Top Ten Pharaohs

Top Ten Pharaohs

These men and women reigned over one of the most powerful and artistic civilizations Earth has yet to witness.

  1. Ramses II
    File:Ramses II charging Nubians.jpgFile:Ramesses II as child.jpg
    Ramesses II (c. 1303 BC – July or August 1213 BC) referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC – 1213 BC) of the 19th dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor.” Ramesses II led several military expeditions into the Levant, re-asserting Egyptian control over Canaan. He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, commemorated in inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein. At age 14, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his late teens and is known to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for 66 years and 2 months, according to both Manetho and Egypt’s contemporary historical records. He was once said to have lived to be 99 years old, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or 91st year. If he became Pharaoh in 1279 BC as most Egyptologists today believe, he would have assumed the throne on May 31, 1279 BC, based on his known accession date of III Shemu day 27. Ramesses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 sed festivals (the first held after thirty years of a pharaoh’s reign, and then every three years) during his reign—more than any other pharaoh. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum. The early part of his reign was focused on building cities, temples and monuments. He established the city of Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta as his new capital and main base for his campaigns in Syria. This city was built on the remains of the city of Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos when they took over, and was the location of the main Temple of Set. He is also known as Ozymandias in the Greek sources, from a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses’s throne name, Usermaatre Setepenre, “Ra’s mighty truth, chosen of Ra.”
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  2. Akhenaten

    Akhenaten (also spelled Echnaton, Akhenaton, Ikhnaton, and Khuenaten; meaning “living spirit of Aten”) known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning Amun is Satisfied), was a Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monotheistic or henotheistic. An early inscription likens the Aten to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods. Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional religion. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession from the 18th Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as “the enemy” in archival records. He was all but lost from history until the discovery, in the 19th century, of Amarna, the site of Akhetaten, the city he built for the Aten. Early excavations at Amarna by Flinders Petrie sparked interest in the enigmatic pharaoh, whose tomb was unearthed in 1907 in a dig led by Edward R. Ayrton. Interest in Akhenaten increased with the discovery in the Valley of the Kings, at Luxor, of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, who has been proved to be Akhenaten’s son according to DNA testing in 2010. A mummy found in KV55 in 1907 has been identified as that of Akhenaten. This elder man and Tutankhamun are related without question, but the identification of the KV55 mummy as Akhenaten has been questioned. Modern interest in Akhenaten and his queen, Nefertiti, comes partly from his connection with Tutankhamun, partly from the unique style and high quality of the pictorial arts he patronized, and partly from ongoing interest in the religion he attempted to establish.
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  3. Menes or King Narmer
    According to ancient sources, Menes was the founder of a unified Egypt, the first king of the 1st Dynasty. Actually, Menes is the Greek form of the name provided by the 3rd century BC Egyptian historian, Manetho. Alternative forms include Min (provided by Herodotus), Minaios (provided by Josephus) and Menas (provided by Diodorus Siculus), as well as other variations. He is thought to be the successor to the Protodynastic pharaohs Scorpion (or Selk) and/or Ka, and he is considered by some to be the unifier of Egypt and founder of the First Dynasty, and therefore the first pharaoh of unified Egypt. The identity of Narmer is the subject of ongoing debate, although mainstream Egyptological consensus identifies Narmer with the First Dynasty pharaoh Menes. Menes is also credited with the unification of Egypt, as the first pharaoh. This conclusion is based on the Narmer Palette which shows Narmer as the unifier of Egypt and the two necropolis seals from Abydos that show him as the first king of the First Dynasty.
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  4. Seti I
    File:Pharaoh Seti I - His mummy - by Emil Brugsch (1842-1930).jpg
          Menmaatre Seti I (or Sethos I as in Greek) was a Pharaoh of the New Kingdom 19th dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Queen Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 BC – 1279 BC and 1290 BC to 1279 BC being the most commonly used by scholars today. The name Seti means “of Set”, which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (commonly “Seth”). As with most Pharaohs, Seti had several names. Upon his ascension, he took the prenomen mn-m3‘t-r‘, usually vocalized as Menmaatre, in Egyptian, which means ” Eternal is the Justice of Re.” His better known nomen, or birth name, is transliterated as sty mry-n-ptḥ, or Sety Merenptah, meaning “Man of Set, beloved of Ptah.” Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty, and gave him a reign length of 55 years, though no evidence has ever been found for so long a reign.
  5. Thutmose III
    File:Thutmosis III wien front.jpgFile:Thutmose III at Karnak.jpg
          Thutmose III (meaning Thoth is born) was the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. During the first 22 years of Thutmose’s reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh. While he is shown first on surviving monuments, both were assigned the usual royal names and insignia and neither is given any obvious seniority over the other. He served as the head of her armies. After her death and his later rise to being the pharaoh of the kingdom, he created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen; no fewer than 17 campaigns were conducted, and he conquered from Niya in North Syria to the fourth waterfall of the Nile in Nubia. Officially, Thutmose III ruled Egypt for almost 54 years, and his reign is usually dated from April 24, 1479 BC to March 11, 1425 BC; however, this includes the 22 years he was co-regent to Hatshepsut—his stepmother and aunt. During the final two years of his reign, he appointed his son-and successor-Amenhotep II, as his junior co-regent. When Thutmose III died, he was buried in the Valley of the Kings as were the rest of the kings from this period in Egypt.
  6. Khufu

