A Historical Recollection of the Most Representative Pharaohs During the First Intermediate Period

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A Pharaoh, which stood for “great house” had first came from Egypt’s centralized monarchy in the middle kingdom known as the first intermediate period (2200-1630 B.C.E.). The Pharaohs, also called Kings, are known to defend and rule the kingdom and take responsibility for enforcing laws of their land. Power in Egypt seemed to be mostly held by males. There were many Pharaohs that had failed in Egypt but were significant in many ways after their lives had ended. Akhenaten was a leader who stood out; his ideas of religion took a completely different turn from those of other leaders after his fifth year in reign. Although his ideas may have failed during his reign, they started to flourish throughout Greece and Rome in Cults and in Hebrew religion. Although there were not many important or significant Pharaohs that were woman there was however one Pharaoh named Cleopatra who stood out. Cleopatra had persuasive ways to carry her reign. She had been with reputable men such as Julius Caesar and Mark Antony which seemed to keep her reign strong until her and Anthony’s fall in The Battle of Actium. Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of Egypt before its complete fall. Cleopatra’s impact on the world after her death by poison (August 12th 30 B.C.E.) came to be extremely significant, the impact she made was on numerous topics like her persuasive skills through love and her extensive power as a woman ruler.

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“The expansion of Egypt during Dynasty XVIII into a world empire had brought about a new concept in Egyptian thought and the idea was born of a unique universal god, the Sun.” This idea was brought to Egypt by Akhenaten. The Pharaoh Akhenaten had his own twist on religion in his era as the first to worship only one god. The god he had worshipped was called the sun god. “The worship of Re, the sun-god, had undergone a great expansion” Akhenaten’s name means “the horizon of the sun-disk.” Akhenaten believed that the sun had offered life and because of this he set up temples so that their sun rays would reach into the temple. He went to extremes to try to make his form of religion flourish, he did so by eliminating all other temples relating to other religions. Akhenaten is considered to be the first monotheist. Akhenaten’s religion never seemed to gain very much popularity although it was different and may have interested some there was still plenty of people who had been worshipping other gods. “A heavy programme of restoration of the monuments and endowments of the old gods, particularly Amun.” After the short reign of monotheistic beliefs and ideas of The Sun God, only one God, the old gods and their beliefs had returned, especially the god Amun.

Akhenaten’s form of religion started to become significant in times past his death (around 1336 B.C.E.) and after the fall of his religion (around the end of the 18th dynasty). Monotheism began to slowly show up in Hebrew religion beginning with The God Yah-weh, “But Yah-weh was a “jealous” god whom His chosen people must alone worship; from this root came slowly the claim of monotheism.” Yah-weh would have severe punishments for people who were suspected of worshipping foreign gods. Yah-weh was seen as superior to all Israelites that worshipped him as the one and only god. He believed in strictly one god as did Akhenaten. Eastern cults in Greece and Rome had set forth ideas of immorality and protection by a single god, the book Greek and Roman Religion states, “The eastern cults had in fact some features in common with Christianity: the practical monotheism they preached,” as one can see in Greek and Roman Cult religions there was beliefs of only one god in their practices and preaches. Monotheism showed up in Hebrew religion and in eastern cults from Greece and Rome; Monotheism was the major religious idea designed by Akhenaten. These references show some of Akhenaten’s religious significance after his life and reign had ended.

Cleopatra had shown her persuasive skills that helped her keep her reign (last two decades of Ptolemaic empire) through her romances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Cleopatra had known that Caesar had tremendous power and she thought she must be on his side as well to keep herself in power, Cleopatra used her persuasive ways to charm him, “Dressed herself to appear as beautiful and pitiable as possible, charming him with her demeanor and her skill at language.” This is one account of her persuasive plan she used to gain Julius Caesars love. However, Julius Caesar was not her only love; After Julius Caesars death she had found Mark Antony (married in 32B.C.E.). In the book Cleopatra a biography Mark Antony is referred to as Antonius, “She was personally connected to Antonius” “Supporting Cleopatra and substantially enlarging her kingdom” These references from the book show how Cleopatra uses Mark Antony to gain power yet again through her relationships and persuasion on the right people. Although she had some time in reign throughout the Ptolemaic empire Cleopatra and Mark Antony were brought down during the battle of Actium, Antony had heard a rumor of Cleopatra’s suicide and attempted to kill himself by jumping onto his sword, this rumor was incorrect so he then went to Cleopatra in Alexandria and died in her arms. Then after, Cleopatra had committed suicide herself as she was kidnapped and kept at her mausoleum in the royal cemetery, “Cleopatra VII, last queen of Egypt, committed suicide on 12 August 30 BC.” Her suicide had ended her reign and Octavia who was Mark Antony’s wife at one time had now took reign.

