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Famous Female Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

Updated on April 7, 2015

Female Pharaohs of Egypt

The history of ancient Egypt is something that still excites millions of people around the world; and today, hundreds of thousands of people visit Egypt to gaze in wonder at the pyramids of Egypt, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, and the remnants of elaborate temple complexes.

As a country and empire, Ancient Egypt was ruled by pharaohs, rulers who were worshipped as gods. The pharaohs of Egypt ruled from the time of the First Dynasty (c3150BC) though to the end of the Ptoelmaic Dynasty, the Thirty-Third Dynasty (30BC), a period of 3000 years.

During the long history of pharaohs of Egypt, there was an estimated 330 individual rulers, although the names, and periods of rule of these rulers is not always clear. Evidence though suggests that there were a total of seven female Egyptian pharaohs, not a high percentage of female pharaohs, but amongst these seven, there were three famous female pharaohs.

Hatshepsut

Large granite sphinx bearing the likeness of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. Keith Schengili-Roberts CC-BY-SA-2.5
Large granite sphinx bearing the likeness of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. Keith Schengili-Roberts CC-BY-SA-2.5 | Source

Hatshepsut

The female pharaoh Hatshepsut, is one of the most famous of all pharaohs of Ancient Egypt; and Hatshepsut was the daughter of one pharaoh, Thutmose I, and wife of another, Thutmose II, during the Eighteenth Dynasty.

When Thutmose II died, his son was too young to rule alone, and so Hatshepsut would become co-ruler. Hatshepsut though became sole ruler, when she usurped her own son.

The reign of Hatshepsut lasted from 1479-1458, and her rule was noted for improving the administration of Egypt, as well as opening up new trade routes through the ancient world.

Hatshepsut died after 20 years of rule, probably dying from bone cancer, and Thutmose III retook the throne. Subsequently there was a great deal of effort put into removing evidence of the reign of this female pharaoh. Many depictions of Hatshepsut though do remain, and she is famously often depicted with a fake beard, and the attire normally associated with male pharaohs.

Nefertiti

Gunnar Bach Pedersen Released into PD
Gunnar Bach Pedersen Released into PD | Source

Nefertiti

Nefertiti is one of the most famous of all Egyptian women and was the wife of Akhenaton, the pharaoh who sought to change the whole Egyptian belief system. Nefertiti herself is known as one of the most beautiful women in history, but there is also supposition that she ruled as pharaoh on the death of her husband.

A pharaoh by the name of Neferneferuaten is thought by some to have ruled after Akhenaton for a year, 1334-1333BC, before Tutankhamen came to the throne. If this is true then this would make Nefertiti one of the female pharaohs of Egypt, and another female pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

The period between Akhenaton and Tutankhamen was one of transition, where the worship of a single god, Aton, was abandoned, with the previous polytheism reinstated.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae Frederick Arthur Bridgman PD-art-100
Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae Frederick Arthur Bridgman PD-art-100 | Source

Cleopatra

Cleopatra is amongst the most famous of all the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt; and her name is recognised around the world. Cleopatra was also the last pharaoh, and therefore the last female pharaoh of Egypt.

Cleopatra was not of Eygptian descent though, for she was one of the Ptolomies, and therefore of Greek descent.

Like the other female pharaoh Nefertiti, Cleopatra was another classic beauty, and she was chased by both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony; Cleopatra even gave birth to a son by Caesar.

Cleopatra’s rule was marked by internal and external troubles, and whilst Julius Caesar did much to stabilise Egypt, the later assistance of Marc Anthony was less successful, and with defeat imminent, Cleopatra would commit suicide, bring the time of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to an end.

The Valley of the Kings, and the Queens?

Peter J. Bubenik (1995) CC-BY-SA-2.0
Peter J. Bubenik (1995) CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Source

Other Female Pharaohs of Egypt

There is often dispute about the names and numbers of female pharaohs, but other less famous female pharaohs of Egypt may include; Meryt-neith, (Merneith) a pharaoh from the First Dynasty, c3000BC, and therefore the first female pharaoh of Egypt; Nitocris (Neithikret), a possible pharaoh from the Sixth Dynasty, c2148-2144BC; Sobeknofru (Sobekneferu), from the Twelfth Dynasty, 1807-1802BC; and Tawosret (Tausert), a female pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, 1191-1190BC.

There are still details about many pharaohs to be discovered, but without the discovery of a spectacular tomb, the most famous female pharaohs of Egypt are likely to remain as Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra.

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  • Colin Quartermain profile image
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    Colin Quartermain 3 years ago

    Many thanks for commenting - I too find ancient Egypt fascinating, I just wonder whether anything like Tut's tomb will be discovered again. Colin.

  • Anne Harrison profile image

    Anne Harrison 3 years ago from Australia

    Such a fascinating time in history - I hope one day to make it Egypt to see these wonders. Thanks for sharing

  • Colin Quartermain profile image
    Author

    Colin Quartermain 3 years ago

    Daydreamer, many thanks for reading and commenting as always. Colin

  • daydreamer13 profile image

    daydreamer13 3 years ago

    You pick such interesting subjects. As always, well done!

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