Why is Hatshepsut historically significant?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hatshepsut is historically significant as one of the few women ever to become a pharaoh of ancient Egypt. In fact, she was the first woman to assume the full responsibilities of a pharaoh, sometime around 1473 BCE, which was many centuries before Cleopatra's era (69–30 BCE).

Hatshepsut assumed the role...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Hatshepsut is historically significant as one of the few women ever to become a pharaoh of ancient Egypt. In fact, she was the first woman to assume the full responsibilities of a pharaoh, sometime around 1473 BCE, which was many centuries before Cleopatra's era (69–30 BCE).

Hatshepsut assumed the role of queen of Egypt when she married her half-brother Thutmose II at the age of 12. When Thutmose II died, the line of succession indicated that an infant son by another wife would inherit the throne. In the meantime, Hatshepsut assumed the position of regent.

After about seven years, Hatshepsut took on the title and authority of the pharaoh, becoming Thutmose III's co-ruler. To convey an image of power, she ordered that in paintings and statues she should be represented as a man, with powerful muscles and a beard. She is best known for the construction of a temple at Deir el-Bahri which is now considered an amazing architectural achievement. She also commissioned many other construction projects and established important trade routes with the Land of Punt.

She is presumed to have died in about 1458 BCE, when she was in her mid-40s. She was buried in the Valley of the Kings, but after her death, Thutmose III attempted to eradicate the evidence of her position as pharaoh from monuments and temples. As a result, scholars only became aware of her significance after 1822.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hatshepsut was one of the early rulers of the new kingdom, famous for being one of the few female pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Wedded to her brother, Thutmose II, she was originally named regent upon his death, for her nephew, Thutmose III. During the regency, she would be raised to the position of ruler herself.

She is particularly notable for overseeing numerous monuments and building projects during her reign. A list of archaeological sites reveals just how prolific Hatshepsut was as a builder: "as a ruler, Hatshepsut inaugurated building projects that far outstripped those of her predecessors." (Betsy M. Bryan, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw, "The 18th Dynasty before the Amarna Period," 229). The list is extensive, and some of her most noteworthy projects included the temple at Deir el-Bahri, which Bryan cites as her "most enduring monument" (232), contributions to the temple at Karnak in Thebes, as well as her own tomb in the Valley of the Kings (Bryan, 230-232). These projects have certainly contributed greatly to her lasting fame.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hatshepsut is historically significant because she was a female pharaoh. After her brother Thutmose II died, the crown passed to his underage son by a concubine, and Hatshepsut, who had also married her husband by royal custom, became the regent for the boy, whose name was Thutmose III. Through her competence and political skill, she was able to convince many in the Egyptian priesthood to support her bid to become the actual ruling pharoah, with Thutmose III as co-regent. Her claim was two-fold. First, she asserted that her father had actually crowned her pharaoh before his death. Then she claimed to have been born miraculously, as the child of the deity Amen himself. She had herself crowned pharaoh, and ruled for a number of years until her death, possibly murder. Her reign was successful in many ways by Egyptian standards. While she was not as aggressively imperialistic as her successor Thutmose III, she was devoted to building projects, and strengthened the bureaucracy while maintaining generally peaceful relations with Egypt's neighbors. Interestingly, Hatshepsut, as pharaoh, is almost always depicted as masculine, wearing the ceremonial beard that all pharaohs wore. Most portrayals of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, however, were destroyed by order of Thutmose III, not an uncommon practice among pharaohs.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team