Is there a king of Egypt

Pharaoh of Egypt Hatshepsut - The woman who became a man

Egypt in 1479 BC Pharaoh Thutmose II dies in the Upper Egyptian capital Thebes. The king of Upper and Lower Egypt is less than 30 years old. He leaves his main wife and half-sister Hatshepsut with their daughter Neferu-Re. And he leaves behind an underage son, whom he fathered with a concubine and who was known to his father as Thutmose III. immediately succeeds the throne. Since the first ruler on the Nile rose to Pharaoh - that is, king of Upper and Lower Egypt - 2,000 years earlier, the office has been reserved for men only. They are the sons of the sun god and they alone represent the divine order.

A new pharaoh

But the wives of pharaohs also exercised great power in Egypt time and again, for example as regents for the underage sons of their deceased husbands.

It is the same after the death of Thutmose II. His widow Hatshepsut takes over the reign of her four-year-old stepson and nephew Thutmose III. The divine order remains untouched. The dynasty - it is now the 18th in the long history of Egypt - remains on the throne. But only two years later - the year is 1477 BC. BC - another Pharaoh seizes power. His throne name: Maatka-Re. His real name: Hatshepsut.

Outrageous process

It is a monstrous process. Never in the history of Egypt has a woman dared to be crowned Pharaoh. The reasons why Hatshepsut is not satisfied with the role of regent and becomes queen can only be speculated. Has she found pleasure in the absolute power of the godlike pharaohs? Does she want her stepson and nephew Thutmose III. to be permanently excluded from rule, even to set up her own biological daughter Neferu-Re as her successor? We do not know it.

Realm of fiction

The Leipzig Egyptologist Dr. Franziska Naether warns against speculation: "There are various theories about this, unfortunately not all of which can be substantiated with historical facts. [...] There is a lot that needs to be relegated to the realm of fiction."

In this context, Naether also points out that the contemporary Egyptian sources are primarily of a political nature. Another problem are Greek historians who - after all, more than 1,000 years later - "reported on ancient Egypt with a very long time lag."

Daughter of the king of the gods

However, modern Egyptology largely agrees on one thing: Hatshepsut must have had powerful supporters when it came to power. Against the will of the influential priesthood, she would never have made it to the throne of the pharaohs.

Inscriptions in her mortuary temple in today's Deir el-Bahari also suggest that Hatshepsut, whose name means "the first of the ladies", attaches great importance to her own divine ancestry. She has the images of her conception carved into the walls of her mortuary temple by the king of the gods Amun-Re.

Also, the queen never rises - at least formally - to be the sole ruler of Egypt. Your stepson and nephew Thutmose III. also remains Pharaoh and is always mentioned in official writings as a co-ruler.

The ideology of rulers remains untouched

And also on the all-important question, Hatshepsut is evidently much less revolutionary than one might think: It does not shake the ancient Egyptian ruling ideology that the person who rules the country must be male. As Pharaoh Maatka-Re, Hatshepsut becomes a man, so to speak.

"She has portrayed herself as a man in her statues. And even in her stately titles, names appear all the time that have also been used for the male rulers Crown and jewelry are shown, "explains Naether.

Indeed, during the two decades of her reign, Hatshepsut's face became increasingly masculine in Egyptian art. If the queen is still depicted in early statues as a woman with a female face, breasts and in a dress, she later appears in a short man’s apron, without breasts, but with wider shoulders and harder facial features.

The trip to Punt

In terms of the balance sheet of her government, Hatshepsut can keep up with her successful male predecessors. "We know that she waged smaller campaigns. But we also know that it was a time of calm and peace for Egypt," says Naether. Yes, there is no dispute: the woman on the pharaoh's throne rules a prosperous empire in which economy and trade flourish.

One of Hatshepsut's greatest undertakings was the expedition to the legendary land of Punt in 1470 BC. Their ships bring gold, frankincense, myrrh, ivory, ebony and precious stones to Egypt from the area presumably in what is now Eritrea and Somalia, as shown by murals in the queen's mortuary temple.

Death at almost 40

Hatshepsut's co-regent and stepson Thutmose III. conquers Gaza for Egypt before the end of her reign. Contrary to rumors to the contrary, there are no contemporary sources to suggest an open conflict between him and his stepmother. There is also no evidence of an alleged murder of Hatshepsut. Rather, the queen dies in 1458 BC. With almost 40 years of natural death.

Thutmose III. thereafter ruled alone as god-king on the Nile for almost 32 years. Under him, Egypt, which extends its borders as far as the Euphrates, finally rises to become the dominant great power in the North African-Middle Eastern region.

The erased souvenir

The memory of his former co-regent Hatshepsut, who as Pharaoh Maatka-Re kept him away from the rule for almost 20 years, is still present. Later Thutmose III. assumes that he wanted to finally eradicate the memory of his stepmother in the last years of his reign by having her name chiseled out of all the reliefs and statues.

In the meantime, however, research assumes that the destruction happened much later. It is very possible that this was intended to undo the fact that a woman had dared to become a man and a pharaoh - and was also successful in doing so.

For the Leipzig Egyptologist Dr. Franziska Naether is one of the "first strong women in world history" with parallels to other great queens such as the famous Cleopatra VII (69-30 BC). If you want to find out more about this legendary ruler and her time, you can look forward to a new special exhibition in the Egyptian Museum "Georg Steindorff" at the University of Leipzig. "Warred, occupied, enriched. Egypt between late times and late antiquity" is the name of the new show, which opens its doors from September 8 to December 10, 2017 in the museum at Goethestrasse 2.

Radio | 07/27/2017 | 3:30 p.m.