Key Figures of Ancient Egypt

Key Figures of Ancient Egypt

Due to the limited nature of the information we have about ancient Egypt, the historical figures that we call key is a more limited group than it would be in contemporary times. The article explores three groups of key figures: those involved in developing the form of the pyramid, famous Egyptian rulers, and important non-Egyptian rulers.


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Anthropology, Archaeology, Geography, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations

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Can you name 10 important people in America today? They might include a lawmaker or a singer. You might also know of a scientist or a writer. People in such jobs help the country in important ways.

Naming people in ancient Egypt is harder, though. The Egyptians wrote down some of their history. Most records only name rulers, though. These rulers were often called pharaohs. Egypt's early rulers were not pharaohs. Many important people in ancient Egypt are not known to us. Many records about them have been lost.

Pyramid Builders Make Their Mark

One nonruler was Imhotep, an architect who lived about 5,000 years ago. This period was during Egypt's Old Kingdom. It lasted from about 2700 to 2100 B.C.E. Imhotep was the architect of King Djoser.

Imhotep built the Step Pyramid. It has six layers or steps. Experts think of it as an important first step in building Egypt's pyramids. Egypt is famous for these structures.

Egyptian leaders worked to build better pyramids, including Khufu. Khufu was king from about 2580 to 2565 B.C.E. He is responsible for building the Great Pyramid at Giza. More than 147 meters (480 feet) tall, this pyramid is one of the most famous structures ever built. It was the tallest structure in the world for thousands of years.

Famous Rulers Of Egypt

Egypt's New Kingdom began about 3,700 years ago. It lasted from 1560 to 1070 B.C.E.

Hatshepsut ruled from 1473 to 1458 B.C.E. She began as a queen who was married to Pharaoh Thutmose II. She later became pharaoh herself. She was Egypt's first woman ruler.

After Hatshepsut died, her stepson took the throne. His name was Thutmose III. He tried to erase proof of his stepmother's rule. It seems he wanted to keep the tradition that only men could be pharaohs. Egypt became very powerful during his rule. It controlled many of the lands around it, including parts of Syria in and Nubia. Syria is in West Asia. Nubia is in East Africa.

About 100 years later Amenhotep IV became pharaoh. He tried to force major changes to Egypt's religion. He said people should not worship their old gods. He told them to worship the sun god, Aten. Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten. After he died, though, Egyptians went back to worshipping their old gods.

Non-Egyptian Rulers Stake Their Claim

Rulers of other lands also conquered ancient Egypt. They then became pharaohs. Cambyses II was a king of the Persian Empire. An empire is made up of different kingdoms controlled by one leader. Cambyses II conquered Egypt in 525 B.C.E. He was later followed by the Macedonian king Alexander the Great. Alexander had conquered Persia and other lands. Egypt surrendered to him and he became its ruler.

Cleopatra VII was also a famous ruler. She led Egypt from 51 to 30 B.C.E. Egypt was then conquered by the Romans. It became part of the Roman Empire. Ancient Egypt was no longer an independent kingdom.

Media Credits

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Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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