HIST 3370 Lecture 5: Discussion 5 - The Career of Pharaoh Hatshepsut
Course CodeHIST 3370
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Discussion 5 – The Career of Pharaoh Hatshepsut
Herodotus visited Egypt in about the year 490 B.C., which was during the 27th Dynasty (a time
of the Persian occupation). While his major interests focused on funerary customs, diet, and
some elements of religious practice, he also touched briefly in his record on the status of
women. A thousand years before Herodotus' visit, in the 18th Dynasty, Hatshepsut was the fifth
Pharaoh, in the period of the New Kingdom. Significantly separated in time, these two examples
demonstrate the extremes of the lives of women in Ancient Egypt.
Despite the substantial time difference, it is reasonable to assume that the general position of
women in Egyptian society in the time of Herodotus was not significantly different from their
status in the time of Hatshepsut. Herodotus provided no thorough description of the role of
women in Egyptian society, but only a sentence or so on isolated topics. For example, in the first
chapter of his Egyptian account, he reported that the women trade in the marketplace while the
men sat at home weaving and that while women carry their burden on their shoulders, men carry
that burden on their heads. Women have distinctive roles in the religious rites and funeral
ceremonies separate from men. Interestingly, after the death of a woman, several days were
provided for the body to remain apart from the funeral establishments to prevent it being abused
by employees. So, these were the basic parts of the lives of common women in Ancient Egypt.
Distinctly different from those commonplace roles for women was the accomplishment of
Hatshepsut, the first female ruler of historical antiquity. Traditionally filled only by men, the
supreme position of pharaoh came to Hatshepsut through the succession from Thutmose II, her
half-brother, husband, and pharaoh. As Thutmose's wife, she had been elevated to the position of
God's Wife of Amun, the supreme position in Egyptian society that could be held by a woman.
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