The Queen and the Conqueror
The Queen and the Conqueror
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter discusses the lineage and reign of Thutmose III under the regency of his aunt, Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt in his name. As king, she did nothing to diminish the nominal status of Thutmose III: she dated her activities by his regnal years, and represented him frequently upon her monuments. She did, however, do much to assert her own legitimacy, publishing a fiction by which her father, Thutmose I, had actually elevated her to the kingship while he yet lived. The fourteen years during which Hatshepsut and Thutmose III shared the throne seem to have seen a division of labor, with the male king responsible for military matters and the female king for home affairs, together with more peaceful foreign endeavors.
Thutmose III and Hatshepsut
Amenhotep I’s reign saw the consolidation of the achievements of Ahmose I, with some potential expansion of Egypt’s control in the Levant and a considerable amount of building work within Egypt, especially at Karnak. Later, Amenhotep was regarded as patron god of the Theban necropolis, alongside his mother, Ahmes-Nefertiry, whose posthumous renown exceeded his own. Apparently childless, Amenhotep I was succeeded by a man of uncertain antecedents, Thutmose I. It is highly probable that the latter had been a member of the royal family, possibly a grandson of Ahmose I. It has been suggested that Thutmose’s father might have been Prince Ahmose-Sipairi, who has a prominence on the monuments that seems far higher than one would have expected for a royal son who never ruled. However, the matter remains uncertain.
Thutmose I was a warrior, and undertook extensive campaigns in Nubia and Syria, reaching the bank of the river Euphrates in the north and Kurgus in the south—the farthest into Nubia that we know that ancient Egyptian control ever reached. The significance of the achievement of the latter boundary is indicated by the presence there of many of the royal family as witnesses to the dedication of a text there—possibly including a daughter named Hatshepsut who would soon achieve fame in her own right.
Thutmose also built extensively, adding two pylons and a pair of obelisks to the temple of Karnak, not to mention constructions elsewhere. By his principal wife, Ahmes, who was apparently his own sister, Thutmose had at least one daughter, and probably also his elder sons, Amenmose and Wadjmose. The former seems to have been born long (p.74) before the king’s accession, held the title of generalissimo, erected a monument near the Great Sphinx at Giza, and was heir to the throne before dying prematurely.
A further son was borne by another spouse, Mutneferet, almost certainly a daughter of Ahmose I, who was to succeed his father as Thutmose II. His half-sister, Hatshepsut, became his consort. Apart from a police action into Nubia, little is known of his reign, whose very length remains a subject of debate (as, indeed, does that of Thutmose I as well). By Hatshepsut, Thutmose II fathered two daughters, Neferure and Neferubity, but no sons: his only known male offspring was born to a lesser wife, Iset, and named Thutmose after his father and grandfather. While still young, the prince underwent priestly training in the great temple of Amun at Karnak, and it was there that he appears to have been formally proclaimed heir to the throne by Thutmose II. His accession to the throne came sooner than might have been expected: on Thutmose II’s death a short while later, he became king as Thutmose III. As the new king was no more than a child, his aunt, Hatshepsut, became regent and ruled Egypt in his name.
The elevation of a queen dowager to such a position was by no means unusual, with earlier examples going back to Meryetneith in the First Dynasty. However, from the first, Hatshepsut appears more prominent than one would have expected. She appeared on temple walls, for example at Semna in Nubia, as well as on stelae; for her tomb she had commissioned a fine quartzite sarcophagus of a type only just adopted as a prerogative of kings. Her dominance is expressed in the Theban tomb autobiography of the official, Ineni, as follows:
[Thutmose II] went forth to heaven …; his son stood in his place as king of the Two Lands, having become ruler upon the seat of his begetter. His sister [i.e., female relative], the God’s Wife, Hatshepsut, settled the affairs of the Two Lands according to her own plans. Egypt was made to labor with bowed head for her, the excellent seed of the god, who came forth from him.
