<Standard 7.13.................................................................................................................................Standard 7.15>

Describe the role of the pharaoh as god/king, the concept of dynasties, the importance of at least one Egyptian ruler, the relationship of the pharaohs to peasants, and the role of slaves in ancient Egypt.

The Pharaoh Tutankhamun destroying his enemies
The Pharaoh Tutankhamun destroying his enemies

Key Topics on this Page
Role of Pharaohs
Women's Roles, Rulers and Rights
Egyptian Dynasties and Kingdoms
Important Rulers
Slaves and Peasants
  • Dramatic Event Page on Built the Pyramids

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 2.30.48 PM.pngSee AP Key Concept 1.3 for more on ancient Egypt as an early agricultural society

Focus Question: What was the role of the pharaoh in Egyptian society?

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.27.35 AM.pngKids! offers an interactive introduction to Egyptian gods and pharaohs from the Global Egyptian Museum.

Pharaoh wearing the blue crown
Pharaoh wearing the blue crown

For an overview of Egyptian government, go to the website of the Canadian Museum of Civilization,

For an overview of Egyptian social hierarchies, go to PBS's page on "Egyptian Society"

Pharaohs were responsible for preserving the “right order of society”. These responsibilities included the following:
  • Preserving peace and political stability
  • Performing all necessary religious rituals
  • Addressing the economic needs of the people
  • Providing justice
  • Protecting the country from internal and external threats

Pharaohs were also believed to be divine. However, it was the power of kingship itself that the pharaoh represented, the individual king himself that was divine. From: (The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2009). Kings and Queens of Egypt. Retrieved January 31, 2010 )

Due to the status of divinity, Pharaohs often were buried with many of their possessions and their bodies were preserved for the afterlife. 10 items you would find in a Pharaoh's tomb

Pharaohs had absolute power in theory, but in practice, this was not the case.
  • By the 4th dynasty, there was an established bureaucracy. Egypt was divided into provinces (nomes)—each of which had a governor (nomarch) who was responsible to the king.
    • Pharaohs were polygamous, but only had 1 principal queen (the wife whose male children were acknowledged as the pharaoh’s heirs).

Check out this information from the British Museum's website about the Pharaoh: Lord of the Two Lands. http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/pharaoh/home.html.

Female_Rose.pngWomen Rulers, Women's Roles, and Women's Rights

Queens had little power until the New Kingdom period when they became an essential part of their husbands’ reign.
  • It was viewed as a disruption of the divine order of society for a king to rule without input from his queen.
  • For a day in the life of an Egyptian woman, click here.
    • For a description of women's rights in Ancient Egypt, click here.
      • For detailed information about the status of women in Ancient Egypt, including women's property rights, female literacy, women in public, women's occupations, and more, click here here
primary_sources.PNGFor primary sources and images, please see Egyptologyforum.org's site The EFF Guide to Internet Resources.

lesson_plan_icon.jpgFor an excellent lesson plan on pharaohs, see PBS's site Egypt's Greatest Leaders.

Screen Shot 2016-10-29 at 12.06.19 PM.pngPlay BBC's "Pyramid Challenge" to gain a better understanding of the pharaoh's divine rule and his or her relation to the workforce.

Focus Question: What were Egyptian dynasties?

A dynasty is a system in which ruling power is passed down within the same family—usually from father to son. However, women’s roles as mothers and queens were also important.
  • The role of the queen as the mother of the next king gave royal women status and influence as symbols of creation and rebirth. Queens occasionally assumed the kingship of political or dynastic reasons, but their reigns were usually quite brief.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngFor a timeline of the dynasties in each of the kingdoms, as well as links to some of the notable pharaohs, see List of Rulers or Ancient Egypt, and for a comprehensive history of Ancient Egypt, see this video
external image Sphinx_of_Hetepheres_II_-_fourth_dynasty_of_Egypt.jpg

Egyptian Kingdoms

Image to the Right: Painted limestone Sphinx of Hetepheres II, a daughter of Khufu and royal princess of Egypt during the fourth dynasty of Egypt, who became the queen of Egypt

Three Egyptian Kingdoms
For kid-friendly explanations to the three dynasties and what defines them (also a good site for resources for Ancient Egypt including explanations, games, and interactions with students).

Old Kingdom: 2686-2125 BCE
  • Pharaoh was an inaccessible God/King. People had no choice but to obey or they risked causing a breakdown in the cosmic structure of life.

Middle Kingdom 2055-1650 BCE (Egypt’s Golden Age)
  • Pharaoh was now concerned about public welfare. Domestic improvements, including draining swamp lands and digging a canal that connected the Nile to the Red Sea, took place.
  • Pharaoh also sent traders to Kush, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Crete during this time.

New Kingdom: 1550-1085 BCE
  • Warfare (using better weapons) was used to gain wealth and land.
  • Egypt occupied parts of Palestine, Syria, and Libya during this time.

map_icon.jpegFor an interactive map/quiz of Ancient Egypt, click here

game_icon.svg.pngExplore Ancient Egypt with an interactive digital tour

timeline2_rus.svg.pngGuide yourself through Egyptian history then test your knowledge with this interactive timeline

Focus Question: Who were some important men and women Egyptian rulers?

