Friday, December 18, 2009

The Names of Hatshepsut as King

The story of Hatshepsut is a fascinating one. Not only did she rule Egypt as a woman, but she did so under the guise of a man. Because of this, according to Gay Robins, she has some of the most interesting names in Egyptian history. There are several names that a King must take upon ascension to the throne; a Horus name, a Nebty name, a Golden Horus name, a first cartouche name, and epithets added to their birth name. Hatshepsut’s names clearly play up the fact that she is a woman but also plays the role of Pharaoh.
Her Horus name is “powerful of the kas” which is a variation on a typical pharaoh name, meaning bull. In this case, it stands for a generic royal name but also signifies nourishment, in that the pharaoh must nourish the people. Her Nebty name is “flourishing of years”, which although not relatively common, has been used in past ruler’s names. Her Golden Horus name is “divine of appearances/manifestations/crowns” which has been used in several names, including Pepy II who has the mascunalized version of Hatshepsut’s name. Her cartouche name is “true one of the ka of Ra” which is a relatively normal name, but has the added aspect of tying Hatshepsut with the goddess Maat, giving Hatshepsut a more divine presence. Lastly, her birth name, Hatshepsut, means “foremost of noble women”. One unique characteristic of this name is that it contains no mention of a deity, which is atypical of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Various parts of Hatshepsut’s names do refer to goddesses in a deliberate attempt to establish her right to rule and be accepted as both a woman and pharaoh.

Another interesting aspect of Hatshepsut’s legacy is that she claimed to be pharaoh by divine right and through an oracle of god. While all pharaohs claim to be divine, most gain their power also through lineage and birthright. Because she was a woman, it was especially important for Hatshepsut to legitimize her rule. There is also an interesting dichotomy when you look at her names in contrast with the images depicting her as a male, with a false beard and traditional male dress. This is important to note, due to the fact that a large portion of the population was illiterate and therefore would only understand visual displays of power. High ranking government officials or educated persons would have most likely been aware already of her sex, therefore her name emphasizes this fact.
This was a particularly hard article to finish reading, mostly because so much of it was about the language of her names and the various meanings and histories behind their inclusion. It was also interesting for this reason, simply because I have never read an article this focused on one particular topic. Just choosing to write on her various names creates a succinct and to the point article, but if you are unfamiliar with the various terms it can be difficult to understand. I understand the scholarly validity of this but as a student, and especially one unfamiliar with the genealogy of Egyptian Pharaoh’s names, I think this article could have been greatly simplified.