Re: Police in the ANE and in ancient Israel
- Dear Yigal,
I can help you a bit with Egypt, since your question was broadened to the entire ANE. The Medjay appear in the OK period as Nubian people from the land of Madja, and they primarily came to be known as excellent warriors.
By MK times, they are seen to be a clan or tribe that has a seemingly permanent presence in Egypt, though some are inclined to suggest that the district-of-Medja meaning is replaced by a tribal meaning. I consider it to be more an evolution of the times and conditions of the people, and not a change in meaning. They seem to have found their way into society as guards, whether under compulsion or voluntarily.
By NK times, and even in the 18th Dynasty, the designation “Medjay” indeed had evolved radically, and the term began to be used to designate an elite, paramilitary force. By this time, the ethnic tag had been dropped, and the focus was on the role and occupation of the guardsmen. Thus the term Medjay became synonymous with the (non-militaristic) policing occupation in general, including the guarding of royal tombs. The term appears quite frequently in Late Egyptian texts, as well, especially in the 19th Dynasty. And by this time, the ethnicity of individual Medjay is quite difficult to pin down.
To give you a flavor of the use of this term, I offer my own translation of a passage from The Tomb Robberies, which dates to the reign of Ramses IX. I have translated the LE term “Medjay” as “police” in each instance of its use. “Life, prosperity, and health” is the obligatory well wishes given to pharaoh, found at virtually every instance of the term’s use on record. My apologies for the unavoidable lacunae.
“It was [for numerous years] that the mayor and the chief of police of the great and venerable royal necropolis, Pawer-Aa, have spoken to pharaoh—life, prosperity, and health—on the western bank of Thebes, who were complaining about them to the vizier and the officials and attendants of pharaoh—life, prosperity, and health. [Those] who were sent on this day: the mayor; the chief of police; the chief official of the royal necropolis; the chief of police of this estate, Bak-en-werel (He-who-serves-our-greatest-voice); . . . of the [royal necro]polis, [???]i; . . . of this estate, ???; . . . of this temple, ???-amun; the chief of police of this estate, Men-tu-Ḫepesh-ef; the scribe of the vizier, Pa-a-n-bik (The-claw-of-the-falcon); the chief scribe of the storehouse and of the white house, Pay-nefer; the priest of the temple of Amenhotep—life, prosperity, and health—Pa-a-en-ir-Ḫau (The-arm-of-he-who-causes-to-appear); the priest of the wine-cellar of the temple of Amun, Wer-Amun (Amun-is-chief); and the security-force from the royal cemetery that were at the entrance with them.”
Hoping that this helps,
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- Dear Raz
Many thanks indeed for the debate, and please keep me up to date on your future studies.
It seems to me a pity that so few venture into this fascinating field, and also, that few take time to exchange opinions on the developments in it.
Rob Tye, York, UK