Ancient Egyptian Cultures And Religion Ancient criminal justice practices have made a huge impact on the ways and methods of our current courts systems and criminal justice program. A study of Ancient Egyptian culture and life styles give a better understanding of the origin of our court systems as they are ran now. The era in which King Bocchoris and King Menes survived contains an important link to current criminal justice. Although the Egyptian society was an ancient one, their approach to court systems is very similar to the current ones. Religion, Origin, Egyptian laws, and court systems have all been addressed. Literature Review Ancient Egyptian legends say that some of the most famous gods in Egypt were first Egyptian kings. It is still unknown if these "gods" or "kings" actually existed in human form or if they were rather a spiritual being. According to most sources, history dates back to Menes being the first King of Egypt. Therefore, he was the first to rule over the unified northern and southern Egypt. There is little archeological proof that Menes actually did reign over Egypt, but the time of his rule would have been around 3100 BC. It has also been stated that perhaps King Menes didn't exist but rather was many rulers composed into one being. Location King Menes was said to stay mostly in the lower part of Egypt because this was a more civilized area of his dominion. King Menes built his capital, Memphis, in lower Egypt. Although Menes dwelt in lower Egypt, he built his tomb near Abydos. Abydos was an older city in the upper region of Egypt. King Menes built his tomb in an archeological fashion that had never before been seen. Rather than made of stone, King Menes crafted his tomb of complete bricks that would eventually incase his body. After walls and walls of bricks were compiled, a wood fire was set over the temple. This has been thought to have hardened the King's life long tomb and prepared it for him. King Menes' methods appeared to have been effective considering that his body lay there for over six thousand years completely untouched. Many things, including the construction of his tomb and capital, proved Menes to be and expert builder. Menes was so advanced that in order to secure a proper place for his capital, he changed many geographical things. First, he constructed an unrealistically large dam which changed the complete flow of the lower Nile. He was able to move the river miles from the point where it had originally flowed. According to legends, Menes reigned over Egypt for sixty-two years before he died in an alleged combat with a hippopotamus. It is unknown to date whether the hippopotamus was real or used as an ancient expression. In Ancient Egypt the hippopotamus was a symbol of a foreign foe. It is believed by many that Menes died defending the great empire he had created and loved. Death In the eyes of an Egyptian, death was a pleasant transition to a better life in the next world. Full Egyptian potential was believed to only be capable after death. It was said that each person had not one, but three souls. (The ka, ba, and akh) Egypt's entire civilization based themselves among religion. Religious beliefs were very important to the Egyptian people. A strong belief in rebirth after death drove Egyptians to their drawn out funeral practices. Embalming became a large activity in the Ancient Egyptian era. After someone had passed away and the priest had spoken prayers and tried to revive the body one last time, the body would then be washed and purified. The purification took place in a small shelter known as an ibu. The body would then be transported to the embalmer. The embalmer's work area was known as the Wabet. All of the organs would then be removed and stored in containers. The body would be filled with sawdust and natron, or salt. The mummification process would then take place. This included wrapping the body with bandages and strategically placing elaborate jewelry between the layers. After that a mask would be placed over the head. After the embalming and mummification, the body was placed in and elaborate coffin. An abundance of items, useful for the after life, were placed in the tomb with the mummy. The priest performed one last ritual, which was the most important of all, to bring back speaking ability and enable the dead to eat. After all of this had been done, the tomb was finally sealed never to be entered again. Religion Egyptians guided every moment of their lives on their religious beliefs. Egyptian religion involved worshipping man deities. Their religion was thought to be based on polytheism. There were as many as two thousand gods and goddesses to worship in Egyptian religion. Gods were often thought to be partially human and part animal. The sky god, Horus, had a normal human body, but the head of a hawk. Certain animals, including bull, cat, and crocodile, were also thought to be holy to the Egyptians. Although they worshipped thousands of gods, two main gods existed, Amon-Ra and Osiris. Stories of Osiris were centered around the thought of immortality. Egyptians had so much of a focus on an afterlife that they spent much of their time and wealth preparing for. Temples, dwelling places for gods, were in great abundance in Egypt. A special temple was built in each city for the city's god to dwell there. The temples were supposed to be a way for men to make communication with their gods. Great temples began to be equipped with tombs, also, as the priests became more dominant and powerful over the cities. Ancient Egyptian Law Egyptian law was thought to be based on a common sense view of right and wrong. Egyptian law was said to follow the codes of Ma'at, which represented order, truth, balance, and justice for the entire universe. This permitted everyone to be viewed equally under Egyptian law, excluding slaves. Money or social standings didn't matter in Egyptian law. There was a downside to this, however. When someone was found guilty in Egyptian law, their whole family was often punished and forced to suffer as well. Criminal Law In Ancient Egyptian law, one of the worse crimes was thought to be tomb robbing. The punishment for stolen goods would be to simply return the items and also receive a fine that would often double the value of the stolen items. Corporal punishment may have involved up to a hundred strokes from a cane. In a much worse case, five bleeding cuts may be added or the criminal may be branded. The brand would serve as a permanent display of disobedience and dishonor. The punishment for the most serious criminal cases may be decided by the Pharaoh himself. Mutilation served as punishment for some crimes. This included cutting off body parts such as, a hand, nose, ear, or tongue. Capital punishment, the most severe cases, consisted of burning alive, decapitation, or drowning. Although Egyptian punishments seemed very harsh, Pharaoh Bocchoris supported basic human rights and even settled on imprisonment in place of debts. Egyptian Court Systems The history of the Egyptian law stretched longer than any other civilization. The ultimate decision maker in any argument or dispute was the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh would then delegate powers to governors and other officials. Pharaohs, such as Bocchoris (722 - 715BC) became thought of and addressed as lawgivers. The vizier directed all administrative branches of the government and was next only to the Pharaoh. Part of the vizier's legal duties included appointing magistrates and sitting in judgment of court cases. Legal Proceeding The plaintiff was said to first bring suit. The defendant would then be ordered to appear in court. Procedural information was provided by legal system employed scribes. Both parties would speak for themselves and were required to bring any evidence that would defend themselves. The judge usually ruled on the basis of evidence brought and on hearing both parties, but occasionally witnesses were brought forward. Criminal justice made a beginning in the judicial system. Judgment depended upon the harshness of the charge. The most heinous of crimes could only be judged by the pharaoh. Often, viziers would conduct the investigation and then proceed with the final judgment from the pharaoh. On rare occasions, a special commission would be appointed by the Pharaoh. This commission would have full access to judgment. Penal servitude and execution were often punishment for serious crimes while mutilation and flogging were used for a lesser punishment. United States Court Systems The United States has many court systems including federal, state, and supreme. There are three separate branches; Judicial, legislative, and executive. The United States supreme court is made up of the United States courts systems involve a judge, the jury, the opposing parties involved, witnesses, and a lawyer or attorney to defend each party. This court system has many similar concepts of the Egyptian court systems. For example, instead of a Pharaoh to decide each punishment, there is now a judge. Rather than a scribe to help decide punishments, there is the jury who will listen to both sides and help render a punishment. Although judgment of innocence is still ultimately up to the judge of the court. Conclusion In Ancient Egypt, things were thought of very differently and a large emphasis was placed on religion and death. Most Egyptians spent their entire lives trying to prepare themselves for death and a possible after life. The Ancient Egyptians had a sturdy system of laws set and a well- organized court system functioning. Egyptian court systems, I found in my research, are very comparative to the court systems that the United States currently has in place. A thorough research and analysis of this time era could bring a better understanding of our law system's origin to criminal justice students.
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