Monday, April 27, 2009

the She-King

The second to the most recent issue of National Geographic featured a spread on Hatshepsut. The She-king of Egypt,1479 B.C. I saw the cover a few weeks ago when I was at Barnes & Noble and remembered Hatshepsut immediately from my high-school studies, and was flooded with all the prior interest I had in her. I studied her years ago, and reading about the new discoveries archaeologists had made in the past two years (finding her supposed mummy and all…) was like being re-acquainted with an old friend. An old friend who was mummified and kept her organs in jars.

I am so enamored with history, specifically great female leaders, and attribute a significant part of personality/character/ideals to the detailed study of particular ones all through my youth and now into my adult years. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge of all different cultures, histories, genres, and peoples. Hatshepsut is one of my many objects of absorption.

It was great for me personally because this article coincided with the completion of my reading of H. Rider Haggard’s classic, “She (who-must-be-obeyed)” the week before I saw the magazine feature. The Haggard tale involves three courageous men and their journey into the African jungle in search of, what they at first think to be fabled, white queen of Kor, and her legions of followers. Of course, the immortal tyrant ends up being real, and true to form, must-be-obeyed. She is over two thousand years old, remains crazy-in-love with a man even past his death, conjures the supernatural to do her bidding, and bathes in fire. In short, she is a badass. And you love to hate her.

The connection I am trying to make between her and Hatshepsut is that of marvelously strong women. The unbelievable stories of feminine power, specifically in years past when women were objects to be possessed, traded, and sold, are inspiring and very relevant to today’s women as well. The lengths certain women went to, the horrible pain suffered, the brutality and power they wielded, are all facets of what these women (real or not) did to get where they wanted to/were destined to.

And we could use a little education in the feminine mystique department these days—when Lauren Conrad and Kim Kardashian are recognized models for female stature, and love can be cheapened and won on a rock tour bus—we must act quickly. ☺ The learned mind is an attribute quickly fading.

Let’s learn a little about this “King Herself”:

(I find this utterly fascinating. Feel free to ignore me as I geek out.)

• Hatshepsut married her half-brother to keep the bloodlines “pure”
• When her father and two brothers died she acted as King-regent for her newly crowned, much younger, stepbrother before eventually (it took her two years) pushing him off the throne.
• She ushered in a 21 yr. “golden age” unprecedented by any ruler before her (male or female)
• Under her rule women had more rights than anywhere else in the ancient world
• She took on classically male traditions in dress to command more respect from the people. This was rooted in her training from her father’s scribe and posing as a man, at a very early age.
• She wore a beard and dressed in male clothes. All inscriptions of her that she commissioned, she looked distinctly male. This gained her more respect and helped her be taken much more seriously.
• She left behind more monuments and works of art than any Egyptian queen to come
• Used the superstitious inclination of the time to keep control over the people
• She built the temple Der el Bahri as a gift to herself and represented her divinity which she claimed was directly given to her by the god Amon-Ra
• There were no wars during her rule
• She sent expeditions to Punt (modern day Somalia) for ivory, gold, animals, and spices
• She was said to be a master politician and stateswoman
• She built 2 of the largest obelisks to date (only one remains standing, courtesy of Tuthmose III and his temper tantrum; see below)
• She groomed her daughter Neferura in the same fashion she was raised, as a prince instead of princess
• Her other daughter, Merira-Hatshepsut may have been legendary mother to Amenhotep
• Tuthmose III grew up and got jealous of her power, was bitter towards her for what she essentially stole from him, and dethroned her, destroyed all her monuments, carvings, buildings, and even her epic burial temple in the Valley of the Kings.
• Even though Tuthmose tried to remove every trace of Hatshepsut (it is rumored he actually murdered her and Neferura) from the earth, her wide spread notoriety and unprecedented rule out-lived his anger.

“Hatshepsut ruled with an iron fist and achieved much, including expanding territory, broadening trade, building and restoring temples, and holding stable order in Egypt. Although there were many men who reigned before and many after, Hatshepsut proved to be an equal among them then, fake beard or not.” –

read the National Geographic article:

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