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Ancient Greek Comedy › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Mark Cartwright

Ancient Greek comedy was a popular and influential form of theatre performed across ancient Greece from the 6th century BCE. The most famous playwrights of the genre were Aristophanes and Menander and their works, and those of their contemporaries, poked fun at politicians, philosophers, and fellow artists. In addition to maintaining their comic touch, the plays also give an indirect but invaluable insight into Greek society in general and provide details on the workings of political institutions, legal systems, religious practices, education, and warfare in the Hellenic world. Uniquely, the plays also reveal to us something of the identity of the audience and show just what tickled the Greeks' sense of humour. Finally, Greek comedy and its immediate predecessor Greek tragedy would together form the foundation upon which all modern theatre is based.


The precise origins of Greek comedy plays are lost in the mists of pre-history, but the activity of men dressing as and mimicking others must surely go back a long way before written records. The first indications of such activity in the Greek world come from pottery where decoration in the 6th century BCE frequently represented actors dressed as horses, satyrs, and dancers in exaggerated costumes. Another early source of comedy is the poems of Archilochus (7th century BCE) and Hipponax (6th century BCE) which contain crude and explicit sexual humour. A third origin, and cited as such by Aristotle, lies in the phallic songs which were sung during Dionysiac festivals.


Although innovations occurred, a comedy play followed a conventional structure. The first part was the parados where the Chorus of as many as 24 performers entered and performed a number of song and dance routines. Dressed to impress, their outlandish costumes could represent anything from giant bees with huge stingers to knights riding another man in imitation of a horse or even a variety of kitchen utensils. In many cases the play was actually named after the Chorus, eg, Aristophanes' The Wasps.
The second phase of the show was the agon which was often a witty verbal contest or debate between the principal actors with fantastical plot elements and the fast changing of scenes which may have included some improvisation (if references to specific audience members are taken as being to individuals actually present in the theatre). The third part of the play was the parabasis, when the Chorus spoke directly to the audience and even directly spoke for the poet. The show-stopping finale of a comedy play was the exodos when the Chorus gave another rousing song and dance routine.

Theatre Masks

All performers were male professional actors, singers, and dancers and they were helped in their endeavour to represent a vast variety of human and non-human characters by wonderful costumes and highly decorated face masks. The main actors - one protagonist (who took the lion's-share of the limelight) and two other actors, performed all of the speaking parts. On occasion, a fourth actor was permitted but only if non-instrumental to the plot. These restrictions were to ensure equality in competition and keep down the costs to the state which funded the professional actors. The Chorus, costumes, musicians, and rehearsal time were funded by an appointed private citizen, a khorēgos, which was a role carrying great prestige.
Due to the restricted number of actors then, each performer had to take on multiple roles which involved fast changes of costume and the use of recognisable character masks such as those for slaves or gods like Hercules and Hermes. In addition, some masks may well have been decorated to represent in caricature certain contemporary figures that the poet wished to poke fun at. Masks did, however, deprive the actor of using facial expressions and consequently the use of voice and gesture became extremely important. Costumes were another important visual part of the performance, and the most common were padded with tights and a short tunic which revealed a false and exaggerated phallus (connected with Dionysian ritual) - a detail clearly seen on many comic scenes represented on Greek pottery.
Plays were performed in an open-air theatre ( theatron ) such as that of Dionysos in Athens and seemingly open to all of the male populace (the presence of women is contested). The presence of theatres in towns across the Greek world and finds of terracotta theatre masks also suggest that comedies (and of course tragedies) were widely performed. The semi-circle of seats created a central area known as the orchestra and it was here that the Chorus performed. The main actors performed on a raised stage with a background provided by the skēne - a two-storey structure which also provided various entrance points for the actors and provided a means to change costume unobserved by the audience. There was some movement between these areas as the Chorus might occasionally climb the stage, and actors could also enter the orchestra via the public entrances or parodoi at each side of the theatre.

Theatre of Delphi


During the 5th century BCE, at major religious festivals such as the City Dionysia and the Lenaea, comedies were performed in competition over three days. First five and later three comedies were entered for competition, a comic play being performed at the end of the day after the tragedy and satyr plays. Plays were judged by a panel of ten judges chosen by lot and they voted by placing pebbles in an urn. Five urns were then chosen at random to decide the final winner.


