Ramesses II By Josh Larsen

Ramesses II also known as Ramesses the Great, was the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Ramesses lived to be ninety-six years old, had over 200 wives, 96 sons and 60 daughters, most of whom he outlived. So long was his reign that all of his subjects, when he died, had been born knowing Ramesses as pharaoh and there was widespread panic that the world would end with the death of their king. He had his name and accomplishments inscribed from one end of Egypt to the other and there is virtually no ancient site in Egypt which does not make mention of Ramesses the Great.

The 19th Dynasty of ancient Egypt was one of the periods of the Egyptian New Kingdom. Founded by Vizier Ramesses I, who Pharaoh Horemheb chose as his second to the throne, this dynasty is best known for its military conquests in Canaan. Ramesses II had 8 wives throughout his lifetime in which he had a total of 103 children with (50 sons and 53 daughters.)

Ramesses II is widely remembered as one of the great pharaohs and a key point in one of the most well known clashes for land, the battle of Kadesh. As pharaoh, Ramesses goal was to protect Egypt’s borders. He had previously defeated pirates who owned the Delta region. The north western frontier was covered by a defensive line of forts, which discouraged attackers from Libya. Territorial expansion was only in the east, yet Egypt faced conflict with the powerful Hittite empire. In particular, Ramesses wished to retake the city state of Kadesh. Conquest of the city would demonstrate that Egypt had the power to enforce its power over its Eastern neighbours.

The role in which Ramesses II played within religion was not as good as that of earlier Pharaoh's or his other skills as a builder, or military leader. Although this is the case, it is still a role that should not be overlooked. He was most responsible for the erasing of the Armana period from history. He fought to deliberately destroy the Armana monuments, as well as change the entire religious structure. He did this to try and bring everything back to the way it was before the reign of Akhenaten. Once Ramesses II had reigned for 30 yrs he was eligible to hold a Sed Festival. Only halfway through, what would be a 67 yr reign, Ramesses II had already surpassed a few of the greatest kings in his achievements. He had brought peace, maintained Egyptians borders, and built many great monuments across the whole empire. His land was more prosperous and powerful then it had ever been in about a century.

Throughout his life, Ramses II built alot of monuments and his legacy of being a builder in Ancient Egypt and Nubia was born. Ramses II constructed monuments such as Abu Simbel, the mortuary temple Ramesseum, Pi-Ramesses in the Delta, and most notably completed the Temple at Karnak. On many already built temples and existing statues he had his own name ingraved to ensure that his name lived on. The inscriptions were deeply carved into the structures to ensure that they could not be easily destroyed or removed by succeeding empires. In addition, Ramses II had alot of colossal statues built which depicted him as pharaoh. It was more statues than any other pharaoh before him had built. This helped to solidify his existence and reign in the 19th dynasty and make him more powerful.

It is important to note that many of the monuments from previous pharaohs were destroyed and the materials were used to build things that represented Ramses II, his dynasty, and his god like status. The Abu Simbel temples are two colossal rock temples located in Nubia, southern Egypt. Today they are also known as the Nubian Monuments. These two temples were originally carved out of a mountainside and were completed as a lasting monument to himself and Queen Nefertari. They were also done to commemorate his supposed victory at the battle of Kadesh. In 1968, however, Abu Simbel was relocated in its form in order to protect it from being submerged under water by an artificial water source called Lake Nasser.

One measure of Egypt's prosperity is the amount of temple building the kings could afford to carry out, and on that basis the reign of Ramses II is the most notable in Egyptian history. It was that combined with his prowess in war as depicted in the temples, that led the Egyptologists of the 19th century to dub him "the Great" in effect this is how his subjects viewed him, to them he was the king. In Egypt he completed the great hypostyle hall at Karnak (Thebes) and continued work on the temple built by Seti I at Abydos, both of which were left incomplete at the latter's death. Ramses also completed his father's funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor (Thebes) and built one for himself, which is now known as the Ramesseum. At Abydos he built a temple of his own not far from that of his father.

In Nubia he constructed no fewer than six temples, of which the two carved out of a cliffside at Abu Simbel, with their four colossal statues of the king are the most magnificent and the best known. In the Wadi Tumilat, one of the eastern entries into Egypt, he built the town of Per-Atum, which the Bible calls a store city, but probably was a fortified frontier town and customs station. In fact, there have been few sites of any importance that originally did not exhibit at least the name of Ramses, apart from his own work, he did not hesitate to inscribe it on the monuments of his predecessors.

Ramesses II ensured that his name would be remembered throughout Egyptian history. Discoveries of so many monuments and buildings associated with his reign has made his name a familiar one in the modern world as well. Historians comment that he left an indelible stamp on Egypt. The possibility that he was the Pharaoh of Exodus links his legacy in the minds of many with human conceit and even with megalomania.

Credits:

Created with images by Argenberg - "The First Pylon of Luxor Temple (2007-05-342)" • Argenberg - "Ramesses II Temple (2007-05-724)" • Argenberg - "Luxor Temple (2007-05-340)" • yeowatzup - "Great Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt" • DavidHBolton - "Pyramids" • isawnyu - "Ramesseum (II)" • virtusincertus - "Statue of Ramesses II"

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