Stories of divine birth in the eighteenth dynasty
Hatshepsut’s royal lineage was established through her parents, Thutmose I her father and The Great Royal Wife Ahmose, her mother. Thutmose I had two sons and a daughter, Amenmose, Wadjmose and Hatshepsut, through Ahmose. Egyptian hierarchy established the eldest sons as heirs to the throne; however, with the death of these two sons at an early age, it is still possible to produce a son through a secondary wife or lesser wife. Mutnofret, Thutmose I’s secondary wife gave birth to a son, Thutmose II, giving him lineage to the throne. To legitimize Thutmose II’s reign, he married his half-sister Hatshepsut, who carried the royal Ahmose blood line. Through this marriage Hatshepsut was given her royal titles as Great King’s Wife and God’s Wife of Amun that gave her royal responsibilities to appear and participate in cult rituals.
Hatshepsut only birthed a single child, Neferure, with Thutmose II. However, Thutmose II’s secondary wife, Isis, gave birth to a son, Thutmose III. During Thutmose III’s infancy, his father Thutmose II died, leaving the throne to his son. He was only an infant and cannot technically rule Egypt yet. Traditionally, regency would allow the mother of an infant pharaoh to rule on his behalf. This responsibility was given to either the “Great King’s Wife” or “King’s Mother” to act as regency, but these titles do not apply secondary wives such as Isis. Hatshepsut took the throne as regent through her "king's daughter, king's sister, god's wife, great royal wife Hatshepsut". Thus giving her the right to act as regent on behalf of Thutmose III without having to be his birth mother.
Hatshepsut's Divine Birth
Hatshepsut’s Divine Birth and Coronation can be found at the Temple of Deir el Bahari, Egypt. In this, Amun calls upon a meeting of gods to announce the coming of a great and powerful queen. Amun asks the gods to bestow upon her protection and riches. As for Amun, he promises to grant her power, “I will join for her the two lands in peace… I will give her all lands and all countries.”
Amun is told by the god Thoth that queen Ahmose is to have the divine child and introduces him to her. Upon this meeting, Amun causes Ahmose to “inhale the breath of life”. Thoth leads Amun to Ahmose’s chamber where he has taken the form of her husband, Thutmose I. Amun in disguise, presents to her the ankh of life in her hand and nostrils. They both sit on a couch supported by two goddesses, Neith and Selk. Afterwards, Amun informs Ahmose that she is to give birth to a powerful queen and she is to rule both lands of Upper and Lower Egypt.
After the encounter, Amun instructs Khnum, the potter, to construct Hatshepsut’s body and ka out of clay. Khnum bestows onto Hatshepsut “with life, health, and strength, and all gifts, I will make her appearance above the gods, because of her dignity of king of Upper and Lower Egypt.” Once finished, Khnum offers Hatshepsut and her ka to the god Heket, who presents them the ankh of life. After, Khnum again bestows more gifts of “offerings, all abundance.” as he praises the new queen with given divine power.
Thoth relays the message to Ahmose that Hatshepsut is given “all the dignities which will be bestowed upon her, all title which will be added to her name, since she is to be the moth of such an illustrious offspring.” She is also given an important royal title of “the friend and consort of Horus”. Ahmose is led into a chamber by Khnum and Heket, along with 12 gods and goddesses to help the birth and to protect Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut is born and held by her mother Ahmose, and is shown suckling from the other gods, giving her life and divinity.
Through her Coronation, she is emphasizing her legitimacy to rule Egypt by conveying that her father Thutmose I had crowned her king leaving no doubt in any official’s mind that she is a true and authentic ruler. It is observed that her coronation sequence, like that of her Divine Birth inscriptions, had been vandalized or re-carved over by later kings. Naville’s guess is that it was an ongoing extermination of Hatshepsut’s existence by later kings that did not wish nor did not want others to recognize a woman becoming king through legitimate means.
Her coronation began with Thutmose I recognizing Hatshepsut as the next king through her blood lineage and gave her equal share of his responsibilities, despite opposition. One major significance to Hatshepsut’s coronation is that she is depicted various ways when receiving her crown. During her public coronation, she is shown as a male with female physique and her clothing is reflective of these indicators. Hatshepsut is depicted as a boy being crowned and revealed to her court, wearing a king’s headdress and other male regalia. An important issue Naville brings up is that most common Egyptians could not read, thus an image of a woman pharaoh would be shocking, moreover a woman pharaoh with two cartouches to be even more significant. After being crowned, she is taken to her throne to be seated with royal dignitaries present to witness the event. She is then given 5 coronation names by the high priests. The priests then hold purification ceremonies along with other ceremonies depicting the new crowned king and her crowns representing both Upper and Lower Egypt. These steps are needed to become pharaoh of Egypt, even more-so with a woman becoming pharaoh, it is needed to solidify her stance and rank as a legitimate leader.
Hatshepsut realized that she needed to legitimize her reign, regardless of her bloodline and only daughter of Thutmose I. Instead, she followed traditional legitimization practices to reign by claiming her birth to be the will of a god like other kings had claimed since the fifth dynasty. She solidified these claims by having them inscribed in her mortuary temple walls at Deir el Bahari, which also include her Divine Birth, Coronation sequence as well as the Expedition to Punt. These inscriptions were strictly for high officials and priests. Other parts of her temple were accessible to the public during festivals. This would also solidify her authority as well as the worship of her god and father, Amun (for which the temple is dedicated to), through offerings and visitation. Her Divine Birth can be found in her temple at the Middle Colonnade of the Northern Wall. Her Coronation can be found in her temple at the Middle Colonnade of the Northern Wall (Upper Register).
- Roerig, Catharine (2006). Hatshepsut from Queen to Pharaoh. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 87.
- Roehrig, Catharine (2006). Hatshepsut from Queen to Pharaoh. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 86.
- Naville, Edouard (1897). The Temple of Deir El Bahari. London: Fellow of King's College. p. 16.
- Naville, Edouard (1898). The Temple of Deir El Bahari: Part III. London: Fellow of King's College. p. 6.
- Galán, José M. (2014). Creativity and Innovation in the Reign of Hatshepsut. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. p. 33.
- Naville, Edouard. The Temple of Deir El Bahari: Part II. London: Fellow of King’s College,1897.
- Naville, Edouard. The Temple of Deir El Bahari: Part III. London: Fellow of King’s College,1898.
- Galán, José M., Bryan, Betsy M., Dorman, Peter F. Creativity and Innovation in the Reign of Hatshepsut. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2014.
- Cooney, Kara. The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt. New York: Broadway Books, 2014.
- Roehrig, Catharine H., Dreyfus, Renée, Keller, Cathleen A. Hatshepsut from Queen to Pharaoh. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.