Khufu - Tyrannical despot or inspirational monarch?

Lets take a look from a couple of angles at, Khufu, the ancient Egyptian king who could once boast the largest structure in the known world, and can still boast the biggest tomb in history.

Fast facts:

* Time of rule - 4th Dynasty of Egypt approx 2551 to 2528 B.C.E.

* Length of rule - Approx 23 years

* Father - Snefru

* Mother - Hetepheres

* Successor - Djedefra (son)

* Best known for - building the largest pyramid in ancient Egypt.

The tyrannical:

If we are to believe the Greek historian Herodotus (in his time dubbed the father of history while holding the reputation also as father of lies) then Khufu would be a cruel and heartless pharaoh.

In his writings on Egypt he describes the ushering in of the pharaoh (Cheops as he calls him) like a dark cloud has befallen the Egyptian landscape. He describes it like this: "Cheops became king over them and brought them to every kind of evil."

He describes how the King shut down the temples and bade every Egyptian work for him which doesn't pull any punches in declaring that the entire population was forced into slavery.

In a more suggestive tone he appears to go on to say that he also forced his own daughter into prostitution to fund his giant gleaming tribute to himself. "Cheops moreover came, they said, to such a pitch of wickedness, that being in want of money he caused his own daughter to sit in the stews, and ordered her to obtain from those who came a certain amount of money."

The inspirational:

Modern theories sketch the great pharaoh in a more positive light.

The ancient Egyptians were more likely conscripted to work on his pyramid and were housed,fed and were able to bathe for their efforts.

The king believed that, due to their commitment, those who toiled hardest on the massive limestone structure were destined for an equal path to a glorious afterlife?

Could it be that each gigantic stone laid was done with respect for the king?

Could it be that the careful craftsmanship of the stonemasons, the ingenuity of the engineers and the determination of the massive labour force pulling two tonne stones up hundreds of feet of ramp, was borne out of a sense of belonging to a higher cause?

Could they have felt included in the glory of their king?

The BBC documentary Building The Great Pyramids suggests this theory effectively.

Interesting facts:

No mummy was found in the sarcophagus inside the pharaohs main burial chamber.

The only surviving relic in Khufu's image was a tiny 7.3 centimetre statue.

If you want the opinion of a well respected expert in Egyptology then

Dr Zawi Hawass talks about Khufu here.

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