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The gods had a little help, in the form of pharaohs. Pharaohs were the kings of Ancient Egypt. In hieroglyphics, pharaoh means “great house” or “palace”, a word that was eventually used to describe the king himself. The ancient Egyptians saw their pharaoh as a god, more specifically as the god Horus. They thought that when the pharaoh died, a new Horus was born to rule on earth, thus achieving eternal life. In reality, the pharaohs headed the government, the army, set taxes, judged criminals and were high priests of all the temples. All this was in theory, of course. Appointed officials did most of the work, in his name.

After a pharaoh died, his oldest son would inherit the position. But what if he didn't have any sons? This wasn't usually a problem since pharaohs had many wives, who bore many children. In fact, Ramses II had over 100 children! The throne would be handed down throughout the family, generation after generation.

There were exceptions, though. A dynasty (family of rulers) could end if a pharaoh had no male heirs to inherit his throne. Or a rival could conquer a reigning pharaoh and establish himself as the new king. Even foreign invaders could come in and take the throne. In all, Egypt had 31 dynasties until the Greeks took over in 332 BC. The Greeks ruled as pharaohs, blending their culture with that of Egypt.

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