The Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for thousands of years, from about 3150 BCE to about 31 BCE. It was one of the most advanced in its time and to this day there is much that is unknown about the brilliant ideas of the ancient Egyptians. Their structures are some of the most incredible man-made wonders imaginable, and their culture was unique. One of the most fascinating elements of the ancient Egyptian culture is the people who ruled – the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Pharaohs were believed to be half-god, half-man, and they had enormous wealth and power, as seen in the historical finds of the last couple of centuries. The term Pharaoh itself is the Greek version of the Egyptian word pero or per-a-a, which represented the royal or Great House. Interestingly, the term wasn’t used until about 1200 BCE.

The Pharaoh was the most powerful and important person in the kingdom. He personally owned virtually everything, ruled over his people absolutely, and was high priest of each and every temple.

The pharaohs, being high priests, made daily offerings to the gods. Only kings and high-ranking priests could enter temples.

Pharaoh Hatshepsut with her “beard”

Pharaohs always had beards (even the women), but most of the time they weren’t real. The Egyptians believed that a beard connected the pharaoh to the gods.

Menes is believed to have been Egypt’s first pharaoh. He unified the Upper and Lower Kingdoms in 3150 B.C. and made his capital Memphis (Balance of Two Lands). He ruled for 60 years and was killed by a hippopotamus.

There were many cases where the title of Pharaoh passed to a very young boy upon his father’s death. In those cases, the late pharaoh’s wife would usually rule as regent. In a few cases, a woman took the title of regent and then named herself Pharaoh. Hatshepsut was the second female pharaoh (the first was Sobekneferu, at the end of the XII Dynasty) and Cleopatra was the last.

When a pharaoh came to power, it was common practice to begin work on their burial tomb immediately, as the process was a long one.

Most pharaohs had one key wife acknowledged as queen, but usually had many other wives as well.

Ramses II was a very busy man

Ramses II (1279-1212 B.C.) had 100 children. He never remembered their birthdays.

The oldest male child was automatically heir to the throne. This sometimes caused chaos within royal families as it encouraged people to murder the current heir so the next boy in line could become pharaoh.

Tutankhamen’s death was so sudden and unexpected that some of his tomb items are thought to have belonged to other kings.

The sun god Ra was believed to be the father of all pharaohs.

The last pharaoh of ancient Egypt was Cleopatra VII (51 BC to 30 BC).