Nevertheless, for the first seven years of the young Thutmose’s reign, Hatshepsut displayed no more than queenly attributes—the traditional vulture headdress, and the titles of King’s Great Wife and God’s Wife, the latter denoting the head of the female clergy at Karnak and female counterpart of the high priest of Amun at Karnak, and at this stage usually held by the king’s chief wife. A dramatic change occurred, however, in Year (p.75) 7 of Thutmose III’s reign. Perhaps prompted by the king’s impending majority, Hatshepsut had herself proclaimed ‘king’—the Egyptian title we translate as ‘queen’ means no more than ‘king’s wife.’ As such, she almost invariably had herself represented in male garb, with full pharaonic titulary, which only occasionally gave away her sex by dropping in the feminine grammatical ending, ‘t.’
As king, she did nothing to diminish the nominal status of Thutmose III (fig. 24): she dated her activities by his regnal years, and represented him frequently upon her monuments. She did, however, do much to assert her own legitimacy, publishing a fiction by which her father, Thutmose I, had actually elevated her to the kingship while he yet lived. In support of this, she recounts her birth as being in traditional pharaonic style, with her mother impregnated by Amun-Re himself, incarnated in the king, and attended at her confinement by Amun, the god Khnum, who had fashioned the divine baby on his potter’s wheel, and the frog goddess Heqet.
(p.76) The fourteen years during which Hatshepsut and Thutmose III shared the throne seem to have seen a division of labor, with the male king responsible for military matters and the female king for home affairs, together with more peaceful foreign endeavors. As his contribution to the former, Thutmose seems to have led at least two campaigns into Palestine, and another pair into Nubia. For her part, Hatshepsut’s best-known foreign activity is the trading expedition to Punt, the Red Sea state that had been a trading partner of Egypt since at least the time of Sahure. Among items brought back were myrrh trees, sacks of myrrh, ivory, woods, apes, and other exotic items. This voyage is recorded on the walls of the fine memorial temple that Hatshepsut had built at Deir el-Bahari, next to the temple-tomb of the Eleventh Dynasty king Montjuhotep II.
Hatshepsut’s memorial temple (fig. 25) formed one of the two elements of the typical mortuary installation of a New Kingdom monarch. From the Old Kingdom down to the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, kings had almost invariably aspired to a pyramid, whether large or small, depending on their resources or lifespan. The body had been interred below it, with a chapel adjoining, to provide for the needs of the spirit. From the reign of Amenhotep I, this scheme had been replaced by
(p.77) one which separated the elements. The pyramid itself disappeared, unless the pyramidal peak, el-Qurn, which towers above the Theban necropolis, was regarded as a substitute. Under Thutmose I, the subterranean parts of the royal tomb began to be cut in a desert wadi behind the screen of cliffs that front the city of the dead: today, this is known to the world as the Valley of the Kings. A community of workmen was established nearby at Deir el-Medina to provide for the construction of tombs in the valley.
The final element was the chapel, which was placed in front of the cliffs, on the low desert overlooking the fields. These ‘memorial temples’ followed the general pattern of contemporary temples, with certain special elements specific to their role in the royal funerary cult, in particular separate chapels for the dead king, his/her father, the god Amun, and the god Re. Hatshepsut’s temple followed its Middle Kingdom neighbor in being built in terraces against the mountainside, deep terracing also being seen in other memorial temples of the dynasty. The architect of this superb structure seems to have been one Senenmut; apparently a man of inconsequential birth, he rapidly rose in Hatshepsut’s favor, becoming the tutor to her daughter, Neferure. A huge tomb-chapel was built for him on the Theban hills, just south of Deir el-Bahari, with his separate burial chamber set just within the precincts of the queen’s temple. This sepulcher was intended to contain a sarcophagus clearly made as a pair to Hatshepsut’s own. Such is his prominence and intimacy with the queen, extending still further to the carving of his image inside the very shrines of her temple, that one does not seem rash in suggesting that their relationship was rather more than mere queen and courtier.
