My mother says "When you gonna live your life right?"
Oh ,mother,dear, We're not the fortunate ones,
And girls, They wanna have fun.
My father yells "What you gonna do with your life?"
You know you're still number one,
But girls, They wanna have fun
And hide her away from the rest of the world.
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun.
Oh, girls, They wanna have fun.
See, ancient Egypt was peppered with temples, large and small, and each had their priests and their grain fields to support them, and slaves to work those fields. They were like corporations are today. By the best estimates, 14% of the irrigated land and 2% of the population were owned by the temple priests. The temples also owned 500,000 head of cattle, 88 large ships and some 53 workshops and shipyards. And in 1167 B.C. E. all of this was tax exempt, which shifted more of the tax burden onto the nobles and peasants. Does any of this sound familiar?
Ramses III tried to reduce his expenses by replacing his bureaucrats and large parts of the army with slaves, supplied by independent contractors, a practice in current vogue with the American government. But Ramses III also contributed to this power shift to the priesthood by continuing the practice of donating large sums to the temples. Gold and silver went straight out of the government coffers and into the collection plates. Ramses III boasted on a temple wall, "I did mighty deeds and benefactions...for the gods and goddesses of South and North." Those benefactions hastened the bankruptcy of the national treasury. Familiar again, right?
Just three years before this original "Year of the Woman" the artisans working in the royal tombs had stopped work because their pay had stopped. It was like a Republican government shutdown. Ramses crushed this first worker's revolt in history as if he were the Governor of Wisconsin. But that wildcat strike indicated what was at stake. Tey was not just trying to make her son Pharaoh, she was trying to reverse what she saw as the decline of the power of The Pharaohs. They couldn't prevent the next volcano from exploding, but then they did not realize that is what had bankrupted the nation. They figured Ramses III had angered the gods somehow. And it was just a lucky break for Tey that what the gods wanted also favored her and her son. The whole thing came to a head, say the ancient accounts, near the end of the Heb Sed, when Ramses III decided to spend a night sitting with the girls. And this was a seriously bad choice, because while he talking with "the girls" somebody cut his throat.
It was a professional hit. The button man or woman sliced a three inch wound across the old man's throat, just beneath the larynx, so he could not call out for help. But it did not matter, since, in the words of the British Medical Journal which imaged Ramses III's mummy in 2012, 'The extent and depth of the wound indicated that it could have caused the immediate death of Ramesses III.” Poor Usimare, er, Rasmes III. And it was clear how the people of Egypt felt about his murder, because for centuries afterward, Egyptians invoked Ramses III's name when seeking divine assistance in the case of snake bite. And like a snake, Ramses III lashed out after death against those who had stepped upon him.
And it is a shame Tey did get caught. In his will, Ramses III donated 86,400 slaves to the estates of the god Amun's temples. His son and heir, Isis' boy Heqamatre, became Ramses IV, but he ruled for just six years. And after his demise Ramses followed Ramses with such rapidity that the High Priest of el-Kab who had helped Ramses III celebrate his Heb Sed, was still in office when Ramses IX died in 1111 B.C.E. By then the priest were openly the dominant power in Egypt, and the country was run for their benefit, sort of like the bankers run America today. Egypt slipped into a centuries long dark age.When the working day is done,
Oh, girls, They wanna have fun.
Ah, if only Tey had been more circumspect, and more successful, then the New Kingdom might have lasted a few hundred years longer, and women might have played a bigger part in history, and history might have been more fun. After all, the girl just wanted to have fun.
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