Unveiling the Legacy of King Ramses

Unveiling the Legacy of King Ramses

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Egypt’s Iconic Pharaoh: Unveiling the Legacy of King Ramses

Unraveling the Majestic Reign and Cultural Significance of Egypt King Ramses II

Ramses II

Ramses II

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Egypt king Ramses, third king of the 19th dynasty of ancient Egypt, And when we talk about Egypt, the land of ancient wonders, has been home to numerous influential pharaohs who left an indelible mark on the history and identity of the nation. Among them, King Ramses II, often referred to as Ramses the Great, stands out as one of the most formidable and long-lasting rulers in ancient Egyptian history.

His reign spanned over six decades, from 1279 to 1213 BCE, during the New Kingdom period. Ramses II’s remarkable achievements and the enduring legacy he left behind make his story one that captivates historians, archaeologists, and tourists alike.

There was an Egyptian pharaoh named Ramesses the Great…

He presided over the Nineteenth Dynasty for its third year. His reign, which began during the New Kingdom and ended with Thutmose III of the Eighteenth Dynasty, is often considered the most powerful in ancient Egypt. He was also one of the most successful warrior pharaohs, leading fifteen military campaigns that ended in victories (excluding the generally disregarded Battle of Kadesh).

From his regnal name Usermaatre Setepenre, which means “Great Ancestor” in Egyptian, he is known as Ozymandias in ancient Greek sources. Successor pharaohs and the Egyptian people also named Ramesses thus.

Cities, temples, and monuments were his primary construction projects during the first portion of his reign. He made Pi-Ramesses, his new capital in the Nile Delta, the focal point of his battles in Syria after establishing it as the capital of Egypt. Ramesses reestablished Egyptian dominion over Canaan and Phoenicia by a series of military campaigns in the Levant; inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein recall his several forays into Nubia. More than any other pharaoh, he celebrated thirteen or fourteen Sed festivals.

The most common estimates place his age at death between 90 and 91. After he passed away, he was laid to rest in a tomb (KV7) in the Valley of the Kings. Archaeologists found his remains in the Royal Cache in 1881. The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo currently houses Ramesses’ mummy.

The Early Years and Ascension to Power

Born in 1303 BCE to Pharaoh Seti I and Queen Tuya, Ramses II was named Ramses (Ra-mes-su) after the powerful sun god Ra. As a young prince, he received a royal upbringing and underwent rigorous education to prepare for his future role as pharaoh.

king ramses

Ramses II’s path to the throne was not straightforward. After the unexpected death of his father, Seti I, Ramses II ascended to power at the age of just 25. Despite facing opposition from rivals, Ramses II meticulously consolidated his authority and embarked on a reign that would leave an indelible mark on Egypt’s cultural and architectural landscape.

Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt: Ramesses II embraced by Hauron as a child

Seti I, who succeeded his father Ramesses I as king, appointed his son Ramesses II to the position of prince regent of Egypt. At that time, Ramesses II was about fourteen years old.

Duration of rule

Based on his known accession date: III Shemu, day 27, the majority of Egyptologists think that Ramesses formally assumed the throne on 31 May 1279 BC.

The Jewish historian Josephus, in his book Contra Apionem which translated Manetho’s Aegyptiaca, assigned Ramesses II, whom he called “Armesses Miamun” a reign length of 66 years and 2 months. This figure is essentially confirmed by Gurob fragment L where Year 67, I Akhet day 18 of Ramesses II is followed on the next dated line by a year change to Year 1, II Akhet day 19 of Ramesses II’s son, Merneptah which means that Ramesses II died about 2 months into his 67th Regnal year. The workman’s village of Deir el-Medina preserves a fragment of a mid-20th dynasty necropolis journal, which records that the date II Akhet day 6 was a Free feast day for the “Sailing of UsimaRe-Setepenre.

During the Ramesside Period…

Attendees at Thebes or Deir el-Medina undoubtedly attended the feast known as ẟnw, meaning ‘Sailing,’ to remember the deified royals who had passed away. On II Shemu 15, Ahmose-Nefertari’s “Sailing” was celebrated; on III Shemu 24, Seti I’s “Sailing” was celebrated; and on II Akhet 6, Ramesses II’s “Sailing” was celebrated.
This puts the end to Ramesses II’s 66-year, 2-month, 9-day rule as monarch of Egypt on Day 6 of his reign in Year 67, II Akhet.

Military operations

The Warrior Pharaoh: Victories and Empire Expansion

Egypt Ramses II had the heart of a conqueror. His military campaigns were numerous and grand in scale, expanding the borders of Egypt and establishing its prominence on the world stage. One of his most notable achievements was the Battle of Kadesh, a clash with the Hittite Empire.

