Hatshepsut's Life

Hatshepsut was considered one of the greatest rulers, male or female of her time. Born during Egypt’s 18th dynasty, she was able to rise from princess to queen to pharaoh. Her rise to the throne, though against ideals of the time, might have inspired others, such as Cleopatra. During this time she was able to expand trade, watch the Egyptian economy grow and improve, and build and restore temples of Egypt. Hatshepsut did this by claiming right of male, being in the image of the Sphinx. She strapped a golden beard to her chin and often dressed in male clothing.
As noted by Wells (1969), Hatshepsut, sometime before 1500 BCE, was supposedly born a beautiful child to the pharaoh Thutmosis I and his queen, Amose. Although, Hatshepsut, as a girl, was not heir to the pharaoh, she held much authority as a young child.
This is primarily due to the rule of her father and the high expectations, which had been set for her since birth. Being the daughter of a powerful pharaoh, Hatshepsut was given no choice of what her adulthood would consist of.

Hatshepsut had a sister, Princess Neterukheb, and two brothers, Wadjmose and Amennose; who both died young. Hatshepsut also had a half brother who later became her husband, Thutmosis II. As a child, the royal scribe taught Hatshepsut how to read and write hieroglyphics. As documented by Sadat (1987) Hatshepsut questioned her need for education since she thought she would never become pharaoh. Hatshepsut was raised believing that all good came from the god Amon and that the trinity of power consisted of the king, queen, and Amon. Wells (1969) states that Hatshepsut was taught the importance of the Nile River as a source of goods and food to the people of Egypt and her family

Hatshepsut acquired many titles during her rise to power. From Queen Tetisheri she received the title, "God's wife of Amon." This title was then passed to Hatshepsut’s daughter, Neferure. As noted in Save-Soderbergh (1961) Hatshepsut was often dressed as a boy, who led her to be titled the "Crown Prince of Egypt." Her greatest accomplishment and title came in 1473 BCE when she crowned herself, not only queen, but also the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. Before he died, her father Thutmosis I, named his son, Thutmosis III, of a minor wife, heir to the throne. Since Thutmosis III was still a young child, Hatshepsut believed he could not run both Upper and Lower Egypt alone, and soon crowned herself co-pharaoh. At the time Thutmosis III did not seem to mind his joint reign with Hatshepsut. It was not until he grew into adulthood that Thutmosis III decided he wanted full rights to the throne.

As the fifth ruler of the 18th dynasty, Hatshepsut accomplished many things in her kingdom. Although many queens had ruled before her, never had a female ruler taken on the title of king, as stated by Breasted (1909). It is believed that Hatshepsut posed as a man while out on expeditions or while visible to her kingdom. Nonetheless, Hatshepsut began a line of strong female Egyptian rulers going as far forward as Cleopatra. Montet (1964) stated the possibility that Hatshepsut staged the beginning struggles for women’s rights and set the stage for many to follow her. Another accomplishment of Hatshepsut was the birth of her child, Princess Neferure. Being queen, pharaoh, and mother took much patience, talent, and devotion. Also, the fact that Hatshepsut was faced with raising a daughter in Egypt, forced her once again with the same problems of her childhood. Still, Hatshepsut was a strong woman and accomplished much.

Having the title of God’s wife of Amon, Hatshepsut was able to influence and receive the support of the priests of the temple. Hatshepsut also built a magnificent temple in Thebes, Deir el Bahri, showing she believed she was of diving birth. Hatshepsut sent many ships on voyages to bring back other country’s goods. After an expedition to Punt, a crew brought back exotic goods like ivory, myrrh, wood, monkeys, and gold. Hatshepsut was able to open and increase trade expansion, keep a country at peace for the length of her rule, and begin to perfect domestic advancement. Cottrell (1960) believed Hatshepsut was loved by many due to the thousands that worked for and supported her every day of her rule. However it is not understood what happened to the powerful Hatshepsut. Some think she was either poisoned by Thutmosis III or left the country. Map of Egypt during the 18th dynasty

Hatshepsut Compared To Other Rulers

Hatshepsut expanded territory and maintained religious, social, and political order, just as her father and husband had done. Hatshepsut’s reign was similar to that of her father’s. As did Thutmosis I, Hatshepsut continued to expand trade and the Egyptian trade. Hatshepshut was also able to maintain the order of her father’s legacy. Both were taught by the same scribe, making them of equal in education and knowledge. Their only difference was gender, something which Hatshepsut had.

