Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Senenmut - Lover? Father figure?

Senenmut - Lover? Father figure?

I am not comfortable with the "lover" tag which is still being used to show the issues we have in explaining Senenmut’s closeness to Hatshepsut. To my knowledge no-one has yet proven that Senenmut was or wasn't "romantically involved" with Hatshepsut.

I will not go into detail here regards the "evidence" for each side of the discussion, the fact it is still being discussed says a lot. Sometimes we find archaeology which may help us with the jigsaw which is Ancient Egypt, other times we wish for such evidence, but do not know where to look.
Without argument, we know for sure that Senenmut was very close to Hatshepsut in his many roles conducted within her reign. One such role was as tutor to Neferure - a position repeatedly shown via his block tutor statues we see in museums around the world.

Was Senenmut considered by Hatshepsut as a father figure? Did the death of her father allow her to one day require another man to fill such a void in her life? If so, can we discount Senenmut?

Quite possibly, if Senenmut was indeed a father figure - someone whose advice was treated as a necessity - this may have led to the many benefits and titles awarded to Senenmut during his time in the employ of Hatshepsut. His own "words" in his Deir el Bahri tomb have been translated with romantic background meaning. Perhaps the relationship between these two human beings was mutual - a father/ daughter love, which would not have overstepped the barriers of Ancient Egyptian society.

In today's society, if a father, step-father, guardian says to their young ones "You are the most important person in my life, I love you with my heart and my sole. All i do so is for you and all that i am is because of you" these words will be taken in one way. A loving dedication, romantic and loving without ever overstepping the mark.

I wonder (without evidence) whether this particular angle is worth any time.Does anyone have any personal views on this subject which they would like to share?



Anonymous said...

For me, the interesting aspect of their relationship was the fact that his false door was made out of quartzite, but had been painted over with the same blue-green color that used to paint over granite (used for high nobles). Later, of course, she gives up one of her quartzite sarcophagi to him. Quartzite is most often used for the pharaoh, occasionally for close members of the royal family...the wife or children of the pharaoh. His praises of her are almost worshipful, far more than any of the other courtiers who worked under her. Whatever their relationship truly was, I do believe it was much closer than simply mentor and Regent turned female King, and something that had to be kept secret in the first 7 years of her regency/kinghood.

Stuart Tyler said...

Thanks for the comments, Anon.
I do hope that more of the story can be revealed in the future. It is really one of those stories which could be central for a number of other key events and decisions in Hatshepsut's reign.

What we see is indeed worshipful by Senenmut. Although Hatshepsut did not recipricate in stone- she certainly endowed him with positions and personal reward, above the level which we would expect.


Heidi said...

I wonder -- so far as I know there are no other "tutors" of a Pharaoh's children who were depicted in the loving role of "foster-father", which is stated on at least one of the statues of Neferure and Senenmut. I remember coming across a translation to do with Horemheb, in which he related being able to calm Tutankhamun as a child. Apart from that I can think of no other tutors mentioned (and Horemheb more than likely himself commissioned the stone inscription regarding his closeness to the king). Of course people liked to brag about being the Pharaoh's best pal, and often proudly copied any written correspondence onto their tomb wall: the famous letter from Pepi II regarding the pygmy from Punt; Ramses II's nostalgic -- and somewhat drunken -- letter to his former war buddy. But no pharaoh bothers to mention that they knew and cared for so and so. Out of all the many thousands of people who surrounded hundreds of pharaohs over the centuries, Senenmut seems very...unique in the praise he so formally receives (apart from the fact his is, as often shown in canonical sculpture, enveloping young Neferure as the protective arms and or wings of a god do the Pharoah!). Does anyone know of any mention of any one -- beloved teacher, pet cat, whatever -- portrayed in an approximate manner and/or so genuinely approved of by any royal family at any point in Egypt's history?