Thutmosis III (1490/68-1436 B.C.) was one of the most important kings in the history of Egypt. He was the son of Thutmosis II and his second wife Isis. His father died when he was a child, and for this reason, Hatshepsut, the half sister and Great Wife of Thutmosis II (therefore both step mother and aunt to Thutmosis III), became first regent.
After appointing herself king, Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for many years. We know very little about the prince during these years. It is however known that he commanded troops against a rebel uprising towards the end of Hatshepsut’s reign.
After the death of Hatshepsut, the newly crowned Pharaoh commanded the army to slay the Asiatic forces in the strategic city of Megiddo. He achieved a great victory at Megiddo, and embarked upon an extensive series of conquests; consisting of sixteen campaigns, divided into four phases:
- The conquest of the coastal cities of Syria and Palestine, and consolidation of their positions
- The conquest of the city of Qadesh, the Prince of Qadesh being one of the most infamous enemies of Egypt
- To attack the kingdom of Mitanni, the other superpower of the period, across the Euphrates.
- To pursue aggression against the borders of Syria and subsequent defence of these borders in the face of retaliation or attacks from the kingdom of Mitanni.
At the same time, the Pharaoh extended Egypt’s borders to the fourth cataract of the Nile. His objective was to maintain these vast territories, not only by military force, but also by special attention to diplomacy and administration:
- Thutmosis placed his son as governor of the Nubian territories. This was intended to increase his authority in the territories, which were divided into two provinces: Nubia and Kush. Thutmosis stationed troops to ensure military control over the river systems and strategic posts in the desert. This enabled the continued shipment of gold and exotic products from Central Africa back to Egypt.
- In parallel with the Nubian strategy, the Asiatic territories were sub-divided into three provinces: Amurru, Canaan and Upe. Each province was ruled by a governor who imposed Egyptian rule by the garrisoning of strategic posts. The governor’s most important function was to keep records of the tributes owed to Egypt, while other more mundane responsibilities were left to the local sheiks. The first appointed governor of the Asiatic provinces was the general Djehuty, a man trusted by the Pharaoh, who went on to become a legendary figure in later periods.
Foreign governors were obliged to send their sons to the Egyptian court to receive an Egyptian education. The sons would also serve as hostages, to guarantee their parents would not disobey the pharaoh’s orders.
Domestic politics at this time witnessed the division of Egypt into two great administrative districts: the North Country, from the Delta to Asyut; and the South Country from Asyut to Elephantine. The Vizier was in charge of day-to-day administration of the districts. He was the executive chief of the Royal House, and his word was considered the word of the Pharaoh.
Thutmosis III had two Great Wives: Satiah and Merytre Hatshepsut. He also had a series of lesser wives of Asiatic origin: Menhet, Menui and Merti. The heir to the throne, Prince Amenophis, was the son of Merytre.
The large amount of tribute flowing into Egypt annually during this period was a consequence of the Pharaohs successful military campaigns and governance of external territories. This, coupled with the long reign of Thutmosis III, ensured an extensive period of monument building. The most notable of these is at Karnak, being the Akh Menu and the Seventh Pylon. To the West of Thebes, the temples of Djéser akhet (Thutmosis III Temple) in Deir-el-Bahari and Djéser set (Medinet Habu Temple), along with the Temple of a Million Years, were constructed. It is possible to deduce from inscriptions that significant temples were also built at Buto, Heliopolis, Armant, El Kab, Elephantine, Amada and Semna.
The Tomb of Thutmosis III in the Valley of the Kings provides an invaluable insight into contemporary Egyptian religious principles. The walls of his ante-chamber are inscribed with a catalogue of divinities written in cursive text. The Funerary Chamber displays a complete version of the Amduat in cartouche form.
Thutmosis III was not just a political and military man engaged in expanding Egypt’s boundaries and building monuments, he also looked to record his place in history. Legitimacy of rule and family were very important to him. There is evidence that he recorded the memories of his father Thutmosis II, his grandfather Thutmosis I and those of Sesostris III, the pharaoh responsible for extending Egypt’s borders into Nubia. This culminated in the writing of a Kings List, laying down the pharaonic succession
Thutmosis III also had a special interest in botany and zoology. This is evident from the reliefs of the “so-called” botanic gardens at Karnak, which depicts the plants and animals brought to Egypt from a variety of foreign countries.
The memory of Thutmosis III lived on well after his death. Pharaoh Sety I, father of the famous Ramses II, successfully followed the strategic military and administrative phases developed by Thutmosis III. Centuries later, elaborate scarabs with his throne name, ‘Men-kheper-Re’, continued to be produced.