Thutmosis II, her husband and half brother, differed from Hatshepsut in that he centered most of his time and work on continuing the control of the Egyptian army. Also, Thutmosis II moved away from Thutmosis I’s strategies and looked to use his strong army as a weapon to small nation which Egypt saw as conquerable. Hand in hand, Thutmosis II’s military activity co-existed with Hatshpsut’s expansion of the Egyptian territory. After Thutmosis II’s death, the crown was passed to his son of a minor wife, Thutmosis III, who eventually ruled after Hatshepsut. Millmore(1998) claims Thutmosis III was the Napoleon of his time. Thutmosis III was able to continue the traditions of his stepmother, father, and grandfather. Though, as stated by Montet (1964) Thutmosis III seemed more concerned with the popularity of his name and achievements, rather than those of all of Egypt.

Hatshepsut became the forerunner for many other rulers including Cleopatra. Cleopatra also ruled Egypt alone during the first century AD. She used similar techniques such as expanding Egypt and its trade. Both females ruled for a considerable time, although their reasons for ruling were different. Hatshepsut, as we know, ruled because it was her destiny and was what she had been taught to do. Dressing as a man, Hatshepsut tried to hide the fact that she was a women. Cleopatra, on the other hand, dressed flamboyantly as a women, in all the styles of the time. Plus, Cleopatra it seemed, ruled only to rule. She enjoyed the benefits of being queen and looked to her role to better herself. In addition, unlike Hatshepsut, Cleopatra relied on men for assistance during her reign. Pharaoh Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut's Comparison To The Role Of Women

The position of women in Egypt was a unique one. Women were allowed many of the same economic and legal rights as men. Callender (1997) stated that women’s place was based primarily on society and the common custom. Hatshepsut, queen and pharaoh during the 18th Dynasty, was able to jump these social hurdles and become an excellent ruler based on many unheard of achievements, such as trading expeditions and the construction of beautiful temples.

Hatshepsut lived the early part of her life being taught by her father’s scribe and posing as a man. She was “prepped” to fill the shoes of a man and in the end Hatshepsut, a woman, and her accomplishments greatly influenced Egypt. To begin with, Hatshepsut often sent out trading expeditions to Punt off the coast of Somalia. As pharaoh, Hatshepsut organized and possibly attended these expeditions which led to the trading of ivory, trees, panthers, and cattle. All of these new ideas were important, Hatshepsut being responsible for Egypt’s continuation of trade with the world. The accomplishment was also much larger when the conditions of women in ancient Egypt are known. Women, as stated earlier by Callender (1997), were equal to a man economically and legally, but socially women were cast off responsible only for reproduction and maintaining the home. Hatshepsut began to show other women that it was possible for a female to run a growing nation, and allow it to be successful.

Another huge accomplishment of her time was the construction of her temple Der el Bahri. This temple was Hatshepsut's gift to herself. The temple itself is gorgeous with all the technology of the time. Though, more importantly Der el Bahri represented Hatshepsut’s divinity which she claimed was given to her by the god Amon-Ra. As quoted from Millmore (1997), she had carved on her temple, "welcome my sweet daughter, my favorite, the king of upper and lower Egypt, Maatkere, Hatshepsut. Thou art king, taking possession of the two lands." (p1) She dressed as a king, acting as god on earth. The Egyptian people accepted Hatshepsut’s behavior and appreciated her achievements.

Hatshepsut gained the throne while holding the spot for her stepson, Thutmosis III. During the later part of her reign, while Hatshepsut was pharaoh, the social ills of the time won out forced Hatshepsut into humiliation and more directly showed citizens of Egypt how powerless a woman pharaoh could be. Hatshepsut continued to struggle with handling a growing nation, not to mention her problems with society for a few more years.

Sometime between the 16th and 20th year of her reign, Hatshepsut was possibly dethroned, allowing Thutmosis III to take over. In all probability, he was a strikingly different ruler than Hatshepsut, and it was likely he was aware of it. In fact, it seems that Hatshepsut might have been a more successful ruler. This might explain why later all figures, statues, records, and other remembrances of Hatshepsut were found chiseled away. Thutmosis III’s actions also allowed many to forget the achievements of Hatshepsut. This overshadowing led to the stereotyping and misjudging of women’s abilities, which would continue for thousands of years. As we know, women participate little in Western Society until the late Middle Ages. Out of all of Hatshepsut’s achievements, the most important one would have to be that she showed the world a woman could hold the position of pharaoh and queen with or without the help of the gods.

Hatshepsut proved during her lifetime that a woman was able to succeed as pharaoh, as well as a good ruler during Egypt's 18th dynasty. She achieved much, including expanding territory, broadening trade, building and restoring temples, and holding stable order in Egypt. Although there were many men who reigned before and many after, Hatshepsut proved to be an equal among them then, golden beard or not. Even though her legacy was almost completely erased, today’s society is able to see what the benefits of a women with political and social power could be.

Works Cited

This webpage was written by J.G., A.H, and L.K., 3/22/98, for History & Thought of Western Man. Rich East High School.

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