An interesting account of the queen’s home policy is given in the Speos Artemidos, a rock chapel at Beni Hasan. It describes its construction and her systematic restoration of temples allegedly ruined as a result of the Hyksos interlude, brought to an end over eighty years previously. Part of her building program is described in detail at Deir el-Bahari, where we are able to see and read of the quarrying and transport of two pairs of great granite obelisks from the quarries at Aswan to Amun’s temple at Karnak; a further relief from Karnak seems to record the erection there of the second, a work which was completed in Year 16, possibly as part of jubilee celebrations. There are, however, some doubts as to whether this festival actually took place, as such festivities were normally only held after thirty years on the throne. On the other hand, it is possible that Hatshepsut may have been counting from her installation as queen consort, back at the death of her father, or some other datum point.
(p.78) Other works carried out under Hatshepsut’s rule included quarrying of turquoise in the Sinai and extensive construction work at Karnak, of which the obelisks were only part. Pylons were added, together with a new sanctuary and surrounding rooms, all in the finest style of the age.
Of Hatshepsut’s two daughters, Neferubity seems to have died young. Her sister, Neferure, however, took over her mother’s title of God’s Wife on Hatshepsut’s assumption of kingly status, thus maintaining the royal family’s direct link with the Amun cult. It is possible that Neferure may have married her half-brother, Thutmose III, perhaps even bearing his eldest son, Prince Amenemhat, not long afterward, but the evidence for this is equivocal.
Hatshepsut’s reign came to an end twenty-two years after the death of her husband, Thutmose II. Nothing is known of her fate: as to whether she died in that year or retired into private life, the monuments are silent. Then, two whole decades after her disappearance from the scene, her erstwhile coregent launched a sudden assault on her monuments. At Deir el-Bahari and elsewhere, the female king’s names and images were erased from the walls of her temples and her statues removed and broken up. In some cases, her figures were replaced by those of her father, husband, or nephew; in others, the wall was left bearing the ghostly outlines of Hatshepsut’s former image and names. At Karnak, Hatshepsut’s obelisks were surrounded by walls that hid her texts from public view.
Hatshepsut had taken over what seems originally to have been the tomb of her father, Thutmose I (although Thutmose II has also been suggested as its founder), in the Valley of the Kings (KV20), enlarging it and placing her father’s body in its new burial chamber, where she intended it to lie with hers in the fullness of time. For this reburial, she used a sarcophagus that she had made for herself soon after her assumption of kingly titles. She was now replacing it with a much larger and more splendid version, the old one being partially reinscribed for the old king. After Hatshepsut’s disappearance from the throne, Thutmose I’s body was taken from the tomb altogether, and once again reburied, this time in a completely new sarcophagus, made for him by his grandson, Thutmose III, in a tomb that may have been brand new as well. There seems, however, no reason to doubt that the female pharaoh was granted burial in her own burial chamber and final sarcophagus. A mummy found in a nearby tomb of two royal nurses has been identified as hers, but on highly questionable grounds. It seems more likely that Hatshepsut’s remains one of the missing royal mummies of the (p.79) New Kingdom—another being that of her father Thutmose I, in spite of another doubtful identification in modern times.
The reason for the great delay in effacing Hatshepsut’s memorials is difficult to fathom: had there been sufficient animosity between the coregents, surely Thutmose’s attack on Hatshepsut’s monuments would have occurred back in the twenties—rather than so very many years later. One possible explanation might be that Hatshepsut had indeed outlived Year 22, and it was the eventual death of the ex-queen that prompted the mutilation of her monuments. For such an explanation, however, there is not one shred of hard evidence.
A further set of mysterious destructions of names and images concerns Senenmut, Hatshepsut’s greatest intimate. Both his tomb and chapel have had names and figures erased, likewise Senenmut’s reliefs in the Deir el-Bahari temple; his quartzite sarcophagus has been reduced to fragments, while a number of his numerous statues have had names erased and/or suffered some mutilation. It was often stated that Senenmut’s ‘fall’ was due to his losing the faith of his royal mistress—since the names of Hatshepsut are mostly intact on such items—or suffering at the hands of Thutmose III for siding with his aunt in their supposed ‘feud.’ However, there is no real evidence in favor of either of these scenarios: it is possible only to say that Senenmut suffered from the posthumous disfavor of powerful persons unknown.
