Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III

History is fascinating for so many reasons, but perhaps one of the most interesting one is how the facts are interpreted. In fact, history is littered with facts but most of these are really not connected anywhere or if they are the connections are really nothing more than assumptions. It is as if history is a giant jigsaw puzzle whose pieces are mostly there but how they fit together isn’t always clear. One of these puzzles is the story of Thutmosis I, his son Thutmosis II, his daughter Hatshepsut, and his grandson Thutmosis III. As if the relationships of these were not enough there is the Grand Vizier (?) Senemut, who was certainly influential but what his actual role was remains rather vague. Various historians have interpreted the facts in various ways, but no one really knows for sure who did what to whom or why, but first the facts.

The sons of Thutmosis I all died in their youth leaving only his daughter as the true heir to the throne. He did have another son by a secondary wife. This half brother to Hatshepsut married her and they had a daughter -- Neferure. The age of Thutmosis II at his accession is not known but it is believed that he was younger than Hatshepsut. The actual duration of his reign is in debate but newer evidence suggests a 3 to 4 year reign rather than the 13 year reign previously believed. Whatever the duration of his reign was, it was uneventful and the few campaigns in Nubia were conducted by his generals and not by Thutmosis himself.

Hatshepsut did marry her half brother but considered herself the actual heir to her father Thutmosis I and not his illegitimate son Thutmosis II. Thutmosis II did father a child by a lesser wife but precisely when this child was born is unclear but he did reign as Pharaoh for 54 years so clearly he was very young when his father died and he succeeded to the throne. He was 30 years old when he became sole Pharaoh and Hatshepsut reigned for 22 years so Thutmosis III was probably around 8 when he was crowned. His step-mother Hatshepsut ruled with him as co-regent for a short period and then had herself crowned Pharaoh. Sometime after his accession as sole ruler efforts were made to obliterate references to Hatshepsut. These are the basic facts but the controversy rages around how to interpret them and based on my readings of various interpretations, this is what I think actually happened.

Senemut was a commoner and very influential with Hatshepsut, but given her attitude about the royal bloodline it is very unlikely that he was a lover or anything other than a favored advisor. While Senemut was very influential he suddenly drops out of the picture and disappears, but he falls from favor after visiting Thutmosis III, so the probability is that he said something that offended Thutmosis III – perhaps advocating the overthrow of his step mother. Whatever happened between them is unknown but it was shortly after this visit to Thutmosis in Upper Egypt that he vanishes.

Then we have Thutmosis II, the husband of Hatshepsut, whose reign – long or short – was not very noteworthy. His campaigns were generally conducted by his generals and he was only present on rare occasions. From what we do know, Hatshepsut considered herself the rightful heir and her husband as little more than an annoyance, but it seems quite logical that she was the real power. Furthermore, it is known that Thutmosis II suffered from some severe skin ailment that left him badly scarred. Plus his mummy indicates that he was not in robust health so this is another reason to suspect that Thutmosis II was not very active as Pharaoh and may have been little more that a figure head.

Of course the real mystery is what was the relationship between Hatshepsut and her step son or put another way, how did a man as strong as Thutmosis III allow his step-mother to reign as Pharaoh once he reached maturity. Of course no one knows the real answer but it is known that Hatshepsut raised Thutmosis as her own son and so she undoubtedly had an emotional connection prior to the death of her husband. Given that Hatshepsut was the mother to Thutmosis III then based on what we know of people in general, the boy undoubtedly had a strong emotional tie to his mother – the Queen. If Thutmosis III was crowned at the age of nine and his mother acted as co-regent for two years, then it seems rather obvious that that was a clumsy arrangement. The logical solution was to assume total control as Pharaoh, but it should be noted that Thutmosis III was not deposed, disgraced, or exiled, he simply disappears for a time. During the reign of his mother Thutmosis was being trained as a soldier and he took part in various raids and skirmishes in Nubia. By the time he reached maturity Egypt he was a trained soldier living with his troops. His relationship with his step mother was clearly a solid one and Egypt prospered under her guidance. It seems obvious that as a crowned Pharaoh, in command of a formidable army, he could have seized power from his step mother at any time, but did not. The logical conclusion is that he was satisfied with the way things were. He liked being a soldier and he did not want to be burdened with the administration of the country.

Then the question becomes, why did he attempt to eradicate all references to his mother once he became Pharaoh? Well the fact is that not all references to Hatshepsut were erased and that his efforts to eradicate these references occurred later and was at best half hearted. The logical conclusion seems to be that these were driven by political necessity. He needed to make sure that all of the victories and positive events were attributed to him, because he did claim the 22 years of his mother’s reign as his own, so the high points of her regency would have to have been revised so history would recognize these as his.

Whatever, the real facts are, it seems clear that the relationship between Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III was a positive one that reflected their relationship as mother and son. Furthermore, he reigned for 54 years which included the 22 years he was co-ruler with his mother. Had their relationship been anything but positive one of them would have disposed of the other, instead they ruled in harmony until her death.


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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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