“The Battle of Kadesh was a defining moment in Ramses II’s reign. It was an intense struggle for power and territory, resulting in a fragile peace treaty between Egypt and the Hittites.” – Battle of Kadesh Collection

Aside from his martial prowess, Ramses II took a keen interest in architecture, spearheading ambitious construction projects across Egypt. The temples at Abu Simbel, dedicated to himself and his wife Nefertari, epitomize his engineering and artistic mastery. These magnificent structures were relocated in a daring rescue mission during the 1960s to preserve them from the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam.

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Ramesses II began his reign by securing Egypt’s frontiers and reclaiming territory that had fallen to the Nubians and Hittites. He launched multiple campaigns during this time. A campaign in Libya and the repression of several Nubian uprisings were also under his purview. Despite the fact that Ramesses II’s military might is most commonly associated with the Battle of Kadesh, he actually had a number of decisive triumphs over Egypt’s adversaries. During his reign, the Egyptian army had an impressive force of some 100,000 men, which he utilized to amplify Egyptian influence.

Combat with the pirates of Sherden

During his second year as pharaoh, Ramesses II put an end to the Sherden sea pirates who had been causing mayhem along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast by attacking cargo ships on their way to Egypt. The Sherden were likely from the coast of Ionia, southwest Anatolia, or Sardinia. Ramesses strategically placed troops and ships along the coast, patiently waited for the pirates to attack what they thought would be their prey, and then he caught them all in a single surprise naval battle.

According to a stele from Tanis, the Sherden had arrived “in their war-ships from the midst of the sea, and none were able to stand before them.” Inscriptions from the Battle of Kadesh show that the pharaoh defeated not only the Sherden, but also the Lukka (L’kkw, possibly the people later known as the Lycians) and the Šqrsšw (Shekelesh) peoples, suggesting that a naval battle likely took place close to the Nile’s mouth. The Sherden are easily identifiable in the pharaoh’s bodyguard, with their horned helmets, round shields, and the great Naue II swords.

Initial offensive in Syria

Showing Ramesses II capturing three enemies—a Nubian, a Libyan, and a Syrian—in a relief from Memphis, c.1500 B.C. Museum in Cairo.
The initial forays into Canaan by Ramesses II were the direct precursors of the Battle of Kadesh. Commemorative stelae of Nahr el-Kalb, near what is now Beirut, were erected to commemorate his first campaign, which occurred in the fourth year of his reign. Weathering has rendered the lettering hardly unreadable.

As part of his war in Syria in the fourth year of his reign, he conquered the Amurru, a Hittite vassal state.

A second campaign in Syria

Kadesh Battle
Ramesses launched a campaign in Syria against the rising Hittite armies of Muwatallis, culminating in the Battle of Kadesh in his fifth regnal year. A success at Kadesh would allow the pharaoh to extend Egypt’s borders into Syria and follow in the footsteps of his father, Seti I, who had entered the city triumphantly some ten years before. Pi-Ramesses, his new capital, was also built by him. He allegedly constructed factories there to make weapons, chariots, and shields, with weekly output of 1,000 weapons, biweekly output of 250 chariots, and biweekly output of 1,000 shields. Following these measures, Ramesses advanced to invade Levantine territory, which belonged to the Hittite Empire—a formidable foe unlike any he had encountered before in battle.

After being ambushed and outnumbered at Kadesh, Ramesses’s forces launched a counterattack and defeated the Hittites. The Hittites’ survivors fled across the Orontes River to seek refuge within the city walls. Ramesses, unable to sustain a protracted siege, eventually went back to Egypt.

The third offensive in Syria

The Hittites took control of Syria, limiting Egypt’s authority to Canaan. The inability of the Egyptians to impose their will, presumably supported by the Hittites, prompted princes of Canaan to rise up in rebellion against Egypt. Ramesses II made a triumphant return to Syria in the seventh year of his reign. When he faced his Hittite enemies again, he was victorious.

In the course of this campaign, he divided his army in half. His son, Amun-her-khepeshef, led a group who captured Edom-Seir after pursuing Šhasu tribesmen over the Negev to the Dead Sea. After there, it continued on its way to Moab. Jericho and Jerusalem were assaulted by the opposing army headed by Ramesses. After that, he also went to Moab to be with his son again. Reestablishing Egypt’s former sphere of influence, the reunited army marched on Hesbon, Damascus, Kumidi, and lastly, recovered Upi (the territory around Damascus).

Subsequent Syrian invasions

Siege of Dapur 

Reproduction in color of the sculpture showing Ramesses II’s conquest of the Hittite stronghold of Dapur
During his eighth and ninth years as king, Ramesses continued to expand his military victories. He forded the Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River) and advanced northward into Amurru. The northern city of Dapur was reached by his soldiers, and he had a monument to himself erected there.

