Women Rocked the Ancient World—But Ruling It Was Harder

Nefertiti, Cleopatra, and Hatshepsut Commanded Empires and Flipped Gender Roles While Pushing Against the Patriarchy

Cleopatra shattered the glass ceiling of power in ancient Egypt. Boudica, the fearsome first-century Celtic Iceni queen, “leaned in” by leading a bloody uprising against the occupying Roman army.

But did either of these women, or a handful of other formidable females whose exploits were recorded by history, ever actually rule the world? That topic took center-stage before an overflow audience at a Zócalo/Getty panel discussion that roamed from pharaonic Egypt to the court of Queen Elizabeth I to the White House.

Moderated by Bettany Hughes, a historian and documentary …