The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Africa >> Egypt >> History

Queen of Egypt during the reign of Pharoah Akenhaten, 1353-1336 B.C.

contemporary statue of Nefertiti

Nothing about Nefertiti's early life is known for certain, with some historians saying she was the daughter of Ay, a royal advisor who would go on to become pharaoh after King Tut's death in 1323 B.C., and others saying she was a princess from another land, possibly Syria. The exact date when Nefertiti married Amenhotep III's son, the future pharaoh Amenhotep IV, is also unknown, but it is believed she was 15 when they wed, before her husband assumed the throne.

What is known is that Nefertiti was her husband's Great Royal Wife (favored consort) when he ascended the throne in Thebes as Amenhotep IV. It is also fairly certain that, instead of a marriage based on politics, theirs seems to have been based on true love, as the king and his head queen seem to be inseparable in reliefs, and are often shown riding in chariots together and even kissing in public. Evidence shows that six daughters were born to the marriage, and images exist of the pharaoh and his wife kissing and playing with their children.

During her marriage to Amenhotep, Queen Nefertiti stood with him at the head of the regime. Carved images on ancient temples even show her killing Egypt's enemies, a role previously only given to the pharaoh. In the fifth year of his reign, Amenhotep displaced Egypt's chief god Amon in favor of Aten, moved the capital north to Amarna, and changed his name to Akhenaten, with Nefertiti taking on the additional name "Neferneferuaten," meaning "Beautiful are the beauties of Aten, a Beautiful Woman has come." Nefertiti was a full participant in important religious ceremonies -- when Akenhaten appeared in public to make religious offerings to Aten, the sun god, Nefertiti performed them with him. And when Akenhaten ordered colossal statues of himself, he would order statues of equal size for his "Great Wife."

Despite her great power, Nefertiti disappears from all depictions after 12 years. The reason for her disappearance is unknown. Some scholars believe she died, while others speculate she was elevated to the status of co-regent, equal in power to the pharaoh, and began to dress herself as a man. Some say she became known as Pharaoh Smenkhkare, ruling Egypt after her husband’s death. Others suggest she was exiled when the worship of the deity Amen-Ra came back into vogue. Her mummy has not been found.

Egypt's Golden Empire
History Channel

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Africa >> Egypt >> History

This page was last updated on October 26, 2017.