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 12.13.15 PM.pngClick here for a lesson plan on The Queens of Ancient Egypt, from Egypt's Golden Empire from PBS or here for a lesson plan on
Egypt's Greatest Leaders also from PBS.

primary_sources.PNGClick here for the Kings and Queens of Egypt from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

multicultural.pngDocumentary about Nubian Pharaohs or "Black Pharaohs"

Statue of Ramses II at Luxor
Statue of Ramses II at Luxor

Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE)

Considered to be the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom, Egypt's Golden Age.
His best known Queen was Nefertari, whose tomb is one of the best preserved of any Egyptian burial site.

Here is a video on the life and achievements of Ramesses II

Female_Rose.pngHatshepsut (c. 1479-1458 BCE)

After Hatshepsut’s father (Tuthmosis I) died, power was passed down to Hatshepsut’s half-brother (Tuthmosis II). When he died, power was passed to Hatshepsut’s stepson (Tuthmosis III) while he was still a child. Hatshepsut began ruling on Tuthmosis III’s behalf, which was common when a male heir inherited the kingship in youth.
Bust of Hatshepsut by Keith Schengili-Roberts
Bust of Hatshepsut by Keith Schengili-Roberts

external image Essener_Feder_01.pngHatshepsut eventually claimed sole power of the kingship and declared herself Pharaoh. To quell the people’s anger and disapproval of her usurping power from Tuthmosis III, Hatshepsut used propaganda to stress her royal ancestry and claimed a direct link to the Egyptian gods.

Video and Study guide on Hatshepsut's rule:

She demanded that she be depicted as a man in pictures—complete with a male body and a fake beard. She also replaced the royal court with her supporters.
  • Hatshepsut died after ruling for 22 years.
  • Tuthmosis III became king. Still bitter about Hatshepsut’s stealing his kingship, Tuthmosis III ordered Hatshepsut’s name and image to be removed from all over Egypt.
  • Thus Hatshepsut was effectively “erased” from Egyptian history until 1903 when an archaeologist found her tomb.

Female_Rose.pngOther female pharaohs included: Nitokerty (2175 BCE), Sobeknefru (1760-1755 BCE), Tawosret (1198-1190 BCE) and Cleopatra VII (see below).
Multimedia.pngFor more information on Egypt's female rulers watch the BBC's documentary, Egypt's Lost Queens

Queen Nefertiti
Queen Nefertiti


For an overview, see Egypt's Golden Empire: Nefertiti

Ancient Egypt: Nefertiti from Saint Louis University.
Multimedia.pngBust of Nefertiti from Kahn Academy.

Mystery on the Nile: Re-Examining Nefertiti's Likeness and Life from December 6, 2012.

Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton) (c. 1364-1347 BCE)

Statue of Akhenaten, Aten temple at Karnak
Statue of Akhenaten, Aten temple at Karnak

Akhenaton was an important Egyptian Pharaoh, as he tried to introduce the idea of a new solo powerful God--ATEN, the god of the sun disk. He closed all the other temples and changed his own name from Amenhotep to Akhenaton.
Addition information on the religious changes made:
Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton)

This change was very unpopular with the people because they believed it would lead to the destruction of the cosmic order. Due to poor foreign policy, Akhenaton’s also lost the territories of Syria and Palestine.

The next Pharaoh, Tutankhamen (King Tut), “the Boy king”, quickly restored all the old gods.

Amenhotep's wife was Nefertiti, married at the beginning of his reign.

external image Tut_at_Karnak.jpg

Tutankhamun (1332 BCE - 1323 BCE)

This Pharaoh is commonly known as "King Tut"

Multimedia.png King Tut Biography . This video depicting the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb, the treasures it held, and his life.
Multimedia.pngFor more on King Tut:

Female_Rose.pngGo to Historical Biography page for Cleopatra (51-30 BC)

Focus Question: What was the relationship of the pharaohs to the peasants?

It was not until the Middle Kingdom that the pharaoh was actually concerned with the welfare of the people. During the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh was seen as and “inaccessible god-king.” Yet in the Middle Kingdom, the pharaoh was at least portrayed as watching over the people—for example, building public works and draining swampland in the Nile (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2009, p. 15-17).

Who built the pyramids?
  • Herodotus claimed that they were built entirely by slaves, but archaeologist Joyce Tyldesley offers contradictory evidence.

Unfortunately, not much is known about the life of Ancient Egypt's lower classes. However, the few resources available to scholars have allowed them to generate a rough idea of the daily life of the average farmer. To gain a better understanding of a day in the life for the average Egyptian farmer go here. Hear the troubles of a farmer who lived over 4000 years ago

lesson_plan_icon.jpgFor a lesson plan on daily life for normal citizens, click here

Gay_flag.svg.pngFor early evidence of homosexuality in Egypt, click here

multicultural.pngAncient Egypt was both multiracial and multicultural. For evidence, click here
The Ancient Egyptian social class structure
The Ancient Egyptian social class structure

Focus Question: What was the role of slaves in ancient Egypt?

For information on slavery in ancient times, see Slaves and Freemen from "The Roman Empire in the First Century" from PBS.

For some facts about slaves in Ancient Egypt check out this page about Egyptian Slaves.

Unlike subsequent European and American practices, ancient slavery was not based on race.
Multimedia.pngFor a video describing Ancient Egypt's slaves, click here

As context is the only way in determining the labor, number, and reason for slaves in ancient Egypt, it is somewhat difficult to examine slavery entirely, as the western definition of slavery may have differed from that of the time period. For more information on the concept of slavery in Ancient Egypt, visit Slaves and Slavery and Ancient Egypt.

game_icon.svg.pngFor free powerpoints with Ancient Egypt Jeopardy-style questions, click here