Joshua J. Mark
published on 14 February 2012
Hatshepsut (also known as Ma'at-Ka-Re, `spirit of harmony and truth') was the fifth ruler of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Today she is considered one of the greatest pharaohs of ancient Egypt. She was the daughter of Tuthmosis I and Queen Ahmose and, following royal tradition, married her half-brother, Tuthmosis II, by whom she bore a daughter, Neferu-Ra. Tuthmosis II had a son, Tuthmosis III, by a minor wife, Isis. When Tuthmosis I died, Hatshepsut ruled equally with Tuthmosis II who named Tuthmosis III his heir. Upon the death of Tuthmosis II, however, his son was too young to assume the throne and Hatshepsut stepped into the role of pharaoh of Egypt.
Claiming she was actually the daughter of the great god Amun, and therefore just as divine as any male ruler, Hatshepsut consolidated her power. An inscription on the inner walls of her tomb, regarding her conception, reads, in part:
Amun took the form of the noble King Thothmose and found the queen sleeping in her room. When the pleasant odours that proceeded from him announced his presence she woke. She smiled at his majesty. He gave his heart to her and showed himself in his godlike splendour. When he approached the queen she wept for joy at his strength and beauty. His love passed into her limbs. The palace was flooded with the god's fragrance, and all his perfumes were as from Punt.
She further claimed that she, and not Tuthmosis II, had been named as heir to the throne. As a female pharaoh, she needed to link herself to male authority and, therefore, legitimacy but as a ruler, she proved that she needed no man to succeed. Hatshepsut initiated peace treaties, trade, and great public works projects. Trade between Egypt and the Land of Punt flourished, as did trade with other lands. She refused to reign in the traditional role of queen and maintained that she was pharaoh of Egypt, dressing in the traditional male garb and even going so far as to build her temple in what became known as the Valley of the Kings.
Queen Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for twenty-two years and her reign was marked by peace and prosperity. No Egyptian ruler besides Rameses II was responsible for more building projects. Even so, it was not until the early 20th century that her name was even known. Upon her ascension to the throne, she married her daughter to Tuthmosis III, perhaps to ensure succession and remembrance, but Neferu-Ra died eleven years later. After Hatshepsut's death, Tuthmosis III defaced and mutilated all of her public statues and monuments, erasing her name from history. There has been much speculation over the years as to why he did this but perhaps the best explanation is simply that Tuthmosis III did not want it widely known that a woman had ruled for so long and so successfully. According to the ancient Egyptian concept of ma'at (universal harmony) only a male was supposed to rule the land. It has been suggested that Tuthmosis III eradicated Hatshepsut's likeness from so many public works to discourage other women from seeing her as a role model and following her example. Her mummy was hidden away by her supporters to prevent desecration and was thought lost until positively identified only in 2010.
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Joshua J. Mark
published on 18 January 2012
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