Because of this, the Egyptian pharaoh ended up in Tunip, in northern Amurru, far beyond Kadesh, a region where no Egyptian soldier had been sighted since the reign of Thutmose III, nearly 120 years before. He besieged the city for a long time before finally taking it. It turned out that his triumph was fleeting. Ramesses had a stele placed in Beth Shean in the ninth year.

After reclaiming Canaan…

Ramesses marched north with his army. Near Beirut, there is a partially illegible stele that was likely placed there in the tenth year of the king. The narrow strip of land squeezed between Amurru and Kadesh was not an ideal holding. They went back to being Hittites after a year, forcing Ramesses to fight Dapur again in his ninth year. On this occasion, he insisted that he combat the battle shirtless until two hours into the conflict. Even though they were still young, six of Ramesses’s sons—all sporting side locks—took part in this conquest. Both his first and second victories at the site were useless due to the inability of one force to defeat the other in war. He captured cities in Retjenu and Tunip in Naharin, which were eventually documented on the walls of the Ramesseum.

A covenant of peace with the Hittites

Peace treaty between Egypt and Hittite

At the İstanbul Archaeology Museums, there is a tablet that documents the contract between Ḫattušili III of Hatti and Ramesses II of Egypt.
After failing in his attempts to overthrow his uncle from the throne, the Hittite king Mursili III fled to Egypt, the land of his country’s enemies. In response, Ḫattušili III demanded that Ramesses II return his nephew to Hatti through extradition.

Egypt and Hatti’s relationship deteriorated to the point where war between the two empires was imminent, since Ramesses denied knowing where Mursili was in his nation. In the twenty-first year of his reign (1258 BC), Ramesses finally resolved the conflict by reaching an agreement at Kadesh with the new Hittite ruler, ḯattušili III. Here we have the oldest peace treaty ever known to mankind.

Both the Egyptian hieroglyphic version and the Hittite version, written in cuneiform script, of the peace pact have been preserved. Recordings in both official languages are standard practice for most accords that follow. The two language versions of this pact are drafted differently, which sets it apart from others. The Hittite version states that the Egyptians came suing for peace, while the Egyptian version says the opposite. The treaty was given to the Egyptians on a silver plaque, and this “pocket-book” version was returned to Egypt and carved into the temple at Karnak. The majority of the text is identical in both versions.

In year 21 of Ramesses II’s

In year 21 of Ramesses II’s reign (c. 1258 BC), the treaty was signed between Ḫattušili III and Ramesses II. Its 18 clauses urge peace between Egypt and Hatti and go on to say that their respective gods also want peace. It is possible to deduce the borders from other papers, as they are not specified in this treaty. During the latter years of Ramesses II’s reign, the Anastasy A papyrus lists and depicts the Phoenician coastal towns that were under Egyptian authority and provides a description of Canaan. It is suggested that the Egyptian garrison was located in the port town of Sumur, which lies north of Byblos, since it is named as the northernmost town belonging to Egypt.

After the peace accord was sealed

After the peace accord was sealed, no more Egyptian campaigns in Canaan are reported. Up until the death of Ramesses II and the decline of the dynasty, the northern border appeared to have been peaceful and secure, allowing the pharaoh to maintain strong rule.

The Egyptians responded to the King of Mira’s attempt to enlist Ramesses in an aggressive act against the Hittites by saying that the intrigue supporting Mursili III had ended. In a similar vein, Ḫattušili III reminded Kadashman-Enlil II of the occasion when his father, Kadashman-Turgu, had proposed a battle against Ramesses II, king of Egypt, in a letter he addressed to the Kassite ruler of Karduniaō (Babylon).

The Hittite ruler urged the Babylonian king to go up arms against an additional foe; this could only have been the Assyrian ruler, whose forces had murdered the Egyptian king’s messenger. The Canaanite province of Egypt was connected to Mursili III, an ally of Ramesses, and Ḫattušili urged Kadashman-Enlil to intervene and stop the Assyrians from severing that link.

Wars involving Nubians

Originally from Nubia, now part of the Gerf Hussein temple
Beyond the first Nile cataract, into Nubia, Ramesses II continued her conquests. At least one of those campaigns was joined by Amun-her-khepeshef and one other of Ramesses’s sons when he was around 22 years old.

Nubia had already been a colony for two centuries when Ramesses II constructed the temples at Beit el-Wali, Gerf Hussein, and Kalabsha in northern Nubia. The conquest was commemorated in the decorations of these temples. The Oriental Institute conducted epigraphic research on Beit el-Wali during the Nubian salvage campaign of the 1960s.

Ramesses II and his two infant sons, Amun-her-khepsef and Khaemwaset, are pictured on the south wall of the Beit el-Wali temple, charging into battle against tribes south of Egypt on war chariots. Ramesses fought a single battle against those tribes without the assistance of his men, according to a wall in one of his temples.

