Those who need more of Egyptology and are interested in gaining more knowledge about some of history most famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs should read this. Pharaoh was the title given to kings (along with the rank of gods) in ancient Egypt. A term of Egyptian origin that properly means “High House,” initially referring to the royal palace, and this term was not used much by the Egyptians themselves. However, modern historians have adopted and popularized the word due to the inclusion of this title in the Bible and, more specifically, in the Book of Exodus.

The image that the ordinary people have of the pharaohs comes, in large part, from that presented to us by the tremendous cinematic productions, in which the pharaoh is shown as an all-powerful king who rules absolutely, surrounded by a court of servants and commanding many enslaved people to build monuments in their honor.

But, although many pharaohs were undoubtedly tyrants – the idea of the absolute monarchy began here – the truth is that this term encompasses a wide range of rulers of various natures and interests.

In the nearly three thousand years of pharaonic tradition, men (and some women) with very different aspirations passed on the throne of Egypt. From the enigmatic builders of the Great Pyramids of Giza to the mystic poet Akhenaten, through the legendary Ramesses II, we find a whole diversity of individuals who generally ruled one of humanity’s most influential civilizations.


The Power of the Pharaohs

The Power of the Egyptian Pharaohs
The Power of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

Pharaohs were the kings of ancient Egypt. They had absolute power in society, deciding on political, religious, economic, and military life. Since the transmission of power in Egypt was hereditary, the pharaoh was not chosen by vote but because he was the son of another pharaoh. In this way, many dynasties have been in power for hundreds of years.

In the Egyptian civilization, the pharaohs were considered living deities. The Egyptians believed that these rulers were direct sons of Osiris, so they acted as mediators between the gods and the Egyptian population.

The taxes collected in Egypt were concentrated in the hands of the pharaoh, and it was he who decided how to use the tribute. He collected much of this from the pharaoh’s family to build palaces and monuments, buy jewelry, and so on.

While he was still alive, the pharaoh began to make his pyramid, which was supposed to be the tomb for his body. As the Egyptians believed in life after death, the pyramid safely stored the mummified body and treasures of the pharaoh. The Book of the Dead was also placed in the coffin, which tells about all the good things the pharaoh did in life. This biography was necessary, as the Egyptians believed Osiris (the god of the dead) would use it to judge the dead.

Discover here 21 of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs who ruled in the ancient kingdom of Egypt to learn about the great civilization of Egypt. The history of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs dates back to 4000 BC.

Who are the Most Famous Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs?

1. King Menes (Narmer)

The King Menes Narmer
The King Menes Narmer.

King Narmer was the one who started the 1st Dynasty in Egypt, and he was the leader who united Upper and Lower Egypt under his control and made himself the first king of the two countries. He was one of the most famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

He painted this great event on a palette, which is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Narmer’s name is written on a small square on this famous palette, and the king wearing the white crown is shown killing one of his enemies with a club. On the other side, the king is wearing a red crown, meaning he has become both countries’ leaders.

This palette is considered the first masterpiece of the Egyptian Museum. You can see it on the museum’s first floor during your trip to Egypt.

2. King Zoser ( Djoser )

The Egyptian Pharaoh Djoser
The Egyptian Pharaoh Djoser.

During the 3rd Dynasty, the Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara was built as part of King Djoser’s tomb complex. It was the first pyramid in Egypt.

Start your trip to Egypt by going to his pyramid in Saqqara and looking at the first life-size statue in ancient Egypt, a limestone statue of him on the first floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

3. King Snefru (Sneferu)

The Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Snefru
The Ancient Egyptian King Snefru.

King Snefru was a pharaoh of the 4th dynasty. He is the builder of the first true pyramid in Dahshur, open to all visitors. The most famous pyramid is the Red Pyramid, where he was buried.


Read more about the Pyramid Bent Pyramid of Dahshur.


4. King Khufu ( Cheops )

The Ancient Egyptian King Khufu ( Cheops )
The Ancient Egyptian King Cheops.

King Khufu was the son of King Snefru, one of the famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs who ruled Egypt for more than 23 years during the 4th dynasty.

He built the Great Pyramid, which is known for its unusual size, and the burial chamber is not in the middle of the Pyramid but at the bottom. It is made up of about 2.3 million stone blocks that weigh about 2.5 tonnes each.

5. King Khafre ( Chephren )

The Egyptian King Khafre (Chephren)
The Egyptian Pharaoh Chephren.

