Hatshepsut Essay

This essay has a total of 4148 words and 16 pages.


Hatshepsut





Hatshepsut: God?s Wife in Ancient Egypt?s XVIIIth Dynasty
Was she the archetypal wicked stepmother, an unnatural and scheming woman ?of the most
virile character who would deliberately abuse a position of trust to steal the throne from
a defenceless child? (Gardiner, 1961:184)? Or was she ?an experienced and well-meaning
woman who ruled amicably alongside her stepson, steering her country through twenty
peaceful, prosperous years who deserves to be commemorated among the great monarchs of
Egypt? (Budge, 1902:I)? According to biographer and historian Joyce Tyldesley, Queen or as
she would prefer to be remembered, King Hatchepsut became the female embodiment of a male
role, whose reign was a carefully balanced period of internal peace, foreign exploration
and monument building (Tyldesley, 1996:1). This study will show that it was Hatshepsut the
Pharaoh?s devotion to the god Amen and her protection of the maat of 18th Dynasty Egypt
that allowed her to forge her successful New Kingdom regime.

In about 1630 BC, a group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics called ?Hyksos? (probably Egyptian
for ?rulers of foreign lands?) seized power and ruled Egypt as Pharaohs or as vassals. The
Hyksos introduced the horse and chariot, the compound bow, improved battle-axes and
advanced fortification techniques into Egypt. Their chief deity was the Egyptian storm and
desert god, Seth. Under the Hyksos rulers Seqeneenre and Kamose the Thebans began a revolt
spread northward under Kamose until, in about 1521, Avaris feel to his successor, Ahmose,
founder of the 18th Dynasty (Tyldesley, 1996:24-25).

This was the beginning of ?The New Kingdom,? characterized by god-like pharaohs who left
immense temples and fortresses that still stand today. Until this time, the 12th Dynasty
had represented Egypt?s only true golden age, with a succession of strong pharaohs who
ruled over a united land. The longing to return to the glories of the 12th Dynasty
consumedthe pharaohs of the 18th and became a constant underlying theme of New Kingdom
political life after a hundred years of foreign rule. A second key characteristic of the
New Kingdom was steady expansion of the empire. Under 18th Dynasty pharaohs ruling from
Thebes, Palestine and Syria became provinces, Nubia was conquered as far as the foot of
the Fourth Cataract, conquest was extended as far north as the Upper Euphrates, and
governors were appointed for all the important cities and towns of the resulting empire.
As a result, 18th Dynasty Egypt becomes the richest country in the world which, in turn,
leads to a prolific level of construction of the period (Budge, 1977:9).

The expulsion of the Hyksos was not without cost. Ahmose lost his father Seqenenre II and
his brother Kahmose within about three years of each other, leaving him sole heir to the
throne at a very young age. His mother, Queen Ashotep, may have been co-regent with him in
the early years of his reign. He was faced with the task of consolidating Egypt?s borders,
which he did in a series of rapid campaigns. He also initiated temple building projects,
the best evidence of which comes from remains and inscriptions at Abydos. Historians
generally agree that he reigned 25 to 26 years and that he was buried in the area of the
Thebian necropolis, though the location of his tomb is unknown (Clayton, 1994, 100-101).

Amenhotep I, who reigned for 25 years like his father, left few records. According to
another Ahmose, a soldier in the pharaoh?s army, Amenhotep led a military ex-pedition to
Kush; a Nubian and Libyan campaign are also briefly mentioned. He also initiated building
work on the temple of Karnak and appears to be the first king to make the radical decision
to build his mortuary temple away from his burial place (Clayton, 1994:101). Apart from
this start at

new construction, little is known of this Pharaoh.
Amenhotep was succeeded not by his son but by a military man. Historians believe that such
a break in tradition indicates a change in the dynastic line of succession. Further
evidence is provided by the fact that Tuthmosis I was already middle-aged when he achieved
supreme power and some believe that he legitimized his power by acting as Amenhotep?s
co-regent during the last years of the latter?s reign. Tuthmosis? main claim to the throne
was through his wife, princess Ahmose, who was the daughter of Ahmose I; in a matrilineal
society, this meant that Tuthmosis had married into the royal bloodline. Although he
reigned for only six years, he led a series of brilliant military campaigns that were to
be hailed throughout the rest of the 18th Dynasty. Also under his rule, the god Amun
(Amen) became prominent and Tuthmosis restored and remodeled the great temple at Karnak
(Clayton, 1994:101-102).

