Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Women in Pharaonic Egypt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- When we talk about the grand history of [Egypt] which extends more than fifty centuries into the past, we find ourselves continually speaking about the ancient Egyptian man, whether this is ancient Egyptian engineers who built temples and pyramids, the ancient Egyptian doctors who carried out the first medical operations in human history, or the ancient Egyptian artists who carved huge statues and inscribed hieroglyphics on the walls of temples and tombs. However we rarely find mention of ancient Egyptian women, as if this great civilization was built by men alone, and as if ancient society was comprised solely of men, which of course is something that is completely untrue.

Yes, there is a clear injustice regarding how the role that was played by ancient Egyptian women in building this ancient civilization is portrayed in comparison to how the role of men is portrayed; however what is strange is that this injustice is a product of modern research and did not exist within ancient Egyptian society. Women played an important role in ancient Egyptian civilization, and they also enjoyed unparalleled luxury compared to other women at the time, and this is why when I decided to publish a book about the role played by women in Pharaonic Egypt I decided that the best and more accurate title for this would be “Silent Images: Women in Pharaonic Egypt.”

After a long examination of Pharaonic antiquities I discovered that ancient Egyptian women were represented by a number of goddesses, such as the goddess “Isis” who was the goddess of fertility and worshipped as the ideal mother, the goddess “Hathor” who personified motherhood and was worshipped as a protector, “Sekhmet” the warrior goddess, and “Bastet” the protector goddess. Upper Egypt also worshipped its own patron goddess “Nekhbet” while Lower Egypt worshipped the patron goddess “Wadjet.” This represents the religious aspect; however at the political level the wife of the pharaoh also played an important role with regards to the continuation of the royal line, while ancient Egyptian princesses could also politically increase the strength of the ruling family through marriage.

Pharaonic Queens bore the burden of rule and raising their young children and teaching them to govern, for example Queen-Consort “Ankhesenpepi II” the mother of Pharaoh “Pepi II” ruled in her son’s name until he was old enough to take power.

Queen “Khentkaus II” also acted as regent for her two young sons Pharaoh “Neferefre” and his successor “Nyuserre Ini” protecting the throne until the latter came of age. Prior to this, historical sources have preserved the name of Queen “Nimaethap” for the important role she played as regent and for her protection of the throne for her son Pharaoh “Djoser” the first King of the Third Dynasty.

Throughout ancient Egypt’s history, the names of just a few ruling Queens have been made known, with the great Queen “Hatshepsut” – who became a legend amongst ancient women – enjoying the longest and most successful reign. Hatshepsut ruled over an Egyptian golden age during which ancient Egypt was unrivalled in power in the Near East.

During a 20-year reign, Queen Hatshepsut protected the borders of her empire, wearing the same royal regalia as worn by male Pharaoh’s. She attributed her birth and divine right to rule to the ancient Egyptian god Amun-Ra. Queen Hatshepsut did indeed rule over Egypt, and she was responsible for the construction of a beautiful temple complex [Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut] at Deir al Bahari on the west bank of the Nile.

Just one visit to this magnificent temple – which was constructed by a woman – is sufficient for anybody to feel the glory and grandeur of Egypt’s past, which is something that fill’s one’s soul with the conviction that the earth belongs to those who take action, for history does not remember those who don’t.