King Khafre is the son of King Khufu. He took his father’s place on the Egyptian throne and built the second largest of the Giza pyramids and the Great Sphinx.

There are many statues of ancient Egyptian pharaohs in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. When you see these statues in Egypt, you will see how bright the ancient Egyptians were.

6. King Menkaure ( Mykerinos )

Ancient Egyptian King Mykerinos ( Menkaure )
The Ancient Egyptian King Mykerinos.

During the Old Kingdom’s 4th dynasty, King Menkaure ruled Egypt from 2532 to 2503. He built the third pyramid in Giza. He only had one daughter, who died during his lifetime, and he put her in a golden coffin.

7. King Pepi II

The Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi ii
The Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi ii.

King Pepi II, also called Nefer Ka Ra, was a pharaoh of the 6th dynasty during the Old Kingdom, from 2278 to 2184 BC, and he ruled Egypt for a long time, it was said, 94 years.  The first half of his reign seems to have been successful with trade with various places.

During the latter part of his reign, local authorities increased in power and began to build small kingdoms. The second half of Pepi II was a time of economic crisis. Circumstances forced him to appoint a financial overseer in Upper Egypt.

8. King Senusret I

The Ancient King Senusert I
The Ancient King Senusert I.

King Senusret I, also called {Kheper Ka Ra} and {Sesostres 1}, was one of the most famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs who reigned during the 12th Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. His reign was one of peace, and no records of military campaigns have been found.

Senusret I was the first pharaoh to start rinsing the Faiyum to open more land for cultivation. He also built a pyramid and tomb complex at Lahun. There are many statues of him on the 1st floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which are in a perfect state of preservation.

9. King Ahmose I

Egyptian King Ahmose I
The Egyptian King Ahmose I.

King Ahmose, I was a member of the royal house of Thebes during this period, his father being King Sekenenra. He is the founder of the 18th Dynasty, which began in the New Kingdom. After the Second Intermediate Period, he began the reunification of Egypt. He fought in Egypt, Palestine, and Kush when he wanted to banish the artworks and goods of the Hyksos during this period, which showed Minoan influence in shaping Egyptian forms. Ahmose, I began building projects in Memphis and his religious capital. His tomb is unknown, but his mummy belonged to the royal mummy cache of Deir el-Bahri.

10. King Amenhotep I

The King Amenhotep I of Ancient Egypt
The King Amenhotep I.

King Amenhotep, I was of the 18th Dynasty during the New Kingdom. He was the son of Ahmose I and continued his father’s building projects and military campaigns. Amenhotep I campaign brought the spoils that enabled the pharaoh to finance his building projects.

For centuries, the workers of Deir el-Medina worshiped him and his mother as tutelary gods. Deir el-Medina was where the workers who built the Valley of the Kings lived. During this period, it became the norm that royal wives could only marry a king.

11. King Thutmose II

The King Thutmose II.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose II.

King Thutmose II was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. His father was King Thutmose I, and he was the father of his successor King Thutmose II.

King Thutmose II lasted for a short time. His mummy, found in the royal camp at Hatshepsut’s temple, shows signs of weakness and illnesses that led to his death.

12. King Thutmose III

The Egyptian King Thutmose III.
The King Thutmose III.

King Thutmose III reigned in Egypt for more than 30 years during the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, and he reigned. He conducted military campaigns in the Levant (eastern Mediterranean countries) and conquered most of Palestine.

Hatshepsut’s name and monuments were only dishonored at the end of the reign of Thutmose III. He built many monuments and amassed much wealth from his military campaigns. He owned an extensive collection of statues that are now in the Egyptian Museum.

13. Queen Hatshepsut

The Ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut.
The Ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut.

Queen Hatshepsut was an 18th Dynasty pharaoh. She was one of the potent and most famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs who ruled Egypt during the New Kingdom and the first woman to rule Egypt.

When her husband (Thutmose II) died, his son (Thutmose III) was still a small child. She began her reign as regent but became pharaoh. Claiming to be the child of Amon, she transformed into a king by wearing the symbols of kingship.

Queen Hatshepsut expanded Egyptian trade and oversaw ambitious building projects, most notably the temple of Deir el-Bahri to the west of Thebes (Luxor), which you can visit during our Egypt vacation packages.

14. King Amenhotep II

The Ancient King Amenhotep II
The Ancient King Amenhotep II.

King Amenhotep II was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty during the New Kingdom and co-ruler of his father, Thutmose III. He completed the desecration of Hatshepsut’s monuments to end any claims by her family to the right to rule. Amenhotep II reigned for almost thirty years, and his depictions show him as an athlete.

