Ancient Egyptian Kings of the New Kingdom and their Accomplishments
The New Kingdom of Egypt lasted from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasty – that is, from the 16th century BC to the 11th century BC. This period was seen as the golden age of ancient Egypt, as the land reached its most prosperous and mightiest. Much of that progress was due to the incredible feats attained by the pharaohs of the era. Below World History Edu explores the top 7 most influential New Kingdom pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
Thutmose III was around the age of two when his father, Thutmose II, died. As a result, his aunt/stepmother, Queen Hatshepsut, was appointed regent to rule in his stead. However, about five years later, Hatshepsut declared herself pharaoh of Egypt. She would operate in a co-pharaoh capacity, nurturing the young Thutmose by giving him all the necessary civil and military education. Never before had Egypt seen such a powerful and tactical female ruler as in the person of Hatshepsut. As a result, Thutmose III, who by all accounts could have seized control for himself, learnt a great deal of things from Hatshepsut. In his teen years, he was appointed head of Egypt’s military. In this position of his, he was able to acquire a lot of military experience that proved extremely useful in his time as sole pharaoh of Egypt.
When the time came for Thutmose III to rule, i.e. following the death of Hatshepsut around 1458 BC, he did not disappoint. Under his reign, Egypt reached military and economic heights never seen before. An astute military commander, this sixth pharaoh of the18th Dynasty embarked upon at least 17 military campaigns in places as far north as in the Near East and as far south in Nubia. He is said to have conquered about 300 cities during his
Thutmose III was the first Egyptian ruler after Thutmose I to make it past the Euphrates River. He handed massive defeats to the Kingdom of Mitanni in southeast Anatolia. At the fierce Battle of Megiddo, he came against a strong alliance of Mitanni princes. The battle ended in a resounding victory for Thutmose. With the way opened, Thutmose III continued his march up north and conquered cities like Carchemish and Aleppo.
After a remarkable 54-year reign, Thutmose died around 1425 BC. This sixth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty was succeeded by his second son Amenhotep II. Thutmose III’s extensive military conquests is the reason he is known by modern scholars as the “Napoleon of Egypt”.
Over the course of its 3,000-year-old history, ancient Egypt had about 300 rulers (i.e. pharaohs). And out of that seven were women. Queen Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth Dynasty was undoubtedly the most famous female ruler of ancient Egypt. She is credited with bringing enormous wealth to the kingdom. She did this by opening trade routes and developing trade networks in the region.
A daughter of Thutmose I, the third pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, and his wife Ahmes, Hatshepsut grew up with her half-brother Thutmose II. As part of efforts to maintain the royal blood line, it was decided that Hatshepsut and Thutmose II get married. By her husband/brother, she had a daughter called Neferure. She also served as the stepmother of Thutmose III, who inherited his father’s throne in his infancy. Because Thutmose III was not old enough, Hatshepsut stepped in to serve as a co-regent. As time passed, she began to consolidate her power and crown herself co-pharaoh of Egypt.
Around the ninth year of her reign, she sanctioned a massive trade expedition to the land of Punt in the east. The expedition proved extremely beneficial for the Egyptians. Many exotic goods, including cosmetics, myrrh trees and animals were imported from the land of Punt. Pharaoh Hatshepsut also dispatched Egyptian diplomats and merchants on expeditions up north into places like Sinai and Byblos.
Away from trade, Hatshepsut appointed her nephew/stepson Thutmose III to lead very successful military campaigns against Canaan and Nubia.
Hatshepsut’s 20-year-reign puts her firmly on top of the list of longest-reigning female pharaohs of ancient Egypt. She was an extremely influential ruler of the ancient world whose reign not only brought never-before-seen level of prosperity, but also ushered in a relatively peaceful era.
The gains she made from those trade expeditions were used finance large building projects, including the construction of obelisks, religious temples and other magnificent monuments. The twin obelisk she built were for very long periods considered the tallest in the world.