Wars in Libya

Although the precise circumstances surrounding the establishment of the coastal forts and fortresses remain unclear, it is evident that the Egyptians exercised some level of political and military control over the area to permit their construction. This control extended along a 300-kilometer (190 mi) stretch of the Mediterranean coast during Ramesses II’s reign, reaching as far as Zawyet Umm El Rakham, where artifacts of a fortress supposedly constructed on Libyan land have been discovered.

Only broad descriptions of Ramesses II’s conquest and crushing of the Libyans exist, which may or may not include particular, undocumented events; no comprehensive reports of his massive military operations against the Libyans exist. The Aswan Stele from his second year is one example of a record that may be alluding to Ramesses’s participation in his father’s Libyan battles. Maybe it was Seti I who supposedly controlled the area and intended to build the defenses in the same way he rebuilt the Ways of Horus in eastern Egypt, which stretched over northern Sinai.

Festivals dedicated to seed

Sed festival 
Ramesses became one of only a handful of Egyptian pharaohs to reign for 30 years, placing her in an exclusive club. The Sed celebration, a jubilee, was traditionally celebrated by Ramesses in the 30th year of his reign.

In the middle of his 66-year reign, Ramesses had already outdone all but a handful of his greatest predecessors in terms of accomplishments, therefore these were staged to honor and revitalize the pharaoh. He had established a state of calm, protected Egypt’s frontiers, and erected countless magnificent structures around the empire. He lived in a nation that had not been this powerful or affluent in almost a century.

Normally, the sed feasts would be conducted every three years following the thirty-first; however, Ramesses II occasionally held them every two years and finally celebrated an extraordinary thirteen or fourteen.

Construction endeavors and memorials

Almost 1,500 years after the construction of the pyramids, Ramesses began the most monumental construction project of his reign in the third year of his rule. People were mobilized to transform Egypt. “Covering the land with buildings in a way no monarch before him had.

Ramesses constructed vast infrastructure from the Delta all the way to Nubia.

Large Ramesses II monument in Luxor's original peristyle court
Large Ramesses II monument in Luxor’s original peristyle court
Repurposing or altering preexisting works, enhancing masonry skills, and utilizing art as propaganda were among the pursuits pursued.

As a representation of Ramesses’s purported divinity and authority, the old temples of Thebes were renovated to reflect his honor.
Previous pharaohs’ pictures and sentences might be quickly erased by their successors due to the easily changeable shallow reliefs of those pharaohs. Not only did Ramesses want his engravings etched into the stone so they wouldn’t be easily altered in the future, but they would also stand out in the Egyptian sun, symbolizing his connection to Ra, the sun god.
Multiple temple reliefs show Ramesses using art as propaganda to boast about his conquests of outsiders.
During his reign, he established Pi-Ramesses as the capital of the Delta. During the reign of Seti I, it was used as a summer palace.
Ramesses also started a plethora of brand-new building ventures. The Abu Simbel temple complex and the Ramesseum, a mortuary temple in western Thebes, were two of his most notable accomplishments, alongside Pi-Ramesses.


Thebes, in the Nile valley, was relocated to a new location in the eastern Delta as the capital of Ramesses II’s reign. His goals are unclear, however he may have wanted to be near his Canaanite and Syrian holdings.

Huge temples and his expansive residence palace, which had its own zoo, were the dominant features of the new city of Pi-Ramesses (or, to give it its full name, Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning “Domain of Ramesses, Great in Victory”). Rabbi Saadia Gaon, an exegete of the Bible, held the belief that Ain Shams had to be identified as the biblical site of Ramesses in the 10th century AD.

For a while in the early 20th century, the site was thought to be Tanis because of the abundance of Ramesside artifacts discovered there. However, it is now known that these artifacts were transported there from elsewhere, and the actual site of Pi-Ramesses is located approximately 30 km (18.6 mi) south, near modern Qantir. The enormous feet of the Ramesses statue are practically the only thing that remains above ground today. What remains is interred in the land.

Romeo and Juliet’s Castle

The Ramesseum is the name that has been used since the 19th century to describe the temple complex that Ramesses II constructed between Qurna and the desert. The enormous temple, which is now reduced to mere rubble, astonished the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus.

Two courtyards stood before the temple, which faced northwest and southeast. In front of the first court stood a massive pylon; to the left was the royal residence, and beyond it loomed the giant statue of the monarch. The syenite sculpture of the seated pharaoh, which stood 17 meters (56 ft) tall and weighed over 1,000 tonnes (980 long tons; 1,100 short tons), has been reduced to ruins, with just the base and torso remaining.

