Thutmose III and Hatshepsut


Historical background

After the victory of Ahmose againt the Hyksos, Egypt reaches its peak and dominates the Eastern world. Thebes becomes the capital of Egypt and its powerful clergy devoted to Amon makes it also as religious capital. The most important pharaohs were from the 18th dynasty...

Thutmose III's youth

Thutmose III was born in 1516 BC. He was the son of Thutmose II and one of his concubines. Thutmose II's first wife Hatshepsut considered Thutmose III as a bastard lacking of royal blood in his veins. Thutmose III spent his youth in Thebes, walking from the palace to Karnak where the priesters of Amon taught him how he will have to rule the country later on. At that time Amon's clergy was very powerful and that's why the priesters were in charge of the young pharaoh's education. This made a link between political and religious world. Educating a future pharaoh was a very good guarantee for the priesters to increase their power in Egypt. Soon the fact that Thutmose was a bastard became a problem. Priesters thought that women (queens) were the only one who had the purest royal blood. The problem was that Thutmose II and Hatshepsut hadn't had any male descendant, so Thutmose III was the only one who could reign. The pharaohs in the 18th dynasty were mainly warrior and the new pharaoh had to perpetuate this tradition. Thutmose III was a promising warrior pharaoh.

A weak father

Thutmose II wasn't really as ambitious as his fathers, he could organize huge feasts but his poor health made of him a weak pharaoh. Everything was ruled by his generals and his first wife, Hatshepsut. Quarrels rapidly took place between Thutmose II and Hatsepsut, especially after Thutmose III's birth. Hatshepsut was Thutmose II's sister (and wife) and she had been educated like a prince, a valiant prince. She was ambitious and couldn't bear her brother's lack of initiative.

In 1504, Thutmose II died prematurily. His successor, Thutmose III was to young to rule so Hatshepsut took the power. Officially, she had to rule at Thutmose III's side but the fearsome queen wanted to rule alone. During her two years of regency, she built her own network around the most powerful people of that time. Thutmose always accompagnied her during her regency but as he knew nearly nothing about ruling a country, Hatshepsut did her job perfectly. Thutmose was filled with a certain admiration for Hatshepsut but he knew he was dependent of her, he saw she was building her own fate without Thutmose. Later on, Hatshepsut named her own daugther to rule with her , we had then a land governed by three rulers: Hatshepsut with her daughter and of course, Thutmose III. Hatshepsut did everything to keep Thutmose aside of the power, he knew that but couldn't react.

Hatshepsut's reign

During her regency, Hatshepsut began the construction of her mortuary temple at Deir al-Bahari. She was the first queen to build a temple in the King valley. She also wanted to put Thutmosis I's sarcophagus in her tumb. Thutmose I was her father and he brought her up, she was still filled with a certain admiration for him and she wanted him to be buried with her. In a certain way, she took a part of Thutmosis III's heritage.

After two years of regency, the worse for Thutmose happened. Hatshepsut proclaimed herself queen of Egypt with her daughter Neferure at her side. Hatshepsut had at that time such an influence that nobody protested but after years of a peaceful reign, Egypt's glory was endangered by wary neighbouring kingdoms. Hatshepsut wasn't a warrior though she was dressed like a pharaoh. She had kept peace within Egypt's frontier without taking Egypt's neighbours into account. She had built huge fortresses to impress the neighbours but everybody knew she wasn't really a warrior so her credibility declined with the time.

Hatshepsut's downfall

Hatshepsut's downfall began with the death of her devoted priest of Amon, Hapouseneb. Loosing the priest was loosing an important person in the Egyptian hierarchy. Then Thutmose got married with Hatshepsut's last daughter, Meritre which meant that if Thutmose had a child with her, this child will not be a bastard like him because women in Ancient Egypt carried the purest royal blood. Hatshepsut wanted to name her first daughter Neferure as a queen but Neferure died at the age of 30 which left Hatshepsut in a deep sorrow. Her empire was crumbling into peace and Egypt was endangered by its neighbours. Some kingdoms were challenging the sleeping Egyptian giant...