Oh would some god, with sudden stroke,
Convert me to a cloud of smoke!
Like politicians' words I'd rise
In gaseous vapour to the skies.
(50, Act One, Scene One, The Wasps by Aristophanes)
Old Comedy refers to plays written in the 5th century BCE. The earliest surviving complete play is Aristophanes' Acharnians, first performed in 425 BCE, and citations from surviving fragments of earlier plays can be dated no earlier than c. 450 BCE.
The plot of comedies usually stretches reality in terms of time and place, jumping incredible geographic distances and rapidly changing scenes. Fantastical elements such as giant creatures and improbable disguises are mixed with references to the audience which delivers a roller-coaster ride of satire, parody, puns, exaggeration, colourful language, and crude jokes.Indeed, as the plays were popular entertainment, they reveal some of the popular language used by the Greeks, language not usually found in more serious written material. Any public figure was fair game it seems, and even mythology and religioncould be made fun of. However, despite this high degree of free speech, certain aspects of religion such as the Mysteries and the higher gods such as Zeus and Athena seem to have been off-limits for the comic poet.


Sometime in the late 4th century BCE, a new style of Greek comedy arrived, although the transition from Old Comedy may have been more gradual than the surviving plays suggest and some scholars propose an intermediary stage called Middle Comedy. Certainly, Aristophanes' final two plays differ in style in comparison to his other plays and provide a transition towards a newer style of presentation. This New Comedy focused more on the plot of the play and often employed recurring stock characters such as cooks, soldiers, pimps, and the cunning slave. The Chorus becomes less important to the plot, (providing only musical interludes between acts) and plays seem to settle on an established five act structure. Another difference is that there seem to be fewer personal attacks (or is that only the impression given by having too few sources to compare with?) which may be due to legislation made specifically to curb this practice. The subject of New Comedy also differed and was more concerned with fictional everyday people and their relations with family, other classes, and foreigners.


[On modern poets]
Small fry, I assure you, insignificant squeakers and twitterers, like a lot of swallows. A disgrace to their art. If ever they are granted a chorus, what does their offering at the shrine of Tragedy amount to? One cock of the hind leg and they've pissed themselves dry. You never hear of them again.
(159, Act One, Scene One, The Frogs by Aristophanes)
The giant of Greek comedy is Aristophanes. Little is known for certain about him, but from the dates of his plays, we may surmise that he lived from 460 to 380 BCE and was from Athens. Eleven of his plays survive complete and these are the only surviving examples of the Old Comedy genre. Seen by some (notably Aristotle) as rather crude, the plays, nevertheless, reveal Aristophanes' sharp wit, and they often comment on the inconsistencies and ridiculous aspects of society and public figures.The politician Kleon, the philosopher Socrates, and the tragedy playwright Euripides were the three figures most often found in Aristophanes' comic sights.

Greek Comedy Mask

Other important playwrights of Old Comedy include Cratinus (whose works include Cheimazomenae 426 BCE, Satyrs 424 BCE and Pytine 423 BCE) and Eupolis ( Numeniae 425 BCE, Maricas 421 BCE, Flatterers 421 BCE and Autolycus 420 BCE) both of whom were multiple winners at the most prestigious festivals.
We know much more about the New Comedy writers, many of whom were prolific and sometimes wrote more than 300 plays.The most important poets include Philemon (c. 368/60 - 267/3 BCE), the author of 97 comedies, Diphilus who wrote around 100 plays, and Philippides. However, the writer of this genre whose work survived longest is Menander (c. 342-291 BCE).Philemon actually won more festival victories than Menander, but it is the latter who came to be considered the great poet of New Comedy. He wrote around 100 plays and many survived up to the 7th century CE when unfortunately they were lost to posterity. The Dyskolos (originally performed in 316 BCE) is the most complete surviving play and significant portions of six other plays also survive.
The popularity of Menander is attested by over 900 quotations preserved in secondary sources and his works were frequently adapted by later Latin playwrights. Famous for his imaginative situations, fast-moving dialogue, suspense, and attention to private domestic dramas, he often included a romantic lead, typically a young single male (in contrast to Aristophanes' heroes who are usually middle-aged and married). In addition, Menander's comedy often hinted at the importance the author gave to tolerance and understanding in our social relations.


Greek Comedy would continue to be popular through Hellenistic and Roman times with many of the classic plays being re-performed again and again. Latin comedies were written most famously by Plautus & Terence, and the genre diversified into various other forms of comic theatre such as pantomime and togata.

