The pharaohs were the ancient rulers of the Egyptian empire. Historians recovered a lot of information about pharaohs through analysis of pyramids, Egyptian art, mummies and other old artifacts from the period. There are many fun and fascinating facts to learn about these ancient rulers and their historic and cultural contributions.
Reign and History
Egyptian pharaohs were believed to be both divine gods and mortal rulers. As such, they were worshiped by their subjects. The reign of pharaohs lasted about 3,000 years. More than 30 dynasties produced about 170 rulers during that time. Like most rulers, pharaohs were chosen by patriarchal lineage; fathers were succeeded by sons. However, the line of kingship was often disturbed by murder or mysterious disappearance as families fought for control of the throne. To protect against usurpation of the throne, pharaohs often married within the family, having children with daughters and granddaughters.
The most famous pharaoh is Tutankhamen, most commonly referred to as King Tut. King Tut, whose tomb was first discovered in 1922, was a young boy when he assumed the throne. He was only 18 years old when he died. His wife and grandfather are suspected of murdering him with a fatal blow to the back of the head. The first pharaoh is believed to have been either Aha or Menes. Historians dispute which ruler came to throne first because there are very few facts about the earliest pharaohs. What facts historians do have were gleaned from ancient stone tablets. Another famous pharaoh was Ramses II, who reigned for 67 years. Ramses II fathered more than 100 children with more than 12 wives. Of all the pharaohs, he is credited with building the most temples and statues.
While most Egyptian pharaohs were men, there were several women who took control of the throne. In some cases, women assumed the seat of pharaoh upon the death of a father or husband with no apparent heirs. Queen Hatshepsut, for instance, ruled for 20 years after her father died. This queen expanded trade relations and built many temples, including the shrine in Deir-al-Bahari. However, she mysteriously disappeared, as many pharaohs did, and historians suspect she was murdered by her nephew, who was next in line. There is also Queen Cleopatra, who was the last pharaoh before the Egyptian empire was conquered by the Romans. Queen Cleopatra gained notoriety for her affair with the Roman Mark Anthony. She was known to be beautiful, intelligent and politically astute.
The Cat Connection
The pharaohs were known to have loved and revered cats. During Egyptian times, cats were treated as gods, since they were thought to be manifestations of the goddess Bast. The penalties for killing or mistreating a cat were severe; one could be put to death if only suspected of harming a cat. Pharaohs were frequently surrounded by cats, as suggested by ancient works of art. The Sphinx, which is one of the earliest and most famous works of Egyptian art, depicts the head of a pharaoh and the body of a cat (a lion), showing the divine power, majesty, beauty and importance of both pharaohs and felines.
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