Famous Pharaohs

Akhenaton and NefertitiAkhenaton - was pharaoh of Egypt from about 1350 to 1334 BC, and husband of Nefertiti who was known for her beauty.. Akhenaton was the last important ruler of the 18th dynasty and he substituted a religion based on one god. He established the cult of Aton, the sun god, the sole creator of the Universe. Akhenaton was originally called Amenhotep but changed his name Akhenaton meaning "Aton is satisfied". He moved his capital from Thebes to Akhenaton, a new city devoted to the celebration of Aton he ordered the obliteration of all traces of the polytheistic religion (belief in many gods) of his ancestors. He also fought bitterly against the powerful priests who attempted to maintain the worship of the state god Amen. Even the work of artists changed to much more realistic statues and pictures.

After the death of Akhenaton his son-in-law Tutankhamen moved the capital back to Thebes and restored the old polytheistic religion.

Tutankhamen - was the son-in-law of Akhenaton. He became pharaoh at about 9 years of age. His uncle Ay, who probably had something to do with the sudden and mysterious death of Akhenaton, was the highest minister and he ruled Egypt for Tutankhamen while he was a boy. Tutankhamen was married to Ankhsenoomun. He was only 18 when he died and he may have been murdered by Ay who probably did not want to lose power. Ay married Tutankhamen's widow, even though he was her grandfather, in order to help retain power. The reason that Tutankhamen is so well known today is that his tomb, containing fabulous treasures, was found early this century (1922) by British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Caernarvon.

Cleopatra VII - ascended to the Egyptian throne when she was only 17. She died at the age of 39 and was the last pharaoh. Cleopatra was Greek. She was the last of the Ptolemy dynasty who were of Macedonian (Greece) descent. The demise of the Ptolemies power coincided with the rise of The Roman Empire's power. Having little choice, and seeing city after city falling into Rome's grip, the Ptolemies decided to ally with the Romans, a pact that lasted for 2 centuries. During the reign of the late Ptolemies Rome gained more and more power over Egypt and was even declared guardian of the Ptolemeic dynasty. Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII, had to pay tribute to the Romans to keep them away from his kingdom. Upon his death the fall of the dynasty seemed even closer. Cleopatra not only had to contend with the Romans but her her younger brother also wanted the throne. To try and hold power she had a strong friendship with Julius Caesar and with Mark Antony, Roman leaders of invasion armies. Mark Antony's wife Octavia was very angry that her husband had abandoned her so her brother Octavian set off from Rome to defeat Antony and Cleopatra. He did this at Alexandria and Mark Antony, who was dying from his wounds, asked to be taken to Cleopatra. He died in her arms and was buried as a king. Cleopatra was captured and she decided to kill herself. It is said that she used a poisonous snake called an asp. With the death of Cleopatra a whole era in Egyptian history was closed.

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