Cleopatra began to show significance and had much popularity in films and literature. Shakespeare was interested in Cleopatra and her ways of power through persuasion. “The Letters revealed them outright. They revealed Cleopatra as woman of insatiable physical appetites, as well as a sovereign of such overpowering natural authority that she could reduce Rome’s toughest soldiers” Shakespeare loved Cleopatra and her ways so much that it urged him to write a play about her and Mark Antony, this play was called Antony and Cleopatra in this play Shakespeare described Cleopatra’s charms. Shakespeare is a reputable person who shows that Cleopatra was idolized after her death and reign as a queen in Egypt. Cleopatra still had fame in Rome by a cult called the cult of Cleopatra Aphrodite. Her statue also still remained in Rome as stated in the book Cleopatra, “Her statue in the Temple of Venus Genetrix at Rome, set up by Julius Caesar, was still standing there in the third century AD, and the cult of Cleopatra Aphrodite remained alive more than one hundred years later still.” This goes to show that the Queens name is still carried out throughout time, she is still spoke of and worshipped by many. Without Cleopatra one can say that women’s roles in power may have been looked at differently, people may not have seen that women can take reign, however since Cleopatra did show that a woman can take reign and rule it had set an example and goes to show that woman can be equal to men. Cleopatra was significant in many ways after her death and reign as stated.

As one can see, although Akhenaten and Cleopatra had lost their power after death they still made a significant impact in history and were significant in other ways after their period of rulings. Akhenaten introduced a new Religion including the Sun God and only worshipping that one god, which had brought forth the form of religion called monotheism. Monotheism is still used today in one of the most widely practiced religions called Christianity; Monotheism is also used in many other religions throughout the world. Cleopatra showed persuasive ways of keeping her power and was idolized for it in films and literature, she also showed how power can be taken by a woman and set forth an example for all future women. Shakespeare shows how Cleopatra is seen and appreciated after her death and reign of Egypt. Cleopatra also continued to be worshipped in cults throughout history. There are many films made about Cleopatra in modern day and the story of her reign always carries on in history. These 2 famous rulers of Egypt Akhenaten and Cleopatra are greatly appreciated in history, their achievements after death turned out to be more significant than their achievements during their reign as rulers.

Primary Sources:

No primary sources used.

Secondary Sources:

Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten, Pharaoh of Egypt; a new study. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969 c1968.

This book explains all of Akhenaten’s reign and also his fall. I got information from this book about how the god Amun had taken over again as the god people began to worship again during the end of Akhenaten’s new religion. I also used this book to emphasize how Akhenaten’s religion did undergo a great amount of expansion for a short period of time.

This book explained Cleopatra’s death in the battle of Actium. I used the information about where she stayed during her kidnapping. There is also information in this book about Cleopatra’s position in history and how she was still worshipped by the cult Cleopatra Aphrodite, the book also spoke about how her statue set up by Julius Caesar was still standing long after her death.

This book talks about the religions in Greece and Rome and I used it to mention the links to Christianity and Monotheism in Greece and Rome with Akhenaten’s ideas from Egypt. There was Eastern cults of Greece and Rome who preached some features of Monotheism and used ideas from Christianity.

This book included works from the play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was very interested in Cleopatra and her persuasive ways of romance to gain her own power. This book shows how Shakespeare loves Cleopatra’s authority.

This book speaks of the way Cleopatra gained Julius Caesars love and care and also explains the ways Mark Antony had cared for her as well. Cleopatra used both of these people to help her gain and hold power as a queen. This book spoke of two accounts of the way she charmed Julius Caesar and this book also lists the ways Mark Antony (referred to as Antonius) helps Cleopatra hold power as a queen.

This book has a chapter on Hebrew Monotheism and the way it is used upon the Israelites with the god Yah-weh. Yah-weh was the god who was worshipped as the only god. This form of worshipping can be related to Monotheism which was created by Akhenaten.

This book stated many key points of dates used in this essay. There was an excerpt on Mark Antony that stated the way he attempted suicide and how he went to Cleopatra to die in her arms. This book gave the year in which Cleopatra and Antony were married and also the date of Cleopatra’s death and how she was believed to commit suicide with a poisonous asp snake.

Background Sources:

This background source gave me general ideas about Akhenaten’s Rule as a king. This described his religion and how he started it and where he went with it. This also described how things were done in the royal family and spoke of Akhenaten’s concept of an afterlife. This book spoke about Akhenaten all the way to his fall because of people beginning to worship the god Amun again.

This encyclopedia explained many aspects of women and their lives in ancient Egypt. This encyclopedia also explained Cleopatra’s life and all the people she has been with to hold her power, also this source states that Cleopatra had killed her brother. Lastly this source mentions how Cleopatra became more famous after her death in literature films and worship.

(Milne Library. Call Number DT58.O942001)

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