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Amen-Ra, "King of the Gods,” “Lord of the thrones of the World."
From this sun-god, under his varying forms, the kings of Egypt, beginning with the IVth dynasty, claimed a literal descent; and soon added to their other titles that of “ Son of Ra.”
By the XVIIIth dynasty, this belief in the “divine right of kings” had taken so firm a hold on the Egyptian imagination as to become the fundamental idea on which the succession was based; the holders of the crown claiming descent from a royal line which had as its progenitor Amen-Ra himself.
Sometimes a direct heir of this god-like line was wanting, in which case the father-god did not disdain to purify the “Solar race" on earth, by becoming incarnated in mortal form and creating a new heir to the crown. If a foreigner or person not of the royal house gained possession of the throne, it was probably necessary for him to marry a princess of the “Solar blood,” in order to secure the divine right to his children.
Under these circumstances a royal daughter of Ra, whose birthright entitled her to the sovereignty of Egypt, was the most desirable spouse for the king. Marriages with other princely houses were, nevertheless, frequently contracted by the Pharaohs. In such cases, if the king's own descent was entirely pure, the marriage of his son with
“Solar” princess would re-establish the succession on its old basis.
In the XVIIIth dynasty, and possibly earlier, the idea of preserving the purity of the “Solar race" seems to have become of supreme importance. Intermarriages with other houses introduced an alien strain into the divine one, and the simplest way to keep the line pure was for the children of Ra to marry one another. Marriages between brothers and sisters, therefore, became the lawful and established custom.
If the sovereigns were of equal rank, that is, when both were the children of a full brother and sister, it is possible that the man's rights were superior to those of the woman; in other cases he assumed the government by virtue of his wife's right. The sovereign's eldest son was often associated with him in the government, and married to the next heiress while very young.
Belief in the divine descent seems never to have lost its hold on the Egyptian mind. In later times, when the “Solar line" became hopelessly involved by the rapidly changing dynasties of foreign kings and conquerors, a convenient arrangement was made by which a king could take an “official wife" from among the princesses belonging to the so-called "Harem of Amen,” and by this nominal connection make good his claims through the supposed rights of the wife.
The records of woman's rule in Egypt begin very early, It is said that her right to be an independent reigning sovereign was legalized by Ba-en-neter,' a king of the IInd dynasty of Egyptian monarchs, dating about 4000 B.C. Ba-en-neter had, perhaps, no son to succeed him, and so framed the law which secured the active government to his daughters. No record remains, however, of the independent reign of a woman until a thousand years after its legalization.
The proofs of the importance and regal condition of these queens of old are found throughout Egypt on temple walls and sculptured tombs; on burial stelæ and papyrus records ; in the magnificence of their sarcophagi, coffins and jewels; and in the stately worship which followed them into the tomb and placed their spirits by the side of the gods in reverence and devotion.
Throughout the vast records of Egypt's past, there sounds a never-ending echo of high titles recalling a line of princesses who were : “Royal Heiress," "Royal Spouse,”
Manetho-Cory's Fragments, p. 98.
“ Divine Mother," " Lady of the North and South,” “Great Mistress of the two Lands," "Ruler of all Women,” “The Consort of the gods,” “ The Great Consort of the King." The obscuring mists of time have blotted out the greater number of these queenly personalities, and for the first thousand years of Egyptian history it is only here and there that a solitary name breaks for an instant through the darkness of the ages, and recalls some long-forgotten queen.
The first one of these faint shadows to appear heralding the ghostly line is found on the very border-land of history, that dim period of the past which connects fabled ages with the actual Ist dynasty of Egyptian kings, at a date some time before 4000 B.C.'
NEITH-HETEP, “ Princess of the Saïte Kingdom.”
This queen appears to have been the mother of Mena, first historic king of Egypt.
For many years the name of Mena was the first in the annals of Egyptian history. The unknown period which preceded him was speculative and mysterious, filled by Herodotus and Manetho with fabulous dynasties of gods and demigods, or Horshemsu. The recent excavations of MM. de Morgan, Amélineau, Petrie and others have, however, widely extended the horizon of Egyptian history. The period thus brought to light is now known as “predynastic,” and it may be that in the kings belonging to this time, we have the actual representatives of the
· The reasons for the impossibility of a fixed system of dating for early Egyptian history are clearly stated by BUDGE: Hist. Egypt, vol. I, pp. 146–161.