Another important achievement of Hatshepsut came in the form of women’s rights. Compared to its neighbors, ancient Egypt was a bastion of women’s rights, as women could own property, own and run businesses, sue for divorce, and even serve in some middle and low-level government positions. During Hatshepsut’s reign, those rights were further improved.
Following her death in 1458 BC, she was succeeded by Thutmose III. It’s been said that forty something female pharaoh of Egypt may have died of either diabetes or bone cancer. In 1903, her mummy was discovered in the Valley of the Kings by English archaeologist Howard Carter, the same archeologist who led a team of researchers in unearthing the spectacular find of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the early 1920s.
Did you know: Pharaoh Hatshepsut is one of seven known female rulers of ancient Egypt? The other female rulers are Merneith of the First Dynasty, Twosret of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Sobekneferu of the Twelfth Dynasty, Ahhotep I of the Seventeenth Dynasty, and others.
Hailing from the Nineteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, Ramses II (also known as Ramses the Great) was the son of Seti I. This will mean that Ramsses II was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, as Seti I was the son of Ramesses I, founding pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty.
Ramesses II’s reign (c. 1279-1213 BC) is famed for primarily two things – massive building projects and the peace treaty he signed with the Hittites. Upon assuming the reins of power in 1279, he set about building many spectacular temples and monuments in his honor. With epithets like “The Maat of Ra is powerful, Chosen of Ra”, Ramsses II was bent on leaving his mark on the Egyptian landscape. He even built in the conquered territories in Nubia, a region found between the south of Aswan in southern Egypt and present day Khartoum in central Sudan. To ensure that future pharaohs did not scrap of his name and images and insert theirs, he asked his royal craftsmen to deeply engrave the carvings into the stone. Ramesseum, a truly magnificent temple complex, and Abu Simbel, a temple in Nubia, are just some examples of Ramesses II’s monuments. The latter, which is located in modern-day Aswan Governorate, south Egypt, was painstakingly carved out of the rocks in the region to commemorate his victory over the Hittite Empire at the Battle of Kadesh.
Those artworks and buildings erected by Ramsses II had one goal in mind: to exaggerate the king’s military conquests in foreign lands.
Another significant accomplishment of Ramsses II came in the form of Pi-Ramesses (“House of Ramesses”) – an entirely new capital that he built in the eastern Delta. Some scholars say that he intentionally relocated the capital to that region so that he could easily launch attacks into territories in Canaan and Syria. The meaning of the city’s name is “Domain of Ramesses, Great in Victory”.
Known to his successors as the “Great Ancestor”, Ramesses II wasn’t just a great builder, but he was also an intelligent propagandist and diplomat, whose efforts resulted in the signing of the first known peace treaty in the world. The treaty helped bring an end to Egypt’s stalemated, decades’ long conflict with the Hittites who occupied what is now present-day Turkey in Anatolia.
The first pharaoh of the New Kingdom period was Ahmose I. What this means is that he was the founding pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.
Pharaoh Ahmose I is most known as the Egyptian ruler who expelled the Hyksos foreign rulers out of Egypt, Ahmose I was a very brave and capable ruler.
Born into the Theban royal house in Upper Egypt, Ahmose I learnt a great deal by watching his father Seqenenre Tao and brother Kamose rebel against the Hyksos rulers. The Hyksos, who constituted rulers of the 15th Dynasty of Egypt, had their power base in the city of Avaris in the Nile delta.
Although Ahmose I was catapulted to the Theban throne at just the age of 10, he would go on to prove himself extremely capable in Thebes’ fight against Hyksos rulers in Lower Egypt. After successfully expelling Hyksos, Ahmose proceeded to unite Egypt under one rule. Ahmose I has been described was a ruler of focus, commitment and sheer will. His reign (c. 1550-1525 BC) in the nutshell served as launching pad for the likes of Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut and Thutmose III to make ancient Egypt great once again.
Upon his death, which was around 1525 BC, he was succeeded to the throne by his son Amenhotep I.
It’s often said that ancient Egypt was at its wealthiest during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Born to Pharaoh Thutmose IV and his minor wife, Mutemwiya, Amenhotep III fattened the royal coffers, crushed a rebellion in Kush, and built diplomatic ties with the kings of Assyria, Babylon, Mitanni, and many other states.
Egyptian king Amenhotep III, also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent or Amenhotep the Great, was the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. He had many wives, including his chief royal wife, Queen Tiye, with whom he fathered his heir and successor Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV).
In terms of construction projects, Amenhotep III is credited with building the Luxor Temple at Karnak, and the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III, also known as Kom el-Hettan. He also built the Colossi of Memnon – two gigantic stone statues of himself – just in front of his mortuary temple. And by the way, his mortuary temple was the largest mortuary complex up until that time anywhere in the world. His Malkata palace, which was called Per-Hay (“House of Rejoicing”), was the largest any in Egypt at the time.
All of the above feats by Amenhotep III make him one of the most distinguished pharaohs of the New Kingdom.
Some scholars have stated that had it not been for the fact that Tutankhamun’s tomb was found intact, he would certainly not have come anywhere close to being considered one of the greatest pharaohs of the New Kingdom. However, those who make this assertion perhaps underestimate the efforts Tutankhamun took in restoring order in Egypt.
The radical religious revolution of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun’s father, had in short brought Egypt to a tipping point. Many Theban priests strongly resisted Akhenaten’s slightly monotheistic belief that had Aten as the overall head of the Egyptian pantheon. Upon succeeding his father, Tutankhamun took a bold decision to revert Egypt to its traditional religious belief – a polytheistic system with Amun as the head of a pantheon with several hundreds of gods. Tutankhamun even changed his name. He was formerly called Tutankhaten (“Living image of Aten”), a name in honor of the Akhenaten’s favorite deity, Aten.
At the time that Tutankhamun ascended to the throne, he was likely around 8 or 9 years old. This boy-king of Egypt would go on to rule for about a decade or so before dying around 1323 BC.
As stated above, Tutankhamun’s tomb discovery in 1922 by English archaeologist Howard Carter was undoubtedly one of the greatest archeological findings in human history. This is because the tomb, which had more than 5,000 artifacts, was unearthed nearly intact in the Valley of the Kings. One of those artifacts included the famous Tutankhamun’s mask, which is a golden death mask that was bears a strong semblance to Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of rejuvenation, vegetation and the afterlife.
After the death of Akhenaten, the tenth ruler of the 18th Dynasty, his successors took bold steps to erase his memory and anyone that he was associated with from the history books. Akhenaten was earned this level of hatred simply because he had spent majority of his 16-year reign trying to eradicate polytheism from ancient Egypt.
Tagged the heretic pharaoh of Egypt, Akhenaten’s radical religious reforms saw him invest enormous amount of resources and energy into enhancing the cult and worship of Aten at the expense of traditional deities like Amun, Osiris and Ptah. His reforms were met with scorn from high priests in Thebes. It’s been said that Akhenaten faced strong resistance from those groups because by removing the political and religious capital from Thebes to an entirely new capital, Akhetaten (i.e. Amarna), he had in so many ways clipped the powers of those Theban priests.
Such was Akhenaten’s unwavering devotion to the god Aten that he even changed his name. In the first four or five years of his reign he was known as Amenhotep IV. Similarly, his wives, including his chief royal wife, Nefertiti, and children followed suit and had their names changed in honor of Aten, a sun deity who was an aspect of the sun god Ra.
Away from his unpalatable religious reforms, Akhenaten’s reign is famous, at least now, because art flourished at an unprecedented level. Artists during this period began to adopt a unique style that depicted their images in a slightly more realistic manner.
Preoccupied with his radical religious reforms, Akhenaten was said to have shown little interest in foreign conquests and expeditions as his predecessors. As a result of this, states and kingdoms like the Hittite Empire were able to gradually reassert their hold in Canaan and Phoenicia.
READ MORE: List of Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses