Review: The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World by Kara Cooney

Cover for The Good Kings by Kara Cooney

Title: The Good Kings: Absolute Power in Ancient Egypt and the Modern World

Author: Kara Cooney

Narrator: Kara Cooney

Length: 12 hours and 21 mins

3 stars out of 5
3 stars – I liked it

In this book Cooney discusses five ancient Egyptian pharaohs: Khufu, Senworsret III, Akenhaten, Ramses II, and Taharqa. She talks about their reigns and how they ruled. She also discusses the patriarchy and how it influenced these men and continues to influence us today.

After reading Cooney’s previous two books, I was excited to get my hands on this one. I learned a lot about the women rulers of Egypt in the previous books and knew I would learn a lot in this book as well. I did learn a lot about these pharaohs but also about how their authoritarian regime impacted the future and is still impacting it today. 

It was fascinating learning the history of these men. They may be praised as great men but that didn’t mean they didn’t do terrible things. One thing I like about Cooney’s writing is that she doesn’t ignore the evidence that some of these men were most likely tyrants, had slaves, and were harsh to their people. 

Khufu is the builder of the Great Pyramid but he was a tyrant and there is evidence of that. Senworset III was great at propaganda and used it to establish supremacy over Egypt’s elite, but it quickly fell apart after he died. Akhenaten created a new religion centering around one god that allowed him to control everything in his kingdom. It didn’t last though and had destabilizing effects on that dynasty. Ramses the Great spread his image throughout Egypt and is still widely known today because of it. His reign was long and filled with many wild stories about his reign, some of which are still believed today. Taharqa used religious zeal to unify Egypt and justify his actions as just and moral, even when they weren’t. 

She compares these ancient rulers to today’s leaders and shows that while we have made some changes, there is still a lot of dismantling that needs to be done of the patriarchy if things will ever get better. Overall, this was interesting and gives a unique look at patriarchy in the past and present. 

Goodreads | Amazon

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