Pharaoh, the title by which the kings of ancient Egypt were known. The term was derived from Egyptian for “great house.” According to mythology, the pharaohs were descended from gods; then they came to be regarded as gods themselves, and great temples were built for their worship. During much of Egyptian history the pharaoh was required to marry a half-sister or sister, an arrangement believed necessary to maintain the legitimacy of the royal line. Women did not inherit the throne. However, Hatshepsut, half-sister and wife of Thutmose II, declared herself pharaoh after her husband's death and ruled for many years.