A nome (//; from Greek: Νομός, “district”) was a subnational administrative division of ancient Egypt. Today's use of the Greek nome rather than the Egyptian term sepat came about during the Ptolemaic period, when use of Greek was widespread in Egypt. The availability of Greek records on Egypt influenced the adoption of Greek terms by later historians.
The division of ancient Egypt into nomes can be traced back to the Predynastic Period (before 3100 BC). These nomes originally existed as autonomous city-states, but later began to unify. According to ancient tradition, the ruler Menes completed the final unification.
Not only did the division into nomes remain in place for more than three millennia, the areas of the individual nomes and their ordering remained remarkably stable. Some, like Xois in the Delta or Khent in Upper Egypt, were first mentioned on the Palermo stone, which was inscribed in the Fifth Dynasty. The names of a few, like the nome of Bubastis, appeared no earlier than the New Kingdom. Under the system that prevailed for most of pharaonic Egypt's history, the country was divided into 42 nomes.
Lower Egypt, from the Old Kingdom capital Memphis to the Mediterranean Sea, comprised 20 nomes. The first was based around Memphis, Saqqara, and Giza, in the area occupied by modern-day Cairo. The nomes were numbered in a more or less orderly fashion south to north through the Nile delta, first covering the territory on the west before continuing with the higher numbers to the east. Thus, Alexandria was in the Third Nome; Bubastis was in the Eighteenth.
Upper Egypt was divided into 22 nomes. The first of these was centered around Elephantine close to Egypt's border with Nubia at the First Cataract – the area of modern-day Aswan. From there the numbering progressed downriver in an orderly fashion along the narrow fertile strip of land that was the Nile valley. Waset (ancient Thebes or contemporary Luxor) was in the Fourth Nome, Amarna in the Fourteenth, and Meidum in the Twenty-first.
Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt
Some nomes were added or renamed during the Graeco-Roman occupation of Egypt. For example, the Ptolemies renamed the Crocodilopolitan nome to Arsinoe. Hadrian created a new nome, Antinoopolites, for which Antinoopolis was the capital.
At the head of each nome stood a nomarch. The position of the nomarch was at times hereditary, while at others they were appointed by the pharaoh. Generally, when the national government was stronger, nomarchs were the king's appointed governors. When the central government was weaker, however – such as during foreign invasions or civil wars – individual nomes would assert themselves and establish hereditary lines of succession. Conflicts between these different hereditary nomarchies were common during, for example, the First Intermediate Period – a time that saw a breakdown in central authority lasting from the sixth and eleventh dynasties, until one of the local rulers was once again able to assert control over the entire country as pharaoh.
Survival of the nomes
The nomes survived through the Ptolemaic period, into Roman times. Under Roman rule, individual nomes minted their own coinage, the so-called "nome coins," which still reflect individual local associations and traditions. The nomes of Egypt retained their primary importance as administrative units until the fundamental rearrangement of the bureaucracy during the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine.
From AD 307/8, their place was taken by smaller units called pagi. Eventually powerful local officials arose who were called pagarchs, through whom all patronage flowed. The pagarch's essential role was as an organizer of tax-collection. Later the pagarch assumed some military functions as well. The pagarchs were often wealthy landowners who reigned over the pagi from which they originated.
List of nomes
|Number||Egyptian Name||Capital||Modern name of capital site||Translation|
|1||Aneb-Hetch||Ineb Hedj / Men-nefer / Menfe (Memphis)||Mit Rahina||White Walls|
|2||Khensu||Khem (Letopolis)||Ausim||Cow's thigh|
|3||Ahment||Imu (Apis)||Kom el-Hisn||West|
|5||Sap-Meh||Zau (Sais)||Sa el-Hagar||Northern shield|
|6||Khaset||Khasu (Xois)||Sakha||Mountain bull|
|7||A-ment||(Hermopolis Parva, Metelis)||Damanhur||West harpoon|
|8||A-bt||Tjeku / Per-Atum (Heroonpolis, Pithom)||Tell al-Maskhuta||East harpoon|
|9||Ati||Djed (Busiris)||Abu Sir Bara||Andjeti|
|10||Ka-khem||Hut-hery-ib (Athribis)||Banha (Tell Atrib)||Black bull|
|11||Ka-heseb||Taremu (Leontopolis)||Tell al-Urydam||Heseb bull|
|12||Theb-ka||Tjebnutjer (Sebennytos)||Samanud||Calf and Cow|
|13||Heq-At||Iunu (Heliopolis)||Materiya (suburb of Cairo)||Prospering Sceptre|
|14||Khent-abt||Tjaru (Sile, Tanis)||Tell Abu Sefa||Eastmost|
|15||Tehut||Ba'h / Weprehwy (Hermopolis Parva)||Baqliya||Ibis|
|16||Kha||Djedet (Mendes)||Tell al-Rubˁ||Fish|
|17||Semabehdet||Semabehdet (Diospolis Inferior)||Tell el-Balamun||The throne|
|18||Am-Khent||Per-Bastet (Bubastis)||Tell Bastah (near Zagazig)||Prince of the South|
|19||Am-Pehu||Dja'net (Leontopolis Tanis)||Tell Nebesha or San el-Hagar||Prince of the North|
|20||Sopdu||Per-Sopdu||Saft al-Henna||Plumed Falcon|
|Number||Egyptian Name||Capital||Modern Capital||Translation|
|1||Ta-Seti||Abu / Yebu (Elephantine)||Aswan||Land of the bow|
|2||Wetjes-Hor||Djeba (Apollonopolis Magna)||Edfu||Throne of Horus|
|4||Waset||Niwt-rst / Waset (Thebes)||Karnak||Sceptre|
|5||Herui||Gebtu (Coptos)||Qift||The two falcons|
|6||Aa-ta||Iunet / Tantere (Tentyra)||Dendera||The crocodile|
|7||Seshesh||Seshesh (Diospolis Parva)||Hu||Sistrum|
|8||Abdju||Abdju (Abydos)||al-Birba||Great land|
|9||Min||Apu / Khen-min (Panopolis)||Akhmim||Min|
|11||Set||Shashotep (Hypselis)||Shutb||The creature associated with Set|
|12||Tu-ph||Hut-Sekhem-Senusret (Antaeopolis)||Qaw al-Kebir||Viper mountain|
|13||Atef-Khent||Zawty (z3wj-tj, Lycopolis)||Asyut||Upper Sycamore and Viper|
|14||Atef-Pehu||Qesy (Cusae)||al-Qusiya||Lower Sycamore and Viper|
|15||Un||Khemenu (Hermopolis Magna)||al-Ashmunayn||Hare|
|16||Meh-Mahetch||Hebenu||Kom el Ahmar||Oryx|
|18||Sep||Teudjoi / Hutnesut (Alabastronopolis)||el-Hiba||Set|
|19||Uab||Per-Medjed (Oxyrhynchus)||el-Bahnasa||Two Sceptres|
|20||Atef-Khent||Henen-nesut (Herakleopolis Magna)||Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah||Southern Sycamore|
|21||Atef-Pehu||Shenakhen / Semenuhor (Crocodilopolis, Arsinoe)||Madinat al-Fayyum||Northern Sycamore|
- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Merriam-Webster, 2007. p. 841
- Herodotus, Euterpe, 2.4.1 and 2.99.1ff.
- Alan K. Bowman (1990). Egypt After the Pharaohs. Oxford University Press.