Ramses II is the third king of the Nineteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt. His reign was the second-longest in Egyptian history from 1279–1213 BC. Historians regard this pharaoh as the greatest, celebrated, and most powerful one of the New Kingdom. Indeed, the New Kingdom was the most potent period in Ancient Egypt. After Ramses II death, his successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor.” In addition to his wars with the Hittites and Libyans, Ramses II was a great reformer. Undoubtedly, the works of this pharaoh refer strongly to his greatness. He put extensive building strategies and established many temples and colossal statues all over Egypt.
Battles Led By Ramses II
Ramses II is the famous Egyptian pharaoh of the XIX dynasty and the son of the pharaoh Seti I. During the first five years of his reign, he devoted himself to preparing Egypt for a big war in Asia. In particular, he dedicated this time to centralisation and submitting the temple riches under his control. In 1286 BC., he made a campaign in Phenicia, and the following year moved on to an even larger campaign. The poem of the scribe Pentaura describes this campaign in detail.
Battles with Hittites
Ramses II decided to capture the Kadesh fortress. By then, his advisors and spies informed him that the enemy’s troops, the Hittite king Muwatalli II, had settled north of Kadesh. Furthermore, they made him sure that the Hittite king fears facing him. Pharaoh, believing this, crossed to the right bank of the Orontes, where the fortress stood. He marched there with only one of the four columns of his army.
However, the main forces of the Hittites were in Kadesh. As a result, when the second Egyptian column began to cross the river, the Hittite army surprisingly attracted it. Without a doubt, the Ancient Egyptian troops couldn’t expect it. Moreover, the enemy forces surrounded Pharaoh Ramses II. But he escaped captivity only thanks to his courage and the timely approach of reinforcements. On the other side, the Hittites suffered huge losses, and the Egyptians were victorious. Nevertheless, the Hittites had significant forces in Kadesh, which Ramses was never able to take. The campaign of 1285 ended with the retreat of the Egyptians, who lost South Syria.
Till the end of 1270 B.C, Ramses II fought in Palestine, southern Syria and Phenicia. The protracted war began weighing on the Hittites. They fought on other fronts: for control over the western part of Asia Minor and with Assyria for influence in northwestern Mesopotamia.
Building activity and Monuments of Ramses II
Ramses II built extensively several monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia. Pharaoh even engraved his cartouches prominently in buildings that he did not construct. He displayed his name on stone, statues, and the remains of palaces and temples. Most notably, he left his remains in the Ramesseum in western Thebes and the rock temples of Abu Simbel. This pharaoh covered the land from the Delta to Nubia with buildings in a way no monarch before him had. He also founded a new capital city in the Delta during his reign, called Pi-Ramesses. This city previously served as a summer palace during Seti I’s reign.
The warrior pharaoh Ramses II built the Ramesseum temple during his reign in the 13th century BC. It is part of the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, near the modern city of Luxor. The temple is a funeral one.
The memorial Ramesseum was just the beginning of the pharaoh’s obsession with the building. When he built, he built on a scale unlike almost anything before. In the third year of his reign, Ramesses started the most ambitious building project after the pyramids at Giza. In Thebes, Ramesses aimed to transform the ancient temples so that each of them reflected honour to him as a symbol of his putative divine nature and power. Ramesses decided to eternalise his name in stone, and so he ordered changes to the methods used by his masons. He quickly transformed the elegant but shallow reliefs of previous pharaohs.
At present, only a tiny part of this historical structure survives. However, archaeologists do not stop excavating and find more facts that connect this temple with the history of Ancient Egypt. The temple lies in ruins, but it reveals it was a majestic structure even from these ruins. The architecture is identical to the construction of Medinet Habu, but the dimensions are much more significant.
Temples of Abu Simbel
The Temples of Abu Simbel are the most famous rock-cut temple in Egypt. These temples exist near the modern village of Abu Simbel, at the Second Nile Cataract. In other words, it lies at the border between Lower and Upper Nubia. There are two of them: The Great Temple belongs to Ramses II. at the same time, he dedicated the Small Temple to his wife, Queen Amun-her-Khepeshef.
Pharaoh Ramesses II constructed more colossal statues of himself than any other pharaoh. This king built on a monumental scale to ensure that his legacy would survive the ravages of time. Ramesses constructed many significant monuments, including the archaeological complex of Abu Simbel and the mortuary temple known as the Ramesseum. Ramesses used art as propaganda for his victories over foreigners. Therefore, he widely depicted his achievements on numerous temple reliefs. And also, he usurped many existing statues by inscribing his cartouche on them.
Ramesses II moved the capital of his kingdom from Thebes in the Nile valley to a new site in the eastern Delta. Although he possibly wished to be closer to his territories in Canaan and Syria, his motives are uncertain. The new city of Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning “Domain of Ramesses, Great in Victory” temples and his vast presidential palace with its zoo dominated this unique city.
During the early 20th century, historians misidentified the site by Tanis due to the amount of sculpture and other material from Pi-Ramesses found there. Now, we can recognise that the Ramesside remains at Tanis came from elsewhere, and the real Pi-Ramesses lies about 30 km (18.6 mi) south, near modern Qantir. The colossal feet fractions of the statue of Ramesses are almost all that remains above ground today. The rest of the city is still under the fields.
How did Ramses II Die?
By his death, Ramses was a great leader and a powerful king who received worldwide acclamation for expanding and maintaining the Egyptian kingdom’s territory. Aged about 90 years, Ramses suffered from severe dental problems and arthritis and the arteries’ hardening troubles. He had made Egypt rich from all the supplies and bounty he had collected from other empires. He had outlived many of his wives and children and left great memorials all over Egypt. Nine more pharaohs carried the name Ramses in his honour.
King Ramses II was first buried in the Valley of the Kings on the western bank of Thebes, in tomb no. KV7. Ramses had a massive tomb with a spectacular burial chamber.
At a particular time, the ancient Egyptians hid Ramses II mummy in an unknown place to keep the mummy safe from theft. However, thieves rediscovered Ramses II mummy in 1881. It was in a secret royal cache at Deir el-Bahri. Later in 1885, the mummy of this great pharaoh was placed in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.