For centuries women have been accorded a secondary status in a male-dominated society. While most women get subjugated under the patriarchal norms, there are always exceptional women in every era who break free from the clutches of the societal norms. These female heroines remain engraved in history pages and are always a source of inspiration for future generations.
History presents numerous strong female figures who made an impact on society and the world in their own way. We bring to you six powerful women from ancient times who still remain inspirational figures.
1. Cleopatra- The Queen of Egypt
A popular figure in history, literature, and cinema, Cleopatra is one of the most famous women rulers in ancient times. She was the last Pharaoh of Egypt and the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, and is also a central figure in Greek and Roman history.
Although she is known for her sensual appeal and her relationship with the strongest men of her time- Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, she was also a woman of intellect. She was fluent in more than a dozen languages and was an acclaimed scholar. Her oratory skills, wit, and intellect were her political tools using which she made sure she got what she wanted. The ambitious Cleopatra used soft skills rather than violence to calm down Roman powers and protect her territory. But when needed, she wasn’t afraid to spill blood, as can be exemplified by her murdering her siblings for the throne. She even led many Egyptian warships against the Octavian navy to defend her husband, Mark Antony.
2. Zenobia- The Queen of Palmyra
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Zenobia, the woman who dared to defy the Roman authority, is perhaps one of the most powerful women in ancient history. Ruling as a regent to her small son, Zenobia accomplished the dreams she and her late husband, Odaenathus, had for their country, Palmyra. As soon as she occupied the throne, she demonstrated her power by first executing all those involved in her husband’s murder. While the Roman kings were busy in other invasions across Europe, she moved to capture Roman provinces under weak kings. Through her calculated moves, she made Palmyra equivalent to the mighty Roman Empire. She further captured the entire Syria and parts of Turkey as well. She even went ahead and presided over the Egyptian subcontinent. Well-versed with military tactics, her empire was unstoppable at that time. However, she finally met her match and was captured by Aurelian. What happened after that remains a mystery.
3. Hatshepsut- The Queen of Egypt
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Hatshepsut was the longest-reigning female pharaoh of Egypt. She ruled alongside her husband Thutmose II until his untimely death.
After his demise, she started ruling the country by acting as a regent to her stepson Thutmose III. However, after a few years, she took a radical move by declaring herself a pharaoh. She took over all official matters of the state in her hands and had the ministers’ strong support in her court. Although she and Thutmose III ruled together, it was obvious to everyone that she was the dominant one. Her long rule was unarguably a peaceful one with a flourishing trade and extensive building activities. She has adopted a male attire and always portrayed herself as a male ruler with a muscular body and a false beard. However, after her death, attempts were made to remove all traces of her rule. Even though she rested in the Valley of Kings, her existence remained unacknowledged for centuries.
4. Boudica- The Queen of Iceni
Queen Boudica was the wife of King Prasutagas. When the king died without a male heir, he left all his wealth in the custody of his two daughters and Nero, a Roman emperor, hoping to achieve imperial protection for his family. However, the Roman emperor deceived the king. He publicly humiliated Queen Boudica, brutally attacked the Iceni tribes, and even let his soldiers rape the Boudica’s daughters. This was the final straw for the Queen, and she bravely revolted against the Romans. She won numerous battles but eventually, after a bloody war, her revolt was quashed. After her defeat, it is believed that she consumed poison to avoid slavery or worse. The Queen is still revered for her courage and is known as the warrior queen of Britain.
5. Nefertiti- The Queen of Egypt
Nefertiti was the chief queen consort of King Akhenaten since the beginning of his reign. Even though Akhenaten had no male heir with Nefertiti, she remained the most influential female figure during his reign. The couple is mainly known for converting Egypt’s polytheistic culture into a monotheistic one by popularizing Aton’s cult, the Sun God. Her role in the royal affairs was so prominent that many historians believe she was a co-ruler rather than a consort. Together with her husband, she established the Amarna city of Egypt. The couple repeatedly presented themselves as divine entities where Queen Nefertiti was often viewed as a living fertility goddess.
6. Cartimandua- The Queen of Brigantes
Source: Wikimedia Commons
While Queen Boudica is a popular figure in England, Queen Cartimandua is a lesser-known female ruler from the same era. Cartimandua was the Queen of the Brigantes, the largest tribe in Britain territorially. Unlike other English rulers who were revolting against the Romans, Cartimandua and her husband were pro-Romans whose reign depended on their support. However, her support for Romans soon turned her people against her. Further, her husband started conspiring against his wife to dethrone her. Cartimandua’s decision to divorce her husband angered her people, and thus, a rebellion started against her. However, her strong and diplomatic connections with the Romans helped her in escaping from the mess. Cartimandua may not have been the most favored Queen, but she was a strong woman who knew what she wanted and what was best for her people.