Pharaohs of the Sun: Radio 4 Book of the Week, How Egypt's Despots and Dreamers Drove the Rise and Fall of Tutankhamun's DynastyGuy de la Bedoyere
In 1922, a century ago, the most sensational archaeological discovery of all time was made. When Tutankhamun's tomb was found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, the contents staggered the world and have done so ever since.
Tutankhamun, so obscure he was almost forgotten after his rule, was one of the last kings of the extraordinary 18th Dynasty which ruled Egypt between around 1550 BC and 1295 BC, well over 3,000 years ago. Already an ancient society, Egypt under this new line of kings became the richest and most powerful Bronze Age state, dominating the region and creating a culture of startling originality that has mesmerized the world ever since.
There was a darker side to Egypt than the glamour and the gold. This was one of the world's first great absolutist states, built round a despotic and brutal monarchy that enriched itself and the elite at the expense of other nations and most of the Egyptian population.
A succession of warrior kings, beginning with Ahmose who reunified the nation and established the family line, and including the most successful of all, Thutmose III, fought wars of conquest and used the wealth to create a myth of predestined superhuman rulers with the divine backing of the god Amun. The population acquiesced as the 18th Dynasty kings indulged themselves with massive temple and tomb projects to glorify themselves.
The Climax of Egypt is a history of an era that included Hatshepsut, the queen who made herself king, and the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, whose religious revolution was just another manifestation of selfishness and greed. The book shows how the folly of power and hubris is a story for all times, set against a magnificent backdrop, and featuring the first great personalities in world history.