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What Made Hatshepsut a Great Leader?

Throughout history, men typically dominated societies.Men have always appeared to have more respect and rights than women, depending on certain civilizations.In societies like Egypt, men were frequently pharaohs and today, are considered to be great rulers.

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Women were often expected to take the job of motherhood in Egyptian society. Although this was their anticipated responsibility, women, usually upper class and royal, were still permitted to get an education, to possess property, own businesses, have a job and be involved in military control.

Women could also rule as pharaoh, which was an infrequent occurrence but did sometimes happen. Hatshepsut, for example, is one of the few women who became a pronounced leader in the ancient world. Her father, Thutmose I, was her mentor and therefore led her to success. Through the teachings of her father and educational schooling, she was destined to be a great ruler from a very early age. She learned many important tactics of ruling from Thutmose and many similarities regarding the success of their reign could be distinguished.

Besides the guidance she had, her vivid personality, ambition and creative ideas reflected in art, policies and architecture made her ruling successful as she strived to achieve ma ‘at and legitimize her power as a female ruler. Although Thutmose IV attempted to carve her out of history, these circumstances made Hatshepsut’s greatness possible, as she is known as the first great female ruler in history today. Hatshepsut had many attributes about her that her siblings did not obtain. She had excellent health, a hasty mind and her father’s vigor.

These qualities made her stand out and were indications that Hatshepsut was always her father’s favorite, even in her young age. She grew up under her father’s personal guidance as he was preparing her for rule. His teachings were as harsh as he would have ordered for a son, again Ancient Egypt: The Case of marking his faith in Hatshepsut. She was trained to show respect to her parents, listen to them at all times and to respect her elders. She was taught etiquette such as to speak gently, eat gracefully, and groom herself properly.

She was also taught the main prayers that are recited to the gods, which was part of the religious teachings for a royal child. She was well educated as she learned to write originally on slate and then with ink on papyrus. She had to learn all the six hundred phonetic signs. It was vital for Hatshepsut to learn the signs because it would allow her to communicate with her correspondents if she ever came to power. During Thutmose’s rule he was effective in not only war, as he was a successful warrior who re-conquered Nubia, but in peace. Egypt was thriving with progress under Thutmose.

Agriculture, trade and mining were advancing rapidly as well as advancements in architecture, literature and art. One of Thutmose’s passions was building as he carried out many building projects. Hatshepsut takes notice of this, as her building projects are a vital part of the greatness of her reign. His kingdom was organized and successful as the laws of ma ‘at and Thutmose’s officials kept stability. The system had developed and progressed through out one thousand years. To Hatshepsut, his ways of ruling were flawless and indestructible, which is why she later uses the same style of leadership.

But in reality, Egypt was waiting for her, as she was being prepared to rule her whole life. Thutmose had given Egypt the motivation to grow, and she was always part of that. She stood by him throughout his ruler ship, gaining all the knowledge she could, which ultimately leads to her success. By a lesser wife Hatshepsut’s father and mentor, Thutmose had a son, Thutmose II. Hatshepsut married her second brother, Thutmose II, in which she gained the title “Kings daughter, Kings sister, Gods wife, and Kings great wife. ” She bore him one daughter, but no sons.

After thirteen years on the throne Thutmose II died unexpectedly; the crown was passed to Thutmose III, his son born to the concubine Isis. The new king was still an infant and Isis was not considered adequately royal to act as the pharaoh. Therefore, Hatshepsut was summoned to rule on behalf of her stepson. Thutmose was crowned king but until the day Hatshepsut was deceased, the king had to compete with his stepmother-aunt. At first she acted as an advisor to the king, but being Hatshepsut was close to the throne all of her life, felt that “she had the most royal power as well as the purest royal blood in her veins.

After a few years passed, Hatshepsut presumed the Double crown and made herself king. Hatshepsut had a strong and vibrant personality and intended to overshadow her half brother as well as her husband. Thutmose III was still known as co ruler, but he remained in the background. There were many difficulties regarding her gender when she first came into rule, but it did not hinder her greatness. The inscription cutters often made mistakes as all the royal titles were in male form. She had to legitimize herself as female ruler, as she often did through art and statues.

In ancient Egypt, literacy was most commonly found among the upper class. Throughout the other social classes, literacy was rare. Therefore visuals were used by the government to inform the people and were often used as a form of propaganda. These images included monuments, sculptures and reliefs. Their purpose was to influence the public to obey the king and so that they would recognize that the king had the divine right to rule. As consort, Hatshepsut had been pleased to be represented in visuals as a traditional Egyptian woman. Hatshepsut herself affirmed that she was the most gorgeous woman in the world.

Therefore, while in the position of consort, she was shown as a woman or as a woman wearing clothing associated with masculinity and being king.

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Two limestone statues that have been retrieved from her famous temple, the Deir el-Bahari, display Hatshepsut dressed in the conventional head cloth and kilt worn by a king. But her physical characteristics such as a “rounded, feminine, un-bearded face, and feminine body with breasts and an indented waist” represent her femininity. As king, it was necessary for her to create an image that would establish her new role as pharaoh, while separating herself from the position of consort.

