Saturday, December 31, 2011

Relationship of Hatshepsut with Thutmosis III

In reading a history of Egypt I once again find some "learned" professor calling Hatshepsut a "usurper" and Thutmosis as being "marginalized" and kept out of power until her death. Of course the real truth will never be known but a little logic is sorely needed on this subject. First of all Hatshepsut took Thutmosis as a little boy and raised him as her son. Queen or peasant the relationship between mother and child is a strong one and not easily broken. When Thutmosis II died his son was very young -- generally believed to be about nine -- a boy. It was his step-mother Hatshepsut who adopted him as her son and had him crowned as Pharoah while she assumed the role of regent. Even though women did not figure in the succession a woman like Hatshepsut, who had been raised to rule could easily have eliminated Thutmosis III had she desired the crown, instead she crowned her step-son as Pharoah.

Thutmosis III ruled with his mother as regent for about two years but it was clear that he didn't like the routine of governing. Like most small boys he clearly wanted to be more active and like many small boys today, he was probably interested in the Army. Consequently Hatshepsut recognized the futility of trying to rule through a small boy and sent him off to the Army while she assumed the crown as Pharaoh but without usurping Thutmosis’s position as Pharoah, so she became the co-ruler. For some this idea of sharing may seem like wishful thinking or stretching the truth, but Hatshepsut ruled for 20 years and Thutmosis III was near thirty when she died and was commander of the most powerful army of the time.

Hatshepsut was Queen with a palace guard and she could have been overturned any time her step-son chose to exercise his rights as Pharoah. Instead he remained in the army and commanded several campaigns in the south. Clearly he loved the army and enjoyed the military life, leaving the governance of the country to his step-mother. Had he thought otherwise he could have claimed his right of governance at any point once he was mature. If further evidence is needed the situation with Senmut the Vizier should be considered. Senmut functioned as the Vizier with almost total power almost from the beginning and certainly had been tutor to Thutmosis while he was prince and even as Pharoah.

Historians have long speculated that Senumt was the lover of Hatshepsut, while this may be true any close examination of Hatshepsut’s actions indicate that she truly believed that she was descended from the Gods and it is unlikely she would have taken on any commoner as a lover. But even if she had it also seems equally clear that he would never have been a candidate to marry her or her daughter or to share power with Hatshepsut. Yet the history of the time shows Senmut’s climb to power from nothing to Vizier and it seems equally clear that he was motivated by power. But Senmut suddenly disappears from sight after a visit with Thutmosis III at his headquarters in the south. Senmut visits Thutmosis then vanishes after this meeting and he is never again mentioned. What happened is not recorded but this meeting and his disappearance seem to be related.

What actually happened at this meeting is lost in history but it doesn’t require a vast leap in logic to assume that Senmut urged Thutmosis to overthrow his step-mother and to assume full power. To anyone kept in the background this might have been a golden opportunity to reclaim what was rightfully his, but for a loving and dutiful son this was an act of treason. However, Thutmosis did not take action against Senmut but undoubtedly he notified his step-mother of what had been proposed by Senmut. Given the disappearance of Senmut immediately after this visit it seems logical that Thutmosis was happy with things just as they were and viewed Senmut as disloyal to his step-mother and a traitor, but it was Hatshepsut who took action not Thutmosis.

This then opens the question that if Thutmosis loved his step-mother then why did he obliterate her statutes and images? For some this is viewed as an angry response and an illustration of how much he hated her. This is the lazy man’s view of events and really doesn’t seem logical when everything is considered. First she was buried in one of the most spectacular tombs in the valley of the Kings. Also not all of her images were destroyed and those that were destroyed were not destroyed until some time after Thutmosis took power. Thutmosis III claimed to reign from the time he was crowned meaning that he viewed the entire period during Hatshepsut’s reign as his, which of course was true. During this period it was common to mark milestones, battles, and accomplishments with statues and writings in temples and on walls. It was these where Thutmosis obliterated Hatshepsut’s name and images claiming these as part of his reign and accomplishments. Other images and references remained intact so these actions were probably not done in anger or retaliation but were politically motivated.

It seems clear when all of the evidence is considered that Thutmosis III loved his step-mother and that they had a sound and loving relationship throughout her life. Thutmosis III was a warrior and is viewed in History as the Napoleon of Egypt. Any General that powerful would not have been marginalized or kept out of power if he chose to take what was rightfully his. Instead he was satisfied leading the army while she took on the burden of daily governance. He clearly loved his step-mother just as she loved him. The idea that Hatshepsut usurped the throne and kept Thutmosis sidelined is an assumption that doesn’t seem to conform to the known facts.

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