Hatshepsut was and still is the only female who doubled as a queen and pharaoh of Egypt. She ascended to power in 1478BC after the demise of her spouse Thutmose II. Hatshepsut became an Egyptian queen and subsequently a pharaoh at a time when no one thought that women would ascend to power. In 1478BC, men dominated the Egyptian society. It was hard for women to assert their control.
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The Egyptians had set various requirements for one to become pharaoh (Fairman & Grdseloff, 1947). As a result, Hatshepsut changed some elements of her character to meet the set standards. She was an ambitious woman who could do anything to realize her dreams. Hatshepsut consolidated her rule as a female pharaoh in spite of the Egyptians demanding for a male pharaoh. She believed that she had the right to become a pharaoh since she was born in a royal family.
Hatshepsut borrowed the leadership style from her late husband as a measure to guarantee the flawless transition from Thutmose II to Hatshepsut. Anthropologists maintain that Hatshepsut was unique in Egyptian history due to her reign, style of administration, and accomplishments. This paper will discuss the reign, government, achievements, and voyage of Hatshepsut.
According to Fairman and Grdseloff (1947), a majority of the early modern scholars held that Hatshepsut only worked as a co-regent under the reign of Thutmose III. Nevertheless, multiple records account for her leadership as the queen and pharaoh of Egypt. Presently, most Egyptologists concur that Hatshepsut served not only as of the queen of Egypt but also as the only woman to become a pharaoh. She ruled as the pharaoh for twenty-two years.
Hatshepsut knew that it was hard to succeed in a male-dominated society. As a result, she created a rapport with influential military personnel. Besides, she established a good relationship with religious and civil leaders who helped to sell her agenda. Hatshepsut managed to install herself as pharaoh through the aid of the military, religious and civil leaders.
According to Fairman and Grdseloff (1947), Hatshepsut faced stiff opposition from people who did not recognize her as a pharaoh. As a result, she struggled to decriminalize her position as pharaoh throughout her reign. Some scholars claim that Hatshepsut established close ties with god Amun as a measure to validate her position. Initially, she claimed to have a paternal relationship with Amun.
Consequently, she had the right to be the queen and pharaoh of Egypt. Hatshepsut began her reign by containing rebellion in bordering nations. She managed to contain the rebellion in Nubia land. The success led to many Egyptians believing in her leadership. Fairman and Grdseloff (1947) maintain, “The military conquest helped to legitimize Hatshepsut’s reign by sustaining the ideals of a robust and accomplished king” (p. 17).
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Hatshepsut was different from her predecessors. A majority of the previous leaders focused on affirming their power. They invested their energy and time in expanding the dynasty. The leaders did not have a chance to develop Egypt. Nadig (2014) claimed that Hatshepsut was not interested in conquering new territories. Instead, she devoted her time and energy to developing Egypt. The country witnessed significant economic growth under Hatshepsut’s leadership. She took the time to repair the destroyed monuments in Egypt as well as in Nubia. Moreover, she built many monuments. For instance, she constructed the renowned temple DJeser-Djeserui. Besides erecting monuments, she established trade with the neighboring dynasties.
According to Nadig (2014), Hatshepsut did all that was within her influence to remain in power after she became the pharaoh. The pharaoh had the duty to “ensure that Egyptian society functioned without chaos and that order in all aspects of Egyptian life was the norm” (Nadig, 2014, p. 34).
Hatshepsut took advantage of the theory of “Maat” to entrench herself as the Egyptian leader. She made sure that she met her obligations as the pharaoh. Nadig (2014) claims that Hatshepsut did not deviate from what the previous pharaohs were doing. Instead, she picked from where her predecessor left. She embarked on trade development and construction and restoration of temples and tombstones. Further, Hatshepsut was keen to realize economic prosperity in Egypt.
According to Nadig (2014), Hatshepsut was cautious in selecting people to work in her administration. She worked with people who were loyal to her leadership. A majority of her staff members hailed from poor backgrounds. Therefore, they could not rebel against her.
Hatshepsut’s administration believed in the equitable distribution of wealth and hard work. She was against the “accumulation of wealth among hereditary nobles” (Nadig, 2014, p. 41). Further, she ensured that everybody worked towards the prosperity of the dynasty. Redford (1967) argues that one reason that contributed to the success of Hatshepsut’s administration was her leadership style. She was not only a peace-loving pharaoh but also ensured that justice prevailed for all.
Her government relied on the 42 commandments enshrined in the “Book of the Dead” (Redford, 1967). Hatshepsut’s government subjected citizens to manual labor as a way of taxation. It underlines the reason she was able to construct numerous tombstones during her reign. Her government was not concerned with the affairs of other dynasties. Instead, the government concentrated on the internal development of Egypt. Indeed, there were limited conflicts between Egypt and its neighbors during the reign of Hatshepsut.
Redford (1967) claimed that Hatshepsut could not have succeeded without the help of priests and noble people. Thus, her administration comprised numerous loyal advisors. A majority of the advisors had worked under her father and husband’s administrations. Thus, they were loyal to her. Hatshepsut’s government received immense support from the priests of Amun, who were influential in Egypt. The priests approved her status as pharaoh, therefore curtailing opposition from people who felt that the position of the pharaoh was meant for men.
Ascension to Power
Hatshepsut is remembered for three primary accomplishments. They are the establishment of trade routes, building projects, and being the first woman to become pharaoh. Egyptologists cite the ascension to power as one of Hatshepsut’s greatest achievements. She assumed leadership in the eighteenth century at a time when no one thought that a woman would rule Egypt. Her role as the pharaoh astonished many people.
