The rulers of ancient Egypt, Pharaohs, were almost all men. The evidence for a few women Pharaohs is sketchy at best. Here is a list of the women most commonly thought to have served as Pharaoh, or to have assumed the power of the Pharaoh as a regent. I"ve put them in reverse chronological order, with the last Pharaoh of Egypt -- who was a woman -- first in the list. But don"t miss the rest at the end of the list.
Should we call them "Pharaohs"? It"s the common word we use for rulers in Egypt, though the word didn"t come into use until the 18th dynasty (so after most of these women, and most of the men we"ve called pharaohs, lived). The word probably derives from "great house" or the royal palace.
The last Pharaoh of Egypt, daughter of Ptolemy XII, Cleopatra VII became Pharaoh when she was about 17 years old. She had no son at the time; she married a much younger brother.
Cleopatra tried to keep Egypt"s independence during a time of Roman domination by allying herself romantically, matrimonially, and militarily with Roman commanders Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. She had a son, Caesarion, supposed to be fathered by Julius Caesar, for whom she was regent. When she died, Egypt"s rule passed into the hands of Rome.
The Ptolemies were descendents of a Macedonian general of Alexander"s army. During the Ptolemaic dynasty, several other women named Cleopatra and Berenice served as regents.
She was the consort of Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt. Her father was Antiochus II the Great, a Greek Seleucid king. Her mother was Princess Laodice of Pontus, a first cousin of Antiochus as daughter of his father"s sister, also named Laodice. Laodice"s father was Mithridates II of Pontus, an area in what is now Turkey which had been colonized in ancient times by Greeks, and which had become part of the Persian empire.
The marriage of Cleopatra I to Ptolemy V was part of a peace negotiation with her father. The Egyptians called her "the Syrian."
They were married in 193 BCE and, because the Ptolemy tradition was for the ruler to