Ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut


Hatshepsut, the daughter of King Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose, was married to her half brother, Thutmose II. Since her two brothers, who normally would have succeeded to the throne, died prematurely, she and Thutmose II came to the throne after King Thutmose died in about 1512. Her husband probably reigned no more than three or four years, and Hatshepsut thereupon became regent for his son, Thutmose III, born of a minor woman of the harem. Heiress to a line of influential queens, Hatshepsut then took effective control of the government, while young Thutmose III served as a priest of the god Amon.

For a short time Hatshepsut presented herself as the young king's regent, but sometime in Thutmose III's first seven years she ordered herself crowned as pharaoh and adopted a Horus name (a royal name limited to kings) and the full pharaonic regalia, including a false beard, also traditionally worn only by the king. An essential element of Hatshepsut's success was a group of loyal and influential officials who controlled all the key positions in her government.

Emphasizing administrative innovation and commercial expansion, Queen Hatshepsut dispatched a major seaborne expedition to Punt, the African coast at the southernmost end of the Red Sea. Gold, ebony, animal skins, baboons, processed myrrh, and living myrrh trees were brought back to Egypt, the trees to adorn the foreground of the Queen's famous Dayr al-Bahri temple in western Thebes. She also received large quantities of tribute from Asia, Nubia, and Libya.

The numerous products of trade and tribute were partially devoted to the state god Amon-Re, in whose honor Hatshepsut undertook an extensive building program. She claimed that she restored the damage wrought by the Hyksos (earlier Asian kings) during their rule in Egypt. In the temple at Karnack (Thebes), she renovated her father's hall, introduced four great obelisks nearly 100 feet (30 m) tall, and added a fine chapel. At Beni-Hasan, in Middle Egypt, she built a rock-cut temple known in Greek as Speos Artemidos. Her supreme achievement was the splendid temple at Dayr al-Bahri. Designed as a funerary monument for Hatshepsut and her father, it contains reliefs that record the major events of her reign. She also cut a large tomb for herself in the Valley of the Kings, another strictly pharaonic prerogative. Its burial chamber was intended to lie behind her funerary temple, and she also planned to move her father's mummy into her own tomb. Her attention to Thutmose I was intended to emphasize her legitimate succession directly from him through the agency of Amon-Re, whom she claimed as her actual father.

Hatshepsut's ambition, however, encountered that of the energetic Thutmose III, who had become head of the army. As she and her loyal officials aged, his party grew stronger. The early death of her daughter, whom she married to Thutmose III, may have contributed to her decline. Whether Hatshepsut died naturally or was deposed and slain is uncertain.

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