Ramses III was the second pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty and he is considered the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom in Ancient Egypt. During is 31-year reign, Egypt was attacked by foreign invaders like the Sea Peoples and the Libyans, and started experiencing economic difficulties and internal problems.
Statue of Ramses III in front of the Temple of Karnak, Egypt
Ramses III was the son of King Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese. His birth name meant “Re has fashioned him”. In the first years of his reign he united his kingdom and constructed a strong army. The Sea Peoples destroyed most of the civilizations of the Bronze Age except Egypt, because Ramses ambushed them in the Nile River Delta. After he defeated his enemies, the rest of his reign was peaceful and successful. He renewed trading contracts, established laws in his kingdom, and had a major program of tree planting and building reconstruction.
Wall decoration from Medinet Habu showing battle with Sea Peoples.
During his leadership Egypt was culturally rich. He commissioned a lot of art and literature flourished during that time. We know a lot about his time from famous “Papyrus Harris I, " an important historical document written by his scribes.
Papyrus Harris I, British Museum, London, England
Ramses was very religious and he spent a lot of time on reconstructing temples in his kingdom. He was very devoted to Amon- god of air. Rameses's first and main construction was his mortuary temple known as Medinet Habu. On my display, you can see a reconstruction of the temple complex. The full name of the temple was “House of Millions of Years of the Upper and Lower Egypt, Userma’re’- Meriamon, Possessed of Eternity, in the Estate of Amon on the West of Thebes”.
Ruins of Medinet Habu, Luxor, Egypt
Medinet Habu was decorated with scenes showing victorious battles against the Sea Peoples, decoration motives of religious festivities, and scenes of people’s lives. The site was considered sacred during the time of Ramses III and even now local farmers still think that the temple has magical powers. Ramses III often lived in Medinet Habu, his wives and children also lived there. The pharaoh was assassinated in Medinet Habu in 1156 B.C. by his minor wife Queen Tiye. Surprisingly Ramses wasn’t buried in his temple but in the Valley of the Kings.
Example of rich decorations inside Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu was first excavated in 1859 by local authorities. Since 1924 all excavation and conservation have been led by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Excavation of Medinet Habu in 1859
Historians consider Ramses III the last of the great pharaoh to rule Egypt with important and strong power. After his death powerful Egypt started to decline.
Horus and Seth crowning Ramses III, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt.
Cline,Eric. Rameses III, The Life and times of Egypt's Last Hero. University of Michigan Press, 2012
Holscher,Uvo. The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III.The University of Chicago Press,1941