The word ‘pharaoh’ has been derived from the Hebrew roots Phar, meaning ‘house,’ and oh meaning ‘great.’ The word was originally used for ‘palace,’ the great house. In the 14th century BC, during the reign of Akhenaton, the term ‘pharaoh’ was used for ‘king,’ and ever since his rule had been continuously used for the Egyptian kings. The Egyptologists have divided the rule of the pharaohs into 10 periods, subdivided into 33 dynasties. Pharaohs have been mentioned in the scriptures. Conventionally, they used a shepherd’s crook-type scepter, and their crowns were red, white, or red and white. The red crown, known as a Deshret crown, was worn by the rulers of Lower Egypt. The rulers of Upper Egypt wore a white crown, known as the Hedjet crown. The red-and-white crown, known as the Pschent crown, was used by the kings of the united Egypt. The Egyptian pyramids, built in the time of the pharaohs, open a window to look at the history of human civilization in retrospective. Mummies of the pharaohs have also been a source of information about the ancient Egyptian civilization.
Nebkheperure Tutankhaten Tutankhamun, better known as Tutankhamun or King Tut, was born to Akhenaten and his cousin, the Younger Lady, in 1341 BC and died in 1323 BC. He was the Egyptian Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty which was known as the New Kingdom. He ascended the throne at the age of 9, ruled for 10 years, and died at the young age of 19 years; therefore, he is also known as the boy king. Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnaryon, discovered King Tut’s tomb in 1922 in almost intact condition. Tutankhamun is the most identified pharaoh of ancient Egypt in the modern-day world. His mummy and artifacts from his tomb have been exhibited in many countries including: France, USA, Germany, Japan, Australia, and many others. King Tut’s mummy was visited by more than 8 million visitors during the exhibition organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA, held between November 17, 1976 and April 15, 1979. In the 1977 edition of his book The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, Jon Manchip White wrote, ‘The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt’s Pharaohs has become in death the most renowned.’
2. Rameses II
Rameses II was born to Seti I and Queen Tuva in 1300 BC. Unlike King Tut, he lived long and died in 1213 BC at the age of 97 years. Also known as Rameses the Great, Rameses II was the third Egyptian pharaoh belonging to the 19th dynasty. He is regarded as the greatest, most respected and most powerful Egyptian Pharaoh. He was made Prince Regent at the age of 14 years and ascended the throne in his late teens. He is best known for the great monuments built in his time, and they include: Abu Simbel, Abydos, Ramesseum, Luxor, and the Karnak temples. He had numerous children, and although their exact number is not known, yet it is generally accepted by the Egyptologists that he had more than 44 sons and more than 40 daughters.
Narmer is considered by many Egyptologists the first pharaoh of the united Egypt, who belonged to the Early Dynastic period in the 31st century BC. James E. Quibell discovered the famous Narmer palette in 1888. A Narmer palette was a cosmetic mixing device made of slate or mudstone and very often used as a decoration piece as was the case with the famous find of Quibell. This palette was indicative of Narmer’s being first pharaoh of the united Egypt by the display of the insignias of both Upper and Lower Egypt on the front and back of the palette. Narmer’s tomb comprised two adjacent chambers located in the vicinity of the tomb of Ka.
Djoser was son of King Khasekhemwy and Queen Nimaethap. He was a pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty in 2670 BC. He was the predecessor of Khasekhemwy and successor of Sekhemkhet. He is best known for The Step Pyramid, constructed by his architect Imhotep. Djoser is buried in this famous pyramid. His painted, limestone statue, now preserved in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, is one of the oldest life-size Egyptian statues. The Antiquities Service Excavation discovered this statue in 1924. A plaster replica of this statue is on display at the site of its excavation in Saqqara.
Khufu was the son of Pharaoh Sneferu and Queen Hetepheres I. He was the second pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty and reigned from 2589 to 2566 BC. He is best known for the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He was succeeded by Diedefre. All of the statutes of Khufu and other reliefs relating to him were found in pieces or damaged condition. His only intact statue is a 3-inch ivory figure which was discovered from a ruined temple in Abydos in 1903. Khufu had been mentioned in the famous ‘Westcar Papyrus,’ a book of miracles and magic belonging to the 3rd Dynasty.
‘Userkaf,’ literally meaning his soul is powerful, was the founding pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt. He was also the first to start building sun temples at Abusir. He reigned from 2994 BC to 2487 BC and, during this period, he built the Pyramid of Userkaf wherein he is buried. His sun temple at Abugorab was first identified by Richard Lepsius in the 19th century, studied by Ludwig Borchardt in the 20th century, and excavated by Herbert Ricke in 1954. Egyptian Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz, published a story relating to Userkaf in 1934. It was titled Afw al-malik Userkaf: uqsusa misriya and was translated by Raymond Stock as King Userkaf’s Forgiveness.
7. Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II
Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II was born to Intef III and Iah in 2061 BC and died in 2010 BC. He was a pharaoh belonging to the 11th Dynasty. He reigned for 51 years from 2061 to 2010 BC. Mentuhotep II had many wives including, Tem the chief wife, Neferu II meaning ‘the beautiful,’ Kawit, meaning ‘the King’s beloved wife.’ He had four secondary wives; Sadeh, Ashayet, Henhenet, and Kemsit. They were entitled the use of the titles, ‘King’s wife’ and ‘The Unique Embellishment of the King.’ Whereas the first wives were buried along with him in the mortuary temple at Deir-el-Bahri, the later four were buried in a common grave at the basement of Mentuhotep II’s temple.
8. Khakhaure Senusret III
Khakhaure Senusret III was born to Senusret II and his wife Khnemetneferhedjet I. He had two wives, Khenemetneferhedjet II and Neferthenut, who are buried in the vicinity of the pyramid of the king at Dahshur. He reigned from 1878 to 1839 BC. He was the 5th pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. He is credited for building Senostris Canal. He is also known for building the famous river forts, Buhen, Toshka, Semna, and Uronatri. He expanded the borders of his regime and wrote for his successors, ‘The true son is he who champions his father, who guards the border of his begetter. But he who abandons it, who fails to fight for it, he is not my son, he was not born to me.’
Akhenaten was the son of Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye. He was the pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. He reigned for 17 years from 1353 to 1336 BC. He had five consorts of whom Nefertiti is the most famous and perhaps the most identified queen of a pharaoh in the modern world. It was due to her unique style and reforms in religious practices. Both the king and queen discouraged polytheism and promoted monotheism centralizing the worship of Aten alone.
10. Cleopatra VII Philopator
Cleopatra VII Philopator ,better known as Cleopatra in history, was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She belonged to the Polemic Dynasty of Greek origin which ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. The Polemics did not like to speak the Egyptian language and used the Greek language in day-to-day usage as well as in official documents. Cleopatra, however, learned the Egyptian language and projected herself as the embodiment of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Initially, she ruled with her father and then with her brothers, and ultimately became the sole ruler and the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
Pharaohs were the embodiment of absolute power on Earth. They considered the collection of wealth and power as the prime objectives of their lives. According to the American writer and Nobel Laureate, William Faulkner, ‘This was Pharaoh, direct descendant of our deity Amon, god of the Sun, who rules the heavens as Pharaoh rules the Earth. Again, he brought treasure, gold, and precious jewels taken from our enemies.’