Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. In antiquity this title began to be used for the ruler who was the religious and political leader of united ancient Egypt, only during the New Kingdom, specifically, during the middle of the eighteenth dynasty. For simplification, however, there is a general acceptance among modern writers to use the term to relate to all periods.
Meaning "Great House", it originally referred to the king's palace, but the meaning loosened over the course of Egyptian history until it became interchangeable with the traditional Egyptian word for king, nswt. Although the rulers of Egypt generally were male, nswt ("king") and pharaoh also were used on the occasions when a female ruled. Initially, the rulers were considered the sons of a cow deity, Bat and eventually Hathor, and they occupied her throne to rule the country and officiate in religious rites. There is evidence that the ruler may have been sacrificed after a certain period of time in the earliest rituals, but soon was replaced by a specially selected bull. Later in the culture, the pharaohs were believed to be the incarnations of the deity Horus in life , and of Osiris in death. Once the cult of Isis and Osiris became prominent, pharaohs were viewed as a bridge between the god Osiris and human beings and after death, the pharaoh was believed to unite with Osiris. The royal line was matrilineal, and a relationship with the royal women through birth or marriage (or both) determined the right to rule. The royal women played important roles in the religious rituals and governance of the country, sometimes participating alongside of the Pharaoh.