Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ramses 2nd (ca 1303-1213 BC)

Ramses 2nd was the son of Seti 1st, the ruler of Egypt, and his wife Tuya. He was born around 1303 BC, began his rule of Egypt around 1280, and died in 1213 at the impressive age of 90. He was born and raised in Pi-Ramses, a city near the northeast corner of the Nile Delta and close to the old Egyptian capital of Avaris. During his rule, he moved the capital of Egypt from Thebes to Pi-Ramses.

For most of the first 20 years of his rule, Ramses busily reasserted Egyptian control of cities in the Levant as far north as Qadesh (in what is now Syria). His primary enemy in Asia was the Hittite empire centered in Anatolia. After much fighting and no decisive victory, Ramses signed the world’s first peace treaty with the Hittites around 1263. After that, the northern border of Egyptian control remained unchallenged for the remainder of Ramses’ rule.

For the rest of his very long rule, Ramses had builders busily constructing temples all over Egypt. Almost half the temples still standing in Egypt were built during his rule. He also kept sculptors very busy chiseling huge statues of him. These too he had scattered all over Egypt. Of course he had reliefs celebrating his victories carved into the temple walls of Karnak. Finally, as one might expect, he had a huge temple and tomb, called the Ramesseum, built for himself in Thebes near the Valley of the Kings.

According to tradition, Ramses was the pharaoh locked in mortal struggle with Moses over the fate of the people of Israel. At the beginning of that struggle, the Israelites worked as forced laborers building Pi-Ramses. At the end came their unprecedented exodus from Egypt.

Ancient Greek writers knew Ramses as Ozymandias. Percy Shelley, a nineteenth-century English Romantic writer, wrote a poem by that name.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.