Sebekneferw Sebekkara, Woman-Pharaoh

Golovina Vera A.

The basic mythological model of royal power in Egypt, constantly realized both verbally and visually, did not imply a feminine figure of queen. From the very beginning of its history, the king of Ancient Egypt was conceived as an earthly (human) manifestation of Hor-Falkon, one of the oldest Egyptian deities. In the early dynastic period Hor-Falkon was worshipped as the supreme solar and cosmic deity, and later on (after the development of new «solar theology») as the son and heir of Re, who had taken dominating position in the Egyptian pantheon. Thus, the ruling king, whatever his real descent might have been, was always an embodiment of a formidable and militant (which is usual for archaic cultures) masculine deity: either of the lord of daytime sky, or of Re’s son, «the younger Sun». When a woman ascended the Egyptian throne (which was always due to some exceptional circumstances), the traditional order, sanctioned by the myth, seemed disturbed. Beside the usual ideological tasks (to present the king’s power as such, to demonstrate properly successfulness of the reign or, on the contrary, to explain away the calamities), a new problem had to be solved in such a case: mutual adaptation of the mythological model and the historical reality that contradicted it. The sources referring to the rule of woman-pharaoh Sebekneferw show us the earliest and the most striking instance of how a standard ideological programme could be realized in extraordinary circumstances. Aimed, as usual, at the legitimating of the power, this programme had then to cope with the necessity of correcting verbal and visual forms (i.e. titles and images) traditionally representing king’s power in Egypt in accordance with the actual sex of the ruler. The process combined two apparently incompatible trends: feminisation of the traditional titles and masculinisation of her visual representation. From this point of view Sebeknefery can be seen as a precursor of and a model for another great woman-pharaoh of Egypt, Hatshepswt. In spite of Hatshepswt’s efforts to emphasise the uniqueness of her rule, enthronement, etc., her own story was undoubtedly partly borrowed from the XII dynasty, namely from Sebekneferw.

Keywords: Ancient Egypt, Sebekneferw, woman-pharaoh