Ramesses II


Ramesses II
King 1304-1237 BC.
    Perhaps the best-known of Egypt's kings, Ramesses II was a noted warrior and a prolific builder. He was the son of *Sethos I and, as his co-regent, he took part in a number of campaigns. In the Great Dedicatory Inscription that he caused to be placed in his father's temple at Abydos (which Ramesses II completed), it is indicated that Ramesses II devoted the early years of his reign to restoring order at home. In Year 4 he set out to repeat his father's successes in Syria, reaching Nahr el Kelb, a few miles beyond modern Beirut, and the following year he embarked on his most notable military undertaking—to attack the *Hittites and repossess the town of Kadesh that *Sethos I had briefly gained.
    Ramesses II's account of this battle is preserved in an epic poem which is repeated in eight inscriptions in the temples of Karnak, Luxor, Abydos and the Ramesseum, as well as in a shorter version known as the 'Report'. This account emphasises his personal prowess and bravery in achieving a single-handed victory, but the *Hittite record, inscribed on tablets in their capital city of Boghazkoy, relates a different story.
    It is clear that the Egyptians retired homewards, having suffered a strategic defeat, although in later years Ramesses II did achieve success in quelling revolts in the Palestinian states and in penetrating the *Hittite territories. Egypt came to realise the difficulty of holding these far-distant gains, and in Year 21, Ramesses II signed a Peace Treaty with the *Hittites, bringing to an end some sixteen years of sporadic fighting. The treaty was made between Ramesses II and *Khattusilis III as equal powers and it was a pact of perpetual peace and brotherhood. It formed the basis of an alliance with reciprocal provisions: there was an agreement of non-aggression between Egypt and the *Hittites; they recognised a mutual frontier and agreed to a joint defensive pact against outside aggressors and to deport refugees from each other's country. The two lands became amicable allies; the royal families exchanged regular letters and they were formally united by marriage ties when, in Year 34, Ramesses II took as his wife the eldest daughter of *Khattusilis III. This princess became his Great Royal Wife and she may have been joined later by another *Hittite princess.
    The situation with the *Hittites improved in this reign but Ramesses II had to contend with another problem. The tribes in the western Delta—the *Tjemhu, *Tjehnyu, *Meshwesh and *Libu—were driven by hunger to invade and attempt to settle in Egypt, so that it was necesary for Ramesses II to take measures to control them, which included the construction of a series of forts along the western coast road.
    Although Thebes remained the state and religious capital, the administrative centre was now Memphis, and Ramesses II also built a Delta residence city at Pi-Ramesse. His building programme was extensive, and he constructed more temples than any other king. The most important were the Temple of Ptah at Memphis, the temple at Abydos, his mortuary temple (the Ramesseum) at Thebes, and his completion of the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak and of his father's temple at Abydos. The most celebrated of all are the two rock-cut temples at Abu Simbel which in modern times have been saved from the effects of the construction of the High Dam at Aswan. The larger temple here was dedicated to Re-Harakhte, Amun and Ramesses himself, while the smaller one belonged to the goddess Hathor and was built in honour of *Nefertari, the favourite queen of Ramesses II.
    Ramesses had five or six major queens and many concubines by whom he fathered over one hundred children. In addition to *Nefertari, favoured queens included the *Hittite princess Manefrure, his own daughter Bint-Anath who became his consort, and Istnofret whose son, *Merneptah, succeeded Ramesses II as king. *Merneptah was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II but he outlived his elder brothers and eventually inherited the throne.
    Ramesses II was buried in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was amongst those discovered in the cache of royal bodies at Deir el Bahri. It has been the subject of an intensive programme of scientific investigation and conservation which was carried out in France. Ramesses II, who was probably almost one hundred years old when he died, may have been the pharaoh associated with the Exodus. His schemes at home and abroad were grandiose, and although the quality of the art and architecture during his reign does not match its quantity, he nevertheless was the last of Egypt's truly great rulers. His funerary temple (the Ramesseum), which was erroneously known as the Tomb of Ozymandias', has received frequent visitors over the centuries and was immortalised by Percy Bysse Shelley in his famous sonnet, written in 1817, although Shelley had never actually visited the temple.
BIBL. Kitchen, K.A. Pharaoh Triumphant: The life and times of Ramesses II. Warminster: 1981; Langdon, S. and Gardiner, A.H. The Treaty of Alliance between Hattusili, King of the Hittites, and the Pharaoh Ramesses II of Egypt. JEA 6 (1920) pp. 179 ff; Kitchen, K.A. Some new light on the Asiatic wars of Ramesses II. JEA 50 (1964) pp. 47 ff.; Breasted, J. H. The Battle of Kadesh. Chicago: 1903; Balout, L. and Roubet, C. La Momie de Ramses II. Paris: 1985.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 1279–1212 BC)
   Throne name Usermaatre setepenre. Epithet meryamun. Son of Sety Iand Tuy, daughter of the lieutenant of the chariotry, Raia. As an apparently only son, he was named crown prince at an early age by his father and provided with the accoutrements of kingship, including a royal harem. Upon his accession, Ramesses II sought to restore Egyptian control in Syria but was defeated by the Hittitesat the battle of Kadeshin year 5 (c. 1274 BC). In year 21 (c. 1258 BC), he signed a formal treaty with the Hittites ending the conflict. In year 34 (c. 1245 BC), he married Maathorneferure, the daughter of the Hittite king, to cement the alliance. He apparently later married a second daughter. Ramesses II emphasized Egyptian power through many construction projects, notably his new capital at Pi-Ramesses and many Nubian temples, including at Abu Simbel. His wives included Nefertari, for whom he had a splendid tomb built in the Valley of the Queens at Thebes, and Isitnofret. Ramesses II also married three of his daughters, the eldest Princess Bintanat,Meritamun,and Nebettawy. He had around 100 children, including his eldest son, Amenherkhepeshef, by Nefertari, and Khaemwese and his eventual heir, Merenptah, both by Isitnofret. Ramesses II reigned for 66 years and two months and is remembered in legend as a great conqueror. His tomb (KV7) in the Valley of the Kings has suffered severe damage and awaits a proper publication. An extensive tomb, which he had built for his many sons, has recently been uncovered in KV5. His mummy survived in the royal cache at Deir el-Bahri and was recovered in 1881. His mortuary temple, known as the Ramessum, is well preserved.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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