on 27 March 2015
This is another well-presented Thames & Hudson volume that will take its place alongside the well-established Clayton and Tyldesley Chronicles, this time putting the role of Pharaoh centre-stage and claiming to be the first book to explore what it was actually like to be king in ancient Egypt.
Beginning with an introductory chapter covering the concept of pharaonic kingship, and a summary of dynastic history from 3100BC up to the end of the Late Period c. 332BC (the ‘Last Pharaohs’ are given their own chapter at the end of the book), we follow in the footsteps of Pharaoh.
Themed chapters explore life as a royal heir, a pharaoh’s daily events and activities (including waking and dressing, morning audiences, rituals and festivals, banquets and sports), life on military campaign, the royal cities, and death and burial. Every action of the king, no matter how mundane, was an important ritual organised by high officials such as the “Overseer of every royal breakfast”. These men would preside over the daily ceremonies, beginning with a procession out of the royal bedroom to the private bathroom for a shower, followed by manicure, shaving, moisturising and anointing.
There are some assumptions made, possibly to aid the flow of the narrative, for example that the queen who wrote to the Hittites asking for a prince to marry was Ankhesenamun, and that this prince was murdered en route, but elsewhere uncertainties are alluded to, as in the case of Tutankhamun’s death, which is “perhaps” the result of malaria and an infected leg. The final chapter ends with Diocletian, a discussion over whether or not he can be considered the last pharaoh, and how in spite of his persecution of the Christians, the Coptic calendar continues his regnal years to this day.
A useful “Brief Lives” chronology at the end of the book is followed by chapter-by-chapter further reading suggestions; there are feature boxes throughout highlighting topics such as “Queens as Kings”, pyramid decoration and burial equipment, and plenty of colour photographs and illustrations. Overall this is a great introduction to the history of dynastic Egypt, explored through the life of Pharaoh, Lord of the Two Lands.
Review by ancientegyptmagazine dot com