History of the human civilization has few examples of women who had significant power and played a substantial role in the political life of an epoch they lived in. The word ‘pharaoh’ is associated with numerous men with heavy use of eyeliner and fascination with gold, as well as huge pyramids in deserts. The key word here is ‘men’. However, there were women among pharaohs who reigned and led Egypt civilization to prosperity and power. Hatshepsut was one of such female pharaohs. This paper is going to discuss her life and achievements.
Hatshepsut was the representative of the 18th dynasty and she ruled during the beginning of the ‘Golden Era of Egypt’ – the time of well-known pharaohs (and queens), such as Amenhotep, Tutankhamen, Tiye, Nefertiti, and Akhenaton (Wood & Wood, n.d.). However, it is difficult to determine the actual years of her reign, so the following periods are considered as possible ones “1504-1482, 1488-1468, 1479-1457, and 1473-1458 B.C.” (Wood & Wood, n.d.). Hatshepsut was born in the family of Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose c. 1504 B.C. (Wilson, 2006). Thutmose II, the son and ancestor of Thutmose I (Hatshepsut’s stepbrother), married her according to the ancient custom of preserving the line of royal blood. Hatshepsut was 12 at that moment, which was around 1492 B.C. (“Hatshepsut”, 2009). Their marriage produced only one official daughter, Neferure. The pharaoh died in the young age, around 1479 B.C., so the throne was inherited by Thutmose III. It should be noted that Hatshepsut was not his mother; Thutmose III’s mother was one of the secondary wives. Hatshepsut, using the custom as a rule, stepped in as a regent and guardian (Wilson, 2006). After the short period, Hatshepsut managed to take a full control over the throne and decided to appoint herself as the pharaoh. It was very unusual for Ancient Egypt since pharaohs were predominantly men (Wood & Wood, n.d.).
The new female king had strong will and determination of a man, making such an unusual step as proclaiming herself the pharaoh. Other powerful dynasties had the desire to take advantage of the rather weak combination of Thutmose III and Hatshepsut as the reining dynasty at that moment, so there was a need for a strong hand that would manage the situation and hold the throne (Wilson, 2006). Hatshepsut used a variety of strategies to become accepted by her people in the role of the pharaoh. Wood and Wood (n.d.) state the following: “… having herself depicted as a man wearing the traditional regalia of the pharaohs, including false beard, the head cloth with uraeus (cobra), royal flail and crook, the crown of two lands and kilt.” Additionally, Hatshepsut tried to support her right to be a pharaoh, claiming that Amun-Ra, God of Sun, had paid a visit to her mother (while she was pregnant with Hatshepsut) and expressed his will that the child should have become a pharaoh. Hatshepsut appointed herself as a divine child, adding this title to her pharaoh one (Wood & Wood, n.d.; Wilson, 2006).
Hatshepsut reigned for long and rather successful 15 years. Among the greatest achievements of her ruling, the following ones can be mentioned. Trade expeditions and building works became tremendous in scale and geography. Hatshepsut initiated several engineering projects that were recognized later as utterly impressive for that time. The superb temple at Deir el-Bahari, few structures at temples of Karnak and Luxor were the results of Hatshepsut’s desire to be an effective and noticeable pharaoh in the history of Ancient Egypt (Wood & Wood, n.d.). Transportation of a couple of gigantic obelisks from Aswan to the Karnak Temple by using the river Nile was another monumental achievement. In addition, the expedition to the land known as Punt, which is near the Red Sea and modern Somalia, is considered today as one of the remarkable successes of Hatshepsut as well. Despite having the warlike temperament, Hatshepsut managed to organize only one military campaign and she should be remembered more as a great administrator, builder, explorer, and developer of trade and commerce in the region (Wilson, 2006). Most of her successes were recorded on the walls of the funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri.
The reign of one of the female pharaohs of the Ancient Egypt ended around 1458 B.C. (1457 B.C. according to other sources) (Wood & Wood, n.d.; Wilson, 2006; Tyldesley, 2011). It should be added that around that time, Thutmose III regained his power and appointed himself as the pharaoh. Documents state that soon after Hatshepsut’s disappearance, “Hatshepsut’s monuments were attacked, her statues dragged down and smashed and her image and titles defaced. The female king vanished from Egyptian history” (Tyldesley, 2011). Most likely, Thutmose III, Hatshepsut’s stepson, played a key role in the end of her era.
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Hatshepsut is considered by the modern science as one of the most mysterious women in the history of Ancient Egypt. She is, indeed, a remarkable figure of that period. Hatshepsut’s pharaoh title was only the third such case in 3000 years of the history of Ancient Egypt. She was the first woman who had the full power being on this. Hatshepsut brought prosperity and rise of power to Ancient Egypt. She managed to save the throne for her 18th dynasty and increase the influence of Ancient Egypt in the region. Hatshepsut is one of the historical female figures to remember and respect for combination of power and wisdom.