Although it appears that Thutmose III had undertaken military actions while reigning alongside Hatshepsut, it is following his reaccession to sole rule that we find extensive accounts of his campaigns, annual expeditions that were to cement his reputation as indisputably the greatest of all the warrior pharaohs (fig. 26). The first of these began in Year 22, when he left the northeastern fortress of Tjel, bound for Gaza, with the intention of dealing with the threat to Egyptian power perceived as emanating from the ruler of Qadesh, a city-state on the Orontes. Having celebrated the twenty-third anniversary of his accession at Gaza, he pressed onward to the town of Yehem, nearly 130 kilometers farther on, where the army made camp.
While there, the king and his generals learned that the prince of Qadesh had taken up residence at the city of Megiddo, just under thirty kilometers away, as the crow flies. There were three possible approaches to the enemy town, which lay on the other side of a hill. The advice of Thutmose’s staff was that the Egyptians take one of the two longer, but easier, routes, which emerged from the hills around thirteen kilometers north and south of Megiddo; this would, unfortunately, give the enemy (p.80)
ample warning of their approach. The king’s view, however, was that they should risk taking the third route, leading directly over the hills to the city. The generals’ view was that this was far too risky, the road being so narrow, only nine meters wide at its most constricted, that there was the very real danger that the vanguard of the Egyptian army would have to join action before the rearguard had entered the pass. The king felt, however, that the risk was worth the possibility of surprising his foes, who would expect him to come by one of the easier routes. Accordingly, the next morning, Thutmose III led his army into the hills, arriving above Megiddo at noon. It was, however, seven hours until the whole force had arrived, deploying to the north and south of the enemy town, before setting up camp with the intention of joining battle the next day.
(p.81) The Egyptian attack seems to have achieved everything that the king intended, as the Qadeshi forces encamped outside Megiddo rapidly broke and fled back toward the city walls. There, as the Egyptian account of the battle, carved on the walls of Karnak temple, records, the enemy “abandoned their horses and gold and silver chariots, to enable them to be hauled up by their clothing into the town.” Unfortunately, the booty left behind by the retreating army proved too strong a temptation to the Egyptian troops, who lost valuable time in taking possession. Thus, the opportunity of capturing the enemy leaders while they were being dragged up the city walls, and storming the town in the confusion, was lost. Accordingly, it became necessary to dig in for a long siege, which was only successful after seven long months, and at the end of which the prince of Qadesh managed to escape. Three further cities of the Qadeshi alliance were also reduced during the campaign: mercy was shown to the defeated foes—a key feature of Thutmose III’s strategy—new rulers being appointed from among their numbers, before the king returned to Egypt.
The next year’s operation was a fairly simple march through Syria–Palestine, the army collecting gifts and tribute as it went, the same apparently being true of that of Year 25. The latter, however, is interesting in providing the material for one of the most remarkable representations in an Egyptian temple, and providing a fascinating insight into Thutmose III’s character. Rather than scenes of military might, we find row after row of representations of the flora and fauna of Palestine.
Year 29 saw the first campaign, of which records survive anyway, to press beyond the areas whose rule was confirmed by the Megiddo campaign; together with the next year’s operation, it saw the king push up into Syria proper, finally capturing the city of Qadesh itself. In his follow-up settlement, the sons of the defeated city rulers were taken away to Egypt, both as hostages against their fathers’ good behavior, and also to educate an Egyptophile next generation of rulers, to ease the perpetuation of an Egyptian hegemony.
The campaign of Year 33 saw Thutmose III’s crowning military achievement. Nearly fifty years before, his grandfather, Thutmose I, had reached the Euphrates, and left a commemorative stela there. Now, the third Thutmose crossed that great river boundary, defeating in the process the king of Mitanni, one of the era’s great powers, and left a stela of his own next to that of Thutmose I, together with another on the opposite side of the river. Having also pushed north to Carchemish, Thutmose III had now extended Egyptian power to its greatest extent in Asia, and (p.82) while in the area received gifts from not only the local rulers, but from defeated Mitanni, and the kings of Babylon and the Hittites as well.