Tuthmosis II succeeded his father because his two older brothers had died and, in order to
strengthen his position, he was married to his half-sister Hatshepsut (Hatchepsut) the
eldest daughter of Tuthmosis I and Queen Ahmose. Together they reigned for about 14 years
until he died in his early thirties. It appears that Tuthmosis II lead successful military
campaigns in both Syria and Nubia but his reign is otherwise unremarkable except for the
fact that he fathered a male child, not with Hatshepsut, but by Isis, a harem girl. Though
he declared his son his successor before he died, the boy was too young to assume the
pharaoh?s rule in the face of his powerful step-mother (Tyldesley, 1996:70).

Historians are divided over whether Hatshepsut took power quickly from her step-son or
attained over time. John Ray believes that, after she was declared co-regent with the
young Tuthmosis III, she initially did her duty and shared power, but ?this soon changes.
For the next twenty-two years she would reign under the throne-name Maatkare (?Truth is
the genius of the sun-god?) (Ray, 1994:1). Joyce Tyldesley believes that she acted exactly
as a co-regent should have and, after carefully consolidating her power base and
convincing her subjects that she was legitimate, gradually became pharaoh. As further
proof, Tyldesley points to the fact that Tuthmosis III lived peacefully with Hatshepsut
for all 22 years of her reign and that there was no attempted military coup against her.

Upon Hatshepsut?s death, Tuthmosis III ascended the throne and, being widowed from
Neferure, daughter of Tuthmosis II and Hatshepsut, he married Hatshepsut-Merytre as his
principal wife and she gave him an heir, Amenhotep II. Historians believe that he spent a
lot of time in the military during his step-mother?s reign and, once he was in sole
possession of the throne, he embarked on a series of military campaigns, especially in
Syria and Lebanon, to strengthen Egyptian borders. Some historians, Clayton and Ray, hold
to the traditional belief that it was Tuthmosis III who initiated the expunging of his
step-mother?s memory from official records and monuments. Certainly her reliefs and
statues were destroyed at the temple in Deir el-Bahari, and many of her inscriptions were
erased or hidden. But Tyldesley argues that recent archeological evidence suggests that
these actions were taken perhaps near the end of Tuthmosis III?s reign, when he was in a
weakened state and easily influenced by more unscrupulous political enemies of his
step-mother or himself.

Tuthmosis III has been called ?The Napoleon of ancient Egypt? (Clayton, 1994:109) because
of his very ambitious Near Eastern campaign which is judged to be a masterpiece of
planning and nerve. He marched to Gaza, took the city, pressed on to Yehem and then to
Megiddo. His personal courage as a leader assured victory. In less that five months
Tuthmosis had traveled from Thebes up the Syrian coast and captured three cities. In all
he made 17 campaigns into Western Asia as well as to Nubia where he built temples. At
Karnak, he recorded details of his wars not only glorifying his name but also promoting
the god Amun, under whose banner he literally marched. His series of campaigns was the
boldest military planning and execution under an Egyptian Pharoah until Ramses II some
centuries later.

Amenhotep II is known for his athleticism and his military prowess. Upon hearing of the
death of Tuthmosis III, the Asiatic cities rose up in revolt and Amenhotep moved swiftly
to quell the rebellion. He captured seven princes in Tikhsi and returned with them to the
temple at Karnak. He revived an age-old ritual of sacrificing his captives to Amun by
smiting them with his mace and then hanging them face down on the prow of his ship. With
these gestures and a brief campaign in Nubia, Amenhotep II seems to have made his mark and
he saw almost 25 years of peace for the remainder of his reign.

