As a fan of a franchise that touts a strong woman (Lara Croft), I started thinking about Egypt’s list of strong women rulers. One such woman with a fantastic temple among other outstanding legacies is Hatshepsut. However, other than Cleopatra VII did you know there were other women that once governed Egypt? Though it would take an article of novel proportion to address each one, this article shall look at Hatshepsut. Let’s get started!
How is this for a starter. The legendary Hatshepsut is known According to Egyptologist James Henry Breasted as “the first great woman in history of whom we are informed.” I think that quote was perfect for this article. Additionally, she is the second historically confirmed female pharaoh. The first one was Sobekneferu.
Josephus writes that Hatshepsut reigned 21 years and 9 months. She ruled during the XVIII Dynasty. A Dynasty that lasted about 250 years, and it gave us some of the most famous pharaohs in ancient Egyptian history.
The 18th Dynasty in order:
Hatshepsut became ruler in 1478 BC. She ruled by the side of her stepson Thutmose III, who came to power at the tender age of about two years old. Hatshepsut was the chief wife of Thutmose II.
In ancient Egypt, though they gave women more power within society, it was still difficult for a woman to assume a predominantly man’s world as pharaoh. The general populace of the time suggested it was fundamentally wrong for a woman to rule. This resulted in Hatshepsut spending most of her reign fighting for her respect as a legitimate ruler.
She became queen after her father’s death Thutmose I. She married her half brother Thutmose II. It was after her husband died, that power passed to her stepson and he ascended to power as a very young boy. This, in turn, allowed Hatshepsut to become co-regent ruling with her son side by side until he became older. However, with a power move that ambushed the expectations of her people she took complete power by proclaiming herself as pharaoh.
She needed to convince her people of her decision which was met with much controversy. She stressed her royal lineage to all of them and said her father wished for her to take the throne of Egypt, therefore, appointing her as his successor.
A Story Of High Proportions
Hatshepsut was desperate to have her people accept her, so much so that she invented a royal story. She told them she was the daughter of Amun, the chief of all Egyptian gods. She even had herself portrayed in artwork as a man with a false beard. She dressed when in public and addressing her people as a man. It was her primary aim to please her people and make them think of her as a man if that is what it took for her to rule the country successfully.
Though these were enormous efforts to convince the public she was a worthy ruler, she still worried about her position. One of the most difficult times in her life was how to deal with her army, which was commanded by her stepson Thutmose III
However, she knew that if her army was led into battle by her and lost, she would lose credibility and her power would diminish. If they won and she led them into battle her stepson would get the credit and it would harm her rule as well. So she devised a plan. She ordered her army to go to the ancient land of Punt even though the Egyptians had not been there for 500 years.
The expedition was a clever plan for her to make sure her stepson could be busy with them and pose no threat to her. Not only that, on their return, which was successful, they brought back to Egypt many exotic treasures such as leopard skins and Ivory among many other intriguing items on their journey. This proclaimed Hatshepsut the ruler that brought wonderful items from distant lands to the Egyptian people because of her ability to reach out beyond their borders. The result was a better place in the heart of the populous and this won her the respect she was looking for. Although, all was not rosy in the minds of some in her midst. One such person that resented her completely was her stepson. He, in fact, was the rightful heir to the throne and was not allowed to claim it until Hatshepsut died. He had to wait about 20 years before he could rule.
After he assumed the throne he was so angry with his stepmother that he had her erased from history in the hope that people would forget she ever ruled Egypt.
In a huge mission, he ordered that anywhere her name and image appeared throughout Egypt, it was to be erased. The mission was a success, and it was not until 1903 when British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered her tomb that her story was uncovered again after 3500 years!
Although her stepson tried to eliminate her from history, one of the most outstanding structures in her name is the crown jewel in her memory.
When you enter the magnificent temple of Hatshepsut you are lead by a 100-foot causeway. The temple is comprised of three terraced courtyards. Each one is embellished with sculptural reliefs. The terraces we see today are stern and bleak in appearance, however, in Hatshepsut’s time, it would have had much color with gardens and fountains along with many myrrh trees that were acquired during Hatshepsut’s visit to Punt. That journey was depicted in one of the colonnades of the Middle Terrace.
On the right side of the terrace, you will find the Birth Colonnade. There are faded reliefs of Hatshepsut’s background. You can see her parents Tuthmosis I and Queen Ahmosis sitting with their knees touching; some Egyptian gods lead Ahmosis into the birth chamber; Khnum creates Hatshepsut and her ka (both depicted as boys) on a potter’s wheel; Bes and Heqet (a frog deity) look on; goddesses nurse her; and Thoth records details of her reign.
At the end of the Birth Colonnade, you go down a few steps to the Chapel of Anubis. There are fluted columns and many murals rich in color etc.
On the left side of the terrace, there is the Punt Colonnade, with reliefs of Hatshepsut’s journey to the Land of Punt (the birthplace of Amun) to bring back the aforementioned myrrh trees for her temple. You will see Egyptian boats sailing from the Red Sea Coast being welcomed by the king of Punt The Egyptians offer them tools in the form of axes and other goods. The Egyptians are given myrrh trees, ebony, ivory, cinnamon wood and panther skins. The end relief shows the trees being planted at the temple.
After the Punt Colonnaded, there is the Chapel of Hathor. You will see Hathor in her bovine and human forms nursing Hatshepsut on the left wall. In another chamber, there are colorful reliefs of festival processions.
The next area is a gated sanctuary of the Chapel of Hathor. Here you will not only find reliefs of Hatshepsut worshiping Hathor, but you will also find a portrait of Senenmut. He was Hatshepsut’s favorite courtier. It is believed that he may be the father of Hatshepsut’s daughter Neferure.
The upper terrace is called the Djeser-Djeseru meaning”Splendor of Splendors”.the colonnade is built into a cliff face. The Upper Terrace is reached by a ramp hemmed in with vultures’ heads. From up there is a fantastic view of the Nile Valley.
On the left, there is the Sanctuary of Hatshepsut with reliefs of priests and offerings. Across from the reliefs is the Sanctuary of the Sun. A large court yard with an altar in the center. In the back is the Sanctuary of Amun. It was dug into the cliff and points towards Hatshepsut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Enjoy the Egyptian Gallery
Thank you for reading! I shall return with another update later.
Explore the world!
- Ashmolean Museum
- The Metropolitan Museum
- Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of…
- Oxford Illustrated History of Ancient Egypt
Copyright © Okh Eshivar aka Emma Q 2017