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Monday, January 11, 2010
Hatshepsut's Love Life
In celebration of my 100th post, I'm writing about one of my favorite historical characters. I'm a hopeless romantic (anyone whose favorite movies include Gone With the Wind and The English Patient would have to be) so I love the story of Hatshepsut and Senenmut.
Senenmut was to Hatshepsut what Robert Dudley was to Queen Elizabeth. Except in my version I've nixed the whole messy treason bit.
Senenmut was born to a somewhat humble family and rose from the dirt of Iuny to become the most titled man in Egypt under Hatshepsut's rule. At the time, most sons took up the profession of their fathers (women remained relegated to the kitchens, barefoot and pregnant) and Senenmut was a literate administrator. Under Hatshepsut he acquired roughly 80 titles including Steward of the Estates of Amun, Overseer of Amun's Storehouses, and Superintendent of the Royal Bedroom.
Can you see where the speculation regarding Hatshepsut and Senenmut's romantic entanglements may have come from? Superintendent of the Royal Bedroom?
There is actually a tomb graffito from Hatshepsut's time period depicting a female Pharaoh in a rather compromising position with a male advisor- one usually interpreted to be Senenmut. He was also depicted in Hatshepsut's sacred temple at Deir el-Bahri, a privilege reserved only for the gods and royal family. This guy had some serious clout.
Now I don't subscribe to the idea that women need a strong man behind them to rule, but I can't help but get all giddy at the idea of Hatshepsut finding true love in addition to being the coolest woman in history. She married her brother around the age of 14- a man generally accepted by historians to have been a pretty lame ruler- so it's not like she had much of a choice regarding her love life until the brother dies a few years later.
Senenmut disappears from the historical record years before Hatshepsut dies, but no one is sure of the reason. Sadly, years after Hatshepsut's death both her and Senenmut's monuments were destroyed by her stepson and heir. Scholars used to think this was an act of revenge against the evil, usurping female Pharaoh, but now agree that it was an attempt to clear the way for future successions and wipe an aberration from the historical record- a woman ruling Egypt.
I think the gal deserved some happiness. And I like to think that she found some with Senenmut.