Campaigning continued in subsequent years: one cannot help suspecting that Thutmose III was at his happiest with his army, a number of whose generals are known. One, Amenemheb, has left an autobiography in his tomb that gives color to a number of the events known from the formal annals. Another, Djehuty, is known not only from items of his funerary equipment, but also from a folk tale, which tells of his seizure of the city of Joppa, through smuggling in troops contained in baskets carried by donkeys.
Thutmose’s last Asiatic campaign took place in Year 42, once again fighting against his old foe, the ruler of Qadesh, whose city was now taken by storm. At its conclusion, perhaps perceiving that his fighting years were nearly over, the king commanded that the previous two decades’ fighting be written up on the walls of his new buildings at Karnak; these were, incidentally, to obliterate some of the works of Hatshepsut.
In Egypt and Nubia, Thutmose III was a great builder, large parts of the temple of Karnak being his work. One of the most interesting is his Festival Hall, its roof supported on columns imitating tent poles. A number of obelisks were quarried, one of which, however, still remains joined to the bedrock at Aswan, a fault having been found in it. Its intended partner was later erected at the back of Karnak by Thutmose IV as a solar symbol; it now stands at St. John Lateran in Rome, the largest surviving obelisk.
Elsewhere, Western Thebes was host to not only his memorial temple, but also a new Deir el-Bahari sanctuary. Additionally, Medamud, Armant, Esna, Dendara, Kom Ombo, and various Nubian sites are but examples of the places that benefited from his construction work. Finely decorated tombs provide the names of many of his officials, in particular that of the vizier Rekhmire, whose chapel is both an artistic and a cultural delight. Among its texts is one which comments on the king’s skill in the hieroglyphic script, and another which comprises the king’s traditional installation speech, in which he sets out the duties of his vizier, which he characterizes as “bitter as gall.”
As already noted, the king’s first wife may have been his half-sister, Neferure. Certain Great Wives were successively Sitiah, daughter of the nurse Ipu, and Meryetre, the daughter of the Adoratrix Huy. By these ladies, Thutmose had up to five sons and at least two daughters. The eldest son, Amenemhat, died prematurely, but not before receiving a senior government position. Thutmose III’s eventual heir was Amenhotep, born to (p.83) Meryetre around Year 33/4. He may have been made coregent shortly after Thutmose’s celebration of five decades on the throne, by which time he had also partaken of a number of jubilees, but it is possible that the evidence for this may simply be a mistake in writing a date in one ancient inscription.
In addition to his main wives, Thutmose also married three ladies from Syria, presumably for diplomatic purposes, while at Avaris, the Hyksos capital that had now become an Egyptian royal residence, a large palace building revealed many fragments of fresco painting that were clearly in the style of Minoan Crete. No other Cretan artifacts were to be found, but the most likely explanation may be that Thutmose also concluded a diplomatic marriage with the Aegean kingdom, and that the lady had a residence here, decorated for her by artists from her homeland.
Although his last expedition into Syria had been eight years previously, Thutmose III had not altogether finished with military matters. In Year 50, he proceeded into Nubia, clearing the old First Cataract canal of Senwosret III to ease the expedition’s passage. He was now, however, well into his sixties, and one month and four days short of the fifty-fourth anniversary of his coronation, Thutmose III, in the words of his old comrade-in-arms, Amenemheb, “completed his lifetime of many years, splendid in valor, might, and triumph. … He ascended to the sky, joining the sun, his divine limbs mingling with him that begat him.” Thus passed perhaps Egypt’s greatest king, a soldier and a scholar whose name would remain a potent charm for over a thousand years.
His son buried him in his tomb (KV34) in the Valley of the Kings, the walls of the burial chamber adorned as if a huge papyrus had been unrolled against them. Within, Thutmose III was laid to rest in a magnificent quartzite sarcophagus, perhaps the finest of its kind ever made: it was so admired that a thousand years later an Egyptian nobleman named Hapymen would have its decoration copied onto his own coffer, now in the British Museum. Like so many royal mummies, that of Thutmose III was disturbed by robbers and badly damaged. However, it was salvaged by necropolis officials and moved to the hiding place at Deir el-Bahari, whence it finally came to rest in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (p.84)