People - Ancient Egypt: Ramesses II (Usermaatresetepenre)
NEW KINGDOM 19th Dynasty (1279-1213) Extreme prosperity and renaissance in art and building projects mark the beginning of this period.
Towards the end of the 19th Dynasty the increasing power of the priesthood corrupts the central government. During the 20th Dynasty
tomb robbing is done by officials. The priesthood becomes hereditary and begins to assume secular power. The government breaks down.
Ramesses II (Usermaatresetepenre)
The son of Seti I and Queen Tuya was the third king of the 19th Dynasty. Called Ramesses the Great, he lived to be 96 years old,
had 200 wives and concubines, 96 sons and 60 daughters. One son, Prince Khaemwese, was a high priest of Ptah, governor of Memphis,
and was in charge of the restoration of the Pyramid of Unas. This son was buried in The Serapeum. Ramesses II outlived the first
thirteen of his heirs. Ramesses was named co-ruler with his father, Seti I, early in his life. He accompanied his father on
numerous campaigns in Libya and Nubia. At the age of 22 Ramesses went on a campaign in Nubia with two of his own sons. Seti I and
Ramesses built a palace in Avaris where Ramesses I had started a new capital. When Seti I died in 1290 B.C., Ramesses assumed the
throne and began a series of wars against the Syrians. The famous Battle of Kadesh is inscribed on the walls of Ramesses temple.
Ramesses' building accomplishments are two temples at Abu Simbel, the hypostyle hall at Karnak, a mortuary complex at Abydos, the
Colossus of Ramesses at Memphis, a vast tomb at Thebes, additions at the Luxor Temple, and the famous Ramesseum. Among Ramesses'
wives were Nefertari, Queen Istnofret, his two daughters, Binthanath and Merytamon, and the Hittite princess, Maathornefrure.
Ramesses was originally buried in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Because of the widespread looting of tombs during the 21st
Dynasty the priests removed Ramesses body and took it to a holding area where the valuable materials such, as gold-leaf and semi-
precious inlays, were removed. The body was then rewrapped and taken to the tomb of an 18th Dynasty queen, Inhapi. The bodies of
Ramesses I and Seti I were done in like fashion and all ended up at the same place. Amenhotep I's body had been placed there as
well at an earlier time. Seventy-two hours later, all of the bodies were again moved, this time to the Royal Cache that was inside
the tomb of High Priest Pinudjem II. The priests documented all of this on the linen that covered the bodies. This “systematic”
looting by the priests was done in the guise of protecting the bodies from the "common" thieves.
Ramesses was followed to the throne by his thirteenth son, with his queen Istnofret,
Ramesses II in Wikipedia
Ramesses II (reigned 1279 BCE to 1213 BCE - also known as Ramesses the Great and alternatively transcribed as Ramses and Rameses
*Riʕmīsisu; also known as Ozymandias in the Greek sources, from a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses' throne name, User-
maat-re Setep-en-re) was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as Egypt's greatest, most
celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor".
At age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his early 20s
and is known to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for a total of 66 years and 2 months, according to both Manetho and Egypt's
contemporary historical records. He was once said to have lived to be 99 years old, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or
91st year. If he became Pharaoh in 1279 BC as most Egyptologists today believe, he would have assumed the throne on May 31, 1279 BC,
based on his known accession date of III Shemu day 27. Ramesses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 sed festivals during his reign—
more than any other pharaoh. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a
royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum.
Ramesses II led several expeditions north into the lands east of the Mediterranean (the location of the modern Israel, Lebanon and
Syria). He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, commemorated in inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein.
The early part of his reign was focused on building cities, temples and monuments. He established the city of Pi-Ramesses in the Nile
Delta as his new capital and main base for his campaigns in Syria. This city was built on the remains of the city of Avaris, the capital
of the Hyksos when they took over, and was the location of the main Temple of Set.
Campaigns and battles
Early in his life, Ramesses II embarked on numerous campaigns to return previously held territories back from Nubian and Hittite hands
and to secure Egypt's borders. He was also responsible for suppressing some Nubian revolts and carrying out a campaign in Libya.
