How the early

How the early!

How the early, predynastic leadership of Egypt was developed is certainly debatable. However, many Egyptologists believe that the early chieftains gradually gained a sphere of influence because they knew how to harness the Nile River, and the fertility of the Nile Valley. Rather than being warier kings, they knew how to lead others in feeding their people.

Throughout Egypt's pharaonic history, the King of Egypt was thought to intercede with the gods to assure fertile Nile floods, and hence, food to feed the masses. This was one of the reasons that great temples were built, and the priesthood furnished with wealth.

When the Nile floods came up short, the king could also be blamed as well. But fertility stretched beyond Egypt's crops. At a time when the world's human population was small, and death at birth or early infancy was considerable, human fertility was also important, and it was most important for the Pharaoh, who needed to produce an heir to the throne of Egypt.

We believe that fully one third of all children did not live to reach their fifteenth year. Producing a crown prince was not always easy, even though the pharaohs often had numerous wives. The ladies of his harem who were expected to produce a future heir were often close family members, including even full sisters at times. Hence, a pharaoh who, even with the "assistance" of a number of queens, was prodigiously produced children, including a number of males, might be considerably proud of such a feat. Indeed, Ramesses II was such a pharaoh, and because of his long life, this was very lucky, because twelve of his oldest sons would die before their father.

In fact, because Ramesses II featured so many of his children in depictions and statuary, and the fact that we have considerable documentary evidence from this period, we learn much about the treatment and importance of royal children, at least during this period, some of which might seem surprising to us. For example, Ramesses II provided us with a number of processions of both sons and daughters (sometimes together), depicted on the walls of his monuments at such locations as Thebes (The Temple of Luxor and the Ramesseum) and Abu Simbel.

While Ramesses II may have had any number of other children by very minor consorts, those of his principle wives are ordered apparently by age, only, without regard to the importance of their mothers, with most probably even the children of minor wives following those of Nefertari and Iset-Nofret (his two principle wives). Indeed, the order of this list appears to have probably been the same as the line of succession (for the sons) so that those of Iset-Nofret bearing the same opportunities (given their birth order) as that of Nefertari, Ramesses II's actual chief wife.

Of course, it would eventually be Merenptah, a sone of Iset-Nofret, who would inherit the throne of Egypt. Perhaps even more interest, given this information, is Iset-Nofret's apparent lack of real importance to Ramesses II. Her image is infrequently depicted, and when it is, seems to have been the work of her famous son, Khaemwese rather than Ramesses II. Yet we find images and references to her daughter, particularly that of Bent'anta (Bintanath, Bint-Anath, Bintanat) who later became the first of Ramesses II's daughters that he married, which predate those of her mother.

In many cases, the princesses of consorts were given more importance then their mothers.