In her transformation into king, she is depicted as fully masculine with the figure, clothing and accessories of man while performing male rituals. It is assumed that Hatshepsut knew her role as pharaoh could be considered unsubstantiated because of her gender and through the unusual notion in which she acquired the throne. “It seems that it is the appearance of the king that matters rather than her actual gender; it was important to Egyptians that she use the conventional iconography of power and locate herself firmly within a long history of dynamic rule. ” She “reinvented herself” by portraying herself as a male pharaoh.

Hatshepsut displayed this concept through statues and visuals to gain the support of the people and legitimize her power. Another way Hatshepsut “reinvented herself” to assert her power was by renaming herself Maatkare. The most important word in Hatshepsut’s new name was “maat. ” Ma ‘at is an ancient Egyptian expression that refers to a pharaoh keeping Egypt in order and “preserving stability of the universe”, as ordered by the gods. Prolonging ma ‘at to guarantee the success and solidity of Egypt demanded an accredited ruler who could communicate directly with the gods.

By calling herself Maatkare, Hatshepsut claimed her power as a qualified ruler on the throne. A way in which pharaohs ensured ma ‘at was by constructing monuments and building projects throughout the empire. Hatshepsut followed in her father’s footsteps as a builder and carried out some of the most impressive building projects, more ambitious than any pharaoh before her. She had a strong policy of rebuilding and restoring destroyed monuments around the empire. Through these public works projects, she built systems of important religious roads and temples.

Her most famous and impressive temple was the Dier el-Bahari and is consider as one of the “architectural wonders of the ancient world”. It was a multi-purpose sanctuary with many memorials dedicated to an assortment of gods in the upper level. The lower level contained beautiful gardens and pools. The walls were decorated with massive pictures of the pharaoh proposing offerings to different gods, which ensured that she would have an incredible after life. It proved her devotion and contact with the gods, again confirming her legitimacy. Her temple walls also had depictions of her accomplishments during her supremacy.

Included on these walls, was the success of her trading expedition to Punt. Hatshepsut also went about achieving ma’at in ways regarding her trading policies, another tactic in which she learned from Thutmose, as trade strived under his rule. She sent out voyages to Lebanon for wood, boosted utilization of copper and turquoise mines in Sinai, and accomplished a prosperous trading journey to Punt. Punt was an East African trading center and was a site for unusual items such as “precious resins, curious wild animals and the ever desirable ebony, ivory and gold” (page 100).

Hatshepsut’s diplomat Neshy sailed with a small but well equipped army on a dangerous route to Punt. The pictures on the temple walls describe a variety of goods being traded and that after, Neshy returned home safely in triumph. In this case Hatshepsut used the military for trade, but she also used it to carry out several effective military movements. She is known as a great warrior like her great grandmother, Ahhotep, and her father Thutmose. She used military campaigns to protect Egypt and eliminate the threats of foreigners from the south and east.

These actions helped ensure that Hatshepsut’s ruling would be a time of peace and prosperity, just like her father before, and that it was. After 22 years of successful ruling, Hatshepsut dies. Thutmose III, now of age, was free to rule by himself. Near the end of Thutmose III’s rule, he tried to delete Hatshepsut from history. He carves her name and pictures out of artwork. At the Deir el-Bahari many statues and monuments of her are taken down, destroyed and then buried. Although it is apparent that he tried to erase her, it is not certain why this happened.

It is assumed that Thutmose was an unenthusiastic co-regent and extremely angry that Hatshepsut stole the throne from him. Egyptologists suppose that it was a “damanatio meoriae” meaning the intentional deletion of a person’s identity, which would lead to a horrid after life. In the end, Thutmose III was not successful in permanently removing Hatshepsut from history. By the 19th century, the hieroglyphics had been interpreted and the truth about Hatshepsut’s reign was shed to light. Hatshepsut was a great ruler and there are many aspects from which her greatness derived.

Not only did her father, Thutmose, instruct and mentor her but also she was extremely intelligent and well educated. She took the ideas and policies of Thutmose’s reign, and applied them into her own. Her bright personality and ambition to achieve ma ‘at through trade and building projects allowed her empire to strive. She displayed herself in visuals and statues, and even sometimes dressed like a man, to legitimize her power and gain the support of the people. She is considered the first great female ruler of Egypt and is an important and exemplary part of history today.

  1. Hilliard, Kristina, and Kate Wurtzel. 2009. “Power and Gender in Hatshepsut. ” Art Education 62, no. 3: 25-31.
  2. Evelyn Wells, Hatshepsut (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969) p 16-91
  3. Jacquetta Hawkes, Pharaohs of Egypt (New York: American Heritage Pub. Co. ,1965) p 58 : Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt (New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2006), p 92-106
  4. Hilliard, Kristina, and Kate Wurtzel. 2009. “Power and Gender in Hatshepsut. ” Art Education 62, no. 3: 25-31 : Coffin, Judith, Robert Stacey, Joshua Cole, and Carol Symes. Western Civilizations. Vol. 1. (New York, NY: W. W.Morton & Company, 2011) p 42-43 : Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt (New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2006), p 92-106 : Wilson, Elizabeth B. 2006. “The Queen Who Would Be King. ” Smithsonian 37, no. 6: 80-87.
  5. Wilson, Elizabeth B. 2006. “The Queen Who Would Be King. ” Smithsonian 37, no. 6: 80-87 : Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt (New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2006), p 92-106
  6. Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicles of the Queens of Egypt (New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2006), p 92-106

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