How Was Life for a Slave in Ancient Egypt?

Although slaves in ancient Egypt worked very hard and were at the disposal of their masters, ancient manuscripts and relics suggest that their lives were comparatively better than those of slaves in other cultures. In fact, there is very little distinction in Egyptian records between slaves and servants. Slaves were housed, fed, and given breaks throughout the workday. They also worked set hours, much like workers of today.

Slaves were primarily war prisoners in ancient Egypt. Contrary to the popular connotation of slaves as pieces of properties, in ancient Egypt, the connotation of slaves was that of someone who owed a debt to his master. Indentured servitude in early America is a better approximation to slavery in ancient Egypt than the institution of slavery in the United States. One likeness, however, is that slaves could be sold, traded or inherited. Children of slaves also became slaves when they were old enough to work. Since slaves were property, they did not have to pay taxes. Egyptian peasants did. Slaves, therefore, sometimes enjoyed a better standard of living than peasants, even though they were considered lower ranking in society. Scholars also now believe that, contrary to popular opinion, the great pyramids were not constructed by slaves who were forced to work under harsh conditions but by free skilled laborers who considered it a privilege to be selected to help build them.