Category Archives: Ancient Egypt

Nitocris (? Possibly Myth) – The Soul of Re is Divine – 6th Dynasty – Historical Femme Fatale

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Nitocris

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.

Issue:

Nitocris or Netjerkare Siptah had no known children.

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Tutankhamun (1332 BCE – 1323 BCE) and Ankhesenamun (c. 1348 BCE – c. 1322 BCE)

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Tut

Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun were half brother and sister, Pharaoh and Queen of the 18th Dynasty of the Egyptian Empire. Originally their names were Tutankhaten which meant “Living Image of Aten.” His sister was originally Ankhesenpaaten, “Her Life is of Aten.” See Tut’s and Ankh’s father was the infamous Pharaoh Akhenaten “Effective for Aten,” but before he changed his name, he was called by Amenhotep IV, “Amun is Satisfied.” Aknenaten decided he wanted to simplify matters and center worship on one supreme central God, the Sun God Aten. He decreed all Egyptians would give up everything they had believed before, in their many Gods and Goddesses, and even move to his new capital city in the middle of nowhere. Amazingly enough, Akenaten, with the help of thousands and thousands of slaves, created a new and astounding capital (in the desert and away from the fertile life giving Nile) in a very short period of time. This new massive city had it’s up and downs and  in the end the people could not give up who they were. Eventually Aknenaten was overthrown as the people thought he was insane and blamed him for a lot of misfortune that befell them and for angering the Gods. Tut’s father can be viewed by some as pretty crazy and as a man way ahead of his time. Usually it does not end well for these people, as history has shown us.

Tut’s mother is fairly unknown, as it was Ankh’s mother who was famous as their father’s Great/Chief Royal Wife, Nefertiti. In fact most people at the time blamed Nefertiti for the insanity of the Pharaoh. Pretty typical, blame the woman for the flaws of her man. Truth is, Nefertiti was a very beautiful Queen, so people automatically assume that a beautiful woman can always bewitch her man, when in actuality she was probably just a wife, favored because she was pretty, but without any real power or influence. The only thing she could do, or as far as her influence could take her, was to use her position to get one of her sons named heir, or to marry as many of her daughter’s to either the 1st or 2nd favorite Great/Chief Royal wives sons, that way one of her children would sit upon the throne. That was pretty much the agenda of all the Pharaoh’s chief women. Nefertiti was no different. There are some depictions of her being all warrior like, but honestly war was and always had been a “Man’s business.” All we know for certain is that the Egyptian people reviled Ankenaten and Nefertiti so much they left them to the ultimate fate of attempting to erase their faces from history, which was the act of denying them immortality in the afterlife.

There is a possibility believed by a lot of historians that the next Pharaoh, Neferenferuaten, who lasted about 1-2 years, was actually Nefertiti trying to hold the throne as a King, however some believe she was already dead by the time this mysterious Pharaoh took the crown. Regardless, he (or she) did not last long and Tut became Pharaoh at the age of 9 or 10. Upon his ascension to the throne the first thing he did was change his name back to honor the God Amun and denounce Aten as the only True God. Then he did what was normal and expected at that time and married one of his half sisters. Ankh’s mother was Nefertiti, so in the end Nefertiti did achieve a Queens goal of having one of her children upon the throne.

We only know so much about the drama in Tut’s family, because his tomb was discovered completely intact in 1922. It was after this that people became obsessed with Ancient Egypt. Most tombs were robbed and defaced long before. For some reason, Tut’s tomb was well hidden. A lot of what we know and understand of Ancient Egypt comes from his tomb. It’s possible we would not have understood Nefertiti, Ankenaten, and their strange reign like we do now without the discovery of Tut.

Tutmask

Within the tomb of King Tut, we found a boy King who died suddenly without explanation. Further examination, by Forensic and Physical Anthropologist, reveals that Tut was probably 19 years old when he died. It is showed that his leg was fractured and that there was malaria in his body when he died. A leg infection and/or the disease could have done him in. It is plausible due to the injury, and the fact that Tut was avid hunter and charioteer, that he could have received his injury in a riding accident. The belief that he was murdered is discredited by the physical evidence. DNA reveals that Pharaoh Ankenaten was his father, but his biological mother remains unknown. However, it has been revealed through DNA that his mother was one of Ankenaten’s sisters.

