Though ancient Egypt is known for its magnificent Pyramids, enduring Sphinx and mighty Pharaohs, less attention is given to the female monarchs of that time, unless they were Cleopatra or Nefertiti.
Yet the Queens of Egypt were a powerful force on their own right, even as wives to the Pharaohs, with their own enduring legacies; some of them have even ruled without a man by their side.
As we celebrate Egyptian Women Day every year on March 16, here is a look at some of these powerful women from the past;
1-Queen Merneith (2920 BCE)
Little is known of Queen Merneith, with scholars unsure if she actually ruled during Egypt's First Dynasty (2920 BCE). There are little records of her name in any tombs, yet she is still believed to have been a figure of great power in her life, and the earliest woman to rule Egypt as she was buried alongside 50 servants. Her son, 'Den', was too young to rule Egypt, and so it is believed that Merneith ruled in his stead.
2-Queen Sobekneferu (1806-1802 BCE)
Also spelled Neferusobek, Queen Sobekneferu rose to power after the death of her brother (and husband) Amenemhat IV, leaving a vacancy in the throne she filled efficiently. She was the 8th Ruler of Egypt's 12th Dynasty, and ruled for nearly 4 years. Though missing her head, the Queen's statues showed that she appeared to combine masculine and feminine aspects, and is believed to have used male names and headdresses while wearing female dresses alongside a male kilt.
3-Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE)
Queen Hatshepsut ruled with all the power and authority of a male pharaoh, ruling Egypt for 21 years and having the longest reign of any female ruler in Egypt. During the 7th year of her reign, Hatshepsut went even further and asked to be depicted as a man, wearing a false beard and ordering to be referred to not as a queen, but as a king. Her reign was peaceful, a time when many monuments were erected, however after her death her successor, possibly even her own stepson Thutmose III, attempted to erase all records of her, an effort that proved ultimately futile, for Hatshepsut is still remembered to this day, having defied the tradition that Egypt would have no female Pharaoh.
4-Queen Nefertiti (1370 – 1330 BCE)
Known as one of Egypt's most beautiful rulers, still inspiring cosmetics to this day, Queen Nefertiti was as beautiful as she was mysterious; no one even knows for certain where she came from. She was wife to Pharaoh Akhenaten and bore him six daughters, and was a key part of his cult of Aten, which worshipped the sun as a divine being and shunned all other gods. Nefertiti was hailed for her beauty, with some scholars believing she may have been revered as a fertility goddess.
5-Queen Cleopatra (69 – 30 BCE)
So much already has been written about Cleopatra, one of the most famous Egyptian figures and indeed, one of the most famous historical persons of all time. Countless books, paintings, plays (including one by Shakespeare) and movies have been made depicting her life as ruler and her tragic love affair with Roman politician Mark Antony.
Born in 69 BCE, Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator was bred to be a ruler, having come from a long line of royalty. Outlasting her two older sisters to succeed her father as ruler of Egypt's Ptolemaic Empire, Cleopatra's reign was marked by intrigue and tragedy, ultimately cumulating in her iconic suicide at just 39 years old.