Since March is National Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to create a series of posts dedicated to women in history whose power and influence rivaled any man at the time. Therefore, until further notice, FFF isn’t going to stand for Fun Fact Friday. For the foreseeable future, you’ll see posts featuring
FREAKING FEARLESS FEMALES
The first two FFF post go way back to Ancient Egypt. Did you know that in Egyptian society, women had the same legal rights as men? They could own land and property, enter into contracts on their own, and even divorce their husbands without needing a reason. For the next two posts, we’re going to learn about two women who seized control and became two of Egypt’s most powerful HBICs (head bitches in charge, for those of you not up to speed on today’s lingo).
Hatshepsut: The Queen Who Became King
Born around 1507 B.C.E., Hatshepsut was the daughter of King Thutmose I. At 12 years old, she married her half-brother, Thutmose II (the pharaohs liked to keep it all in the family, and polygamy was common among the kings. It made for more opportunities to have male heirs to form their dynasties.) Upon her husband’s death she became regent, ruling for her then infant stepson, Thutmose III, until he came of age. Within seven years however, she completely assumed the role of pharaoh, co-ruling with her stepson. She fiercely defended her right to rule, saying her father had named her as his successor.
During her rule, she became known for her ambitious architectural projects in and around Thebes, including her temple at Deir al-Bahri. She also organized trade efforts that brought vast wealth to Egypt. In order to be taken seriously as ruler, she wore a fake beard and ordered all artistic renditions of her to be depicted with the beard and male muscles. In order to further legitimize her reign, she had her father’s sarcophagus exhumed and be reburied in her tomb with her so they could rest together in the afterlife.
|Image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
What were Hatshepsut’s motives for seizing control of Egypt? Some historians say it was simply her ambition. Others say it was out of loyalty to her stepson. When Thutmose III was very young, members of the royal family were plotting to steal the throne, so she was simply holding it for him. Whatever her reasons, Thutmose III became resentful of her rule. When she died, he erased any evidence of her rule, including some of the monuments she had built. He had any artwork that depicted her as king defaced or completely destroyed. It is because of this that Egyptologists knew very little about Hatshepsut until 1822 when they were finally able to decode the hieroglyphics on the walls at Deir el-Bahri.
|Defaced statue of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri
Her empty sarcophagus was found in 1903 by Howard Carter (the guy made famous for finding King Tut’s tomb). In 2005 a team of archaeologists set out to find her mummy, and two years later, they succeeded. The remains of Queen/King/Pharaoh/all-around badass Hatshepsut now rest in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Be sure to come back in two weeks for part two of the Freaking Fearless Females of Ancient Egypt. We’ll be talking about the beautiful, mysterious and powerful Nefertiti!