What we know about Egyptian pharaohs, life and culture of the ancient society in general is thanks to archaeological findings: mostly tombs and burial sites with inscriptions in hieroglyphs, art objects, papyrus documents left. Due to the dry climate they were well preserved along with the mummies of the most beloved kings; and egyptologists, scientists who continue to study the history of ancient Egypt, helped to decipher these inscriptions and symbols.
Why Pharaohs Were Powerful Rulers
Ancient pharaohs were called kings and were leaders of Upper (the south part including the whole Nile valley) and Lower (the north part including the delta of Nile) parts of Egypt. The three main reasons to assume the pharaohs were the most powerful rulers of the ancient world:
- Full legislative authority. Egyptian rulers were responsible for political situation in the country, solely deciding what laws should be taken and put into force, or how much taxes should be paid by the citizens. In addition to legislative part of the duty, they were military leaders well educated in strategy and warfare. Pharaohs were called fathers of land and took care of the residents making sure the latter had everything for living. Thus, they solved economic issues to keep the country rich and prosperous.
- Religious power. Pharaoh was the head of religion in ancient Egypt being in charge for and participating in the most important rituals and events. As a religious leader, the king of Egypt was responsible for setting the construction of temples and monuments to gods. With each ruler trying to surpass the previous one building more elaborated, bigger shrines and tombs for themselves, Egyptians made significant progress in architecture and art.
- The last and may be the most powerful reason was pharaoh’s divine power. No one wanted to get the godlike creature angry, which made simple people obedient and ready to serve any whim of a king. Egyptian pharaohs were believed to be gods’ descendants or incarnations acting as mediators between people and gods during life on earth. No wonder that such preparations were made for their afterlife, which included the construction of enormous tombs, special funeral rituals, careful mummification of bodies, and burial with all of the inheritance: treasure, furniture, jewelry, clothes, even cats and slaves.
Life of a Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt
Egyptologists claim, that all the pharaohs had profound training before taking the throne: learning hunting and riding among the most important skills, as well as developing endurance and strength, which is logical if you are going to be the head of the country. Coronation was an important part of becoming a king process and celebration could last for one year.
In addition to solving important political, economic, and religious issues, entertainment played a significant role and took much time of pharaohs’ daily routine.
They loved great feasts and never followed a healthy diet eating much sugary and fat food. The basis of the ratio were bread and cereal, the tables were abundant in vegetables and fruits as well as meat and poultry. The kings abused honey and alcohol (mainly wine and beer).
Interesting: they were famous for brewing good beer and thought by some of the other ancient societies to be the first to invent the malty beverage, though it were Sumerians who originally started to make it long before Egyptians.
Although we are used to imagine pharaohs as young and slim beautiful people, the analysis of mummies clearly showed that many of them suffered from obesity, had diabetes and other health problems connected with the diet and festive life.
All pharaohs, despite of sex, wore masculine clothes, had fake beards to look like the king of gods Osiris, and wore makeup drawing thick lining around their eyes with kohl, the technology still used by the cosmetics companies. Thick layer of eyeliner was used not only for decorative purposes, but was supposed to reduce light from the sunshine. It also served as a protection from evil and for health issues defending and curing from eye diseases. The almond lined eyes should have reminded of uajet – the Eye of Horus.
Pharaohs didn’t stop on eyeliners, but darkened eyebrows and lashes, put green or blue eye shadows, and covered their bodies with henna tattoos.
Egyptian rulers wore several kinds of crowns different in shapes and colors, dedicated to certain royal activities: from coronation, holidays and feasts to religious rites, warfare, and burial.
Interesting Facts About Egyptian Pharaohs
- There were male and female pharaohs. Hatshepsut was the first female pharaoh co-reigning with her young son Thutmose III. You may also know Nefertiti for many images and statues of her found by archaeologists, and Cleopatra who got much popularity in the 20th century’s books and films due to her charm, beauty, and love affair with famous Roman leaders Caesar and Mark Antony.
- All rulers of Egypt (male and female) were called kings. In general, they had five titles put before name, all connected with gods. Egyptians started to use the term ‘pharaoh’, meaning ‘great house’ around 1450 BCE (during the reign of the 18th dynasty) and not officially.
- In the Old Kingdom they believed that pharaoh was reincarnation of god Horus being protector and patron of the kings. When the pharaoh died, he was associated with Osiris.
- Being the descendants of gods, it was usual matter to marry brothers and sisters to preserve the pure blood. Pharaohs could also marry upper classes representatives.
- Egyptian kings could have several wives, with one principal wife who should have given birth to the heir.
- The history doesn’t provide the exact number of the ancient Egyptian rulers ending up with the approximately 170 pharaohs in about 31 dynasties.
- The first pharaoh is considered to be Narmer (who is also called Menes according to some sources).
- The most famous pharaoh is king Tut (Tutankhamun), though he was not that popular in the days of his reign. He was young when he entered the throne, only 9 years old and reigned for 10 years.
- Cleopatra (who was actually Cleopatra VII) was the last pharaoh of Egypt before it was conquered by Roman empire and became its province.