The book is based on a true story of the first female pharaoh, Hatchepsut, hence making it very interesting to read. Since there is very little known about this pharaoh the author seems to dwelling much propaganda rather than facts since there are no evidence to support his arguments. The book discusses the succession order which was disputed, the use of so much propaganda by the pharaoh so as to legitimize her leadership and the question of exactly who attempted to erase the name of Hatchepsut from the monuments and why.
The book begins with the description of the role of pharaoh, an absolute ruler who is responsible for almost everything in the society, what is the royal family and its roles, the priest, the military and the foreign policy. The author shows clearly that there was no a strong enmity between herself and her stepson. The main theme of this book is the administrative techniques of Hatchepsut. The pharaoh knows that by the fact that she is a lady was going to give her many challenges in her efforts to govern ancient Egypt.
She knows that she does not have a chance in making it in her leadership if she doesn’t make liaisons with many men so that they can help her in legalizing her leadership. The book also examines the mystery surrounding Senenmut and the reason which led to Hatchepsut to take the decision of becoming a pharaoh ((Tyldesley, 1998, p 88). The author does refer to other dynasties in order to support her arguments, and also the relationship between the pharaoh and her step son Thutmose III and shows that her step son waited for more than twenty years after her death for him to start destroying her monuments.
Although this was not expected of Thutmose since most people thought that there was great animosity between the two, and women were not respected by men her step son had some respect for her. Hatchepsut had a very stable government such that if she were born a man her reign would be one of the most memorable. She is able to create thriving trade missions as well as state of the art architectural advances including the building of the Deir el-Bahri temple at luxor on the west bank of river Nile.
Even today that temple is regarded to as one of the most attractive buildings in the globe. Hatchepsut gender is also one of the most striking characteristic, thus most of her history is about her struggles in a world dominated by men but not on her policies. She takes on the dress code of men by assuming the role of pharaoh, and she even has to wear a fake beard so as to look like a real king which is the equivalent of pharaoh, but has no feminine equivalent.
Hatchepsut honored her father “in every way possible” in order to preserve her direct link to Tuthmosis I as a rightful heir to Egyptian throne (ibid, pp117-118). She is the first born daughter of Tuthmosis I and queen Ahmose and she is the wife of Tuthmosis II who was her half brother as this was a commonly practiced custom in the royal families and played the role of guardian to her step son. She believes that since both her parents were from the royal family then she had a direct royal bloodline unlike her husband and half brother whose mother is not of royal blood.
For this she believed that she had the right to rule Egypt irrespective of her gender an impression given in the book that she wanted to rule for the sake of her father. She is hot tempered and for this reason she makes very many mistakes although she is capable of leading in numerous areas. Her family, Theban royal family, which ruled in the 17th and the 18th centuries, was tight knit but one of fighting nature but it replicates the examples of other dynasties to especially those of the 12th century to legitimize its and give them stability (ibid p.
5). Her era is one of unease due to the advancing technology and the willingness of the people to go back to their traditional values and norms. Although the pharaoh’s family as warring, there exists also some strong bonds in the family so as to make sure that they don’t lose their grip on power. They know that too much in fighting would cost them the leadership which they don’t want. That is why Hatchepsut, being a lady is able to rise top become the first female because there is no a son ready to take that role after the death of her father.
The next son in line is her step son who is very young such that he can’t rule. When Hatchepsut rises to power it is like she divides it in to two, which are king of Egypt and queen of Egypt (ibid, p 2). What caused the death of the Hatchepsut is still unclear; there is a notion that she was killed by her step son after getting tired for waiting for his turn to rule to come, but since by the time of her death she is very old that might just be a hypothesis.
Many wanted to destroy the evidence if that there existed a woman pharaoh for they did not want a repeat of that in the future. That is why the evidence of the existence of Hatchepsut is very scarce for even her tomb has never been found. For the reason that the author makes so many references to other dynasties I would recommended any reader to read this book as an history book rather than as a fiction.
It was very hard for a woman to rule during those times and it needed a woman of guts like Hatchepsut to lead in a society dominated by men. The book is well researched because it uses archaeological evidence from diversified areas in Egypt to give a detailed biography of the first female pharaoh. It is a good read which I recommend to any person who wants to get an insight in the life of early Egypt.
Tyldesley Joyce A. Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh, NJ, Penguin Publishers, 1998