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Who was ancient Egypt’s most successful pharaoh?

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Cleopatra and Tutankhamnun are arguably the most famous – but they’re not the most successful, says Miles Russell

Tourists at the Sphinx and Great Pyramid of Giza in 1923


Today the most celebrated pharaohs, Cleopatra and Tutankhamun, can hardly be judged to be the most successful.

The first lost her kingdom to the Roman empire while the latter remained largely obscure until the discovery of his treasure-filled tomb in 1922.

So from an ancient perspective, the most successful monarchs were Thutmose III (1479-1425/26 BC) and Amenhotep III (c1391-c1354 BC), as they ruled ancient Egypt at the height of its military, economic and artistic powers.

Another candidate is Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC) – known either as ‘the Great’ or ‘Ozymandias’ in popular culture – who lived into his early 90s and defeated the Hittites at Kadesh in 1274 BC, history’s earliest battle with details of the action.

Arguably, however, it was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty, Khufu (2589-2566 BC), who left the most lasting legacy. He was the sponsor of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to survive.

  • Read next: Where are the tombs of Ancient Egypt’s missing kings and queens?

Answer by historian and archaeologist Professor Miles Russell

This content first appeared in the April 2016 issue of BBC History Revealed


  • Kings and queens
  • Q&A
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