We don’t know what kind of King Tut was, as his reign was pretty short. Most likely he left the ruling to his powerful advisors and held banquets, hunted, and worked on hosting envoys and representing Egypt. This was the safest and smartest thing for him to do considering his youth, position, and how his father’s reign turned out.

Tut died when Ankh was approximately 21 years old. They had two known stillborn daughters, who were buried with Tut in his tomb. After the Pharaoh’s sudden death, Ankh sent a letter to the Hittite King and wrote, “My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband… I am afraid.” It is believed to be from Ankhesenamun, but no one is certain. It could have been from Nefertiti before she died, as the people despised her and her husband. But, it seems more likely Ankh, as she was still very young and most likely able to have children. Also, there was no heir for the Egyptian throne and all the men of power were going to fight for the position.

Historians, Anthropologists, and Archaeologists are indebted to the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Boy King, for all his secrets he has shown us. To this day, Ancient Egypt is a hot commodity and a phenomenal cultural craze. From children to elders, it always continues to fascinate.

Nefertari Merytmut (? – 1250 BCE)

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nefertari

Nefertari, was Chief/Great Royal Wife to Ramesses II, the 3rd Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty. He was called Ramesses the Great, for he was one of the greatest and most powerful Pharaohs of the Egyptian Empire. He was known for his several military campaigns into Syria, Nubia, Libya, and his peace treaty with the Hittites. He was also a great builder of astounding tombs and monuments.

It was after the discovery of the Nefertari’s tomb, the largest of the Queen’s tombs in the Valley of the Dead, that we see her importance. We uncovered that she was the favorite and most beloved wife of her husband. “My love is unique — no one can rival her, for she is the most beautiful woman alive. Just by passing, she has stolen away my heart,” he writes on the walls of her tomb in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Her walls are covered in words of love and devotion and poetry from the Great Ramesses II. This is significant as although a lot of marriages of the Pharaohs were politically/traditionally motivated, this was not necessarily the case with all.

Although very little is known about Nefertari, the discovery of her tomb and the romantic ideal of a powerful Pharaoh besotted with his lady has made Nefertari one of the more famous Egyptian queens along with Cleopatra, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut. But, who was she?

Nefertari, given her age at death and the discovery of the Pharaoh Ay’s cartouche in her tomb could possibly mean that she was a great granddaughter to him. This is speculation, but it would make sense. We also only know that she married Ramesses before he became Pharaoh of Egypt. Nefertari was one of seven royal consorts to Ramesses II, but no others received quit as much attention and honors from the Pharaoh. Even though Pharaohs could have several wives and it was hard to say how many they actually had, they did usually have Chief/favorite wives. From the children of these wives is where the next Pharaohs and Queens would come from. It was not uncommon for half brother and sisters of chief wives to marry. This was a way to keep the blood line pure in their beliefs.

Also the Pharaoh and his 1st Chief Wife, or his Great Wife, were reincarnations of the brother and sister God and Goddess, Osiris and Isis. This, and the fact that all Egyptian names were so similar or exactly the same (people always named their babies the same names) makes it difficult to separate mother, father, son, daughter, etc… from each other. The royal inbreeding and use of the same names just makes it difficult to get a clear picture. It’s quit a trial for historians and archaeologists to sort through this mess. Sometimes, forensic anthropologists or physical anthropologists are very helpful if there are well preserved mummified corpses to be examined.

There were possibly eight children between Ramesses and Nefertari, but Ramesses had a total of at least 28 sons and 11 daughters which are recorded. This number could be a lot greater, especially due to lesser wives/concubines and daughters. Not all daughters were important enough to be recorded in history. Ramesses’s 13th son by another wife, Isetnofret, would be the next Pharaoh. Two of Nefertari’s sons died as young men during their father’s reign, and the 3rd son was a high priest and would not become Pharaoh.

What we see regarding Neferari’s importance and esteem by her husband were the many monuments of her likeness seated beside the Pharaoh, and her image depicted all over important buildings, such as  at Luxor and Karnak. She is always shown more prominently and more often than the Pharaoh’s other wives. We even know that she was involved politically within the Empire. Her name is mentioned in cuneiform tablets from the Hittites. She corresponded with the Hittite King and Queen, helping to negotiate peace between them. There is even mention of her sending gifts.

By the looks of the walls of her tomb, her death probably devastated Ramesses, the man and King who gave her the title of ‘The one for whom the sun shines.’ No one had seen anything quite as touching within any other Egyptian Queen’s tomb before.