Rockstar Egyptian Women

Stephanie Thornton writes historical novels about women in tough leadership jobs.  Like, for example, being Pharaoh of Egypt, or Empress of the Byzantine Empire.  Her first release was The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora.

Her most recent book is Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt.  It's about Hatshepsut, the first woman ruler of Egypt.

As it happens we both also run blogs.  So we've decided to swap jobs for a day.  Stephanie's writing a post for my blog, and I'm writing a post for hers.

Here is Stephanie on women rulers.

The number of women in history who ruled without a husband by their side or as a placeholder for a younger son can fit on one side of a wooden measuring ruler. (I know because I have one…)

Women in ancient Egypt—both queens and commoners—enjoyed more gender equality than many of their historical counterparts. They could own and manage property, divorce their husbands, and work as priestesses and even physicians. They could leave their houses to shop in the market, attend festivals to the gods, and hunt ducks in the Nile’s marshes. And lo and behold, they also ruled Egypt several times throughout the country’s history.

Nitokerty. Hatshepsut. (Possibly Nefertiti as Smenkhare.) Cleopatra.

(Let’s ignore for a moment that Cleopatra lost Egypt once and for all to the Romans. I’d have a few choice words for the nefarious queen if I ever came face to face with her.)

Granted, these women were only tolerated because there was no royal male available to keep the throne warm, but it was only due to Egypt’s relative equality between the sexes that a female pharaoh was seen as a viable alternative. Sadly, for whatever reason, the Egyptians attempted to erase the success of these women’s reigns from the historical record.

Nitokerty faded with time.

Hatshepsut’s monuments depicting her as pharaoh were destroyed.

We still don’t know if Nefertiti ruled after her husband Akhenaten died.

Cleopatra was reviled as a harlot.

The moral of the story? Egyptian women had more freedoms and opportunities than the majority of women in the ancient world, but they still faced an uphill battle to find level footing with men when it came to wearing the Double Crown. Fortunately, some of them proved more than equal to the task and modern scholars are now dusting off their stories so we can appreciate their accomplishments.

With the exception of Cleopatra, of course. J

About the Author: Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at

Win an ARC of The Marathon Conspiracy, at Quirky Bookworm

Jessica Howard, also known as Quirky Bookworm, is giving away an ARC of The Marathon Conspiracy.

Just head on over to Quirky Bookworm and enter a comment to be in the running.  Competition ends 4th June 2014.

ARC is publisher speak for advance reader copy.  It's a version of the book printed before we've got all the bugs out.  Publishers do a small print run of these so that some lucky readers can see early copies.  After the book's released, the ARCs become something of a curiousity item.

Vicki Leon in the LA Times

The excellent Vicki Leon, who pops in to comment on this blog from time to time, and who wrote Working IX to V, and The Joy of Sexus, today has an opinion piece on the assassination of JFK published in the LA Times.

It's very much worth reading.

Vicki also has a previous piece in the LA Times.  She suggested that killers who do it for the notoriety would be less inclined if there was a perpetual ban on publicizing their crimes or their names.  She uses as her example what happened to the guy who burned down the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in 356BC.  (It's the same temple that my heroine Diotima works at in The Ionia Sanction, and it was indeed destroyed by arson).

To find out what they did to him, here is Vicki's article.

Io Saturnalia!

Happy Christmas!

Or, as it should more properly be said, Io Saturnalia!

Because Christmas is a pagan Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn.  The Io is pronounced Yo, making ancient Romans sound somewhat like rappers.  Saturnalia was appropriated by early Christians for the birth of Jesus, because there wasn't the slightest hope of getting people to give up their beloved Saturnalia.

Saturnalia was the Time of Misrule.  All normal order disappeared.  Masters were expected to serve their own slaves.  Saturnalia began on what we'd call 17th December and carried on for a week or more of non-stop partying.  Several Roman emperors tried to limit the time of Saturnalia, but everyone ignored them.

The official last day of Saturnalia was our 23rd December, called Sigillaria, when people gave each other gifts.

Does this sound familiar?  Christmas/Saturnalia is such an ancient festival that no one has the faintest clue when it first began.  When you gather round on Christmas Day with your friends and family and exchange gifts and happiness, you'll be carrying on a human tradition that's been going for thousands of years.

Keep up the good work.

Io Saturnalia!