Egypt's Golden Empire
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Women in Power
Hatshepsut as a male
The high level of respect for women made Egyptian society unusual for its time. Women in the royal household could become especially influential.

Egyptian society was used to women ruling as co-regents until their sons came of age. Ahhotep ruled Egypt during its darkest days while she waited for her son, Ahmose, to reach adulthood. More unusually, the female pharaoh, Hatshepsut successfully ruled for some 20 years.

First among equals

Unlike other Egyptians, pharaohs were polygamous - they had more than one wife, but just one principal queen. She was the wife whose male children were acknowledged as the pharaoh's heirs.

Although Egyptian queens previously enjoyed very little power, the situation changed dramatically during the New Kingdom period. Instead of just bearing children, the principal queen became an essential part of her husband's reign. Any attempt to rule without a consort became an offence against Maat, the divine order of the universe.

Wifely duties

Like any dutiful wife, an Egyptian queen was expected to support her husband. She had a variety of religious and political duties that reinforced the position of the royal family.

For example, Queen Tiy, wife to Amenhotep III, may have been born a commoner but was soon corresponding with foreign princes as an equal. Similarly, Queen Nefertiti was a full participant in religious ceremonies honoring Aten, the sun god.

Independent woman

Queens were also given estates, which provided them with financial independence. This enabled them to commission their own monuments and even develop their own religious symbols. These were designed to remind the people that their queen was close to being a god: a crown of tall feathers, for example, indicated links with the gods Min, Amen and Re.

Some pharaohs made the link more obvious. Amenhotep III and Ramesses the Great each built temples for their principal queens, Tiy and Nefertari. The temples were dedicated to them, so the two pharaohs and their consorts were worshipped as gods - a lasting tribute to loving partners.

Where to Next:
Women in the New Kingdom
Pharaohs - Hatshepsut
Women in Power - Nefertari
Women in Power - Nefertiti

Related Links:

Day in the Life: Women   Day in the Life:
New Kingdom

The Pharoahs
- Ahmose
- Hatshepsut
- Tuthmosis III
- Amenhotep III
- Akenhaten
- Tutankhamen
- Ramesses II

Women In Power
- Nefertiti
- Tiy
- Nefertari

- Natural Resources
- Architecture
- Farming
- Religion

Egyptian Society
- Priests
- Workers
- Women
- Soldiers

Egypt's Golden Empire