Across many ancient civilizations, tales of cruelty, malice, and suffering are common themes. However, in the time of the ancient Egyptians, some individuals stand out as truly evil beings. If you have an interest in the ways of ancient civilizations, or you simply want to learn a little more about ancient Egypt, observing the tyranny of these pharaohs and other dignitaries will help illuminate the truly despicable nature of some of the members of one of the greatest civilization that ever existed.
The 10 Merciless People in Ancient Egypt
As one of the rulers of Egypt during the fourth dynasty, Khufu created the Great Pyramid of Giza, which still stands as a lasting tribute to the power of ancient Egypt. However, to reach this lofty goal, among others, Khufu bled the imperial coffers dry and took the debt to the people. As the citizens suffered through famine, Khufu's taxes continued to rise higher and higher as the national debt rose as well.
Akhenaton might be the most evil of all the ancient Egyptians, at least in the eyes of those who worship the old gods. Remembered as the Heretic King, Akhenaton ruled during the eighteenth dynasty and discarded the religion of his ancestors to make way for his own variant. In the process, he outlawed the worship of the older gods and sent priests and priestesses alike to the curb to make room for his new clergy.
Nectanebo I was the first in his line, and heralded the last dynastic era of ancient Egypt. Of course, nothing compares to killing off your predecessor when celebrating a new promotion. To reach the throne, Nectanebo I killedNefarrud II, thus ending the twenty-ninth dynasty and beginning the thirtieth, and final, cycle of pharaohs.
While Nectanebo I's usurping of the throne might not have caught up with him, his son would eventually pay the price, demonstrating that sometimes evil begets evil. During the reign of IrimaatenreDjedher, a challengerby the name of Nectanebo II rose to challenge him. Aside from sharing the same name, Nectanbeo II also took a page from his indirect successor's book by killing the current pharaoh, becoming pharaoh in his own right. He did this with a little help from his Greek allies. Nectanbeo II would end up being the last native Egyptian to sit on the pharaoh's throne.
If you are familiar with the biblical story of Moses, this version of history doesn't paint a pretty picture of Ramses II. When faced with the choice of letting the supposed Hebrew slaves go free and facing the wrath of god, Ramses II decided to test the limits of the Christian god and kept the Hebrews bound in servitude. For this insolence, the people of Egypt paid a dear price that included plague, famine, and the death of firstborn children.
While characterizing Cleopatra as evil might be a stretch in the modern world, plenty of people from her time, including political rivals, considered the aspiring female ruler to be an evil force. After allying with Mark Antony after Julius Caesar's death, she found herself on the wrong side of the internal Roman strife. With the death of Mark Antony, her dreams of complete control evaporated, leaving her despondent and suicidal.
While Thutmose III stands as the pharaoh who led Egypt to unparalleled heights, many forget the exact methods he used to attain such political reach and prosperity. While claiming new lands and people for the greater benefit of Egypt, this pharaoh led over 17 military campaigns against other nations and societies during his rule. It is probably safe to assume that the conquered peoples who fell under his rule thought Thumose III was an evil pharaoh.
Another pharaoh who moved against the Hebrews, Shoshenq I, also known as Sheshonk, also finds himself on this list. As part of his lasting legacy, this pharaoh invaded Palestine and wreaked havoc on the Jewish settlements in the area. While the invasion was a successful one for the Egyptian forces in the short-term, the tactics employed did little to help build his reputation, and history doesn’t look back favorably on his military maneuvers.
Hatshepsut is a surprising addition to this list for a variety of reasons. While many view her as the first women to ascend to power, and have success, in a male dominated world, certain questions swirl around her path to the throne. Instead of a natural succession, some Egyptologists believe she poisoned her husband to claim power for herself. Adding the fact that she forced the priesthood to refer to her as a male leader, as well as keeping other male family members from laying claim to the throne, shows that her strong will might not have been completely pure as she laid claim to the throne and ruled the Egyptian people.
Alexander the Great
While most of the other evil members of this list were native Egyptians, one outsider has a special place of honor for his deeds in his Egyptian homeland. While Alexander did some good for the Egyptian people after taking control, like building the city of Alexandria, his path of conquest, including the siege of Gaza, destroyed large swathes of Egypt and led to the deaths of many of the natives.