    Khufu, originally Khnum-Khufu, is the birth name of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who ruled in the 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom, around 2580 BC. He is equally well known under his Hellenized name Khêops or Cheops and less well known under another Hellenized name, Súphis. A rare version of the name of Khufu, used by Josephus, is Sofe. Khufu was the second pharaoh of the 4th dynasty, he followed his possible father, king Sneferu, on the throne. He is generally accepted as having built the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but many other aspects of his reign are rather poorly documented. The only completely preserved portrait of the king is a three-inch high ivory figurine found in a temple ruin of later period at Abydos in 1903. All other reliefs and statues were found in fragments and many buildings of Khufu are lost. Everything known about Khufu comes from inscriptions in his necropolis at Giza and later documents. For example, Khufu is the main actor of the famous Papyrus Westcar from 13th dynasty. Most documents that mention king Khufu were written by ancient Egyptian and Greek historians around 300 BC. Khufu’s obit is presented there in a conflicting way: While the king enjoyed a long lasting cultural heritage preservation during the period of the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom, the ancient historians Manetho, Diodorus and Herodotus hand down a very negative depiction of Khufu’s character. Thanks to these documents, an obscure and critical picture of Khufu’s personality persists.
  7. Khafra
    Khafre statue.jpgFile:Khafre.jpg
          Khafra (also read as Khafre, Khefren and Chephren) was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of 4th dynasty during the Old Kingdom. He was the son of Khufu and the throne successor of Djedefre. According to the ancient historian Manetho Khafra was followed by king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidences he was rather followed by king Menkaure. Khafre was the builder of the second largest pyramid of Giza. Some of the egyptologists also credit him with the building of the Great Sphinx, but this is highly disputed. There´s not much known about Khafra, except the historical reports of Herodotus, who describes Khafra as a cruel and heretic ruler, who closed the Egyptian temples.
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  8. Den