Thutmose III's awakening

When the people of Kadesh revolted in 1458 BC, Thutmose III led an army out of Egypt to destroy the rebels and Hatshepsut was guessed to have ran away. Thutmose III destroyed all of her statues, reliefs and shrines in spite of her and hacked out her name from inscriptions and replaced them with Thutmose I, II or III. So he could wash away years of frustration. Thutmose III never found Hatshepsut's corpse.

Thutmose was about 30 years old when he, at last, took the Egyptian throne. After Hatshepsut's sudden disappearing, the neighbouring countries of Egypt declared themselves free and refused to pay any form of tribute anymore. Thutmose reacted immediately and brougth together a large army led by himself. His first battle in Megiddo was his first victory in a long list of victories. His ennemies just ran away when they saw Thutmose at the head of his army rushing towards them.

Thutmose III's successful campaigns

Thutmose led 17 successful military campaigns: (some campaigns are missing)

* 1st campaign: Thutmose wanted to conqueer Megiddo. Thutmose knew he had to do something to keep the area in his hands. He knew that Megiddo and the neighbouring kingdoms would revolt as soon as he would have left the city. So he had to make a decisive hit so that his authority wouldn't be questioned any more. The Egyptians were not really used to attack fortified cities such as Megiddo so Thutmose had to use his brilliant tactics to conquer the city. After 7 months of a difficult siege, the city surrendered because they couldn't renew their food and water supply. Instead of killing the enemy leaders, Thutmose released them so that they could tell to everyone who was the new master of the area. After this victory, the Theban aristocracy was obliged to admit that Thutmose was the rightful pharaoh, a warrior like the other pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.

* 2nd campaign: Assur and Retennu conquered

* 3rd campaign: plants of Retennu returned.

* 5th campaign: Arvad captured

* 6th campaign: Kadesh conquered. Punishment of Arvad. Tribute from Retunnu.

* 7th campaign: Ulluza defeated. Tribute received from Retennu and Genebteyew. Supplies for the ports were collected.Also the harvest from Retennu was taken back to Egypt. Taxes from Wawat.

* 8th campaign: Conquest of Naharin. Capture of Carchamesh. Euphrates river crossed.

* 9th campaign: Zahri towns gave in. Tribute from Retennu, Cyprus. Taxes from Kush and Wawat.

* 10th campaign: There was a revolt in Naharin, which they crushed. Taxes from Kush and Wawat.

* 13th campaign: Nuges overthrown. Tribute from Syria, Cyprus, Arrapakhitis. Products from Punt. Taxes from Kush and Wawat.

* 14th campaign: Shasu defeated. Tribute from Syria. Port supplies received.

* 15th campaign: tribute from Cyprus. Taxes from Kush and Wawat.

* 16th campaign: Tribute from Retennu and the Hittites. Taxes from Kush and Wawat.

* 17th campaign, against Kadesh. Erakatu was defeated, Tunip and Kadesh. Also destroyed. Port supplies and booty taken. Tribute from many areas. Taxes from Kush and Wawat. Thutmose III's heritage after years of successful battles, Thutmose could look at his past with a certain pride. The influence of Egypt had reached Asia. Thutmose was the master of the Nile. Thebes was at that time an Egyptian Rome and Thutmose's glory would remain in memories for ages. Thutmose and Meritre had had a son, Ahmose II. So the succession would cause any problem and Ahmose was a strong and energic king-to be. Thutmose could now rest in peace in the valley of Kings, he knew his son would prolong Egypt's glory. Thutmose had brought together a professional army and very efficient political structures that his son could use as 'tools'. No other civilisation in the world had such a continuity in its structures, imposing buildings, glorious pharaohs... Thutmose really deserved the title of Napoleon of Egypt. His successors could use what he built during his reign until the next great pharaohs, such as Ramesse II, who also extended the Egyptian empire.

Note: there is a theory which says that Hatshepsut never tried to keep Thutmose away from the throne. The theory on this page is the most common one. For an overview of the new theory, take a look at Nikole Didier's site


Further reading

Hatshepsut: the female pharaoh by Joyce Tyldesley paperback: 11.96 $ hardcover: 19.57 $ published in 1996

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