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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.


Susan R. Mills said...

Well, congrats on the 100th post. And, as far as I'm concerned, all of us gals deserve some happiness. I hope she did find it with Senenmut. (How do you pronounce that by the way?)

ann foxlee said...

Good job on 100 posts!
And I just HAD to follow your blog-- I have very fond memories of a college art history professor's lecture about Hatshepsut's funerary complex.
Mostly she just had a strange voice that made it easy to remember things she said. 18 years(!) later I can still repeat it by heart :-)

Can't wait to read the book when it's done!

Amalia T. said...

Congratulations on hitting 100!

I hope that Hatshepsut found love, too. :)

Could it be possible that it was destroyed by her step-son to allow his succession directly from his father and grandfather-- that is, to avoid any issues of legitimacy from her own "line" ? Or did she not have any children of her own at all to threaten him?

Gary Corby said...

Congrats on 100 posts!

Lots of interesting speculation on Senenmut.

Jemi Fraser said...

Woohoo! 100 posts :)

What a great story! Lots of intrigue & mystery!

Michele Emrath said...

Congratulstions on 100 posts! And thank you for celelbrating by sharing your passion with us. I've been hoping we'd get more Hatshepsut soon. You have made me realize how fascinating she is.

It's my understanding that it was pretty common for one ruler to wipe out records of the previous ruler - is that yours as well? Makes sense in a primitive way.

So where do we read this book of yours?


Guinevere said...

Cute post! I like the idea that she found love, too.

Matthew Delman said...

"Superintendent of the Royal Bedroom" ... *snort* So that's what they called it in those days, huh? *wink wink nudge nudge*

But seriously ... congratulations on 100 posts and it's tre awesome that Hatshepsut found time to be a woman in among being a powerful ruler.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This is such an epic story. I can see why you've been fascinated by it, and the more tidbits you share, the more I can't wait for it to be published.
So was Superintendent of the Royal Bedroom a position new to Hatshepsut's reign? Are there records of the duties? How very convenient.
The scary part of being consort to a monarch, of course, is the absolute power they wield.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Congrats on 100 posts! Hatshepsut's story has me intrigued. Happiness and power - heady stuff! :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Susan- Use the soft sounds for all the vowels- Sen-en-mut, like mut the dog. If I ever have a time machine I'm going back to Egypt to simplify their names.

Ann- I'm glad you found me! It's rare to find people who have even heard of Hatshepsut. I'm on a mission to change that!

Amalia- As far as we know, Hatshepsut didn't have any surviving kiddos. Historians used to think a princess named Meryre-Hatshepsut was her daughter, but they've since decided that wasn't the case.

Gary & Jemi- Thanks! It's one of those mysteries that's always intrigued me.

Michele- It was fairly common. The Egyptians especially liked to reuse monuments and funerary objects from other Pharaohs. But few were systematically targeted to erase memory of their entire reign- Hatshepsut, Akhenaten.

Guinevere- Me too!

Matt- Historians think it was an honorary title, not one that was actually put to use. There were several other goofy titles- I might have to do a post on Egyptian titles.

Tricia- No records of the duties, but who knows. :)

Deb- I'm glad you're intrigued. Hatshepsut is just awesome!

Tamika: said...

Stephanie, congratulations on a 100 posts!

History is truly rich with stories and secrets waiting to be discovered!

Bane of Anubis said...

Congrats on 100 -- almost a follower per post... impressive. Thanks for sharing all the Egypt lore - it's absolutely fascinating.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Tamika- That's why I love to teach it!

Bane- Yep, I hope to see 100 followers in a couple weeks or so!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is a great story, Stephanie. I'm so glad you shared this with us. :)

Debra Giuffrida said...

Steph ~
You could always call him "Brother of Mut" which is how it translates out... but like our names that "mean something" in other languages I don't think they called each other Brother of Mut or Glory of Amun or Beautiful Woman has Come. So jump in that time machine, baby, and change away!
Conrats on 100 posts!

Voidwalker said...

I'd like some clarification. Is your novel, historical fiction or is it a historical narative based on the real events?

Steph Damore said...

Congrats on the 100th post. Don't you just love how many people want to read your book? Count me among them!

L. T. Host said...

Yay 100!!!

I SWEAR I will read it this week. Not that my swears to get anything done mean a lot these days, but I am really wanting to!

Lorel Clayton said...

Congrats on 100 posts! I like a good love story too, and The English Patient is one of my favs. I hope I'll be able to read your book someday? I'd like to see if you gave Senenmut and Hatshepsut a happy or tragic ending.

Amalia T. said...

P.S. I have something for you on my blog :)

Natalie said...

I think so too! I already love Hatshepsut, just from reading about her on your blog.

Natalie said...

I hope so too! I already love Hatshepsut, just from reading about her on your blog.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Shannon- I'm just glad people enjoy these history posts. I don't want to bore everyone!

Debra- I've alluded to the meaning of a few people's names in my two Egyptian books, but it's awkward to call them by the meaning. Silly Egyptians and their tongue twister names!

Voidwalker- It's historical fiction, but I've done my best to stick to known history. That's fairly easy considering there are big holes in the historical record.

Steph- I do love it! I love it, love it, love it!

L.T.- I hope you get a chance to read it. I definitely want your feedback. But I know life gets busy- curse life! :)

Lorel- I hope you get to read it too! The ending changed a couple times so we'll see where it stands if it ever gets published. *fingers crossed*

Natalie- Yay! That's my goal- spreading the Hatshepsut love!

Amalia- Awwww... Thanks!