    Den (or Dewen) was the fourth Egyptian king of the First dynasty or 5th if Narmer is included. He was the son of Queen Merneith. Early Egyptian records mention battles against Bedouin tribes in the Sinai during his reign. He was the first to use the title King of the Two Lands, and the first depicted as wearing the double crowns (red and white). The floor of his tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab at Abydos is made of red and black granite, the first time in Egypt this hard stone was used as a building material. During his long reign he established many of the patterns of court ritual and royalty used by later pharaohs and was held in high regard by his immediate successors.
  9. Queen Hatshepsut
    File:WLANL - koopmanrob - Maat-ka-Re Hatsjepsoet (RMO Leiden).jpgFile:Hatshepsut.jpg
           Hatshepsut (meaning Foremost of Noble Ladies; 1508–1458 BC) was the 5th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty. Although contemporary records of her reign are documented in diverse ancient sources, Hatshepsut was described by early modern scholars as only having served as a co-regent from approximately 1479 to 1458 BC, during years seven to twenty-one of the reign previously identified as that of Thutmose III. Today Egyptologists generally agree that Hatshepsut assumed the position of pharaoh and the length of her reign usually is given as 22 years, since she was assigned a reign of 21 years and nine months by the third-century BC historian, Manetho, who had access to many historical records that now are lost. Her death is known to have occurred in 1458 BC, which implies that she became pharaoh circa 1479 BC.
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  10. Amenhotep I
    File:Amenhotep I in Ram XI.jpgFile:AmenhotepI-StatueHead MuseumOfFineArtsBoston.pngFile:Amenhotep I.jpg
          Amenhotep I (Amenhotep, sometimes read as Amenophis I and meaning “Amun is satisfied”) was the second Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. His reign is generally dated from 1526 to 1506 BC. He was born to Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari, but had at least two elder brothers, Ahmose-ankh and Ahmose Sapair, and was not expected to inherit the throne. However, sometime in the eight years between Ahmose I’s 17th regnal year and his death, his heir apparent died and Amenhotep became crown prince. He then acceded to the throne and ruled for about 21 years. Although his reign is poorly documented, it is possible to piece together a basic history from available evidence. He inherited the kingdom formed by his father’s military conquests and maintained dominance over Nubia and the Nile Delta but probably did not attempt to keep power in Syrio-Palestine. He continued to rebuild temples in Upper Egypt and revolutionized mortuary complex design by separating his tomb from his mortuary temple, setting a trend which would persist throughout the New Kingdom. After his death, he was deified into the patron god of Deir el-Medina.
  11. Bonus: King Tutankhamen

    Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (ruled ca. 1332 BC – 1323 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. He is popularly referred to as King Tut. His original name, Tutankhaten, means “Living Image of Aten,” while Tutankhamun means “Living Image of Amun.” In hieroglyphs, the name Tutankhamun was typically written Amen-tut-ankh, because of a scribal custom that placed a divine name at the beginning of a phrase to show appropriate reverence. He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters, and likely the 18th dynasty king Rathotis who, according to Manetho, an ancient historian, had reigned for nine years—a figure that conforms with Flavius Josephus’s version of Manetho’s Epitome. The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon of Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb received worldwide press coverage. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun’s burial mask remains the popular symbol. Exhibits of artifacts from his tomb have toured the world. In February 2010, the results of DNA tests confirmed that he was the son of Akhenaten (mummy KV55) and Akhenaten’s sister and wife (mummy KV35YL), whose name is unknown but whose remains are positively identified as “The Younger Lady” mummy found in KV35.
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  12. Bonus: Cleopatra VII
    File:Denderah3 Cleopatra Cesarion.jpg
    Cleopatra VII Philopator (Late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC), known to history as Cleopatra, was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s death during the Hellenistic period. The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents such as the Rosetta Stone. By contrast, Cleopatra did learn to speak Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian goddess, Isis. Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes, and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name. After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions with her brothers produced no children. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC. She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh by his supporters, but he was soon killed on Octavian’s orders. Egypt became the Roman province of Aegyptus. To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet’s opera Cléopâtre and the film Cleopatra (1963). In most depictions, Cleopatra is portrayed as a great beauty, and her successive conquests of the world’s most powerful men are taken as proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal. In his Pensées, philosopher Blaise Pascal contends, evidently speaking ironically because a large nose has symbolized dominance in different periods of history, that Cleopatra’s classically beautiful profile changed world history: “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”
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