Ancient Greek Coinage › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Mark Cartwright

The coinage of ancient Greece has given us some of the most recognisable images from antiquity as they were stamped with designs to proudly declare the identity of the city which minted them and guarantee their value. One of the great archaeological survivors, coins are an invaluable source of information on cultural practices, important individuals, and ancient international relations.


Trade in the ancient world was largely conducted through the exchange of one type of goods for another in a barter system that worked well for millennia. Eventually, some goods came to be exchanged for large metal bars, such as the bronze or copper talent, which both parties agreed to a value on. The next step was to use metal rods or spits (an obelos from which the obol coin derives its name) which were 1.5 meters in length and six of which could be grasped in the hand. The Greek word for grasp is drattomai and this is the origin of the drachma coin. From these bars and rods sprang the idea for a more portable and universal material which could be exchanged for any goods or service: coinage.
Lydia was credited by the Greeks with inventing coins in the early 6th century BCE which were stamped by the state to guarantee value and be recognisable as genuine. Coins were usually slightly lighter than the same value weight in the pure metal so that the cost of minting them was covered or even a small profit attained. In later centuries some states would abuse this margin and produce coins with lower and lower precious metal content in an attempt to create value where there really was none. After public ridicule, Athens was famously forced to withdraw a batch of plated coinage that had been minted following a financial crisis c. 406 BCE. Then, as now, coinage could only function if people had trust in its present and future value.
The first Greek coins appeared in Aegina c. 600 BCE (or even earlier) which were silver and used a turtle as a symbol of the city's prosperity based on maritime trade. Athens and Corinth soon followed Aegina's lead. The birth of coinage in wider Greece, though, was not really an invention of convenience but a necessity, driven by the need to pay mercenary soldiers.These warriors required a convenient way to carry their wages and the state needed a method of payment they could equally apply to everyone. For maritime trade especially, barter continued to be the most common form of exchange as the problem with coinage in the ancient world was that the value of coins between city-states was often different. Still, for the citizens of a particular city and its surrounding territories coinage became a very useful way to buy and sell goods, and it was convenient for the state to use coins to pay for small public services such as participating in law courts. So convenient was this new portable wealth that poorer Greeks would carry their coins in their mouths when they went to market, and richer Greeks now had a handy means of storing (and hiding) their wealth.

Athenian Silver Tetradrachm

Some larger states were able to impose their currency on other city-states and have it accepted as a means of exchange. The Athenian silver coinage of the 5th century BCE is an example, and perhaps it was the first case of a single currency being used by different states, the members of the Delian League. Examples of the Athenian silver owl tetradrachms have been found as far afield as Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Bactria. The Arcadian League was another organisation with a common coinage. Similarly, Alexander the Great would use his coins across the Macedonian empire with many states still minting them two centuries after his death. Other contemporary states would copy the Greek approach to coins and produce their own similar types, such as the Etruscans and Carthaginians.


Greek coins were made using mostly silver but also gold, electrum (a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold), copper alloy, and bronze. The metals were melted in a forge hearth and then, to standardise the size and weight of each blank coin (flans), the molten metal was poured into moulds or pre-prepared hemispherical vessels. Later, another method was to cut slices from metal cylinders made the correct diameter.

Greek Silver Coins

Meanwhile, an engraver carved the design (in relief or incised) onto metal dies of hardened bronze or iron, one for each side of the coin (early coins had only one side stamped). In some mints during the Classical period such as in southern Italy and Sicily, the coin engravers even signed their work. One die (usually the obverse side) was set in an anvil and the blank metal disk was placed on top, warmed to make it slightly soft. The minter then held in his hand the other die and hammered it on top of the blank disk. The strike would then leave an impression on both sides of the coin. Sometimes old coins were restamped with new designs.
Different weights of coins were used to create denominations ranging from the obol (six of which equalled one drachma) to the double octadrachm. What could be purchased with coins changed over time, but, as an example, entrance to the theatre festivals at Athens initially cost two obols in the early 5th century BCE, which was a day's labour. Most coins, though, were minted in silver and so were of relatively high value, perhaps equal to one week's work for most citizens. Only in the Hellenistic Period did smaller denominations become more widespread.

Ancient Greek Silver coins

There were attempts to manufacture counterfeit coins using a low-value core such as lead or bronze covered in a thin layer of the correct metal. As designs became more complex so they became more difficult to copy but early coins often have punch holes suggesting they were repeatedly tested to determine their true composition.


