Birth of Hatshepsut

Following the death of her husband, King Thutmose II, Hatshepsut initially acted as regent for her young stepson, Thutmose III. Within a few years, however, Hatshepsut decided to claim the throne in her own right and went on to rule as king over Egypt for some twenty years (r. @1503-1482 BCE). There were precedents for female sole rule, notably (female) King Sobekkara Sobekneferu, during the late 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom), but the rituals and symbols of kingly power were designed around the assumption that a male would hold this position; indeed, there wasn't even a word in the language that meant "female ruler", no equivalent of "queen".

Hatshepsut's official legitimation of her unusual claim to power made use of some traditional means of describing kingly authority. She developed, for example, the conventional story of the king's divine descent into an elaborate poem narrating her conception and birth, in which the great god Amon predestined her for rule, carefully planning every phase of her life toward achieving this goal. Fragments of this poem are preserved in the following inscription, which accompanied a series of reliefs on her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. The entire work proceeds from a council of the gods, in which Amon announces his intentions, to a series of visits to Hatshepsut's royal mother, in which the child is conceived and shaped in form by the gods, then the birth and recognition of the divine child Hatshepsut. The story continues with a coronation series, that shows her selection for rule as a child, her growth to young womanhood, and her crowning by the gods and her earthly father, Thutmose I. We can see here history being reshaped for political purposes, notably in the reinterpretation of a trip young Hatshepsut took with her father to the "north country"; here the trip is transformed into an epiphany that reveals the divine purpose behind Hatshepsut's life and validates her claim upon the throne.


how is Hatshepsut's gender dealt with? when and how is she female? when and how male?

are there any signs of tension or resistance concerning Hatshepsut's claim to power?

how is kingly rule depicted in the inscription? how does this compare to the other examples of the Egyptian language of power that you've seen?

The Interviews

196. Utterance of Amon-Re, lord of Thebes, presider over Karnak. He made his form like the majesty of this husband, the King Okheperkere (Thutmose I). He found her as she slept in the beauty of her palace. She waked at the fragrance of the god, which she smelled in the presence of his majesty. He went to her immediately, coivit cum ea (1), he imposed his desire upon her, he caused that she should see him in his form of a god. When he came before her, she rejoiced at the sight of his beauty, his love passed into her limbs, which the fragrance of the god flooded; all his odors were from Punt.

Words of the Queen

197. Utterance by the king's-wife and king's-mother Ahmose, in the presence of the majesty of this august god, Amon, Lord of Thebes: "How great is thy fame! It is splendid to see thy front; thou hast united my majesty (fem.) with thy favors, thy dew is in all my limbs." After this, the majesty of this god did all that he desired with her.

Words of Amon

198. Utterance of Amon, Lord of the Two Lands, before her: "Khnemet-Amon-Hatshepsut shall be the name of this my daughter, whom I have placed in thy body, this saying which comes out of thy mouth. She shall exercise the excellent kingship in this whole land. My soul is hers, my bounty is hers, my crown is hers, that she may rule the Two Lands, that she may lead all the living ... "

Instructions of Amon

200. Utterance of Amon, presider over Karnak: "Go, to make her, together with her ka(2) , from these limbs which are in me; go, to fashion her better than all gods; shape for me, this my daughter, whom I have begotten. I have given to her all life and satisfaction, all stability, all joy of heart from me, all offerings, and all bread, like Re, forever."

Reply of Khnum (3)

201. "I will form this [thy] daughter [Makere] (Hatshepsut), for life, prosperity and health; for offerings for love of the beautiful mistress. Her form shall be more exalted than the gods, in her great dignity of King of Upper and Lower Egypt."

[Hatshepsut is born, to much celebration.]

The Queen's Growth and Beauty

223. Her majesty saw all this thing herself, which she told to the people, who heard, falling down for terror among them. Her majesty grew beyond everything; to look upon her was more beautiful than anything; her [ ... ] was like a god, her form was like a god, she did everything as a god, her splendor was like a god; her majesty (fem.) was a maiden, beautiful, blooming, Buto (4) in her time. She made her divine form to flourish, a favor of him that fashioned her.

The Journey

224. Her majesty (fem.) journeyed to the North country after her father, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Okheperkere, who liveth forever. There came her mother, Hathor, patroness of Thebes; Buto, mistress of Dep; Amon, lord of Thebes; Atum, lord of Heliopolis; Montu, lord of Thebes; Khnum, lord of the Cataract; all the gods that are in Thebes, all the gods of the South and North, and approached her. They traversed for her, pleasant ways, (they) came, and they brought all life and satisfaction with them, they exerted their protection behind her; one proceeded after another of them, they passed on behind her every day.