Although the famous Battle of Kadesh often dominates the scholarly view of Ramesses II's military prowess and power, he nevertheless
enjoyed more than a few outright victories over the enemies of Egypt. During Ramesses II's reign, the Egyptian army is estimated to have
totaled about 100,000 men; a formidable force that he used to strengthen Egyptian influence.
Battle against Sherden sea pirates
In his second year, Ramesses II decisively defeated the Shardana or Sherden sea pirates who were wreaking havoc along Egypt's
Mediterranean coast by attacking cargo-laden vessels travelling the sea routes to Egypt. The Sherden people probably came from the
coast of Ionia or possibly south-west Turkey. Ramesses posted troops and ships at strategic points along the coast and patiently allowed
the pirates to attack their prey before skillfully catching them by surprise in a sea battle and capturing them all in a single
action. A stele from Tanis speaks of their having come "in their war-ships from the midst of the sea, and none were able to stand
before them". There must have been a naval battle somewhere near the mouth of the Nile, as shortly afterwards many Sherden are seen in
the Pharaoh's body-guard where they are conspicuous by their horned helmets with a ball projecting from the middle, their round shields
and the great Naue II swords with which they are depicted in inscriptions of the Battle of Kadesh. In that sea battle, together with
the Shardana, the pharaoh also defeated the Lukka (L'kkw, possibly the later Lycians), and the Šqrsšw (Shekelesh) peoples.
First Syrian campaign
The immediate antecedents to the Battle of Kadesh were the early campaigns of Ramesses II into Canaan and Palestine. His first campaign
seems to have taken place in the fourth year of his reign and was commemorated by the erection of a stele near modern Beirut. The
inscription is almost totally illegible due to weathering. His records tell us that he was forced to fight a Palestinian prince who was
mortally wounded by an Egyptian archer, and whose army was subsequently routed. Ramesses carried off the princes of Palestine as live
prisoners to Egypt. Ramesses then plundered the chiefs of the Asiatics in their own lands, returning every year to his headquarters at
Riblah to exact tribute. In the fourth year of his reign, he captured the Hittite vassal state of Amurru during his campaign in
Second Syrian campaign
The Battle of Kadesh in his fifth regnal year was the climactic engagement in a campaign that Ramesses fought in Syria, against the
resurgent Hittite forces of Muwatallis. The pharaoh wanted a victory at Kadesh both to expand Egypt's frontiers into Syria and to
emulate his father Seti I's triumphal entry into the city just a decade or so earlier. He also constructed his new capital, Pi-Ramesses
where he built factories to manufacture weapons, chariots, and shields. Of course, they followed his wishes and manufactured some 1,000
weapons in a week, about 250 chariots in 2 weeks, and 1,000 shields in a week and a half. After these preparations, Ramesses moved to
attack territory in the Levant which belonged to a more substantial enemy than any he had ever faced before: the Hittite Empire.
Although Ramesses's forces were caught in a Hittite ambush and outnumbered at Kadesh, the pharaoh fought the battle to a stalemate and
returned home a hero. Ramesses II's forces suffered major losses particularly among the 'Ra' division which was routed by the initial
charge of the Hittite chariots during the battle. Once back in Egypt, Ramesses proclaimed that he had won a great victory. He had
amazed everybody by almost winning a lost battle. The Battle of Kadesh was a personal triumph for Ramesses, as after blundering into a
devastating Hittite ambush, the young king courageously rallied his scattered troops to fight on the battlefield while escaping death or
capture. Still, many historians regard the battle as a strategic defeat for the Egyptians as they were unable to occupy the city or
territory around Kadesh. Ramesses decorated his monuments with reliefs and inscriptions describing the campaign as a whole, and the
battle in particular as a major victory. Inscriptions of his victory decorate the Ramesseum, Abydos, Karnak, Luxor and Abu Simbel.
For example, on the temple walls of Luxor the near catastrophe was turned into an act of heroism:
His majesty slaughtered the armed forces of the Hittites in their entirety, their great rulers and all their brothers ... their infantry
and chariot troops fell prostrate, one on top of the other. His majesty killed them ... and they lay stretched out in front of their
horses. But his majesty was alone, nobody accompanied him ...
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