The pylon depicts scenes of the great pharaoh and his army achieving victory over the Hittite soldiers, who are depicted as fleeing before Kadesh. The right-hand side of the pylon has a section of the Osiride portico and some of the second court’s internal facade. The walls are covered with scenes of battle and what is said to have been the Hittite defeat at Kadesh. Observance and celebration of the fertility goddess Min’s (a phallic) feast in the higher registers.

You can get a sense of…

You can get a sense of the original magnificence from the few Osiride columns and pillars that are still standing on the other side of the court. There are also shards of the two granite statues of the sitting king—one in pink and one in black—that stood guard at the temple’s entrance. Out of the forty-eight columns in the grand hypostyle hall, which measures 41 × 31 meters, thirty-nine remain in the middle rows.

A portion of the ceiling, adorned with golden stars against a blue backdrop, has also been preserved. The walls are adorned with the customary depictions of the ruler in front of different deities. On the few remaining walls, the procession of Ramesses’s children can be seen. The tetrastyle cell and three adjacent rooms together up the sanctuary. Each room had eight columns.

What little remains of the second room is preserved, together with a portion of the first room that features a ceiling adorned with heavenly sceneries. The temple was encircled by huge mud brick storerooms. Among the remains, archaeologists uncovered signs of a scribe school.

Abu Simbel

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Abu Simbel’s Great Temple Façade
A new temple, the huge Abu Simbel, was inaugurated in 1255 BC by Ramesses and queen Nefertari, who traveled into Nubia. The guy who constructed it had grand ambitions to become both the greatest pharaoh of Egypt and one of its gods, and his ego is now permanently imprinted on the structure.

The enormous Ramesses II temple at Abu Simbel was found in 1813 by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss explorer and orientalist. A massive mound of sand nearly entirely encased the façade and its gigantic sculptures, obstructing the entrance for a further four years. Giovanni Battista Belzoni, an explorer from Padua, made it to the interior on August 4, 1817.

Additional Nubian landmarks

Ramesses bequeathed more structures to himself in Nubia, in addition to the Abu Simbel temples. Wall paintings depicting his early expeditions can be found in the Temple of Beit el-Wali, which has since been moved to New Kalabsha. The temples of Derr and Gerf Hussein, which were also moved to New Kalabsha, are devoted to Ramesses. During the reigns of Thutmose III and Ramesses II, the temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal was shaped, but its foundation was likely laid during the reign of Thutmose III as well.

Different finds made by archaeologists

Sculpture of Ramesses II crafted from granite at Thebes. Presently on show at Turin’s Museo Egizio
The enormous sculpture of Ramesses II was first found in six sections at a temple close to Memphis; it has a history of 3,200 years. The structure, which weighed around 83 tons (82 long tons; 91 short tons), was moved, rebuilt, and placed in Cairo’s Ramesses Square in 1955. Contractors moved it in August 2006 to protect it from the deteriorating effects of exhaust fumes. Its new location is close to the proposed Grand Egyptian Museum.

It is thought that the four steps leading to a cubic platform, which is believed to be the base of the king’s seat during celebrations or public gatherings, such as Ramesses’ inauguration and Sed festivals, were used by the royal compartment, according to the structure and age of the pieces found by a group of archaeologists in Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood in 2018. The leader of the trip speculates that it may have found further usage throughout the Ramesside Period. Along with these artifacts, the archaeological team found “a collection of scarabs, amulets, clay pots and blocks engraved with hieroglyphic text.

An Egyptian archaeological expedition discovered…

An Egyptian archaeological expedition discovered a royal bust of Ramesses II made of red granite in the Giza village of Mit Rahina in December 2019. The bust showed Ramesses II donning a wig bearing the sign “Ka” atop his head. With a length of 105 cm (41.33 in), a width of 55 cm (21.65 in), and a thickness of 45 cm (17.71 in), it was a substantial object. It is the first-ever Ka statue made of granite to be discovered. The only other Ka statue that has been found is made of wood and belongs to one of the kings of the 13th dynasty of ancient Egypt; it is on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. Limestone blocks depicting Ramesses II performing the Heb-Sed religious ritual were also found alongside the bust. Archaeologist Mostafa Waziri described the find as one of the rarest archaeological finds.

Dying and interment

The 66 years and 2 months of Ramesses’ reign were recorded by the Egyptian scholar Manetho in the third century BC.

Having amassed a fortune for Egypt from the plunder and resources of other countries, Ramesses was afflicted with terrible dental issues, arthritis, and atherosclerosis when he passed away at the age of approximately 90 years. Leaving behind magnificent monuments around Egypt, he had outlived numerous of his spouses and offspring. In his honor, nine further pharaohs were given the name Ramesses.

