As a lover ancient Egyptian culture, I find the story of female pharaoh Hatshepsut fascinating! Hatshepsut, meaning “Foremost of Noble Ladies”, was one of the most successful and longest reigning female pharaohs in ancient Egypt history. During her reign as pharaoh, she brought great wealth to the nation, re-established trading relationships, and initiated building projects that resulted in some of the most beautiful and classical architecture ever seen in Egypt. She became the prototype for many other rulers including Cleopatra and Nefertiti, who used several of Hatshepsut’s techniques during their reign. She was successful in warfare, but was also noted to be one of the pharaohs who established the longest peaceful era in ancient Egypt. Her goal was not to abuse her power, but use it to better serve her surroundings and her people. Although she faced many obstacles as a female pharaoh, she was able to jump social hurdles which resulted in the upmost respect from her people and the ability to be the leader she was always destined to be.
Hatshepsut was the eldest daughter of Thutmose I and Aahmes, both of royal lineage. Her father, King Thutmose, ruled Egypt for approximately 12 to 14 years and her mother Aahmes was the sister of Amenophris, who was pharaoh of Egypt for 21 years. After the death of Hatshepsut’s father Thutmose I, her half brother Thutmose II succeeded the throne. Hatshepsut married her half brother Thutmose II, which put her in a unique situation to gain power after his premature death. Although Thutmose II had a son (not born to Hatshepsut), he was still too young to assume the throne. It was then that his stepmother, Hatshepsut, began to make decisions on his behalf. After only a few years of doing this, Hatshepsut was soon named pharaoh and given full royal capabilities.
Hatshepsut’s reign was during a time when women in ancient Egypt were not only allowed to rule, but were also allowed many of the same economic and legal rights as their male counterparts. However, Hatshepsut was still faced with the sad reality that equal rights did not always result in equal treatment. She would sometimes dress in traditional male garments and demand that people refer to her as “king.” Much of the artwork of Hatshepsut also depicted her with a traditional male headdress and a false beard. When it came to Egyptian art, many believed in depicting things not as they were, but rather how they should have been. Even though she succeeded all expectations as pharaoh, there was still no escaping the traditionalist beliefs of some people in her society.
It is believed that Hatshepsut ruled for about 22 years before allowing her stepson Thutmose III take over. During that time, she accomplished many things that were not only admirable, but inspirational to future pharaohs to come. She organized expeditions which led to the trading of many resources including ivory, trees, and cattle. She also expanded territory and was able to hold order in Egypt. She restored and built temples that brought tremendous amounts of art and beauty to Egypt that remains unmatched by other pharaohs. Not much is known about her death, but it is believed that she died around 1458 BC and was middle aged. However, the life and legacy of Hatshepsut lives on. Her reign as pharaoh is inspiring and the perfect example of how women can assume positions of power successfully and respectfully. All hail Queen Hatshepsut!!!
“Hatshepsut, His Majesty, Herself” by Catherine M. Andronik, Joseph Daniel Fiedler (Illustrator). Available at Amazon
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