Who were the Medjay in ancient Egypt

Who were the Hermotybians and Calascirians whom Herodotus mentioned formed the warrior caste of Egypt?

The Hermotybians and Calascirians mentioned by Heordotus appear to be simply two parts of the Egyptian army, each recruited from specific parts of the country. Indeed, Hordotus himself makes this clear:

"Their warriors are called Calasiries or Hermotybies and they belong to the following districts, because all of Egypt is divided into districts.

The following are the districts of the Hermotybies: Busiris, Sais, Chemmis, Papremis, the island called Prosopitis and half of Natho. From these districts come the Hermotybies, whose number, when most numerous, is one hundred and sixty thousand. None of them learn any mechanical art, but are entirely devoted to military affairs.

These are the nearest districts of the Calasiries: Thebes, Bubastis, Aphthis, Tanis, Mendes, Sebennytus, Athribis, Pharbaethus, Thmuis, Onuphis, Anysis and Myecphoris; This district is located on an island across from the city of Bubastis. These are the districts of the Calasiries, which are numerous when they are most numerous, two hundred and fifty thousand men ... "

This division of the army into two parts was not introduced by the Greeks, but it is also confirmed in much earlier records.

For example that says Great Edict of Horemheb :

The two detachments of troops in the field, one in the southern region and the other in the northern region, have stolen hides across the country without passing a year without applying the trademark [?] Of the royal house to cattle that it was not thanks to them that they increased their numbers and stole what was stamped on them. They went from house to house, beating and pillaging without leaving any hiding place for people.

This division of armies is hardly surprising given the geographical location of Egypt. The division of its armed forces into a northern and southern contingent enabled Egypt to protect itself from any threat from the Cushites in the south, as well as from those who were the dominant Mesopotamian power of the day in the north.


This is a difficulty with the Nomes listed by Herodotus (or " Districts "or" Cantons ", depending on your preferences), since many of the 42 Egyptian nomes are not mentioned:

It is possible that some Nomes were exempt from providing troops, or that Herodotus was unfamiliar with the Nomes system - probably never actually visiting Egypt - and therefore listed only those he knew.


As for the Medjay, the Medjay was last mentioned in the 20th Dynasty (1189-1077 BC). As a Wikipedia article, you cited notes

" It is not known whether the Medjay was abolished as a crew or the name of the force was changed ".

Herodotus makes no suggestion that the Medjay is in any way related to the Hermotybians and Calascirians were related (or Calasiries and Hermotybies , depending on the translation of ' Stories 'that you have available). This is hardly surprising since Herodotus did not arrive until 485 BC. Was born six centuries after the Medjay were last mentioned in the actual records of ancient Egypt.

user20490

As always, this is a solid answer. I was curious about the Medjay because, as elite warriors, they too would have been part of the second most important caste in Egyptian society (except that the caste groups were something that Herodotus himself had invented). Since Herodotus mentioned the two groups as Hermotybians and Calascirians, it is tempting to establish a connection between these warrior groups and the elite force of the pharaohs army. Even if the Medjay were not mentioned after the 20th dynasty, their fame should have deserved a mention in the historical battles of the surrounding regions.