Dear Mother,
The original location of Ramesses II’s burial was in tomb KV7 in the Valley of the Kings. However, due to looting, the body was moved to a holding area, re-wrapped, and placed in the tomb of queen Ahmose Inhapy. After seventy-two hours, it was moved again, this time to the tomb of high priest Pinedjem II. The hieroglyphics on the linen covering the body of the coffin record all of these events. In 1881, his mummy was discovered in TT320 inside an ordinary wooden coffin. It is now housed in Cairo’s National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (until 3 April 2021 it was in the Egyptian Museum).

The Ramesses II Mummy

Ramses 2 mummy
There is evidence of a powerful jaw and an aquiline nose on the pharaoh’s mummy. It measures approximately 1.7 meters (5 ft 7 in). Gaston Maspero, the first person to uncover the mummy explains, “on the temples there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimeters in length. White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used in embalming … the moustache and beard are thin. … The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows … the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black … the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king.

The French doctor Maurice Bucaille discovered…

The French doctor Maurice Bucaille discovered the mummy in the Cairo Museum to be in bad shape during his 1975 examination. The mummy was sent to France for treatment after French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing persuaded Egyptian officials to do so. It was conveyed to a lab at the Musée de l’Homme after being received with full military honors befitting a monarch at Paris-Le Bourget Airport in September 1976.

Pierre-Fernand Ceccaldi, head of the Criminal Identification Laboratory of Paris, conducted forensic tests on the mummy in 1976. The mummy’s slightly wavy red hair was noticed by Ceccaldi. Based on this trait and other cranial features, Ceccaldi concluded that Ramesses II had fair skin and was of a “Berber type.” Microscopic examination of the king’s hair roots confirmed that his hair was originally red, suggesting that he belonged to a family of redheads. This has more than just a cosmetic meaning; in ancient Egypt, people with red hair were associated with the deity Set, the slayer of Osiris. Ramesses II’s father, Seti I, means “follower of Seth.”

The Great Ramesses II’s relic

Nevertheless, Cheikh Anta Diop cast doubt on the study’s findings, stating that a mummy’s ethnicity cannot be inferred from its hair morphology structure. He also suggested that a comparative study involving Nubians from Upper Egypt would have been necessary before a final verdict could have been reached.In 2006, French authorities detained a man who attempted to sell multiple tufts of Ramesses’ hair online. According to Jean-Michel Diebolt, the artifacts were passed down from his father, who was an analyst in the 1970s and has since passed away. The next year, they were sent back to Egypt.

The X-ray analyses performed by James Harris and Edward F. Wente in 1980 on the crania and skeletal remains of New Kingdom pharaohs, including the mummified remains of Ramesses II, revealed striking similarities between the rulers of the 19th and 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom and Mesolithic Nubian samples. The writers also found commonalities with Levantine-descended modern-day Mediterranean communities. The Rammessides were originally from the north, therefore this could be an example of mixing, according to Harris and Wente.

Results from the scientific examination showed that…

Results from the scientific examination showed that the pharaoh had poor circulation, arthritis, battle wounds, and old fractures. It is thought that Ramesses II walked with a hunched back for the last decades of his life due to his arthritis. A 2004 study ruled out ankylosing spondylitis and suggested diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis as the possible cause, which has since been confirmed by newer research. Additionally, a large hole in the pharaoh’s mandible was revealed. Investigators found “an abscess by his teeth (which) was serious enough to have caused death by infection, although this cannot be determined with certainty” .

Returning to Egypt in May 1977, the mummy had been irradiated to eradicate insects and fungi.

As part of the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in April 2021, his mummified remains were transferred from the Egyptian Museum to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, joining those of seventeen other pharaohs and four queens.

Monumental tomb wall featuring Nefertari

Ernesto Schiaparelli found the tomb of Nefertari, Ramesses’s most important consort, in 1904. The tomb is significant because of the magnificent wall-painting decoration that is considered one of the greatest achievements of ancient Egyptian art. To reach the antechamber, which is adorned with murals inspired by chapter seventeen of the Book of the Dead, one must ascend a set of steps carved out of the rock. A plethora of glittering five-pointed stars adorn the astronomical ceiling, which is painted a deep blue to symbolize the skies.

A huge opening in the east wall of the antechamber is flanked by images of Anubis on the right and Osiris on the left. This opening leads to a side chamber that is adorned with offering scenes.

Nefertari being welcomed by the Deities

There is a vestibule where the paintings depict Nefertari being welcomed by the deities. The stairway leading to the burial chamber is located on the north side of the antechamber. This enormous quadrangular space has a surface area of around 90 square meters (970 sq ft), and it is totally ornamented with an astronomical ceiling supported by four pillars.

This very room once held the queen’s crimson granite mausoleum. Regeneration of the dead occurred in this room, which the ancient Egyptians referred to as the Golden Hall, according to religious beliefs of the day. The burial chamber’s ornate pictogram was based on parts of the Book of the Dead, specifically chapters 144 and 146. On the left side of the room, you can see verses from chapter 144 about the guardians of the gates and doors of Osiris’s kingdom and the magical formulas that the dead had to say to pass through them.

