Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When Women Ruled The World Reviewed

Women Ruling As Kings In Ancient Times

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Who was ruling when this was carved on a monument?
A man or a woman? (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
I recently read the book When Women Ruled The World and wanted to review it for you today. This non-fiction book was given to me by one of my lovely daughters at Christmas. She knew that I have a fascination of Ancient Egypt and thought that I would enjoy it. She was not wrong in her assumption, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

The book by Kara Cooney gives an historical account of six Queens of Egypt that actually ruled the mighty kingdom. Some only ruled for a short time and others ruled for several years. You will most likely recognize two of these remarkable women but the other four are probably not familiar to you at all. These female Pharaohs (a ruler of Egypt) were not usually called Queens, at least not in their own lifetimes or even when they were married to the King (Pharaoh). Some even tried to dress more like a man during their rule because for the most part the Ancient Egyptians did not consider a woman ruler to be desirable. There were times when it was a dire necessity but it was not a common occurrence if it could be helped.

The rulers outlined in the book are: 
  • Merneith (reign 3000 b.c. - 2890 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 1
  • Neferusobek (reign 1777 b.c. - 1773 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 12
  • Hatshepsut (reign 1473 b.c. - 1458 b.c. ) close to the end of Dynasty 18
  • Nefertiti (reign 1338 b.c. - 1336 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 18
  • Tawosret (reign 1188 b.c. - 1186 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 19
  • Cleopatra VII (reign 51 b.c.- 0 b.c.) end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and during the Roman period
There were many instances when a mother of the heir to the throne would act as a Regent until their son was old enough to rule. Not all of the Regent mothers were considered the Pharaoh or King at those times but some took it upon themselves to be elevated to such a position. As you can imagine that did not bode well with the upper or lower classes of citizens. 

The Ancients of Egypt wanted to keep the pool of possible Kings at a minimum and to be what they considered "pure" in the bloodline. It was not uncommon for fathers to wed daughters and for brothers to wed sisters in order to keep the other nobility from seeking claims to the throne. If you notice from the list above these women all ruled close to or at the end of the Dynasty they belonged to. There was a reason for that! Most of the Dynasties of Ancient Egypt did not end because of a take over from an enemy but because the incest over many years created situations where the current ruler could not produce an heir either male or female. After so many years, children were born sickly, deformed and often didn't live long and eventually sterility would end a Dynasty. Cleopatra was the exception to the rule with a long reign only to be outdone by the Romans. 

This book was fascinating and I found it amazing that historians have been able to uncover these six women's sketchy stories. It isn't quite so difficult to know more about Cleopatra because the Romans wrote so much about her but the others might have gone unnoticed. A common practice was to destroy monuments that were built during the reign of an unpopular Pharaoh (male or female) after their death. Many monuments that survived have evidence of names of rulers scratched out and others put in their places. Such was the case of five of these women. 

If you have an interest in Ancient history and female rulers, I think you will enjoy this book. I do not generally read non-fiction so for me to recommend this book says a lot. It was not one of those books that you can't put down but it kept my interest and I am glad that I received it and read it. Perhaps you will enjoy it, also!




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6 comments:

  1. What a fascinating book of history! I had no idea there were six female pharaohs and I have never heard anything about the incest. It makes sense that they would try to keep their lineage pure and "close to home". That tidbit of erroneous thinking aside, I am often amazed at how much ancient people actually knew. We think we are smarter and in some things, clearly we are, but I suspect mankind has lost a lot along the way too.

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  2. I learned so much from this review. This is a topic about which I know very little. The incest is very sad, indeed. What a great cost in the name of keeping control of the royal line. When you think of how difficult it must have been for females rulers, it reminds me that in many ways we have not come as far as one would expect in this same domain today.

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  3. Sounds like an interesting bit of history. I confess I've not studied much about any Egyptian rulers that weren't major players in the Bible or that weren't mentioned in my Western Civ classes. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  4. Interesting facts, Beverly. I confess I am not a fan of Ancient History (modern history was my interest and minor in college), but I enjoyed reading the tidbits of these women rulers in ancient Egypt you shared in this review.

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  5. Wow, so much history packed into one book. I do wonder where all of that information was uncovered. One thing seems to be the same throughout history and that is that not everyone loves their rulers. Not too much has changed in that regard. This sounds like an interesting read and something I haven't given too much thought about. Something to look into for sure. Thanks Bev for this review.

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  6. Isn't this fascinating. Like most people I had no idea. History is one of my fave things to read and learn about. I'm certainly not a history guru, but am taken by all the lives and their successes and struggles that have come long before us. I'll be making a note of this book. Good gift for a grand daughter.

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