What Were Some Characteristics of Khufu's Harsh Rule Over Egypt?

Khufu or Khnum-Khufu, the fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh credited as the force behind the famous Great Pyramid of Giza, was a cruel and despotic ruler, according to some historical records. The Greek historian Herodotus was especially vitriolic in his accounts of Khufu, describing his rule as one characterized by oppression, misery and slavery.

Conflicting accounts exist about Khufu’s character, but Herodotus’ descriptions are particularly unflattering. According to him, Khufu or "Cheops" enslaved his people to build the pyramid at Giza and also prostituted his own daughter to raise more money for his building projects. Herodotus suggests that Khufu’s people despised him so much that they could not bear to even speak his name. Some other historical documents suggest that unlike his father King Snefru, Khufu did not have a reputation for benevolence; some even allege that he was heartless, ruthless and evil, and he was willing to go to any lengths to increase his own power.

Other contrary pieces of evidence have emerged in recent years to suggest that Khufu, though not as fondly remembered as his father, was nevertheless a wise ruler and a commanding leader, able to mobilize a large group of conscripted workers to build the pyramid. This contradicts Herodotus’ original claim that slaves built the pyramid. Some records also claim that Khufu was worshipped as a god after his death, and his funerary cult became very popular during the Roman Period.