrisons were stationed at strategic points, important towns and ports. Fourteen hundred years before Rome, Egypt created the first centralized empire in the world.
It might be believed that a vague bond, very loose and easily breakable, united the Egyptian emperor and his vassals; this was not the case. One can hardly imagine, today, the degree of centralization in the Egyptian empire and the efficacy of its administration.
Royal messengers went through different regions of the empire delivering messages from the Pharaoh. The generals were in charge of regularly making inspection tours in the conquered territory. A royal postal service circulates over roads created by the Egyptian administration, staked out with military stations and water tanks for resupply. The king maintained personal relations with his vassals and each year made inspection trips throughout the whole empire: the children of vassal princes were taken as “hostages” and educated Egyptian style, at the court of the Egyptian emperor, in order to teach them Egyptian manners and tastes and to assimilate them to Pharaonic culture and civilization.
A true ministry of foreign affairs, in charge of relations with foreign countries, was created at Thebes, and also included a special chancellery that was to centralize correspondence with the agents of the Egyptian administration in the provinces, with the vassal cities and princes, a correspondence carefully preserved in the archives of the department and part of which was discovered at Tel al-Armarna.
The power of the Pharaoh over the vassals was absolute. The vassal had to be obedient and faithful and had to execute orders, whatever they might be. He had to respect the Pharaoh as God, because, according to the diplomatic formulary imposed on the vassal, the Pharaoh is his King, his Sun, at whose feet he bows seven times and seven times.
In addition to the compulsory annual tribute representing the collective tax of the whole conquered nation, evaluated according to its wealth, the vassal owed other types of “help”: gifts to the royal messengers, sending slaves (generally women) to the Egyptian King each time the vassal addressed the Pharaoh to ask a favor of him. The Pharaoh could at any moment require money, chariots, horses, compulsory war service; the vassal was constantly under the orders of Egyptian generals. The Pharaoh judged and arbitrated conflicts between vassals; he could order one of them to arrest a disloyal peer. The vassals enjoyed only internal autonomy, in fact they had lost their international sovereignty: they could not directly deal with foreign lands.
If his territory were invaded, the vassal had to report without delay to his lord, his Sun, his God, the Pharaoh. He was declared a felon and beheaded if he separately made peace with an enemy of the Pharaoh. The guilty vassal was called to appear before Pharaoh’s court to justify himself, failing which the Pharaoh sent a faithful vassal to bring back the guilty one with his entire family in chains.
The Pharaoh, being the incarnation of the divine Ka, legitimately exercised the power that he received from the God Amon-Ra, creator of the universe, in order to maintain justice, peace, and law among mortals. The theory of individual will as a source of authority never existed in Egypt. All the people had to obey the Pharaoh Thutmose III, according to the divine will of Amon-Ra, who was not only the national Egyptian God, but God of the whole universe, his creation:that is what is affirmed by the Karnak stela, cited on pg 85 and , on which the 110 conquered states are enumerated:
I have given you power and victory over all the nations
you have conquered the rebel hordes as I commanded,
the Earth in its length and breadth, the peoples of the West and
of the East are your subjects
no one was subjected to your majesty without myself having been
your guide, so that you would succeed.
All the peoples come, bringing tribute to you on thier backs, bowing
before you as I have ordained.
This was the philosophy of power that Thutmose III invented in order to create the first true empire in history.
This is an excerpt from the ground breaking book, Civilization or Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop. For more, purchase the book from Amazon below.