Greek coins of particular poleis or city-states often carried specific designs which were used for centuries, becoming instantly recognisable symbols of that city. Gods and figures from Greek mythology were especially popular, but all manner of subjects were chosen to represent particular cities. Strangely, the reverse side of early coins usually had only a simple geometric shape stamped into them, especially a quartered square. Later, minters and administrators saw that the reverse side was an opportunity to double the visual message. Designs sometimes had a relation to the coin's value too, as when Athens added an extra olive branch to distinguish the similar hemidrachm and drachma.

Ancient Greek Coins

Perhaps the most famous design of all is the owl of Athena which appeared on the silver tetradrachm coins of Athens. Athena was the patron of the city and she appeared on the reverse side. Corinth used Pegasus, the winged horse of the Corinthian hero Bellerophon who found him at the fountain of Pirene outside the city. Coins of Knossos depicted the labyrinth from the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. Thebes had the distinctive Boiotian shield. Syracuse used the image of Arethousa with swimming dolphins to symbolise that city's strength through maritime trade. As we have seen, Aegina did the same but used a sea turtle, to be replaced by a tortoise on later coins. Poseidon appeared on the coins of Poseidonia, and Silenus on those from Naxos.
Local plants and flowers were a popular choice of symbol, too, for example, the celery leaf for Selinus, rose for Rhodes, and ear of wheat for Metapontum. Charioteers seem to have appealed to many city-states and appear on coins from Sicily to Macedon. The lyre is another common emblem, the coins of Delos being just one example. Some coins had short inscriptions, most commonly a single letter such as an Athe for Athens or Koppa for Corinth. By the end of the Classical period, rulers were using coins as a means of propaganda to show their own image throughout their empire and associate themselves with gods and heroes such as Hercules.

Macedonian Gold Stater


The imprecise process of manufacturing coins in the Greek world has been a valuable asset to archaeologists. By examining the precise metal purity of certain coins and the alignments of designs and their imperfections they are able to match different examples of the same coin batch to specific mints and periods, helping to date other objects and places in which the coins have been excavated. On occasion, the mere presence of coins in certain places has helped establish ancient trade relations, for example. Finally, the images on coins are a valuable source of iconography related to the Greek religion and a record of agriculture and architecture. They are, too, a visual reference for all kinds of now lost objects from victory tripods to ships' prows, and sometimes, as with many Bactrian kings, they are our only source of an individual's portrait.

Tomb Robbing in Ancient Egypt › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

Author: Joshua J. Mark

The tombs of the great kings and nobles of Egypt were built to safeguard the corpse and possessions of the deceased for eternity and yet, while many have endured for thousands of years, their contents often disappeared relatively quickly. Tombrobbing in ancient Egypt was recognized as a serious problem as early as the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 - c. 2613 BCE) in the construction of the pyramid complex of Djoser (c. 2670 BCE). The burial chamber was purposefully located, and the chambers and hallways of the tomb filled with debris, to prevent theft, but even so, the tomb was broken into and looted; even the king's mummy was taken.

Tomb of Ramesses V

This same paradigm can be seen in the construction of the pyramids at Giza during the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613 – 2181 BCE) and with the same results. Although the Great Pyramid and the others still stand, none of the treasures buried with the kings of the 4th Dynasty – Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure – have been found in the structures and neither were any of the bodies. Execration texts (curses) on the doors and lintels of tombs were supposed to prevent such thefts, and the Egyptian belief in a life after death – from which the dead could interact with the living – should have encouraged greater respect and fear of a haunting in would-be thieves but, evidently, neither were strong enough incentives to curb the temptation of easy riches with little risk. Egyptologist David P. Silverman writes:
It was no secret that, as the burial process grew more elaborate, so did the value of the grave goods interred with both royal and non-royal mummies. Gilded coffins, amulets of precious stones, exotic imported artifacts all proved too tempting for thieves. When embalmers began to include protective amulets, precious stones, gold, or silver within the mummy wrappings, even the deceased's corpse came under threat. Robbers probably attacked royal tombs soon after the king's funeral, and there is evidence of corruption among the necropolis employees charged with protecting the tombs. (196)
By the time of the New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 - c. 1069 BCE) the problem had grown so severe that Amenhotep I (c. 1541-1520 BCE) commissioned a special village to be constructed near Thebes with easy access to a new royal necropolis, which would be more secure. This new burial place is known today as the Valley of the Kings and the nearby Valley of the Queens and the village is Deir el-Medina. They were located outside of Thebes in the desert – far from easy access – and the village was intentionally isolated from the Theban community at large, but even these measures would not be enough to protect the tombs.


