Who was the Greatest Pharaoh ever to have lived?
Who was the Pharaoh?
In this article I will be trying to figure out who the greatest Pharaoh throughout Ancient Egypt was. This will include looking at the likes of Akhenaten, Ramesses the Great, Tutankhamun and many others. Firstly let me tell you who the pharaoh was. The Pharaoh was effectively the King in ancient Egypt, but not only that; he was a Dictator unlike modern British Monarchy. He was believed to be god-like and that he would take his place alongside the gods as one of them in the afterlife. Throughout the years of Ancient Egypt there were a lot of these Pharaohs, but I have picked the most prominent ones.
The Boy King and his golden mask
The first one to look at would be Tutankhamun, seeing as it is he is the Pharaoh we arguably know the most about. Tutankhamun lived in the later new Kingdom, a time of chaos and a falling nation, however, King Tut is still reknown all over the world. Is this because he was the greatest pharaoh of all time? Some would argue so. He has had the most impressive collection of burial goods, which initially suggested he was something special. After much consideration however, and after looking at the goods we see from other tombs, there appears to be a more logical reason for King Tut's horde of grave goods. Tutankhamun died at a very young age, we don't believe he had a next of kin; it’s a mystery how he even came to meet his death. For these reasons it is now believed by many and I must say myself included, that there are so many grave goods compared to other tombs because his wasn't worth raiding. In this time of Ancient Egypt there was an ongoing problem of grave robbers, but they only went after the huge targets which has led us to believe that most other Pharaohs would have had a much more impressive collection of goods and for this reason I personally discount Tutankhamun as an option for greatest Pharaoh, however, he is still extremely valuable to the Archaeological world as he has provided us with evidence for so many things that were once theories.
Heretic or Insightful?
After considering Tutankhamun the next obvious choice would be his father, Amenhotep IV or as he is better known, the Heretic King Akhenaten. Within a few years Akhenaten had changed his name, the type of religion and capital of the country. He did all of this with the creation of man-kinds first documented example of Mono-theism, the belief in one god. Akhenaten, within a short time of being made Pharaoh, abolished all of the old gods such as Sobek, Isis, Hathor, and Anubis, even Osiris, Horus and Amun had gone too. He replaced them all with the Sun Disc god called "The Aten". The Aten was depicted as a sun disc, with its rays shining down either with reaching hands on the ends of these rays or with an Ankh on the end of each. This was the greatest upset in the History of ancient Egypt as the priesthoods had much power, and the existence of the old gods could not be wiped out without destroying major cities and all the monuments to said gods. So Akhenaten made a big decision. He decided to rebuild Egypt with a place called Amarna as its capital. Armana, or as it is called today el-Armana, was a city in the centre of a huge almost circular valley with one small gap which was often used for trade and other transport, but as it was in the west and there was a similar dip in the east it appeared the sun rose and fell through this city alone, which satisfied the new religion as it was based only around a sun god. Again, I would personally have to annihilate him as a choice for Greatest Pharaoh, as like the leader of any country today, it was his job to do the best for his people, and he did what was right for him. He was still a genius for being able to re-write Religion and move an entire capital in his quite short reign, but he was not a man of the people, and therefore not the Greatest.
Step right up
Djoser. He is not too well known unlike the previous two, but you should all know of the Step Pyramid. Well, that’s where Djoser was buried. Djoser took the simple mastaba tomb of the old kings, and transformed it into this monumental building that we all know today as the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Djoser originally had a normal tomb, but then we believe he kept living on, past the predicted age of he and most pharaohs at the time. This in itself was a miracle and sets the trend here for Djoser. Something that still baffles Egyptologists today, how did he build so high? There are many theories but none are set in stone, not only how did he do it, but how did he think of this, how did he plan the intricate tunnels beneath the pyramid and all back in a time in Egypt where there was no texts written on the walls and hardly any written on papyrus. This man was a technological genius. He started a new era of Egypt that still stands today, one of the wonders of the world stemmed from his brilliant design. And al of this with little writing which not only would have made giving out instructions extremely difficult, but also it gives us no idea as to how he created this masterpiece. Yet again, however, we must consider Djoser as a Pharaoh overall. Despite being a technological genius launching Egypt into a new era, he brought neither wealth, prosperity nor safety through conquering rivals therefore we must search on.
Another recently well known Pharaoh from the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt was Pharaoh Ramesses II, and if you have never heard of a Ramesses II you may know him simply as Ramesses the Great. He deserves this title. Rather than leaving riches in his own tomb like Tutankhamun, or being a radical Heretic like Akenaten or a technological genius like Djoser, Ramesses II did bring Egypt and its people happiness. Going through the main things a pharaoh should do we can see how "Great" he really was. Firstly safety, the only way to ensure safety from invasion in this time was to be the invader yourself, and Ramesses II went off and made hundreds of campaign many of which we think he was on the battlefield for himself. The next stage would be to make sure the gods are satisfied and Maat (balance or justice in the form of a goddess) is kept. We know he at least made it appear as if he did this very very well as there are many tomb paintings and other recordings of him offering to the gods, not only that but he built on many temples including Karnak where he constructed a monumental Pylon and filled the Hypostyle hall with 134 colossal columns. This leads on to the final box he ticks, wealth and prosperity for Egypt. He was known as Ramesses the Great, or the Builder, as he constructed thousands of monuments to gods, his own burial chamber and mortuary temple along with mass civilian building schemes. He lived and created the peak of Ancient Egypt's wealth and strength and is therefore a very strong candidate.
The Myth of a Pharaoh
The final thing to consider is the first pharaohs. The ones in Egyptian myth. Osiris, Seth and Horus. The background of the story is Osiris and Seth were brothers, Osiris being the Pharaoh. Seth was jealous and tricked Osiris into his trap where he cut his bother into pieces and scattered him about the land, Osiris' wife who is Horus' mother gathered her husband back together and with her healing powers gave him life, but as a god, god of the underworld. Seth took control, but Horus knew what had happened and an epic battle was fought between the two in which Horus loses an eye but eventually wins the fight. Horus becomes Pharaoh and when he dies becomes god of the Pharaoh himself and is always shown as an eye, the one he lost, usually about the pharaoh. This is a myth, so whether or not you believe it is up to the individual. But if it was real, then it could very well be possible that these gods, the early pharaohs, were the greatest, as they set the religion for this nation which is eventually what drives them to become such a great nation.
So who really was the Greatest Pharaoh?
Looking back we can dismiss the first 3 on the terms that together they would make the greatest pharaoh, and they each have traits of a great pharaoh, but none of them are the greatest. Like I have just mentioned the gods too can be disputed as it is al based around myth and legend so is up to the individual to believe or not. Personally, I would have to take Ramesses the Great as the greatest pharaoh oh all time as he brought safety, wealth, and Maat to the Egyptians and therefore completed every one of his duties to the very end even if he did usurp a lot of his claimed buildings.