The New Kingdom of Egypt was the third and most prosperous of ancient Egypt's major periods of organized rule. It extended from the 16th century B.C. to the 11th century B.C., covering the 18th, 19th and 20th Egyptian dynasties. The New Kingdom was the peak of ancient Egyptian power, and included several of the civilization's most famous kings, also called pharaohs.
One of the most successful of all ancient Egyptian pharaohs was Hatshepsut, who increased Egypt's influence by expanding foreign trade during a reign that lasted from 1479 to 1458 B.C. "King" Hatshepsut was actually a woman, and is one of the first known female rulers in history. She rose to power as a queen regent after her pharaoh husband died while their son was still too young to rule. Not content to serve as a temporary steward of the throne, Hatshepsut declared herself king, even wearing the pharaoh's traditional fake beard in portraits.
After Hatshepsut died, her son Thutmose III became king, ruling until 1425 B.C. Sometimes called "the Napoleon of Egypt," Thutmose III led ancient Egypt's biggest expansion ever. His Egyptian Empire came to rule lands far to the south in Nubia, plus territories along the Mediterranean coast as far north as modern-day Syria. His reign was also a time of major cultural activity, known for its literature and historical writing as well as many major building projects.
Originally called Amunhotep IV, the Egyptian king known as Akhenaten led a major religious revolution during his reign between about 1351 and 1334 B.C. He abolished the worship of multiple gods, telling his subjects to worship only Aten the sun god and taking a new name that meant "Servant of Aten." Akhenaten is sometimes called history's first monotheist, but he actually didn't deny that other gods existed. What he did do was establish himself as an even more powerful god-king than his predecessors, becoming the first ancient Egyptian king to actually be called "Pharaoh" in his own time.
Better known as "King Tut," this pharaoh was either the son or the son-in-law of Akhenaten, and ruled from 1333 to 1324 B.C. He reversed Akhenaten's ban on worshipping multiple gods, and was revered as a powerful god-king in his own right despite only living to the age of 17. But today he's more famous for his lavishly outfitted tomb, which was rediscovered in 1922 and is one of the most intact ancient Egyptian burial sites ever found.
Ramses the Great
Officially known as Ramses II, this famous pharaoh reigned for an astounding 67 years, probably between 1279 and 1213 B.C. He lived past the age of 90, and claimed to have fathered 100 children. He was remembered as a great military leader, though that might have been mostly just propaganda. But he did fight at least one famous battle in modern-day Syria, and built more monuments than any other pharaoh, including the famous Temple of Abu Simbel. Ramses the Great is sometimes said to be the Egyptian pharaoh from whom Moses and the Jews escaped in the Bible story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, but no one really knows.
- Egypt (Exercise Bright Star): The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period
- The Ohio State University eHistory Archive: Hatshepsut
- Thutmose III: A New Biography; Ed. Eric H. Cline and David O'Connor
- The Ohio State University eHistory Archive: Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton)
- The Ohio State University eHistory Archive: Tutankhamun
- The Ohio State University eHistory Archive: Ramses II
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images