The most famous tomb from ancient Egypt is that of the New Kingdom pharaohTutankhamun (1336-1327 BCE) which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 CE. The wealth of Tutankhamun's tomb is estimated at around three-quarters of a billion dollars. His golden coffin alone is appraised at $13 million. Tutankhamun died before the age of 20 and had not yet amassed the kinds of riches great kings like Khufu or Thutmose III or Seti I or Ramesses II would have had. The riches buried with a king like Khufu would have been far greater and more opulent than anything in Tutankhamun's tomb.

Death Mask of Tutankhamun

The only reason Tutankhamun's tomb remained relatively intact (it was actually broken into twice in antiquity and robbed) was that it was accidentally buried by the ancient workers who built the tomb of Ramesses VI (1145-1137 BCE) nearby. Exactly how this would have happened is unknown but somehow the workers on that tomb buried the earlier one without a trace and so preserved it until the 20th century CE when Carter found it. Most tombs, however, were not so lucky and almost all were looted to one degree or another.
Egypt was a cashless society until the coming of the Persians in 525 BCE, and so the wealth looted from the tombs would not have been exchanged for money nor could it have been used in trade. One could not simply walk into the marketplace with a golden scepter, for example, and trade it for some sacks of grain because stolen goods were supposed to be reported immediately to the authorities. If someone were to accept a stolen item in trade then that person would be burdened with the task of somehow disposing of it and hope to make a profit. Most likely, the stolen items were fenced to a higher (corrupt) official, who would have paid for it in material goods and then had the gold melted down to some other form and traded it for goods or services to an artisan.
The difficulty in controlling tomb robberies was simply that the wealth entombed with the deceased was so vast and the officials tasked with keeping them safe could so easily be bought. Even if a tomb were designed to disorient a thief and the burial chamber were located deep within the earth and blocked by rubble, there was always some way around these obstacles for the resourceful thief. The location of the tombs was also quite well advertised as they either had enormous pyramids rising above them or more modest, but still elaborate, mastabas. If one were looking for quick gain then one need look no further than looting a tomb in the middle of the night.


It was largely for this reason that Amenhotep I commissioned the village known today as Deir el-Medina. Originally referenced in official documents as Set-Ma'at (The Place of Truth), Deir el-Medina and the nearby necropolises were supposed to solve the problem of tomb theft once and for all. The workers of the village would create the tombs and protect their creation and, since they relied on the state for their wages and homes, they would be loyal and discreet regarding the location of the tombs and the amount of treasure to be found within.
Although this paradigm may have worked in the early days of the community, it did not endure. Deir el-Medina was not a self-sufficient village – it had neither agricultural development nor a water supply – and relied on monthly deliveries of supplies in payment from Thebes and daily import of water from the Nile. These supplies were largely standardized, not luxurious, and did not always arrive on time. The citizens of the village made their own crafts and bartered with each other, but the temptation to take treasure from a tomb, walk the hour or so to Thebes, and exchange it for some luxury proved too great for some of the workers. Those who were supposed to protect the tombs used the same tools they had built them with to break in and rob them.

Deir el-Medina

The living/working relationship at Deir el-Medina worsened c. 1156 BCE during the reign of Ramesses III when the monthly shipments were first late and then stopped arriving completely. These were not luxuries or bonuses but the wages of the workers – paid in food, supplies, and beer – which they needed to live. The failure of the supply system led to the first labor strike in history when the workers put down their tools, walked off the job, and marched on Thebes to demand their pay.
Although the strike was effective and the villagers received their wages, the underlying problem of making sure supplies reached the village was never addressed. Payments to Deir el-Medina would be late again and again throughout the rest of the period of the New Kingdom of Egypt as the central government steadily lost power and the bureaucracy which maintained it fell apart.


