While it took Europe quite a long time to be ready for its first female rulers, Egypt had several female Pharaohs.
Sobekneferu was the first known female Pharaoh of which we have proof. Up to five other women are believed to have ruled in the First Dynasty, and a Nitocris may have ruled in the Sixth Dynasty. Sobekneferu was the daughter of Amenemhat III and possibly the sister of Amenemhat IV. Sobekneferu was the last ruler of the 12th Dynasty, which she began to rule after Amenemhat IV died without an heir. She ruled for three years, ten months, and 24 days in the 19th century BC.
She too died without heirs, and with her death, the 12th Dynasty ended as well.
Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth Dynasty
Neferneferuaten of the Eighteenth Dynasty
This name was used to refer to either Queen Meritaten or more likely Queen Nefertiti. Whoever she was she reigned as a Pharaoh towards the end of the Amarna period during the 18th Dynasty.
Twosret of the Nineteenth Dynasty
Twosret is thought to have been a daughter of Merenptah or Takhat, making her a sister of Amenmesse. She is thought to have been the second royal wife of Seti II, but they had no known children.
After her husband died, she acted as regent to Seti II’s heir Siptah. When Siptah died Twosret assumed the throne as “Daughter of Re, Lady of Ta-merit, Twosret of Mut”. Her reign ended in civil war. She may have been overthrown by Setnakhte, or she died during her own reign.
She was the first daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter and his second wife Berenice I of Egypt. She was about 15 when she married 60-year-old Lysimachus, and they had three sons together. She poisoned her stepson on account of treason. After her husband’s death, she fled to Cassandreia and married her paternal half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos. They never had a good relationship, and she and her sons conspired against him. In response two of her sons were killed. Only her eldest managed to flee. She went to Egypt to seek protection from her brother Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
She had her brother’s first wife exiled, after which she married him herself. She shared in all of his titles. Her husband continued to refer to her on official documents, even after her death.
She was the daughter of Ptolemy III and Berenice II. In 220 BC she married her brother, Ptolemy IV. She was active in government and rode at the head of the army at the battle of Raphia. She was the mother of Ptolemy V. She was murdered in a palace coup, just after the death of her husband.
She was the daughter of Antiochus III the Great and Laodice III, She married Ptolemy V in 193 BC, and they had at least three children. At the time of their marriage, she was just ten years old. In 187 BC she was appointed vizier, and when her husband died in 180 BC, she acted as regent for his son, Ptolemy VI. There is evidence that she was the sole ruler of Egypt from 179 to 176 BC. She died around 176 BC.
She was the daughter of Ptolemy V and possibly Cleopatra I. She was the sister of Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II Tryphon. She subsequently married both her brothers. She had at least four children with Ptolemy VI and at least one son with Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II Tryphon. Cleopatra III ruled Egypt from 130 BC to 127 BC until she was forced to flee to Syria. She died around 116 BC.
She was the daughter of Ptolemy VI of Egypt and Cleopatra II of Egypt. She was born sometime between 170 and 164 BC. After her father’s death, her uncle Ptolemy VIII became King of Egypt (again). Her uncle was married to her mother in 145 BC, and he married Cleopatra III around 139 BC. Her mother rebelled against Ptolemy VIII in 132 BC, and Cleopatra III and her husband fled to Cyprus. They had five known children. Her mother joined them as joint ruled around 124 BC. She was murdered by her son Ptolemy X in 101 BC.
She was the daughter of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III, and she was born around 138 and 135 BC. She married her brother, the future Ptolemy IX Lathyros, around 119 BC. She may have been the mother of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Ptolemy of Cyprus. They were forced to divorce by Cleopatra III around 115 BC. She was replaced by her sister, Cleopatra Selene I.
She fled Egypt after the divorce and married Antiochus IX Cyzicenus, King of the Seleucid Empire. Cleopatra IV was murdered on the orders of her sister Tryphaena.
She was born around 120 BC as the daughter of Ptolemy IX Lathyros and Cleopatra Selene I. She married Ptolemy X Alexander I in 101 BC. She ruled Egypt from 81 to 80 BC, but possibly from 101 to 88 BC, jointly with her husband. She was much loved by the people. She was forced to marry Ptolemy XI Alexander II in 80 BC, and he had her murdered just 19 days later. In response, the people of Egypt revolted and had him killed.
She was born around 95 BC, possibly as the illegitimate daughter of Ptolemy IX. She married Ptolemy XII, who was definitely an illegitimate child of Ptolemy IX, in 79 BC. There is much confusion about her life. She may have died in 69 or 68 BC, in either childbirth or by murder.
The other explanation is that Cleopatra V and VI are the same person. If this is not the case, she is possibly the daughter of Cleopatra V.
She may also be Cleopatra VI Tryphaena, who was born in early 140 or 141 BC. She was married to Antiochus VIII Grypus, King of Syria, in 124 BC and they had five sons. She was killed in Antioch as revenge for the death of Cleopatra IV.
She was born in 77 BC as the daughter of f Ptolemy XII Auletes and probably Cleopatra V Tryphaena.She became the sole ruler of Egypt upon the death of her elder sister Cleopatra VI Tryphaena, whom she might have had murdered. A marriage was forced upon her to prince Seleucus VII Kybiosaktes, but she had him strangled. Eventually, she married Archelaus, though he was never her co-ruler. Her father retook the throne in 55 BC and had Berenice beheaded.
The most famous of the Cleopatra’s was born in 69 BC as the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and possibly Cleopatra V of Egypt. She did not speak Egyptian, and she represented herself as the reincarnations of the Egyptian goddess Isis. She ruled jointly with her father, and later with her brothers. She subsequently married bother her brothers but eventually ruled Egypt alone. She had a son with Julius Caesar, whom she made co-ruler. After Julius Caesar’s assassination, she allied herself with Mark Anthony, with whom she had twins. He committed suicide after losing the Battle of Actium. Cleopatra followed his example on 12 August 30 BC. Her son by Julius Caesar succeeded her, but he was killed not much later.
She was born between 65 and 58 BC as the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and possibly Cleopatra V. She was the half-sister of Cleopatra VII. She briefly reigned in 48 BC. Afterwards, she lived in a temple under the watchful eye of her sister, Cleopatra. She was executed on the steps of the temple, in violation of temple sanctuary.