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Hatshepsut Essay Examples

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.

Tutankhaten was crowned in Memphis at the age of nine and, immediately, a move was made back to the old religion. In year two both the king and queen changed the ending of their names to ?amun and the old temples were rebuilt and reopened. Apart from these events, there is little else remarkable about Tutankhamun?s reign. He died young, probably before reaching the age of eighteen and there is no positive evidence as to how he met his death. Most historians believe that he did not die of consumption as previously theorized, and there is x-ray evidence that he was dealt a blow to the head. Whether this was the result of a deliberate act or an accident is not known.
Ay was the senior civil servant who influenced Tutankhamun and, as an old man, he became king by marrying Tutankhamun?s widow.  It is small wonder, in view of his age, that his reign was a brief four years and that most of his monuments cannot be identified, probably because they were usurped by Horemheb. Horemheb was a career military officer who first served under Amenhotep II and who became commander of the army under Akhenaten. He was a very ambitious man and the death of Ay offered the perfect opportunity to restore to Egypt the strong leadership he felt the country needed. He declared himself king in 1321 and married the sister of Nefertiti. Though he restored the temples and the cult of Amun to their previous glories, he insured against a challenge from the priesthood by appointing priests from the army. To consolidate his hold on the army, he divided it into a northern and southern branch. His actual reign is estimated at almost 30 years and was spent consolidating.  There is little evidence of external contact except for a campaign in Kush and a trading expedition to the South (Clayton, 1994:131).
?Hatchepsut stands out as one of the great monarchs of Egypt. Though no wars or conquests are recorded in her reign, her triumphs were as great as those of the warrior-kings of Egypt, but they were triumphs of peace, not war. Her records, as might be expected from a woman, are more intimate and personal than those of a king ? This was no conqueror, joying in the lusts of battle, but a strong-souled noble-hearted woman, ruling her country wisely and well?  (Murnane, 1977:41).

Why was it necessary for Hatchepsut to become king rather than rule as a queen? Contemporary readers would see little difference between the titles and the roles. If Queen Elizabeth had decided that she wanted to be addressed as King Elizabeth, her decision might have been viewed as eccentric but it would not have fundamentally changed her power or role as queen. To the ancient Egyptians, however, there was great spiritual and social separation between the king and the rest of humanity, including members of his own family. ?There was, in fact, no formal Egyptian word for ?queen?, and all the ladies of the royal household were titled by reference to their lord and master: the consort of the king was either a ?King?s Wife? or a ?King?s Great Wife?, the dowager queen was usually a ?King?s Mother? and a princess was a ?King?s Daughter?. An Egyptian queen regnant simply has to be known as ?king?; she had no other title? (Tyldesley, 1996:135).
The theme of Hatshepsut?s reign was no less than a complete rebuilding of the land of Egypt and she considered herself as the one chosen by Amun  ?? predestined since the moment of creation to restore the ritual purity of the temples and to recapture the perfection of the world?s origins? (Ray, 1994:3).  The combination of historical perspective and a return to religious purity were the characteristics of Hatshepsut?s reign that were most validated and accepted by her Egyptian subjects. And since her position as Pharaoh was unorthodox, an appeal to fundamentalism was necessary.

The lack of a legitimate Pharaoh was a clear sign in ancient Egypt that the gods were displeased, ?and that maat was absent from the land. Maat, a word which may be translated literally as ?justice? or ?truth?, was a term used by the Egyptians to describe an abstract concept representing the ideal state of the universe and everyone in it; the status quo or correct order, which had been established by the gods at the time of creation and which had to be maintained to placate the gods, but which was always under threat from malevolent outside influences seeking to bring chaos and disruption ( or isfet) to Egypt? (Tyldesley, 1996:8).
It is not surprising, therefore, to find individual pharaohs using the concept of maat to their own particular advantages, i. e. to reinforce their own rule or to justify an action or behavior which might otherwise prove unacceptable to the conservative Egyptians. ?Hatchepsut, whose unusual succession may itself have been interpreted by some as an offense against maat, instigated a vigorous domestic policy designed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that maat was firmly established throughout Egypt: her large-scale building programs, obvious devotion to the cult of Amen, successful trading missions and restoration of the monuments which had been destroyed by the Hyksos invaders during the maat-less Intermediate Period, were all actions calculated to demonstrate the presence of prosperity, law and order? (Tyldesley, 1996:9). And the Egyptian people did see their land flourish and it was, according to Tyldesley, a tradition of non-interference as long as things were going well that helped to maintain Hatchepsut on her throne.

Traditional pharaohs were the embodiment of the god Horus and Hatshepsut was also Horus but in a grammatically feminine form. She described herself as ?The she-horus of fine gold.?  Fine gold (electrum) is an amalgam of gold with silver and is more valuable. Thus Hatshepsut was the ?platinum goddess? who referred to herself as ?god?s wife.?  But like other pharaohs, she constantly refers to herself as ?His Majesty? or ?His Person? and reminds us of Elizabeth I of England and her doctrine of the dual body of the monarch, one of which is female. ?In conventional temple scenes, where the icon of a traditional pharaoh is necessary, she appears as a male ruler. In sculpture, on the other hand, she is shown as a female but imperial, with the typical Tuthmosid face and arched profile? (Ray, 1994:3).
There was also a third element in her image-making which increased her legitimacy and gained her more acceptance from her people; it was an intensely personal element. Tuthmosis I is prominent in many of her inscriptions, far more than would be necessary under the reign of a male king. Archeologists even found his sarcophagus in his daughter?s tomb, where she apparently transferred it and this shows her clear inten-tion to spend eternity with the man who had been her father on earth. She left her husband, Tuthmosis II, where he was buried and her inscriptions never mention him.
?? among Hatshepsut?s inscriptions is an imaginative reworking of an episode when she was young, in which her father proclaims her his heir before the entire palace.

Why was such a link so important? Because of the greatness of Tuthmosis I?s deeds when compared to those of his son Tuthmosis II. Hatchepsut?s father had embarked on a series of flamboyant and highly successful military campaigns which had endeared him to his people and which had brought riches to Egypt. But he had instigated equally successful domestic policies and had started extensive building pro-grams at all the major Theban sites. Because Hatshepsut was determined to hold on to power, the way seemed clear: follow in her father?s footsteps in terms of domestic policies, enjoy the stability brought by his military campaigns and link with her father in order to win the allegiance of his advisors until such time as she could handpick her own.
By Year 7 of her regency, Hatchepsut was acknowledged to be king of Egypt. She was King of Upper and Lower Egypt and ?The One who is joined with Amen, the Foremost of Women.?  Her subsequent lengthy reign, characterized by its economic prosperity, monument building and foreign exploration, seems to confirm her competence and mental stability. Her reign was not the rule of a scheming, power-hungry woman but appears to be a carefully calculated period of political maneuvering which allowed an un-conventional pharaoh to become accepted on the throne. It also brought peace and prosperity to the Egyptian people that had not been experienced since the 12th dynasty and would not be experienced again until the reign of  Ramses II.  Her ambitious program of public works restored most of the monuments of past pharaohs and established new temples for the glory of the gods. The benefits of these policies were to be felt up and down the Nile and, it is the work in and around Thebes, for which she is best remem-bered.

The final analysis, Hatshepsut?s legacy is threefold. It impressed on her people the economic prosperity of the new regime. As absolute ruler, she had no need to pay for land, labor or materials but she did need enough money to dispense daily rations which were given in lieu of wages. Only the more affluent pharaohs could do this. Second, her domestic policies established a well-organized monarchy that could operate with the efficient bureaucracy necessary to keep order, organize and monitor foreign trade, and instigate massive building projects. Finally, it was Hatshepsut?s devotion to the god Amun, made prominent by her father and step-father, and her dedication to restoring the ancient tombs and temples, which provided the ultimate sign to her people that the kingdom was secure. It was her insistence that maat had been restored and that it must be maintained that seems to have most impressed her people and which led to support from those she needed to support her. ?God?s Wife? proved to be a faithful, submissive yet glorious partner to Amun and a great ruler of Egypt. ?Hatchsepsut, settled the affairs of the Two Lands by reason of her plans. Egypt was made to labour with bowed head for her, the excellent seed of the god, which came forth from him? (Tyldesley, 1996:99).
Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
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Clayton, Peter A. Chronicles of the Pharaohs. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.
Murnane, W. J. Ancient Egyptian Coregencies. Chicago, 1977.
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Naville, E. ?Queen Hatshopsitu, Her Life and Monuments,? in T. M. Davis (eds), The Tomb of Hatshopsitu. London: University Press, 1906.
Ray, John. ?Hatsheput,? History Today, May 1994 (volume 44, number 5), page 23.
Tyldesley, Joyce. Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh. New York: Viking, 1994.

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