The status of the pharaoh was a reserve for men. Most scholars regard Hatshepsut as “history’s first woman of importance” (Redford, 1967, p. 104). She ruled at a time when Egypt had the largest army in the world. Additionally, she not only ensured that Egypt grew economically but also maintained a good relationship with its neighbors. Hatshepsut was the only woman who ruled Egypt for the longest period. It made her stand out from other female rulers.
Roehrig (2001) holds, “Hatshepsut established the trade networks that had been disrupted during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, thereby building the wealth of the eighteenth dynasty” (p. 72). She played a critical role in the preparation and sponsorship of the voyage to the land of Punt. Hatshepsut sent five ships to the land of Punt to procure trade items. The ships returned with many goods including myrrh and frankincense.
The journey to the land of Punt marked the initial attempt to introduce exotic trees to Egypt. The sailors came back with 31 myrrh trees that Hatshepsut ordered to be planted around her mortuary temple. Roehrig (2001) argued that Hatshepsut did promote not only trade with other countries but also internal trade. Her primary objective was to develop the economy of the dynasty. Therefore, her expeditions were business-oriented.
During the mission to the land of Punt, Hatshepsut’s men managed to collect numerous items. Apart from coming back with myrrh trees, the sailors also brought fragrant woods, a pure ivory, animal skins, and ebony among other valuable items. Roehrig (2001) maintained that the sailors also brought different invaluable and unusual articles that boost the economy of Egypt.
Hatshepsut initiated numerous building programs during her reign as the pharaoh. Tyldesley (1998) maintained that Hatshepsut made tremendous accomplishments in her building program. She undertook many building projects in both the Upper and Lower Egypt. Hatshepsut was renowned for building tombstones to venerate her accomplishments. Scholars argue that her buildings were more sophisticated than those constructed by her predecessors (Tyldesley, 1998).
Hatshepsut commissioned the construction of tombstones at the Temple of Karnak in line with the customs of a majority of the pharaohs. Additionally, she helped to refurbish the initial Precinct of Mut, which was ruined during the Hyksos occupation. Hatshepsut built numerous monuments to commemorate important events that happened during her reign. For instance, the Red Chapel, which was built at Karnak, was decorated with stones to signify the expedition to the land of Punt.
Following the customs of most pharaohs, the stunning success of Hatshepsut’s construction programs was her mortuary temple. The mortuary was popularly known as the temple of Hatshepsut and was constructed along the bank of River Nile. Tyldesley (1998) posited that the temple was perfectly built such that the pharaohs who succeeded Hatshepsut chose to associate with it. One of the significant parts of the temple was the Djeser-Djeseru.
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It comprised a row of pillars that were seamlessly arranged. Apart from building temples and tombstones, Hatshepsut was renowned for the construction of statues. Tyldesley (1998) claimed, “Hatshepsut’s construction of figures was so prolific that today almost every major museum in the world has a statue of hers among their collections” (p. 83). Many of the statues portray Hatshepsut adorned in the feminine outfit. Others show her in the formal imperial outfit. The art paid limited attention to the gender of the pharaoh. Nevertheless, numerous statues depict her as a woman adorned in the ordinary outfit.
The pharaohs had relied on middlemen for the supply of vital commodities for a long time. As a result, it was difficult for them to improve the economy of Egypt. Hatshepsut felt the need to do away with middlemen and establish a direct link with the suppliers. She believed that creating a direct relationship with suppliers would help to procure commodities in bulk, thus boosting the economy of Egypt. Hatshepsut organized for a voyage to the land of Punt. Previously, other pharaohs had prepared for missions to the land on Punt but failed terribly (Tyldesley, 1998). Therefore, Hatshepsut’s expedition was a significant event in the history of the eighteenth dynasty.
The mission required thorough preparation. Consequently, she ordered the preparation of five ships and at least 200 soldiers to go for the mission. Scholars cannot ascertain if Hatshepsut traveled to the land of Punt (Tyldesley, 1998). Nevertheless, she contributed to the success of the voyage. She came up with the idea of eliminating the middlemen. Moreover, Hatshepsut helped the soldiers to prepare for the journey.
Hatshepsut is renowned for being the only woman to have served as both the queen and pharaoh of Egypt. She ascended to power at a time when no one thought that a woman could rule Egypt. Moreover, her claim to the position of pharaoh received considerable opposition, particularly from men. The Egyptians believed that the post of the pharaoh was meant for men. Hatshepsut had to wear and behave like a man to legitimize her claim. She was different from her predecessors.
Hatshepsut focused on growing the economy of Egypt as opposed to other pharaohs who were eager to expand the dynasty by conquering the neighboring countries. She tried to avoid a military confrontation with her neighbors. As a result, it was easy for her to establish trade relations with other kingdoms. Her administration constituted priests and noble people. Hatshepsut knew that she could not rule without the help of the priests of Amun.
She established close ties with the priests to consolidate her administration. Hatshepsut made numerous accomplishments during her tenure. One of the greatest accomplishments was the ascendancy to power at a time when leadership was only associated with men. Other significant accomplishments included the opening of trade routes and the construction of tombstones and temples. Scholars credit the success of the journey to the land of Punt to the leadership of Hatshepsut. She helped in its preparation even though she did not accompany the sailors.
Fairman, H., & Grdseloff, B. (1947). Texts of Hatshepsut and Sethos I inside Speos Artemidos. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 33(1), 12–33.
Nadig, P. (2014). Hatshepsut. Mainz: von Zabern.
Redford, D. (1967). History and chronology of the 18th dynasty of Egypt: Seven studies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Roehrig, C. (2001). Hatshepsut: From queen to pharaoh. London: Yale University Press.
Tyldesley, J. (1998). Hatshepsut: The female pharaoh. London: Penguin Books.