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The Ten Greatest Ancient Egyptian Rulers

Updated on March 19, 2015

Ancient Egypt was one of the world's most successful and advanced civilizations in early history. Much of this success was due to the rulers that presided over Egypt's people during this period. While some of them were more infamous than admirable, they all had unique traits and accomplishments for which they are still remembered today. These are ten of the greatest Egyptian rulers of all time.

Djoser was well known for his construction projects.
Djoser was well known for his construction projects. | Source

# 10: Djoser

The pharaoh Djoser reigned over Egypt from 2668 to 2649 BC. His father was the king Khasekhemwy, yet it is still unknown if he was the direct successor to the throne. Some scholars suggest that he actually only reigned for 19 years, but due to the many great structures commissioned during his reign, 29 years is considered to be more accurate. He dabbled in various mining activities but his most famous project was the step pyramid in which he is entombed.

In addition to his domestic achievements, Thutmose III was a great military commander.
In addition to his domestic achievements, Thutmose III was a great military commander. | Source

# 9: Thutmose III

The sixth pharaoh, Thutmose III, reigned from 1504 to 1450 BC. The majority of his reign was with his stepmother Hatshepsut. He was the commander of her armies and was considered to be very gifted militarily. Over 17 or more campaigns to conquer foreign lands, he turned his empire into the largest ever seen by Egyptians. During his time he constructed over 50 temples and heavily influenced changes in sculpture and culture. After his death he was buried in the famous Valley of the Kings.

Whoever Menes actually was, his life and death were both unique, to say the least.
Whoever Menes actually was, his life and death were both unique, to say the least. | Source

# 8: Menes

Menes was the first king of Egypt. Much of his history is disputed, but it is thought that he came to power around 3100 BC. He is credited with the unification of Egypt.

Menes’ actual identity has been long debated by historians. The great wealth of the pharaoh Narmer points to this as being the king's identity. He is widely believed to have introduced the practice of sacrifice and god worshiping. He is also thought to have invented writing in Egypt. After over 60 years on the throne, he died when he was mauled by a hippopotamus.

In many ways, Hatshepsut was remarkably ahead of her time.
In many ways, Hatshepsut was remarkably ahead of her time. | Source

# 7: Hatshepsut

The first female ruler of Egypt was Hatshepsut. Her reign lasted from 1479 to 1458 BC, and she is considered one of Egypt's most successful rulers.

No other woman in Egyptian history ruled longer than Hatshepsut. She established trade networks that vastly increased the dynasty's wealth, and she was part of the first recorded attempt to transplant trees of foreign origin. She conducted several successful military campaigns as well. No mention of her cause of death has been provided.

Artwork, not religious change, proved to be the lasting legacy of Akhenaten's reign.
Artwork, not religious change, proved to be the lasting legacy of Akhenaten's reign. | Source

# 6: Akhenaten

Akhenaten is primarily known for attempting to change Egypt's religion from polytheism to a monotheistic worship. Although he tried desperately to bring about this change, he ultimately failed. However, he commissioned some very unique and interesting art that primarily focused on his religious views. After his reign, which lasted from 1353 to 1336 BC, the previous religion was gradually reintroduced. It is thought that some sort of genetic abnormality eventually led to his illness and death.

The Great Pyramid of Ghiza is without a doubt Khufu's most lasting achievement.
The Great Pyramid of Ghiza is without a doubt Khufu's most lasting achievement. | Source

# 5: Khufu

The builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Khufu reigned from 2589 to 2566 BC. While some believe he ruled for around 63 years, 23 is likely more accurate. Many scholars and historians have stated that his personality and character were rather negative. He sent several expeditions in search of turquoise and other minerals. He also attempted to trade copper weapons and tools for Lebanese Cedar wood which was used to construct adequate funerary boats. The exact date and cause of his death has been disputed.

In spite of his unquestionable accomplishments, Khafre was not a popular ruler.
In spite of his unquestionable accomplishments, Khafre was not a popular ruler. | Source

# 4: Khafre

The second largest pyramid at Giza was built by Khafre. He is also credited with constructing the Great Sphinx, although this has come into question. During his reign from 2558 to 2532 BC, he was considered an exceptionally cruel ruler. The Sphinx was erected as somewhat of a protector of Khafre's pyramid. He was also known to have closed the Egyptian temples. There is not much more known about this fourth Egyptian ruler.

The name "Cleopatra" is still associated with unattainable beauty.
The name "Cleopatra" is still associated with unattainable beauty. | Source

# 3: Cleopatra

One of the most well-known rulers in history of any country, Cleopatra was the last of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Although she was of Greek decent, she told many believers that she was the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. During her rule, she had a powerful ally in Julius Caesar. Following Caesar's death, she took up with Marc Antony. With him she had 3 children. After losing a great battle, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra did the same by allowing herself to be bitten by an asp. After her death, she was portrayed in numerous plays, movies and writings that contend that, at the time, she was the greatest beauty in the world.

Ramesses II substantially expanded the territory Egypt controlled during his reign.
Ramesses II substantially expanded the territory Egypt controlled during his reign. | Source

# 2: Ramesses II

Considered to be the most powerful and successful of all the pharaohs, Ramesses II had the longest reign and life as well. He ruled from 1279 to 1213 BC. In various military campaigns, he took back control over several territories that had previously been lost. His army was said to contain 100,000 men, a massive force for that time. Although he constructed many buildings and monuments, the tomb of Nefertari is considered his most famous. Inside, archeologists found highly detailed paintings that are considered some of the greatest in Egyptian history. After his death, he was buried in the Valley of the Kings but is now on display in the Cairo Museum.

Tutankhamen is more commonly known by his modern nickname, "King Tut."
Tutankhamen is more commonly known by his modern nickname, "King Tut." | Source

# 1: Tutankhamen

Probably the most famous of all the pharaohs, Tutankhamen reigned from 1332 to 1323 BC. He became a major subject of interest when his tomb of treasures was discovered in 1922. Many people involved in the expedition that discovered it died from mysterious causes, leading many to speculate that a curse was placed upon the tomb. It is widely thought, however, that bacteria in the tomb and simple coincidence caused many of the deaths. His burial mask has long been a symbol of Egyptian culture. His cause of death has never been conclusively proven, but an apparent broken leg may have led to the young king's demise at age 18.

Which of these ancient Egyptian rulers do you consider the most memorable?

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What do you think it was that made these rulers and others like them larger than life?

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    • profile image

      Kevin Goodwin 2 years ago

      Very good research on these ancient leaders of Egypt.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 3 years ago from Australia

      A very informative summary of these pharaohs. It's such an interesting time, such in credible things were achieved yet we know so little of it.

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