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The raIsIng and training of recruits was the responsibility of the 'overseer of recruits' (imy-er hewenu-nefru) , a function usually performed by the nomarch. At the start of the Middle Kingdom Amenemhat I (r. 1985-1955 BC) had to rely on his nomarchs to raise a force to campaign in Nubia and throughout the Middle Kingdom period the army essentially remained a provisional one raised from native militia. Thus Thuthotep, a nomarch serving Senusret, records how he had mustered the 'youthful recruits of the west of the Hare nome', those 'of the east of the Hare nome', as well as the 'youths of the warriors of the Hare nome' (British Museum EA 1147). The 'youths of the warriors' probably refers to the mobilization of the next generation of ahautyu eligible for service. Promising soldier material was conscripted from amongst the peasantry, hardy youths in their late teens earmarked to be trained and formed into militia units to supplement the ahautyu. The vast majority of Egypt's peasants lived in mud brick (adobe) houses, in villages or hamlets set back from the cultivated land that fringed the Nile. They earned their livelihood by working the fertile fields, which mostly belonged to the pharaoh, or the temples near their ancestral settlements. Yet the militia system meant the peasantry had an obligation to do occasional military service. Thus a peasant conscript may have had a limited term of initial service, perhaps a year or two, serving in his local unit (nzwt, 'town militia'). In contrast the hereditary warrior, on reaching maturity, replaced his father and served throughout his active life as a professional soldier. The term 'warrior' is derived from the ancient Egyptian verb 'to live', and in a very real sense designated a soldier dependent upon the pharaoh. It was these men who made up the standing army, and the importance of these professionals to the ruling pharaoh was clearly reflected by the fact that they were referred to in official documents as the 'crew of the ruler'. Nomarchs were required to supply contingents for national efforts when requested by the pharaoh, and normally led them on campaign as their commander. In the reign of Senusret I (1965-1920 BC), Amenemhat of the Oryx nome 'sailed southward with a number, four hundred, of all the choicest of my troops' (Newberry 1893: 25) and accompanied the pharaoh's campaign deep into Nubia. He took 'six hundred of all the bravest of the Oryx nome' on a subsequent campaign led by the pharaoh's vizier, also named Senusret (Newberry 1893: 26). Nome contingents obviously varied in size according to the population of the nome concerned. The Oryx nome was situated in the middle of Upper Egypt, and larger numbers would probably be mustered from areas such as Memphis, Thebes and the Delta where the cultivated lands were more extensive. Each year, between June and September, the Nile valley flooded and work in the fields ceased until the first crops could be planted in October or November. So this was the time when most manpower was

The Narmer Palette (Cairo, Egyptian Museum, JE 32169), showing the legendary pharaoh thought to be the first to rule the Two Lands. The low relief on this side depicts him wearing the white crown of the kings of Upper Egypt, smiting his enemy with a pear-shaped mace. (AKG-images)


Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh