10 Remarkable Egyptian pharaohs
Okay, so you’ve probably heard of King Tut and Cleopatra, but Egyptian history is full of awesome pharaohs who did remarkable things. Here you’ll find a list of ten Egyptian rulers whose reigns span several millennia throughout history. So come on in, learn a few fun Egyptian facts, and brush up on your pharaohs 101.
Narmer aka Menes (reigned 3150-3100 BC)
When it comes to Egyptian history, King Narmer aka Menes is where it all began. See, Egypt began as two distinct kingdoms, the North and the South. That is until King Narmer showed up on the scene. As king of the North, he decided to take it down to the South, conquer everything, and set about unifying the two kingdoms into one. He founded the capital of Memphis right in between the newly combined kingdoms and is credited by many historians as ushering in the dawn of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Djoser (reigned 2686 BC – 2649 BC)
Djoser and his architect Imhotep were all-stars of ancient Egyptian renovation. As you may have noticed, Egyptian pharaohs were super into their own burial complexes. But back before Djoser and Imhotep came along, most tombs were big rectangular type deals built out of a mixture of mud bricks and stone. Djoser, however, decided to go a different route. So when he and Imhotep built his funerary complex outside of Memphis, they decided to cut out the mud and go all stone. Rather than the traditional rectangle, they built a tomb shaped like a six-stepped pyramid. This was considered an iconic move in the history of Egyptian architecture, as the whole pyramid design proved to be a tad popular.
Snefru (reigned 2613–2589 BC)
Though Djoser built its precursor, it was Snefru who is given credit for building the first true pyramid. In fact, he built three pyramids that we know of for sure and possibly two smaller ones as well. One of them is called the bent pyramid and was off-limits to everyone but a select few archeologists until super recently. The cool thing about the bent pyramid is that it definitely lives up to its name. The lower half of the structure shoots up at a steep angle and then suddenly the top half breaks off into the more traditional pyramid point. Snefru was actually buried in another of his structures, called the Red Pyramid, which was named for the reddish color of its stones. Known to the Greeks as “the good king,” Snefru also established Egypt’s fourth dynasty.
Khufu (reigned 2589 ‒ 2566 BC)
Fourth Dynasty Pharoah Khufu (sometimes known as Cheops) may be the most famous pyramid builder of them all. Khufu was responsible for the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which still remains one of the seven wonders of the world. Towering at 480 feet, it ranked as the world’s tallest man-made structure for almost 4,000 years. To this day, the genius of its design is a reminder of the brilliance and technological advancement of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
Hatshepsut (reigned 1478–1458 BC)
When it comes to strong women, Hatshepsut was one of history’s greats. She was a little more old school than Cleopatra and took over the throne when her husband, Thutmose II, met an untimely end. Technically she was sort of saving the throne for her son, who was only two years old when his dad died, but she was still a killer ruler. She claimed that her mom had been visited by the god Amon-Ra while pregnant with her and that she was indeed just as divine and suited for the throne as the boys.
Amenhotep III (reigned 1388–1351 BC)
During the reign of Pharoah Amenhotep III in the 18th Dynasty, life was good for the Egyptian people. The economy was awesome, creativity was flowing, and Egypt was at the height of her glory days. Amenhotep III was no slouch when it came to letting the good times roll, building a shamelessly extravagant palace and Thebes. He’s also famous for the construction of the Colossi of Memnon and the beautiful Temple of Luxor.
Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten (reigned 1351–1334 BC)
Amenhotep III’s son, aptly named Amenhotep IV, was one of the most interesting (though not particularly popular) pharaohs of Egypt. At a time when the Egyptians worshiped many different deities, Amenhotep IV declared that there was actually only one god: Aten, the god of the sun. It was for this reason that he changed his name to Akhenaten, which means “He who is of service to the Aten.” He also built a new capital called Akhetaten in honor of the first monotheistic faith recorded in Egyptian history. His wife, Nefertiti, played a significant role in his religious devotion but, in the end, Egypt wasn’t really ready for the whole one god concept quite yet. Shortly after Akhenaten’s rule, Egypt quickly changed back to a nation with many gods rather than just one.
Tutankhamun (reigned 1332–1323 BC)
King Tut may be one of the most famous Egyptian pharaohs today, but not so much during his own time. He took the throne at the tender age of nine and his rule only lasted about ten years, due to his death at an early age. The son of Akhenaten, he had no problem doing away with the monotheistic ways of his dad and the old gods were soon ushered back in under his rule. His modern claim to fame ironically came about because, for centuries, his rule was widely forgotten. Because of this, it wasn’t until the 1920s that his tomb and elaborate treasures were discovered by archeologists. Suddenly the forgotten boy-king once again captured the imagination of the world.
Ramses II (reigned 1279–1213 BC)
Ramses II was not only considered one of the most powerful pharaohs of Egypt, but he was also probably one of the least shy about acknowledging how awesome he was. Known as a powerful warrior, he also showed off his manliness by having around 95 children. During his 67 years in power, he often went around tagging his own name over that of other pharaohs on ancient monuments. It probably came as a surprise to few when he declared his own divinity early on in his reign. Owning it = winning.
Cleopatra VII (reigned 51 – 30 BC)
If you’ve never heard of Cleopatra, then crawl out from under that rock and get with the program! Though the last pharaoh of the dying Egyptian empire, she’s also one of the most famous. Known for her legendary beauty, she was also a brilliant leader and politician. One little known fact about Cleopatra was that even though she’s a legendary Egyptian pharaoh, she actually wasn’t ethnically Egyptian. She was part of a line of rulers established by Alexander the Great and though born in Egypt, was actually of Greek descent. Make no mistake, however, for she did embrace the culture of her people and claimed to be the reincarnation of the goddess Isis. After legendary love affairs with both Julius Ceasar and Marc Antony, she is said to have tragically committed suicide in 30 BC, which brought about the official end of the Egyptian empire.