Queen Hatshepsut & Ramses the Great of Egypt

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  • 0:01 Greatest Pharaohs in History
  • 0:30 Hatshepsut
  • 2:40 Ramses II
  • 5:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

While the pharaohs of Egypt may have ruled the land along the Nile for thousands of years throughout many dynasties, two names deserve special recognition as perhaps the greatest rulers. Learn more about Ramses the Great and Hatshepsut.

Greatest Pharaohs in History

Having lived so long ago, the Egyptians left amazing records of their kings, or pharaohs. Not only can we recount their great deeds - and those that weren't so great - we can also figure out what their personalities were like. In fact, we even know if certain pharaohs were particularly ugly. However, we can also tell when a pharaoh was particularly accomplished. Perhaps no other pharaohs since Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid, were as accomplished as Hatshepsut or Ramses II.

Hatshepsut

The reign of Hatshepsut is particularly noteworthy because, in a time when women were valued in marriage most of all for their ability to bake bread, she ruled one of the most powerful countries on Earth. That's right, she. In fact, she is often referred to as the first really powerful woman in history.

Hatshepsut ruled from 1478-1458 BC, meaning not only was she a woman in power during this period, but she managed to maintain that power for more than 20 years. When her husband, Thutmose II, died, his successor, Thutmose III, was still too young to rule. Rather than give up power to a different family, or worse, have a civil war, Hatshepsut began to issue orders in the boy's name. Of course, everyone knew it was her behind the scenes, but it was enough to keep everyone happy in the beginning.

As time went on, Hatshepsut became more bold, even starting to issue orders in her name instead of Thutmose's, as well as commissioning a huge amount of statues commemorating her reign. How many statues? Hundreds, if not thousands, have been found, and some museums have whole rooms dedicated to statues of Hatshepsut. This is in spite of the fact that Thutmose III ordered as many as possible smashed so people would forget her!

However, if she was full of herself, she had earned it. During her reign, she was able to not only maintain control, but also extend the power of Egypt's merchants, making the country even richer. Some of that wealth went to pay for her impressive mortuary temple, meant for people to worship her after she died. In fact, the building was so impressive that later pharaohs would try to claim it as their own. This wasn't just jealously - being remembered was an important part of a pharaoh's afterlife, and no doubt people who liked Thutmose III were ready to start spreading that lie as soon as Hatshepsut died.

Ramses II

One person who did not have to lie in order to claim Hatshepsut's greatness was Ramses II, who ruled from 1279-1213 BC, more than 200 years after Hatshepsut died. Ramses II would soon gain a reputation as not only one of the longest-reigning pharaohs, but also the most successful. In fact, many refer to him as 'Ramses the Great.'

If nothing else, Ramses was an impressive military leader. Over the course of his reign, he managed to not only defend Egypt, but extend its borders in all directions, including into territory held by the Kingdom of Kush to the south, as well as the Hittites, a fierce empire that ruled much of modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. During this time, the Egyptian army may have numbered as many as 100,000 men, an enormous force for the ancient world and comparable to the armies of many countries of a similar size today.

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