In this climate, many more people turned to tomb robbing as a living. In spite of the accepted belief in an afterlife and the power of execration texts which guaranteed a bad end for anyone who robbed a tomb, the activity went on with greater frequency than before. Silverman writes:
Criminals convicted in the late Ramesside Period (c. 1120 BCE) testified to the theft of objects from tombs, the looting of precious metals from coffins and mummies, and the destruction of royal corpses. Other texts record carousing on royal burial equipment and blasphemous activity by individuals. Such behavior suggests that at least part of the population had little fear of repercussions in this world or from the gods in the next. (111)
Confessions from criminals convicted of tomb robbing multiply toward the end of the New Kingdom. The courts seem to have dealt with these cases on an almost daily basis. The Mayer Papyri (c. 1108 BCE) records a number of cases detailing how those caught desecrating and robbing tombs were "tortured at the examination on their feet and their hands to make them tell the way they had done exactly" (Lewis, 257). Testimonies are recorded by police officers and chiefs regarding the suspects and how they were caught. Punishments are most often recorded as beatings with a rod (bastinade) on the soles of the feet and flogging but could be as severe as amputation of the hands and nose or even death by impalement or burning.

Valley of the Kings

These punishments were still no deterrent. The confession of one man named Amenpanufer, a mason at Deir el-Medina, describes how the tombs were robbed and also how easy it was to escape punishment if arrested and return to one's comrades to rob again. His confession is dated c. 1110 BCE:
We went to rob the tombs as is our usual habit and we found the pyramid tomb of King Sobekemsaf, this tomb being unlike the pyramids and tombs of the nobles which we usually rob. We took our copper tools and forced a way into the pyramid of this king through its innermost part. We located the underground chambers and, taking lighted candles in our hands, went down.
We found the god lying at the back of his burial place. And we found the burial place of Queen Nubkhaas, his consort, beside him, it being protected and guarded by plaster and covered with rubble.
We opened their sarcophagi and their coffins, and found the noble mummy of the king equipped with a sword.There were a large number of amulets and jewels of gold on his neck and he wore a headpiece of gold. The noble mummy of the king was completely covered in gold and his coffins were decorated with gold and with silver inside and out and inlaid with precious stones. We collected the gold that we found on the mummy of the god including the amulets and jewels which were on his neck. We set fire to their coffins.
After some days, the district officers of Thebes heard that we had been robbing in the west and they arrested me and imprisoned me in the office of the mayor of Thebes. I took the twenty deben of gold that represented my share and I gave them to Khaemope, the district scribe of the landing quay of Thebes. He released me and Irejoined my colleagues and they compensated me with a share again. And so I got into the habit of robbing the tombs. (Lewis, 256-257)
The tone of Amenpanufer's confession is quite comfortable as though he has nothing to fear. His claim that he paid the district scribe may be interpreted as a fine but most scholars recognize it as a bribe since this practice was quite common. The fate of Amenpanufer after his confession is unknown. The deben he mentions was the monetary unit of worth in ancient Egypt prior to the introduction of a cash economy c. 525 BCE by the Persians; and the god mentioned in the tomb of Sobekemsaf would have been the king's personal deity who watched over him in the same way the golden statues of Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Serket were placed in Tutankhamun's tomb.
The complete lack of regard Amenpanufer shows in recounting the tomb's looting, including the burning of the elaborate coffins, shows how little these tomb robbers cared about repercussions from the afterlife and the ease with which he found his freedom exemplifies why tomb robbing became such a popular way to make a living: if one had enough gold from the heist, one could buy one's self out of jail, be reimbursed by one's comrades, and go back to business as usual.


In spite of their best efforts, the authorities of ancient Egypt never were able to resolve the problem of tomb robbing. Their best effort, Deir el-Medina, started to fail even before the decline of the New Kingdom and their earlier efforts were clearly unsuccessful; otherwise, there would have been no reason to construct the village and new necropolises.
Although some scholars have pointed to a decline in religious belief during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2040-1782 BCE) as a reason for the increase in tomb robbing, this claim is untenable. The evidence for a lack of religious belief in the Middle Kingdom comes from literary works, not inscriptions or official records, and can be interpreted in a number of different ways.Further, as noted, the problem of tomb robbers existed long before the Middle Kingdom.
Ancient Egyptians robbed the tombs of the wealthy for many of the same reasons people rob others in the present day: excitement, money, and a kind of empowerment in taking what one does not own. The argument that these people should have behaved better considering their belief system also does not hold up since it seems quite clear that many people, throughout history, may profess a belief they cannot live. All of the threats and all of the promises of punishment in the afterlife and terrible hauntings in this one could not deter anyone when, given the chance, they could break into a tomb and walk back out with a king's treasure.


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