 Ramesses II’s children’s list

Tomb KV5 was rediscovery in 1995 by Professor Kent Weeks, who was in charge of the Theban Mapping Project. Originally housing the mummified bones of a few of this king’s approximately fifty-two sons, it has since grown to become the biggest tomb in the Valley of the Kings. At least four of Ramesses’s sons—Meryatum, Sety, Amun-her-khepeshef (Ramesses’s first-born son), and “the King’s Principal Son of His Body, the Generalissimo Ramesses, justified” (i.e., deceased)—are believed to have been interred there, according to inscriptions, ostraca, or canopic jars found in the tomb. As of 2006, there were around 150 chambers and corridors found in the tomb, with the possibility of as many as 200 chambers and corridors.

Unfortunately, very little major funeral artifacts, such as hundreds of potsherds, faience ushabti figurines, beads, amulets, Canopic jar fragments, wooden coffins, etc., have been found, and no full burials have been found either. However, there were no mummies, sarcophagi, or mummy cases found, indicating that the majority of the tomb was likely unused. Antiquity robbed the graves in KV5, leaving almost no evidence of their existence.

As it pertains to the arts and entertainment

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” is based on the myth of Ramesses. A sculpture by Diodorus Siculus has the inscription: “King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works., Shelley’s poem paraphrases this.

Fictional depictions of Ramesses II’s life abound, drawing from a variety of sources such as the Ramsès series of historical novels written by Christian Jacq of France, Adrian Veidt’s Ozymandias in the graphic novel Watchmen, Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer, which focuses on Ramesses II’s reign from the viewpoint of Egyptians living during Ramesses IX’s reign, and The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned (1989) by Anne Rice, in which Ramesses is the main character. Sadie and Carter Kane’s ancestor Ramesses appears in The Kane Chronicles. One of the playable characters in Civilization V and in supplemental materials for Civilization VI is Ramesses II.

Michelle Moran introduced…

In her 2008 novel The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran introduced readers to Ramesses II. During the time that Pharaoh Rameses II is attempting to chose between his two wives, Iset and Nefertari, the novel covers the love tale and early years of their marriage. Nefertari is the niece of Pharaoh Ankhenaten and Queen Nefertiti, as well as the daughter and orphan of Queen Mutnodjmet and General Nakhtmin. This fictional account of Nefertari’s life during the early years of Rameses II’s reign touches on numerous real-life events and individuals, allowing readers a glimpse into their worlds and the experiences of those who lived long ago.

In his role as Pharaoh in Exodus from the Bible

Many real pharaohs have been suggested as the ruler during the time the story takes place, with Ramesses II being the most popular choice, even though experts usually do not consider the biblical representation of the Exodus as a genuine historical occurrence. This part was written for him in Thomas Mann’s 1944 novella The Tables of the Law. Ramesses makes a cameo appearance in So Moses Was Born, a first-person narrative by Ramose’s brother Nebunefer, which recounts Ramose’s life after Seti’s death, including the historical record’s power struggles, intrigues, and assassination plots, as well as Ramose’s relationships with Bintanath, Tuya, Nefertari, and Moses.

In the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic The Ten Commandments, Yul Brynner plays the role of Ramesses. Ramesses is shown as a cruel ruler and the film’s antagonist, constantly resentful of his father’s favoritism toward Moses rather than “the son of [his] body. Both the animated film The Prince of Egypt (1998) and the earlier 1956 film feature Ramesses, who is portrayed as an adoptive brother of Moses and the film’s villain with essentially the same motivations. Ralph Fiennes voices Ramesses in both versions. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” (2014) starred Joel Edgerton as Ramesses. The Brazilian telenovela series Os Dez Mandamentos (English: ‘Moses and the Ten Commandments’) aired from 2015 to 2016 and starred Sérgio Marone as Ramesses.

A Legacy Engraved in Stone: Monuments and Statuary

Ramses II’s passion for leaving a lasting legacy is evident in the numerous colossal statues and monuments he commissioned. Perhaps the most famous of these is the statue of Ramses II at the Great Temple of Ptah in Memphis.

The Ramesseum, his mortuary temple located on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes, stands as another testament to his grandeur. This imposing structure once housed an awe-inspiring statue of Ramses II, seated on a throne, embodying his divine kingship.

Ramses II Statue

Ramses II Statue

“The monuments and statues crafted during Ramses II‘s reign serve as a reminder of his divine authority, ensuring his legacy lives on through the ages.” – The Ramesseum Collection

Ramses II: Egypt King Ramses, A Patron of the Arts and Religion

In addition to his military and architectural achievements, Ramses II made significant contributions to the religious and artistic landscape of ancient Egypt. He fostered a culture of artistic excellence and encouraged the proliferation of temples honoring the gods.

