Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt: From Early Dynastic Times To The Death Of Cleopatra by Joyce Tyldesley: A Book Review

 Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt: from Early Dynastic Times to the Death of Cleopatra
 Author: Joyce Tyldesley
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Release Date: 2006
Pages: 224
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: This fascinating saga spans 3,000 years of Egyptian queenship from Early Dynastic times until the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 BC. Starting with the unique role of Egypt's women in the ancient world, the book goes on to present a biographical portrait of every queen, supplemented by a wealth of pictorial detail, datafiles, genealogical trees, timelines, and special features--from Childbirth to Wigs--highlighting different aspects of Egyptian culture.

     The queen of Egypt was, first and foremost, a supportive wife and mother, but in times of dynastic crisis she was expected to act as her husband's deputy. The queen might be required to marshal troops, or to rule on behalf of an infant son. She might even be called upon to rule in her own right in the absence of a suitable king. The female pharaohs Hatshepsut and Tawosret, the sun queens Tiy and Nefertiti, the beautiful Nefertari and Cleopatra: many of Egypt's queens have left an indelible mark on their country's history.


     And what of Egypt's lesser queens, the numerous wives and daughters maintained in pampered seclusion in the harem palaces? These anonymous women occasionally stepped from the security of the harem to influence the royal succession, and their stories, too, are told.


     Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt is both a popular history and a superb work of  reference that will appeal to travelers, museum visitors, and anyone intrigued by the life and times of the ancient Egyptians. 


     My Review: In Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt, Tyldesley's novel of the history of ancient Egypt is told from a different perspective, the queens of Egypt. The queens that have been shrouded in the background and eclipsed for centuries by their more-powerful and more-famous husbands, the pharaohs of Egypt, now take center stage in this biography. Spanning for 3,000 years of Egypt's history, Tyldesley's novel gives an intriguing biography of each queen.


     Among these amazing stories of these queens are the biographies of the famous women: Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Ankhesenamun (King Tut's wife), Nefertari, and Cleopatra VII (the last Egyptian pharaoh), and along with the other less well-known queen consorts. Each of these consorts were powerful in their own right and played a vital necessary role in serving the pharaoh, participating in both political and religious roles of ancient Egypt. Some of these queens had as much power as their husbands, were recognized as their equals, and ruled alongside as co-regents. Some of the queens were regents and female kings (some of them like Sobeknefru, Hatshepsut, and Tawosret were both). Some were the King's Mother, who was given more power and authority than a queen's consort.

     Tyldesley also gives the reader detailed information about the women of ancient Egypt for example, women's health and childbirth, women's hygiene, and hairdressing, and women in literature. She also talks about the religion of ancient Egypt, the roles of the Egyptian priestesses, and the roles of the female deities. She also mentions the obscure secondary wives of the pharaohs, wives who were not queen consorts. Unlike the hegemonic discourse of harem women sitting idly in the palace, these women actually had to work for their keep. Some of the harem queens became King Mothers (a title to given to mothers of the king). Tyldesley mentions one harem queen, Tiy, who plotted to kill her husband, Ramesses III, so her son could rule as Egypt's next king. The plan ultimately backfired, and Queen Tiy and her son were forced to commit suicide.

     Overall, Tyldesley's biography of each Egyptian queen is a fascinating and much needed account. The novel is written in a comprehensive style for the general reader. It is complete with timelines and genealogical trees that helps the reader understand and not get lost. It is filled with fascinating pictures of the archeological findings of the majority of the queens, for instance, some of the queens' jewelry, statues of the queens, pictures of their tombs, and even pictures of their mummies. The stories themselves are very easy to read and enjoyable. The reader will also gain an accessible, quick, and detailed account about the history of the Egyptian empire that spanned for 3,000 years. My only complaint about this book is that the names are hard to pronounce, and I wish that there was a pronunciation guide included. This novel is a tribute to not only the Egyptian queens but also to all women in Ancient Egypt.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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