Top 10 Greatest Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt

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Ancient Egypt. A civilization divided into thirty-one pharaonic dynasties that ruled for almost 30 centuries from 3100 B.C (although settlements date back a staggering 10,000 years if we’re talking about pre-dynastic history), to its end with the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BCE, is one of the most fascinating and technologically advanced of all the ancient civilizations.

Excelling in fabulous art and unparalleled architecture and construction there are still many secrets left hidden in the the dunes of the Great Sand Sea and Valley of the Kings to be discovered and with Its influence on popular culture and in inspiring generations of archeologists and historians, the ancient Egyptians remain as enigmatic as ever.

But who were the great kings that ruled over this vast, ancient, North African civilization?

The Pharaohs, of which around 170 ruled Egypt, were the religious and political leaders and held the titles: ‘Lord of the Two Lands’ and ‘High Priest of Every Temple,” the two lands referencing upper and lower Egypt, the unification of both being the start of the pharaonic rule.

Sat on their thrones with the white crown representing upper egypt, the red crown representing lower egypt and holding the crook and flail the Pharaoh was the divine presence on Earth, the representative of the Gods of which they claimed to be descended from. With this came absolute power and no earthly equal could question them. Pharaoh literally means “Great House” and many  ruled over the northern lands of The Nile.

Pharaohs came to power usually through birthright but conquest was always an option. The political intrigue of ancient Egypt would have made G.R.R Martin blush.

Now, let’s look at 10 of the Greatest Pharaohs. The reasons for their fame and inclusion varies but here is our countdown:

 

1.

Menes (Narmer): 

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Fittingly we start with Menes who is widely accepted as the first Dynastic Pharaoh of Egypt unifying the upper and lower kingdoms into one. There is still debate amongst Egyptologists as to his identity and many consider Narmer and Menes to be the same person. Following the Protodynastic kings Scorpion and/or Ka he is credited as the first pharaoh of the first Dynasty.

Little is known of his life and many myths, most anachronistic, exist about him. From inventing writing to riding to safety across Lake Moeris on the back of a crocodile to escape his hunting dogs after they set on him to the account of his long reign of 62 years old ending with his death by an unfortunate run in with a hippopotamus the legends and truth are hard to separate. The consensus is far from agreed upon leaving a lot of uncertainties about the founding of ancient Egypt but we’re claiming him as the first and as such first on our list.

 

  2Khufu

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Known better by his hellenized name of Khêops (Cheops) he was a fourth Dynasty Pharaoh. The length of his reign is disputed, as are many things when dealing with ancient Egypt, but was probably around 23 years at around 2500 years B.C. Khufu’s claim to fame comes from his building of the majestic Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the seven wonders of the world and the only one left in tact to this day.

The oldest and largest of the three great pyramids and standing 481 feet high upon its completion it was cased in white highly polished limestone and probably capped with an ornate top. The existence and whereabouts of this capstone today being unknown. The pyramid would have looked very different in its time to how it looks now. Gleaming brilliantly in the hot sun it would have been visible in its imposing and beautiful splendor for miles around cementing Khufu’s wealth and absolute power.

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Khufu is not done there though. Well, we assume so anyway. Again, this is still disputed but the order to build the Sphinx, the great recumbent Lion with the face of a man decorated with a royal Nemes-headdress stood guard at the entrance to Khufu’s necropolis is also credited with him or one of his issue, namely his elder son Djedefra or his younger son Khaefra.

Giza, Egypt --- Twilight at Sphinx --- Image by © Jim Zuckerman/Corbis
Giza, Egypt — Twilight at Sphinx — Image by © Jim Zuckerman/Corbis

 

And if all of that isn’t enough to immortalize this great and powerful Pharaoh he even has a potentially hazardous close-to-orbit asteroid bearing his name: 3362 Khufu.

 

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