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Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut was born in about 1473 BC and disappeared from view in about 1458 BC. It is unclear if she died then, or was deposed and left public office.

Hatshepsut was the first woman to rule Egypt as a Pharaoh. Other women had reigned as Queens, but never as a Pharaoh. The difference between a Queen or King and a Pharaoh is in their god-like status. Kings and Queens were considered as people. Very lofty and important people, but nonetheless people. Pharaohs, on the other hand, were considered to be gods. Although the Egyptian Gods were numerous and included male and females gods, there had never been a female Pharaoh.

In Ancient Egypt the system for becoming a Pharaoh or ruler of the land was strange. The Pharaoh was always male, being the oldest male heir of the previous Pharaoh. In order to rule he had to marry a female who carried royal blood. In practical terms this meant that Pharaohs were married to their own sisters, or at least half sisters, most of the time. If a sister or half sister was unavailable, they married someone else who carried royal blood. This is how Hatshepsut managed to snatch the throne and become Pharaoh.

She was the eldest daughter of Thotmose I and Queen Ahmose. Queen Ahmose was Thutmose's chief wife. She had two younger brothers who died before their father. He had many other wives who were not as important as Queen Ahmose. Only the children of the chief wife were considered as legitimate children. His eldest remaining son was Thutmose II, a son by one of his lesser wives. He was younger than Hatshepsut, but they were married, as he was heir and she was the oldest daughter. They were married for ten years before Hatshepsut's father died. They produced no boys. Thutmose II did have a son by another wife. This son was Thutmose III and a nephew of Hatshepsut (since her husband was her brother!)

When Hatshepsut's father died, Thutmose II took over as Pharaoh. He was rather sickly and only survived for three years after his father's death. During his reign it is thought that Hatshepsut actually had most of the power.

When her husband died, his son and her nephew, Thutmose III, should have taken power. He was very young at the time and so Hatshepsut was appointed as his guardian and as Dowager (this meant that she would rule until he was old enough).

Hatshepsut was the popular daughter of a well-liked Pharaoh. She was also beautiful and well liked by the people. Enough people supported her, that she was able to take control of the throne and have herself declared Pharaoh. It isn't clear when this happened. Probably after she had been Dowager for six years or so, and just before her nephew would have been old enough to rule alone.

Since Pharaohs were male she needed to get the support of the priests to become a Pharaoh. She also needed to prove she was a god. She had it told that her father was actually the god Amen Ra, who had appeared as Thutmose I (her actual father). She then said that Thutmose I had hosen her to lead Egypt following his death. The priests supported her in these claims. Next she needed to become manlier. She slowly started dressing in the men's clothes of the time. Gradually adding more and more articles of men's wear. At the same time she started to drop all names that could only be held by a woman.

Eventually she had taken on the appearance of a man, and was sometimes referred to as he and sometimes as she. Even though she dressed as a man and claimed to be King, she was obviously a beautiful woman. Everyone knew that she was in fact a woman, but that as Pharaoh she should be treated as a man. In this way she was able to hold onto power for twenty years.

As a ruler she was very fair and worked hard for her people. She sent expeditions to foreign lands and engaged in trade with them. She had monuments built. Among the greatest of these were two huge obelisks and her Mortuary Temple. She also had several other temples, which needed repairing repaired and renewed. She also started the first ever known zoo. During her reign there were no major wars. The people of Egypt had plenty of food, shelter and protection. Her rule was extremely successful.

What actually happened to her isn't known. It is certain that her nephew and stepson Thutmose III hated her. She had taken his place on the throne. Her disappearance from all historic texts coincides with Thutmose III coming to power. When he came to power he had all mention of her removed from monuments. Since she was always depicted as a man it wasn't difficult. He simply changed her name to that of Thutmose. However this led to a lot of confusion among historians, and it took them a long time to actually work out the details of her reign. To confuse matters even further Thutmose III changed her name on monuments to Thutmose I, II or III.

All mention of her was also removed from records in temples. It is probable that Thutmose III had her murdered, but it is difficult to prove since her mummy has never been found.

Hatshepsut had one of the most successful and peaceful rules of any Egyptian Pharaoh. Considering she was a woman, and ruled for twenty years (a long time in those days), she must have been an extraordinary person.

 

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