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Pharaoh Hatshepsut 1478 BC – 
the greatest pharaoh in history


1508–1458 BC

Hatshepsut (meaning foremost of the noble ladies) was the original female ruler, the ancestress of all queens and empresses.  Pharaoh Hatshepsut snatched the throne from her husband, Thutmose III in the sixteenth century BC, ruling a vast empire and developing the economic resources of the empire as few male rulers ever did.Being female, she did not accord with the sacred religious lore concerning the divine maleness of the pharaohs which had taken currency as the patriarchal revolution swept the world.This fact is in itself testament to her greatness since her remarkable achievements occurred in a time when only male rule was accepted. Pharaoh Hatshepsut ruled for 22 years.

Hatshepsut’s Achievements

Hatshepsut established trade networks that had been disrupted during an occupation of Egypt, thereby building the wealth of the eighteenth dynasty. She oversaw the preparations and funding for a mission to the Land of Punt.  Many trade goods were bought in Punt, notably frankincense and myrrh. Hatshepsut ground the charred frankincense into kohl eyeliner. This is the first recorded use of the resin.

Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper and Lower Egypt.   Arguably, her buildings were grander and more numerous than those of any of her Middle Kingdom predecessors’. Later pharaohs attempted to claim some of her projects as theirs.  During her reign, so much statuary was produced that almost every major museum in the world has Hatshepsut statuary among their collections.

Following the tradition of most pharaohs, Hatshepsut had monuments constructed at the Temple of Karnak. She also restored the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient great goddess of Egypt at Karnak, that had been ravaged by the foreign rulers during the Hyksos occupation. It later was ravaged by other pharaohs, who took one part after another to use in their pet projects and awaits restoration. She had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance to the temple. One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth.

The Temple of Pakhet was built by Hatshepsut. The name, Pakhet, was a synthesis of Bast and Sekhmet, who were similar lioness war goddesses, in an area that bordered the north and south division of their cults. The cavernous underground temple, cut into the rock cliffs on the eastern side of the Nile, was admired  by the Greeks during their occupation of Egypt. They saw the goddess as a parallel to their hunter goddess Artemis. The temple is thought to have been built alongside much more ancient ones that have not survived. This temple has an architrave with a long dedicatory text bearing Hatshepsut’s famous denunciation of the Hyksos.

They had occupied Egypt and cast it into a cultural decline that persisted until the revival brought about by Hatshepsut’s policies and innovations. This temple was altered later and some of its inside decorations were usurped by  Seti I, in the nineteenth dynasty, attempting to have his name replace that of Hatshepsut.

The Reign of Hatshepsut

In comparison with other female pharaohs, Hatshepsut’s reign was much longer and more prosperous. She was successful in warfare early in her reign, but generally is considered to be a pharaoh who inaugurated a long peaceful era. She re-established international trading relationships lost during the foreign occupation and brought great wealth to Egypt.

That wealth enabled Hatshepsut to initiate building projects that raised the calibre of Ancient Egyptian architecture to a standard comparable to classical architecture, that would not be rivaled by any other culture for a thousand years.

Sour Grapes from Her Husband

After her death, her embittered husband, Thutmose III, wreaked terrible vengeance against her memory.  Confined to mundane functions during her lifetime, he proceeded to have her name erased and her figure hacked out of every monument, and her obelisks at Karnak were concealed by a masonry sheathing.  This pettiness on his part did not detract in any way from Hatshepsut’s peaceful and magnificent two decade long reign.

King Thutmose III  himself became a great ruler after her death.  But, as is typical of alpha male personalities, his greatness was in empire building and not in peace.  He owed a great legacy to Hatshepsut’s long reign of wealth building which provided him with the means of warfare. A typical alpha male squandering wealth to prove his own greatness.


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