In a world that was dominated by the male pharaoh, it is often difficult to comprehend fully the roles of Egyptian queens. A pharaoh would have a number of queens, but the most import ant would be elevated to ‘principal wife’. Titles that were adopted by queens often indicated a political or social as well as religious standing. There are two modern publications that list titles of the principal members o f the royal family. The first is a compendium of the titles and names of Egyptian rulers that was published in 1916 by the French Egyptologist Gauthier, in five volumes, and called Livre des Rois. More recently Troy explored the roles of queens and the meaning of their titles, presenting an interpretation of what it was to be an Egyptian queen, and vari ous other publications, such as Robins’ Women in Ancient Egypt, include a chapter on queenship, considering some of the betterknown royal women. There has been one major and notable exhibition on Egyptian women, which has also included some queens but when we consider how many individual publications and special exhibitions there have been on pharaohs of Egypt there is somewhat of an imbalance. Part of the reason for this lack of interest in Egyptian queens is that, compared to their male consorts, we know little about them, either historically or in terms of their presentation. What evidence we have reveals not
one, but several important roles that the Egyptian royal women fulfilled. One important point to note is that there is no word in Egyptian for queen. In the Ptolemaic period the Greek word Bassilisa (which translates as queen) was used for the royal women. The term 'queen’ will be used in an Egyptian context here for convenience and ease of reading, but in Egyptian terms, as we shall see from the various roles of royal women, it is not an easily definable concept.