Nitocris, whose name means “The Soul of Re is Divine,” is a Queen of Egypt that is shrouded in mystery and myth. Ancient historians are not reliable when it comes to facts. The first historian to ever mention Nitocris was Manetho, an Ancient Egyptian Priest and historian from the Ptolemaic/Hellenistic era. He lived in the early 3rd Century BC, and Nitocris supposedly lived in the late 2100s BC. That is a long stretch between his era and hers. Pretty much his accounts, if bearing any weight at all, would be mainly based on myth and/or legend. There has been no other proofs uncovered that such a Queen existed. If She did exist, Nitocris would not only have been the first known Egyptian Queen/Female Pharaoh, but she would have been the first known Queen in the world.
Manetho does not give us much information about Nitocris, but he dates her during and after the reign of a 6th Dynasty Pharaoh, Netjerkare Siptah, who was the last ruler of the Old Kingdom. It is assumed that Nitocris was probably Netjerkare Siptah’s sister and wife. No wives or children of Netjerkare Siptah’s have been documented, but we do know that Netjerkare’s reign was very short. Just three years.
Manetho, who wrote a history of Egypt called “Aegyptiaca,” describes Nitocris as, “braver than all the men of her time, the most beautiful of all women, fair-skinned with red cheeks.” I am not sure what is meant by “fair” in this context. Even considering ancient Egyptians were very diversified, being such a huge Empire for so long, I tend to suspect that in the earlier eras, they were mostly dark skinned, much like their Nubian Ancestors. Also, Manetho never set eyes on Nitocris, regardless if she was a real person. I think some people get confused with the shades of skin colors of Ancient Egyptians, as most of their paintings have faded over time. The earlier Ancient Egyptian art shows people with more African features, so it seems more likely, and can be assumed, that many had different shades of darker skin as well.
Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, also mentions Nitocris. But everyone knows that Herodotus’s histories are very liberal and more like stories of myths and legends. He paints a interesting picture of this Femme Fatale Queen. According to him, Nitocris’s husband was murdered by his officials. Nitocris seized the throne briefly in order to take her revenge upon them.
She invited them to an official banquet, celebrating her ascension, as she would not have done so without their killing her husband. The banquet was held in a lower chamber in the palace. Unbeknownst to the honored guests, Nitocris had installed a special aqueduct system that would carry the Nile waters into the lower chamber of the palace. After her guests were quite full and drunk, she slipped away. Then she had the chamber sealed and the Nile waters flooded the room, drowning the murderers of her husband and brother. After they were all dead, she then committed suicide.
It is a very interesting tale and if there is any truth to at all, than Nitocris definitely has earned her place among the Historical Femme Fatales.
Nitocris or Netjerkare Siptah had no known children.