Relationship between Hatshepsut and Thutmose III

Ancient Egyptian history, with its millennia of grandeur, dynastic interplay, and monumental architecture, has presented many enigmatic figures. Few, however, command as much intrigue as Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. Their relationship is one of the most debated and scrutinized subjects among historians. While this intricate web of power, politics, and family is still being unraveled, what is clear is that these two individuals significantly shaped the trajectory of the Eighteenth Dynasty and, by extension, ancient Egypt.

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Queen Hatshepsut and her rise to the throne

Hatshepsut, whose name means “Foremost of Noble Ladies,” was not born destined to be a reigning pharaoh. The daughter of King Thutmose I and Queen Ahmose, she was initially married off to her half-brother, Thutmose II, ensuring the purity of the royal bloodline. The couple produced no male heirs, only a daughter named Neferure. The male successor to Thutmose II, Thutmose III, was his son from a secondary wife named Isis.

Upon the early demise of Thutmose II, the young Thutmose III, being too youthful to rule, necessitated a regency. Hatshepsut, as the chief queen and widow, began her political career as his regent. This was intended to be a temporary solution until Thutmose III came of age.

Queen Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. A principal wife of Thutmose II, Hatshepsut is considered by many as one of ancient Egypt’s greatest rulers. She accomplished many feats, including sanctioning a massive expedition to the Kingdom of Punt

However, what ensued was extraordinary in Egyptian history. Within a few years, Hatshepsut declared herself as the pharaoh of Egypt, not just a queen regent. The intricacies of this bold transition remain speculative. Some believe that Hatshepsut took the throne to safeguard it for her stepson, ensuring that no other factions could challenge his eventual rule. Others argue that her ambition to rule was a product of personal aspiration, guided by political acumen and the support of influential priests and officials.

THUTMOSE III

Thutmose III, often dubbed the “Napoleon of Egypt,” ruled during the 18th Dynasty. Initially co-reigning with his stepmother-aunt, Hatshepsut, he later became Egypt’s sole ruler. His reign saw extensive military campaigns, expanding Egypt’s borders and establishing its largest empire. A significant builder, his monuments and temples are testament to his impactful reign.

Relationship between Hatshepsut and her stepson, Thutmose III

Now, the relationship between Hatshepsut and Thutmose III during her reign as pharaoh is an enigma. The young Thutmose III was not imprisoned, exiled, or harmed in any evident manner. He held official titles and undertook religious duties, often seen participating in ceremonial events. This scenario paints a portrait of coexistence, suggesting a relationship more of collaboration than contention.

Artifacts, statues, and inscriptions from this period celebrate Hatshepsut’s accomplishments, portraying her as the quintessential pharaoh—sometimes in male attire, complete with a false beard, emphasizing her authority. However, Thutmose III’s presence was not overshadowed. There is evidence to suggest that he led military expeditions during Hatshepsut’s reign, gaining experience and recognition.

Yet, things took an unexpected turn after Hatshepsut’s death. Over the next two decades, numerous statues, inscriptions, and monuments of Hatshepsut were defaced, desecrated, or removed. For a long time, this act was seen as Thutmose III’s retaliation against Hatshepsut, possibly because of deep-seated animosity or a desire to erase the anomalous reign of a female pharaoh to maintain the traditional narrative of male kingship.

Recent scholarship offers a more nuanced perspective. Some historians speculate that this erasure was not due to personal vendetta but was rather a political or theological move. The desecration did not begin immediately after Hatshepsut’s death but several years later, coinciding with the time when Thutmose III’s son, Amenhotep II, was being prepared for kingship. This timing suggests that the erasure might have been an effort to solidify the legitimacy of the father-son succession and not a reflection of Thutmose III’s relationship with Hatshepsut.

However, there are gaps in this narrative. If Thutmose III genuinely respected or at least accepted Hatshepsut’s reign, why didn’t he restore her monuments and statues after he began ruling independently? If their relationship was one of mutual regard, why was there a need to erase such a significant part of his co-rule and youth?

Some suggest that the answer might lie in the socio-religious fabric of ancient Egypt. The concept of Ma’at—order, balance, and justice—was foundational. Hatshepsut, as a female pharaoh, was an exception, an anomaly. To return to Ma’at, perhaps Thutmose III or his successors believed that they had to re-align the narrative, reinforcing the standard male line of succession.

Did you know…?

To legitimize her rule, a divine birth myth was propagated by priests. In it, the creator god Amun, taking Thutmose I’s form, visits Ahmose, resulting in Hatshepsut’s conception. The god Khnum is tasked with crafting Hatshepsut’s body and life essence, while the goddess Heket (Heqet) aids in her birth. These events are immortalized in reliefs at Karnak and her mortuary temple. To solidify her pharaonic claim, the Oracle of Amun declared her rule as Amun’s divine wish. Hatshepsut further underscored this divine endorsement by inscribing proclamations from Amun on her monuments, emphasizing her rightful position as pharaoh with heavenly backing.

To assert herself in Egypt’s patriarchy, Hatshepsut adopted male portrayals. Her prosperous reign featured extensive construction, including Karnak Temple and her famed Deir el-Bahari Mortuary Temple. Image: Sphinx of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut

In conclusion

The relationship between Hatshepsut and Thutmose III remains one of the tantalizing mysteries of ancient Egypt. While the beginning of their relationship was undeniably rooted in familial duty and political necessity, its evolution during Hatshepsut’s reign and the posthumous treatment of her legacy add layers of complexity. Rather than a simple narrative of antagonism or collaboration, it’s a multifaceted tale of power dynamics, societal norms, and political expediency, all set against the rich tapestry of ancient Egyptian civilization.

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