Thutmose II: The Puppet-Man Behind the Great Woman

THUTMOSE II (Aa-Jeper-en Ra Dyehut-Mose) is a pretty unknown figure within the history of Ancient Egypt. He was the fourth monarch of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, son of Thutmose I, father of Thutmose III, and married to Hatshepsut. With this family history, it is easy to fall into oblivion, although truth be told, it seems nothing particularly relevant happened during his reign.

Apparently he reigned at some point between 1493 and 1479 BC. I say apparently because most of the Egyptologists and other experts of the subject do not seem to have a quorum about the length of his rule. Due to the “nothingness” of events while he was in power it has been suggested that his reign was actually a quite short one, some even dare to say that it might have lasted barely three or four years.

More mystery is added to this figure in relation to his burial. Thutmose II’s mummy was found in 1881 in Deir el-Bahri Cache, on top of the Hatsepsut´s mausoleum. Nonetheless, it was something strange was the corpse was found amongst the remains of other Egyptian rulers from the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite the proper identification of the mummy is still in process, it is displayed in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo as Thutmose II.

Although dealing with such a character is fairly difficult due to the gaps that still need to be filled, there are certain things that are known about him. For example, it is a reasonable argument to say that he married Hatshepsut in order to secure his succession. He was one of the sons that Thutmose I had with a secondary wife, and despite his elder brothers (Wadjmose and Amenmose) had died, he still needed to ensure his position. Thus getting married with his royal half-sister seemed like a smooth enough move. As Pharaoh he put down a rebellion in the area of Nubia, and fought against a group of Bedouin nomads in the Palestine. However, it seems that all the measures taken during his rule, and all the policies developed were not his own ideas.

It has been argued for a long time that it was indeed Hatshepsut the one pulling the strings throughout his whole reign. Some experts justify this argument by saying that the agenda was if not the same, very similar to the one she developed as regent. There may be room to think this was the case. Maybe, the reason why Thutmose II named as his heir the child he had with a harem girl called Iset, had something to do with the more than ambitious character of his wife. Perhaps he was conscious of his role as puppet king and tried to do something about it by securing an heir from a different relationship…Even though, his plan did not work.

One could even argue that there was a reason for his wife being so manipulative. Recent studies suggest that the man had a very weak constitution. In fact there have been discovered several marks of violent disease all around his body: cysts of unknown origin have been recognised along the mummy’s back, waist, arms and legs, as well as various scars that are fairly long. It is unlikely this was a hereditary disease; however, it appears to be a quite common thing amongst other corpses from this period. In an ill court, with a weak ruler and a realm in crisis, the strongest mind takes power. In the end someone “has to do it” and perhaps it was Hatsepsut the only one able to do so.

Finally, I think it is worthy to be mentioned that some structures remain from Thutmose II’s legacy. His name is inscribed in ruins within the area of Elephantine, in a Copt temple and a statue of Karnak, which suggest they were likely erected during his reign. In addition he is mentioned in different biographies of his contemporaries: Ahmose Paennejeb, Ineni, and Neb-Amon.

This is the sad story of a forgotten Pharaoh whose real history is yet to be discovered.

If you are interested in knowing more about him and his dynasty in general I recommend the following:
A.P.Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-by-Reign of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt) (London, 1994)

N.Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt (Woodbridge, 1988)

A.Dodson, Monarchs of the Nile (Norwich, 1995)

I. Shawn, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford, 2000)

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