15. King Amenhotep IV

The Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV
The Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV.

King Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton or Echnaton ) was an 18th Dynasty pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the New Kingdom. He headed for less than twenty years but with significant influence. Akhenaten came to the throne at a time when the priests of Amun were rich and powerful. In the early years of his reign, Aton built the Karnak Temple.

In the fifth year of his reign, Akhenaten built a new capital in Amarna named Akhetaton, and it was in Menya, about 350 km south of Cairo. He changed his name and declared Aten the only deity in Egypt.

The military supported this move early in his reign, but many people still secretly worshiped the ancient deities. His wife Nefertiti was essential to his religious rituals, and depictions at Amarna show her willingness to make sacrifices.


Check out our Minya Day Trip from Cairo to visit the beautiful monuments of the Ancient Egyptian Kings and Queens.


16. King Tutankhamun

The Egyptian King Tutankhamun
The Egyptian King Tutankhamun.

King Tutankhamun is one of the most famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs; he was the youngest Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty who ruled Egypt during the New Kingdom and is the best-known pharaoh today. He was the son of Akhenaten and became pharaoh at the age of nine. In the first year of his reign, Tutankhamun abandoned Amarna and restored the cults of the ancient deities. Its regent was Horemheb, a high-ranking military official.

King Tutankhamun restored power to Thebes and died after a reign of around ten years. Later, scribes erased his name from many lists of kings, and people needed to remember his power. Because of this, grave robbers never found his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

His treasures and mummy were found in the Valley of the Kings in 1920, and you can see the young pharaoh’s golden collection at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

17. King Ramses I

The Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses I
The Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses I.

King Ramses I was a 19th Dynasty ruler during the New Kingdom. He was an older man when he became pharaoh since his son’s birth preceded his ascension. He reigned for less than a year and installed his son as heir immediately upon accession to the throne.

18. King Seti I

The King Seti I
The King Seti I.

King Seti, I was the son of Ramses I, part of the 19th Dynasty, and a ruler of the New Kingdom. He restored the traditional temples and opened old mines. King Seti I conducted military campaigns to raise money for his construction projects. His reign is about eleven years, bringing us to the reign of the great king Ramses II, his son, and successor.

19. King Ramses II

The Ancient Pharaoh Ramses II
The Ancient Pharaoh Ramses II.

Ramses II was the greatest pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty during the New Kingdom and one of the most powerful ancient pharaohs of Egypt. He had a period of joint responsibility with his father, Seti I, and led various military campaigns. Depictions of Ramses II often include his numerous children to show his Dynasty.

He reigned for 67 years and built a massive tomb for his children in the Valley of the Kings.

Ramses II declared himself a god before the tenth year of his reign and outlived his twelve eldest sons. His mummy, now in the Egyptian Museum, is in good condition.

20. King Merneptah

The King Merneptah
The King Merneptah.

Merenptah was the thirteenth son of Ramses II and reigned during the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom. He conducted campaigns in Palestine, and his stele contains the first written mention of Israel. Merneptah must have been older when his power began.

21. King Ramses III

Pharaoh Ramses III
Pharaoh Ramses III.

King Ramses III. was a ruler of the 20th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, and the records show that he was not related to the previous Ramses. After Twosret’s death, Sethnakht, father of Ramesses III, ended a period of lawlessness. He had to fight various invaders trying to take advantage of Egypt’s internal turmoil. He built a mortuary temple in the Theban necropolis and different other buildings.

Ramses III reorganized temple administration and land allocation. At the end of Ramses III’s thirty-one-year reign, one-third of the arable land belonged to the temples.

It led to food shortages and one of the first recorded workers’ strikes in Deir el-Medina, and it also weakened the power of the pharaoh and the central government.

The kings mentioned were the essential and most famous ancient Egyptian pharaohs who greatly influenced Egyptian history and civilization.

It is also important to note that the transmission of kingship was usually from father to son, but the role of mothers and queens was equally important as the successor was the king’s son from the chief royal wife. In Egyptian history, the queen’s position as the king’s mother is symbolic of the creation and rebirth of power.


Learn more about this pharaonic civilization and visit the breathtaking ruins such as Karnak Temple, Hatshepsut Temple, Luxor Temple, and the Valley of the Kings on our Egypt day tours or Egypt Nile cruises to discover the mysteries and treasures of the ancients pharaohs.