For histories of the Predynastic Period, the position of Women, etc., see MASPERO, Dawn of Civilization, pp. 3-344 ; PETRIE, Hist. Egypt, vol. I, 1-15; BRUGSCH, Egypt under the Pharaohs, 1-18; BUDGE, Hist. Egypt, vol. I; PETRIE, Nagada and Ballas ; WIEDEMANN, de MORGAN, JÉQUIER, FOUQUET, Les Origines de PEgypt, “ Tombeau Royale de Nagada"; DE MORGAN, Ethnographie Prehistorique ; AMÉLINEAU, Les Nouvelles Fouilles d'Abydos.
mysterious Horshemsu, or followers of the god Horus, mentioned by Manetho.
Last of the predynastic monarchs was Narmar, a king of Upper Egypt, who was probably the father of Mena. Neith-Hetep was a daughter of the king of Lower Egypt. Her title defines her as a princess of the Saite Kingdom, the chief deity of which was the goddess Neith. She had also the title of the “Consort,” and was presumably the wife of Narmar. By this alliance the red and white crowns of the two countries were joined, and Mena, the son of Narmar and Neith-Hetep, inherited the double diadem which gave to his sovereignty the whole united kingdom.'
In a large tomb of twenty-one chambers found at Negada, by M. de Morgan, were several small bits of ivory which had been the labels attached to necklaces of the Queen Neith-Hetep. The necklaces had disappeared, but the ivory slips remained to tell of the number of stones composing the ornaments and to place their ownership,
One of the sealings also found in this tomb may admit of the reading “ Ba-Neith-Hetep," that is, “ The spirit of the Neith-Hetep." The tomb was at first supposed to belong to a king whose name was read Ahā; later, Herr Borchardt showed that Ahā was not another king, but the “ Horus-name" of Mena.
Mr. Petrie argues that the burial place of Mena was in the royal cemetery of Abydos, and that the great tomb at Negada in which Neith-Hetep's necklace labels were found was that of the Queen.
It must have been during the age in which NeithHetep lived that the Egyptian Empire was founded. The energies of her husband and son were concerned with those mighty enterprises which, according to Manetho and Herodotus, deflected the course of the Nile, reared great
NEWBERRY and GARSTANG, Hist. Egypt, 33, 34. · See de MORGAN, Recherches, II, fig. 559. • PETRIE, Royal Tombs, vol. II, 4.
Memphis on its banks, and established a religion. All the records of this age show evidence of a high state of civilization. The king " taught his people the adoration " of the gods and the manners of divine worship; how to " adorn their beds and tables with rich cloths and coverings, " and was the first that brought in a delicate and sumptuous way of living."
A time which left such legends as these to succeeding generations must have been one of luxury and splendour ; and it is reasonable to suppose that this long-forgotten queen in an almost mythical past held her court in the same regal state as that recorded of the later queenconsorts and mothers of the Pharaohs. Neith-Hetep does not appear to be the only queen of that far-away Ist dynasty who has left a trace upon the annals of the period. It is possible that she had a contemporary in
whose exact chronological position is doubtful. This queen is known only as the mother of a king Teta, possibly the same Teta who was son and successor of Mena. Manetho states that Teta was a physician and wrote certain essays on medicine ; and Queen Shesh seems to owe the immortalizing of her name to nothing more important than the receipt for a pomatum to make the hair grow. The Ebers Medical Papyrus states that such a pomatum was made for the mother of King Teta, presumably under the direction of her physician son. The ingredients of this lotion of six thousand years ago were, " the claw of a dog and the hoof of an ass, with some "dates, boiled together in oil."
If Teta was actually the son of Mena, then it is possible that his mother Shesh was the queen-consort of that king; but until some further evidence regarding her state is forthcoming from out the vast slowly-opening store-house
' DIODORUS, I, 45, Booth's translation. ? JOACHIM, Das aelteste Buch über Heilkunde, 106.