Strictly speaking her right to rule Ancient Egypt derived from the fact that she was the daughter of Thuthmosis I, and thus his nearest relative by matrilineal descent. Thuthmosis III would have to marry her daughter if he wished to fully legitimize his claim to the throne (as his mother was simply a member of the harem who therefore could not be raised to the position of regent). Despite this it is implied by many scholars that she had usurped the throne from the legitimate contender (Thuthmosis) and needed to wage a war of “propaganda” to maintain her position. It is quite possible that she considered her actions to be perfectly acceptable and right.
That being said, she seems to have been happy to bend the truth in order to be accepted as a proper pharaoh and it would be naive to suggest that she was not aware of a need to reassure everyone that she could do the job despite her gender.
Many Egyptian pharaohs felt the need to publicize their achievements and confirm their authority to rule. This was not entirely a selfish move as every pharaoh was responsible for ensuring that Ma´at was preserved and that everything was as it should be. Hatshepsut ruled over a wealthy and prolific administration and did not miss the opportunity to confirm her place in the world, but was no more guilty of this than, say, Ramses II or Thuthmosis IV.
According to an inscription in Karnak, her father appointed her as his successor before his death (although no-one really seems to be convinced by this assertion). He says..
“This daughter of mine, Khnumetamun Hatshepsut, may she live, I have appointed as my successor upon my throne… she shall direct the people in every sphere of the palace; it is she indeed who shall lead you. Obey her words, unite yourselves at her command.” The royal nobles, the dignitaries, and the leaders of the people heard this proclamation of the promotion of his daughter, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare – may she live eternally.
Much of her “propaganda” was undertaken with the clear support of the priesthood. The Oracle of Amun announced that it was the will of Amun that Hatshepsut be Pharaoh. In return, Hatshepsut covered her monuments with references to him and made lavish offerings to his temple. Thus, her suggestion that she is in fact the daughter of Amun are not intended as a slight to her father but as confirmation that Amun was the chief national god and that he (and his priests) supported her rule. In one inscription Amun says …
“Welcome my sweet daughter, my favourite, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the Pharaoh, taking possession of the Two Lands.”
Relationship with Senenmut
It is often implied that she had a sexual relationship with the official Senenmut because;
- grafitti found in an unfinished tomb used by the workers building her Deir el Bahri tomb depicted a pharaoh (generally agreed to be Hatshepsut) engaging in sexual activity with a man (thought to be Senenmut)
- Senenmut inscribed his name and image behind one of the main doors in Djeser-Djeseru (although it is sometimes suggested that he did this without receiving permission)
- Senenmut had two tombs constructed near Hatshepsut’s tomb (although this was not uncommon for close advisors)
Some commentators have suggested that Senenmut was the power behind the throne. This is probably rather unfair to Hatshesput and may also reflect a certain reluctance to recognise the power of a strong female ruler. Others have seen their relationship as that of equals, while still others see Senenmut as a devoted servant with only a platonic relationship with his queen. The true extent of their relationship is impossible to know, but has been the subject of much speculation.
Hatshepsut reestablished trade networks that had not fully recovered from the expulsion of the Hyksos at the end of the Second Intermediate Period and sent expeditions to the Sinai to obtain precious gems and other supplies. Her name is recorded at the Turquoise mines at Serabit el Khadim. She also sent an expedition to Punt (thought to be Somalia) which returned with a huge variety of precious gems, incense, trees, animals and other luxuries. This triump was recorded in her Mortuary Temple at Deir el-Bahari.
A vast quantity of beautifully executed statuary was created during her reign. Examples can be found in museums all over the world. Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders of all of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. To achieve her ambitious building plans she employed two great architects; Ineni (who had been employed by both her husband and father) and Senenmut (Senemut). She placed two huge obelisk at the entrance of the Temple of Amun at Karnak and built the Red Chapel (or Chapelle Rouge) within the temple precinct. To celebrate her sixteenth year as pharaoh she ordered the construction of two more huge obelisks. One of them broke during construction and can still be seen at the quarry near Aswan (The Unfinished Obelisk).
She also restored a number smaller cult shrines in Middle Egypt in particular the shrine of Speos Artemidos (at Beni Hasan) dedicated to the lion-goddess Pakhet. Senenmut designed her crowning glory, Djeser-djeseru (her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahari). The temple precincts are rightly considered to be among the most beautiful ever constructed.
It is often claimed that as a woman Hatshepsut was not interested in military achievements and that the expedition to Punt was simply a way of keeping the army occupied. Alternatively, it is proposed that she sent the army off on unimportant missions in order to keep the young Thuthmosis out of the way. In her defence, it has been pointed out that there was no attempted revolt by the vassals of Egypt when Hatshepsut became pharaoh (a sure indication that she was not considered to be weak or vulnerable) yet a number of them became restless when she died!
There is also some evidence that she did lead campaigns in Nubia, the Levant, and Syria. Furthermore, there is evidence that Thuthmosis III became the Commander in Chief of Hatshepsut’s army and conducted out a short, victorious campaign in the Levant on her behalf. As the junior co-regent pharaoh this would be entirely consistent with the training he needed to act as sole pharaoh. It also makes it less likely that she intended to rob him of his right to rule (rather than delay his accession as sole pharaoh) because placing your enemies in charge of the army is rarely a prudent move.
Court and priesthood
Hatshepsut would not have been able to rule Egypt without the support of the nobles and the priesthood (in particular the priests of Amun). She was supported by a number of loyal advisors many of whom had also served her husband and her father including; the Viziers Hapuseneb and Useramun, Royal Steward Senenmut, Nubian general Nehsi, Seal bearer Ahmose Pen Nekhbet, second prophet of Amun Puyemre, Senimen and Ineni. She supported and was supported by the priests of Amun and her position as pharaoh was confirmed by the Siwa oracle.
copyright J Hill 2010