There is some doubt about whether Tuthmosis IV was the legitimate heir based on a long
inscription preserved on a tall stele between the paws of the Sphinx at Giza. It tells the
story of how young prince Tuthmosis was out hunting in the desert when he fell asleep in
the shadow of the Sphinx. Re-Harakhte, the sun god embodied in the Sphinx, appeared to him
in a dream and promised that, if the sand engulfing the great limestone body was cleared
away, the prince would become king. Little of a military nature is recorded about
Tuthmosis IV nor does he seem to have built any significant structures. Tyldesley does say
that by the time of Tuthmosis IV and Amenhotep III, the monarchy was starting to be
challenged by the power and ever-increasing wealth of the cult of Amen. This, she argues,
may account for the lack of recorded material about Tuthmosis IV in that any failure by
the king, as chief priest to all the gods, could be interpreted as a sign that the king
himself was failing to perform his duties correctly and a powerful and wealthy priesthood
could ultimately bring about that fall of a weak or inefficient king. (Tyldesley,
1996:33).

Amemhotep III had a long reign of almost 40 years and it was one of the most prosperous
and stable in Egyptian history. Almost no military action was called for so the king
turned his attention to diplomacy. He maintained a large harem and several of his wives
were foreign princesses, the result of diplomatic marriages. The last 25 years of his
reign was a period of great building and luxury at court and in the arts. The wealth of
Egypt at this time came from international trade and an abundance of gold from the land of
Kush. There is some evidence remaining of the splendor of his Malkata palace with its
walls painted and plastered with lively scenes of nature. At Karnak he embellished the
already large temple to Amun and at Luxor he built a new one to the same god. He also
built the statues known as the Collossi of Memnon on the West Bank.

Akhenaten is the new name Amenhotep IV took early in his reign and he is credited with a
revolution in Egyptian history. He removed the seat of government to a new capital city,
Akhenaten (modern el-Amarna), introduced new styles of art, and elevated the cult of the
sun disc, the Aten, to pre-eminent status in the Egyptian religion. This last act was
considered heresy and was to bring down this Pharaoh in the eyes of later kings. The
beginning of his reign was not very different than his predecessors. He was crowned at
Karnak and married a lady of non-royal birth, Nefertiti. He seems to have recognized the
growing power of the priesthood of Amun and that is the reason given for his introducing a
new monotheistic cult. The Aten had been an important symbol in the Old Kingdom so it was
not completely new but it could not coexist with the cult of Amun. Thus the king decided
to move his capital to a virgin site and dedicate it to Aten (Alred, 1968:67).

Akhenaten also cultivated a new artistic style that allowed for the presentation of his
unusual physical characteristics. He was sculpted with pendulous breasts and a protruding
stomach. The result was a realism that broke away from the rigid formality of earlier,
official depictions. The famous bust of Nefertiti shows her with an elongated neck while
another portrait on a block of the temple Karnak shows her in the age-old warlike posture
of pharaoh grasping her captives by the hair and smiting them with a mace. Akhenaten died
after only 16 years of rule and his rebellious ways were overturned by later kings.
Still, he left a legacy in art and religion that is still the most recognized by
westerners (Alred, 1968: 180).

Smenkhkare was Akhenaten?s successor though evidence suggests that they may have died
within months of each other and that Smendhkare?s two year reign was in reality a
co-regency with his older brother. Some evidence also suggests that Smenkhkare was
preparing to return to Thebes and was planning a return to religious orthodoxy before he
died. He was married to Merytaten, the senior heiress of the royal bloodline, but she
seems to have died before him. Her sister, Ankhesenpaaten, thus became the senior survivor
and was married to a young Tutankhaten.
Continues for 8 more pages >>




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