The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by P.B. Kerr (This is also in the back of your book)

The rulers of ancient Egypt had some fascinating customs. Though we don't know much about the earliest pharaohs who ruled Egypt during the Old Kingdom (2650 B.C.E. to 2134 B.C.E), we know they considered themselves to be living gods and ruled with absolute power. These ancient kings built the famous pyramids as a monument to their greatness, but they did not leave any record of their accomplishments.

By the time of the Middle Kingdom (2040 B.C.E. to 1640 B.C.E.), pharaohs were no longer regarded as gods, but they were seen as the representatives of gods on earth. Unlike their Old Kingdom predecessors, these pharaohs recorded heroic feats, through writings and sculptured reliefs carved in temple walls. We have reason to suspect; however, that these records are not historically accurate, rather more of a public relations job.

Not all pharaohs were men, nor were they all Egyptian. We know of three women who ruled over Egypt before 332 B.C.E. The most important female pharaoh was Queen Hatsheput. The Egyptian monarchy was taken over by foreign powers between the years 1640 B.C.E. and 1550 B.C.E; as in the years leading up to this period. Egypt had been flooded by foreign immigrants. These foreigners called, Hyksos, were eventually defeated by the Egyptians, who were led by the brillian general Amosis in 1550 B.C.E.

During the New Kingdom (1550 B.C.E. to 1070 B.C.E.), Egypt was ruled by a series of kings who maintained a strict hold over their own country and over neighboring lands to prevent the shame of the Hyksos domination from ever happening again. However, the line of warrior-kings ended when Akhenaten came to power.

As a young, and possibly deformed boy, Amenhotep IV ascended the throne. Amenhotep IV underwent a religious conversion and rejected the pantheon of Egyptian gods. Instead, he worshipped one god, and that god was Aten. In doing so, Amenhotep introduced the world's first monotheistic religion that we know of. Amehnhotep renamed himself Akhenaten and made Aten the sun-god, thus usurping the traditional role of Re, the Egyptian sun-god. Furthermore, Akhenaten created a city dedicated to worshipping Aten and named it Akhetaten, "Horizon of Aten."

Akhenaten and his wife, Nefertiti, moved to Akhetaten so the young kind could focus on his religion. However, in devoting himself so wholly to his new religion , Akhenaten ignored an important storm brewing on the Egyptian border. The Hittites, pressing at the borders were threatening the very existence of Egypt.

Ancient Egypt continued to bounce from hand to hand, constantly teetering on the edge of complete destruction and slowly crumbling. After Akhenaten left the throne, the famed Ramesside kings (Ramesses I and all of his descendants) came to power. The greatest of these kings was Ramses II, during whose reign some of the greatest architectural monuments were constructed. However, chaose continued to threaten Egypt.

The Libyans, the Nubians, the Assyrians, and the Persians all ruled over Egypt between the years 1070 B.C.E. and 332 B.C.E.
Alexander the Great claimed Egypt for the Greek Empire in 332 B.C.E. He built the great capital of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile River. However, Alexander's vast empire divided among his generals after his death, and Egypt fell into the hands of Ptolemy I.

Ptolemy adopted Egyptian customs, even though he was Greek. According to Egyptian custom, the Ptolemaic kings (who were all named Ptolemy) married their sisters (who were all named Cleopatra). Yet the Ptolemaic kings and queens spoke Greek and considered Greek culture superior to Egyptian culture. Native Egyptians occupied the lowest ranks in the social order. The Greeks renamed cities and made Greek the national language. The name "Egypt" itself is a Greek word: the Egyptian name for their country is "Kemet." Yet the Ptolemies were very tolerant of foreign customs and religions. The most enduring cultural project they produced was a Greek translation of the Hebrew bible.

The final ruler from the Ptolemaic line, Cleopatra VII, fought with her half-brother over the succession of their line and invited Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire to intervene. Caesar then seized Egypt and brought the land under the control of Rome, giving Cleopatra a figurehead queenship. After Julius Caesar's death, when Mark Antony and Augustus Caesar battled for control over Rome, Cleopatra sided with Mark Antony and lost. Then Egypt became a Roman province.

There is much romance and intrigue associated with the Egyptian pharaohs. They left monuments such as the magnificent pyramids and the mysterious Sphynx, and buried treasures such as gold-painted sarcophogi and tombs filled with riches for us to find. But the more we find and the more we learn, the more the mystery deepens.

Some Facts About Pharaohs

  • Pharaohs were buried in splendid tombs, great pyramids filled with gold and treasures. The pharaohs were mummified after their deaths and their bodies laid to rest in ornate sarcophogi. Their entrails--the heart, liver, stomach, and intestines-- were removed and kept preserved in vessels.
  • Hatsheput was the first female pharaoh in Egypt. She began her reign in 1502 B.C.E. She always had herself portrayed in male costume, with a beart, in order not to shock the ancient Egyptians.
  • Nobody knows how the pyramids were built without modern machines.
  • If the floor-to-celing height of a modern building is approximately ten feet, the Great Pyramid at Giza is about as high as a forty-five-story skyscraper. The Great Pyramid was built by pharoah Khufu.
  • The pyramids at Giza were constructed 4,500 years ago.
  • The word "pharaoh" originally comes from the Bible and has an entirely different meaning in ancient Egyptian: the number five!