This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward
The present is the only time we have every truly existed, we can only imagine the future and history can be terribly biased being as it were, written by the victors. For example Shakespeare, influenced by the Tudors made poor King Richard III out to be a villain, only to have the long-dead sovereign vindicated from a deep grave beneath a parking lot 600 years later.
This type of bias and Hollywood chicanery continues to plague our perspective of historical figures over the breadth of recorded history, making great hero’s into tyrants, reversing the roles played and spinning opinion on the great conquerors, protectors, leaders and philosophers of the past. Long forgotten, and willingly overlooked, were the immortal she-kings of Earths most colorful and influential period.
A cunning Pharaoh of Egypt’s most famous 18th dynasty, not the over-dramatized Ptolomeic figures of literature, but a pure Egyptian leader whose existence was ground off the walls of her tomb by jealous rivals, whose story is just now beginning to be retold.
Pharaoh Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose II, shaved her head after ascending the throne in 1479 BCE, then posed as a man to firm her rule over a patriarchal society.
Hatshepsut’s reign was highlighted by expanding Egypt’s trade and riches with foreign luxuries. The story showed an incredible struggle to retain power from the jealous grip of her stepson Thutmose III for nearly 22 years, unfortunately ended in her being relegated to second in command before her death.
Another incredible story from a millennia later was of the legendary Spartan queen, Gorgo. Daughter of the King of Sparta, she later married arguably the most famous of all Spartans, King Leonidas I and later gave birth to the future King of Sparta.
Gorgo’s history was not limited to only being in the presence of greatness, her legacy as one of the few women mentioned by the greatest historian of all time, Herodotus, was made possible by her prowess as a fierce leader renowned for her political wisdom and sound judgment.
Queen Gorgo’s rule also happened to coincide with a most frustratingly misrepresented woman military commander from an equally misrepresented culture. Her name was Artemisia of Caria, a Persian naval commander and one of the most feared adversaries of Hellenic culture. She, a Greek herself, aligned her interests with the Persian ruler Xerxes I and fought so fiercely during the second Persian invasion of Greece that Herodotus referred to her as Xerxes’ favorite and bravest commander. Artemisia’s legend spanned the centuries spawning legends and rituals that survive to this day for better or for worse.
The shamefully forgotten rulers and commanders of any gender of the past serve as an inspiration to both the professional and casual historians of today, but those she-kings, whose prowess and bravery stomped on the oppressive culture of patriarchal society, should never have been forgotten or misrepresented. Their stories are testaments to everything that is good and noble about being human. One day, when we look back on our biased past, I hope we remember their legacy for all it represented, the embodiment of what we should all aspire to be.