One such temple is the famous Luxor Temple, which Ramses II embellished with colossal statues and breathtaking relief carvings, immortalizing himself and celebrating the gods.

Furthermore, Ramses II was a prolific writer. His victory stelae and inscriptions not only documented his military accomplishments but also shed light on the social, political, and religious aspects of his reign.

luxor temple

luxor temple

The King Who Reigned For Eternity: Egypt Ramses’ Mortuary Complex

Ramses II’s obsession with his own immortality is evident in his elaborate mortuary complex, located in the Valley of the Kings. This sprawling funerary monument served as a final resting place and a testament to his divine kingship.

Within this complex lies the magnificent tomb of Egypt Ramses II, adorned with intricate paintings and hieroglyphic inscriptions that depict scenes from his life and the afterlife.

“The Eternal Pharaoh Collection captures the grandeur and mystique surrounding Ramses II’s mortuary complex, offering a glimpse into the king’s pursuit of eternal life.” – Eternal Pharaoh Collection

Egypt King Ramses, Conclusion

King Ramses II, the epitome of power, ambition, and cultural significance, ruled over Egypt with an iron fist. From grand military conquests to awe-inspiring architectural innovations, Ramses II’s reign remains etched in the annals of history. His indomitable spirit and remarkable achievements continue to dazzle visitors to Egypt, allowing us to connect with the rich heritage and extraordinary legacy of this iconic pharaoh.

As we explore the treasures of ancient Egypt, we are reminded of the greatness of Ramses the Great, the pharaoh who left an undeniable mark on the world.


Frequently Asked Questions
Who Was King Ramses ?
Ramesses the Great, was an Egyptian pharaoh. He presided over the Nineteenth Dynasty for its third year. His reign, along with that of Thutmose III of the Eighteenth Dynasty, is commonly considered the pinnacle of ancient Egyptian pharaonic achievement during the New Kingdom.[8] Among the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, he is also generally regarded as a formidable fighter.
What was King Ramses known for?
Among the many famous Egyptian pharaohs, Ramses the Great stands out. Although his military conquests expanded Egypt's borders, his architectural masterpieces, like as the Ramesseum and the Temple of Abu Simbel, are what really bring him fame.
Is King Ramses in the Bible?
Ramses is mentioned four further times in the Bible (see also *Pithom). In Genesis 47:11 *Joseph established his family in the land (i.e., region) of Ramses, and in Exodus 12:37 and Numbers 33:3, 5 Ramses was the Israelites' point of departure from Egypt.
What happened to King Ramses?
He died, perhaps, of old age or heart failure, after battling tooth decay, severe arthritis, and atherosclerosis. His legacy lives on in Egyptian mythology, where he was honored by numerous pharaohs who adopted his name as their own.
Did Ramses II rule Egypt?
The second-longest reign in Egyptian history was that of Ramses II the Great (1279–1213 B.C.), the third pharaoh of Egypt's 19th dynasty. Along with his conflicts with the Hittites and the Libyans, he is commemorated in Egypt by numerous monumental sculptures of himself and his vast construction projects.
Who was the greatest pharaoh of Egypt?
Ramesses the Great (reign 1279 – 1213 BC) The son of Seti I was famous for his shameless lack of humility and his massive construction program of cities, temples, and monuments; he is considered the most powerful pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty's New Kingdom.
When Was King Ramses ii born?
c. 1303 BC Mother Tuya Born c. 1303 BC Died c. 1213 BC (aged 90–91)
When Was King Ramses ii Died?
Died c. 1213 BC (aged 90–91)
How did king Ramses ii die?
Prior to his death from old age or heart failure, his mummy discloses that he suffered from tooth troubles, severe arthritis, and arterial hardening. Just like Queen Nefertari, Ramesses had a splendid burial chamber in her tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The rule of Ramesses the Great was the height of Egyptian strength.
When did king Ramses ii rule?
Ramses II the Great (reigned 1279-1213 B.C.) Third king of the 19th dynasty of Egypt, whose reign (1279-13 BC) was the second longest in Egyptian history. Along with his conflicts with the Hittites and the Libyans, he is commemorated in Egypt by numerous monumental sculptures of himself and his vast construction projects.
How long did king Ramses ii rule?
66 years The astounding 66 years that he governed as sole monarch were the second longest (and maybe the longest) in ancient Egyptian history, making his time as ruler extraordinary.
What was king Ramses known for?
Ramses, who was only 25 years old when he became pharaoh in 1279 BC, succeeded his father as Egypt's ruler. His extraordinary leadership of the Egyptian army is widely recognized. In doing so, he successfully led violent conflicts against the Hittites, Nubians, Syrians, and Libyans in order to defend Egypt's frontiers.
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