10 Famous Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is a place of legendary history. Its many pharaohs, who ruled for centuries in the Nile Valley, created vast and powerful empires that flourished for many, many centuries, finally disappearing into the sands of time.

As one of the most organized early societies, ancient Egypt set the stage for many civilizations that followed. The impact of the ancient Egyptians is so profound that they still play an integral role in our learning and pop culture today.

Who were the leaders and pharaohs behind such greatness? The following is a list of some of the greatest pharaohs in ancient Egyptian history.

1. Hatshepsut: The First Powerful Female Pharaoh

Ruling for nearly 20 years, 1473 to 1458 B.C, Hatshepsut was one of the first female pharaohs. While there were female pharaohs before her, Hatshepsut is largely considered to be the first female ruler to hold such a high level of authority and power.

Hatshepsut was a strong leader and effective ruler. She was loved by her people and respected by her enemies. Hatshepsut paved the way for strong female leaders to follow, such as the well-known Cleopatra.

Hatshepsut originally married Thutmose II, her half-brother. However, Hatshepsut was not able to give birth to a son. As power generally passed from male to male in ancient Egypt, this meant that when Thutmose II died, the right to rule would pass to one of his other sons (from another one of his wives).

This is exactly what happened. Thutmose III, the son of one of Thutmose II’s wives, became an infant pharaoh. Since an infant clearly cannot make ruling decisions, Hatshepsut became a regent to her stepson. 

Eventually, Hatshepsut would become co-ruler with Thutmose III. Even in this power dynamic, Hatshpetsut is believed to have been the much more powerful and well-liked ruler.

She used this to her advantage and continued to consolidate power throughout her rule. It is believed that she gained a loyal following of Egyptian social elites, whom she placed into high government positions.  

Hatepshut’s rule was largely a peaceful one. While she was able to quell any uprising and was successful in the few military campaigns that she conducted, such as her pacifying of the Nubians, her main focus was on trade and increasing ancient Egyptian prosperity. 

Hatshepsut did not seek to block Thutmose III from the government. In fact, towards the end of her reign, she relied on him more and more to make important decisions.

She sought a smooth transition for her people. She was so effective in setting up such a transition that Thutmose III riled for three decades after her death.  

2. Djoser

Djoser was one of the greatest pharaohs in ancient Egyptian history. He ruled for roughly 19 years, from 2630 to 2611 BC. As the second king of the third dynasty, Djoser consolidated political power in the city of Memphis during the Old Kingdom period. Djoser is credited with both great architectural achievements as well as strong military campaigns.  

During his reign, Djoser oversaw the construction of the first step pyramid in Egypt, the Step Pyramid of Saqqara. Before the step-pyramid, pyramids in ancient Egypt were built with flat tops, which we refer to as mastabas. This new style consisted of building the pyramids with stone instead of the previously used method that mixed stone and mud bricks together.  

Djoser was also a great military leader. He led successful campaigns against Nubia and Libya, and expanded Egypt’s territory significantly. It is believed that Djoser was able to expand Egyptian rule as far as the Sinai Peninsula. 

Beyond his famous Saqarra pyramid and temple complex, Djoser is also well-known for his achievements in expanding Egyptian agriculture, trade, and cities. His reign is considered to be one of significant growth and prosperity for ancient Egypt. 

Overall, Djoser was an incredibly successful pharaoh who made a lasting impact on Egyptian history. His accomplishments in both architecture and warfare were impressive. This is why Djoser is remembered as one of the greatest Pharaohs of all time.

3. Thutmose III: Military and Administrative Genius

Thutmose III was born to Pharaoh Thutmose II and one of Thutmose’s wives, Iset. Thutmose III was not originally in line for the throne, but after the death of his half-brother, he became the heir apparent. 

When Thutmose II died, Thutmose III became the rightful ruler. This issue was that Thutmose II was only three years old. Due to this, Hatshepsut ruled as queen regent until Thutmose II was ready to take the throne. Eventually, he ruled from 1458-1425 BCE. 

Thutmose III would become known as a military and administrative genius who had trained as a soldier from a very young age. After Queen Hatshepsut died, Thutmose III quickly mobilized the army and ensured that regions in areas such as Syria and Canaan, that attempted to rebel, would remain part of the empire. The newly in control king would go on to conduct many successful military campaigns. Many of his campaigns are still inscribed into stone at the temple of Karnak. 

Thutmose III also had a strong focus on art and culture. He helped continue the work Hapshepsut did here. Because of this, Thutmose III became known not just as a military stalwart but as an administrative genius. 

4. Amenhotep III: The Magnificent

Amenhotep III, the son of Thutmose IV, ruled for nearly 40 years from 1388 to 1350 BCE. He served as the ninth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. During that time, he ruled during a period of great prosperity and stability.