Promises of the Gods

225. They said, "Welcome, daughter of Amon-Re; thou hast seen thy administration in the land, thou shall set it in order, thou shalt restore that which has gone to its ruin, thou shalt make thy monuments in this house, thou shalt victual the offering-tables of him who begat thee, thou shalt pass through the land and thou shalt embrace many countries. Thou shalt strike among the Tehenu, thou shalt smite with the mace the Troglodytes; thou shalt cut off the heads of the soldiers, thou shalt seize the chiefs of Retenu, bearing the sword, the survivals of thy father. Thy tribute is myriads of men, the captives of thy valor; thy reward is thousands of men for the temples of the Two Lands. Thou givest offerings in Thebes, the steps of the king, Amon-Re, lord of Thebes. The gods have [endowed] thee with years, they present thee with life and satisfaction, they praise thee, for their heart hath given understanding to the egg which they have fashioned. They shall set thy boundary as far as the breadth of heaven, as far as the limits of the twelfth hour of the night; the Two Lands shall be filled with children -, thy numerous children are (as) the number of thy grain, which thou [... ] in the hearts of thy people; it is the daughter of the bull of his mother, - beloved ... ."

Thutmose I Summons His Daughter to be Crowned

235. There saw her the majesty of her father, this Horus; how divine is her great fashioner! Her heart is glad, (for) great is her crown; she advocates her cause in truth, exalter of her royal dignity, and of that which her ka does. The living were set before her in his palace of [... ]. Said his majesty to her: "Come, glorious one; I have placed (thee) before me; that thou mayest see thy administrations in the palace, and the excellent deeds of thy ka's that thou mayest assume thy royal dignity, glorious in thy magic, mighty in thy strength. Thou shalt be powerful in the Two Lands; thou shalt seize the rebellious; thou shalt appear in the palace, thy forehead shall be adorned with the double diadem, resting upon the head of the heiress of Horus, whom I begat, daughter of the white crown, beloved of Buto. The diadems are given to thee by him who presides over the thrones of the gods.

Thutmose I Summons the Court

236. My majesty caused that there be brought to him the dignitaries of the king, the nobles, the companions, the officers of the court, and the chief of the people, that they may do homage, to set the majesty of the daughter of this Horus before him in his palace of [ ... ]" There was a sitting of the king himself, in the audience-hall of the right of the court, while these people prostrated themselves in the court.

Thutmose I's Address to the Court

237. Said his majesty before them: "This my daughter, KhnemetAmon, Hatshepsut, who liveth, I have appointed [her] - -; she is my successor upon my throne, she it assuredly is who shall sit upon my wonderful seat. She shall command the people in every place of the palace; she it is who shall lead you; ye shall proclaim her word, ye shall be united at her command. He who shall do her homage shall live, he who shall speak evil in blasphemy of her majesty shall die. Whosoever proclaims with unanimity the name of her majesty (fem.), shall enter immediately into the royal chamber, just as it was done by the name of this Horus (viz., by my name). For thou art divine, O daughter of a god, for whom even the gods fight; behind whom they exert their protection every day according to the command of her father, the lord of the gods."

The Court and People Acknowledge the New Queen

238. The dignitaries of the king, the nobles and the chief of the people hear this command for the advancement of the dignity of his daughter, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Makere (Hatshepsut) living forever. They kissed the earth at his feet, when the royal word fell among them; they praised all the gods for the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Okheperkere (Thutmose I), living forever. They went forth, their mouths rejoiced, they published his proclamation [to] them. All the people of all the dwellings of the court heard; they came, their mouths rejoicing, they proclaimed (it) beyond everything, dwelling on dwelling therein was announcing (it) in his name;soldiers on soldiers [ ... ] they leaped and they danced for the double joy of their hearts. They proclaimed, they proclaimed the name of her majesty (fem.) as king; while her majesty (fem.) was a youth, while the great god was turning their hearts to his daughter, Makere (Hatshepsut), living forever, when they recognized that it was the fa[ther] of the divine daughter, and thus they were excellent in her great soul beyond everything. As for any man who shall love her in his heart, and shall do her homage every day, he shall shine, and he shall flourish exceedingly; but as for any man who shall speak against the name of her majesty, the god shall determine his death immediately, even by the gods who exercise protection behind her every day. The majesty of this her father hath published this, all the people have united upon the name of this his daughter for king. While her majesty was a youth, the heart of his majesty inclined to [her) exceedingly.

Notes for Birth of Hatshepsut

1. Older translations often display their delicacy by putting "sensitive" issues into Latin (or, in the case of Latin texts, into Italian). This phrase means "he had sex with her".

2. The "ka" is one aspect of the soul or spirit.

3. Khnum is a creator god in the Egyptian pantheon, responsible for making human beings from clay.

4. Buto is another name for Wadjet, one of the "Two Ladies", the tutelary goddesses of Egypt.

Translation from J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (New York, 1962), vol 2, pp. 81-98.