Egypt Feature Story
The Kings (Pharaohs) of Ancient Egypt
by Jimmy Dunn
The title of “Pharaoh” actually comes to us from the Greek language and its use in the Old Testament. It originates in the Egyptian Per-aa, meaning “Great House”, a designation of the palace, which first came to be used as a label for the king around 1450 BC, though it only became common usage some centuries later. For most of the time, the usual word for the king of ancient Egypt was nesu, but a whole range of titles were applicable to any full statement of a king’s names and titulary.
According to Egyptian legend, the first kings of Egypt were later some of Egypt’s most famous gods. We really do not know whether some of these individuals actually existed in human form or what regions of Egypt they may have ruled over. Only at the end of the Predynastic period, prior to the unification of Egypt, can we recognize specific kings who most likely ruled over either northern or southern Egypt. According to many sources, the first real king of Egypt, therefore ruling over the unified land, was Menes, who would have ruled Egypt around 3100 BC, but we have little if any archaeological basis for this name. Most scholars today believe that he may have been a king named Narmer, or more likely still, Aha, two figures that are better attested in the archaeological record. However, Menes might have also been a legendary composition of several rulers. After these first rulers of a unified Egypt, the Egyptian monarchy lasted in a recognizable form for over three thousand years, basically ending with Cleopatra, though even Roman emperors attempted to style themselves as Egyptian pharaohs. We know of 170 or more specific pharaohs during this period of time. Although many changes occurred during that time, almost all of the fundamentals remained the same.
Kings were not only males, and unlike in modern monarchies, the ruler of ancient Egypt, whether male or female, was always called a king. In fact, Egypt.
Egypt Feature Story