Amenhotep III was a skilled diplomat and an effective administrator. 

He was also a great builder, and during his reign, he oversaw the construction of many temples and monuments. He is credited with building the Luxor temple at Karnak as well as a large man-made lake dedicated to his wife, Tiya. Perhaps his greatest construction project was his own temple, which at the time, was the largest temple to have been built. 

Amenhotep III was a very popular pharaoh, and his people revered him. He was known for his generosity and for his many acts of kindness. Amenhotep III was truly a magnificent pharaoh, and he is remembered as one of the greatest rulers in ancient Egyptian history.

5. Ramesses II: The Great

Serving as the third pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty, Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, is considered to be the strongest pharaohs of the New Kingdom era. Becoming one of the longest rulers in Egyptian history, Ramesses II ruled for 66 years, from 1279 to 1213 BCE. 

Ramesses II is most famous for his military exploits. He led Egypt to victory in many battles against other kingdoms and empires. He also expanded Egypt’s territory by conquering new lands, especially in the North of Egypt. Ramesses II was a great warrior and a skilled general.

In addition to his military accomplishments, Ramesses II also did a lot to improve Egypt economically and culturally. He built many temples and monuments and commissioned many artworks and sculptures.

He also improved Egypt’s infrastructure by building roads and canals. Ramesses II was a great builder and an excellent administrator.

Overall, Ramesses II was one of the greatest pharaohs in ancient Egyptian history. He was a great warrior, a skilled general, a great builder, and an excellent administrator.

6. Akhenaten 

Akhenaten, originally known as Amenhotep IV, ruled from 1353-1336 BCE. 

Akhenaten is best known for his religious reforms, which included the worship of a single god, Aten. Aten was a god represented by the sun disk, often associated with Ra. Atenism, which is what this religious shift is known as, was one of the earliest forms of monotheism.

This was a drastic shift from Egypt’s polytheistic culture. As such, it didn’t last. After the death of Akhenaten, Egypt reverted back to polytheism.   

Akhenaten’s religious reforms were controversial, and they led to conflict with the traditional priesthood. Eventually, Egyptian officials would try to remove all signs of Atenism from their history. However, Akhenaten’s reign was an important time in Egyptian history.

7. Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun, or King Tut, was only nine years old when he became pharaoh. Despite his young age, he ruled for ten years and accomplished a lot during his reign.

He was the last king of the 18th dynasty and is believed to be the son of Akhenaten. Although he showed a lot of promise as a king, he died at the young age of nineteen. 

During his reign, Tutankhamun restored the ancient Egyptian religion back to polytheism and built several temples and shrines. He also sent out expeditions to explore new lands and expand the Egyptian empire. Tutankhamun was a successful pharaoh who left a lasting impression on ancient Egyptian history.

Tutankhamun is famous for his tomb, which was discovered in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings. Tutankhamun’s tomb was unlike any other tomb that had been found before. It was filled with treasure, including gold, jewelry, and art. Tutankhamun’s tomb is now one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

8. Khufu

Khufu, also known as Cheops, is believed to have reigned from 2589-2566 BCE. However, there is little documentation of his rule, so it is hard for historians to be certain exactly how long he reigned. 

During his rule, he oversaw the construction of many important buildings, including the Great Pyramid at Giza. The Great Pyramid is the largest pyramid in Egypt and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Khufu was also responsible for the construction of several other pyramids, temples, and monuments, but none as grand as the Great Pyramid. 

Khufu was a very successful ruler and was greatly respected by his people. He was an effective leader and helped to make Egypt a great power during his reign.

Khufu left a lasting legacy and is remembered as one of the greatest pharaohs in ancient Egyptian history.

9. Cleopatra

Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt for over three centuries. The Ptolemic dynasty was of Macedonian descent, founded by a general of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy. She ruled from 51 to 30 BCE. 

Cleopatra is best known for her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She married Julius Caesar to solidify her power in Egypt. After Caesar’s death, she became involved with Mark Antony. Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. As a result, Cleopatra committed suicide by poisoning herself.

Cleopatra left a lasting legacy as she ruled Egypt for 21 years. She was one of the most influential and powerful women of her time. Her story has been retold many times in books, movies, and television shows.

10. Nectanebo II

Reigning from 358 to 340 BCE, Nectanebo II is known as the last native Egyptian pharaoh. During his leadership, the nation succumbed to foreign Persian rule. Despite being known for this negative aspect of his rule, Nectanebo helped develop Egypt significantly.

Nectanebo commissioned roughly 100 building projects, placing emphasis on art and architecture throughout his entire reign. His sarcophagus paid homage to the value of art in life. 

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