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Volume 9 issue 2 October 2008




This month’s NETFISHING continues its look at the history of Egypt by seeing what the World Wide Web has to say about one of the most famous pharaohs in all Egyptian history, Rameses II, sometimes called ‘Rameses the Great’.


Rameses II, the son of Sety I, was fortunate in that he came to the throne as a young man and lived long enough to see his building works completed. His monuments have earned him the title ‘the Great’ although a close study of his reign may perhaps indicate that this title is not quite as well deserved as we once thought. Refer:

Rameses reigned for some sixty-seven years, during which time he claimed to have fathered “over a hundred sons” – he did not bother to count the daughters (some fifty in number). He had four ‘Great Royal Wives’: the famous Queen Nefertari who lived until Regnal Year 24 (to whom the smaller temple at Abu Simbel was dedicated), Istnofret, who lived until Year 34, to be followed by Nefertari’s daughter Meritamun, and then by Istnofret’s own daughter Bin-Tanet. Refer:

Rameses liked to feature himself as a great military commander and repeatedly inscribed temple walls with accounts of his great ‘victory’ at Kadesh in 1274 BC. This appears to be entirely propaganda for home consumption, for we also have the Hittite account of the battle, which tells an entirely different story. Having failed to send out adequate scouts, Rameses’ forces were attacked while he was engaged in setting up camp. The Division of Ra was destroyed, and the king himself was cut off and had to fight for his very life when surrounded by the enemy. With Egyptian reinforcements approaching, and evening descending, the Hittites made a tactical withdrawal. Fighting continued the next day, but eventually Rameses was forced to withdraw, leaving the city of Kadesh in Hittite hands – yet Rameses claimed a victory as the Hittites had “withdrawn from the battlefield” first! Refer:

So a more objective consideration of his reign can be found at:

Eventually, Rameses was forced to make a Peace Treaty with the Hittites, and his is the earliest example of such a treaty we have from ancient times. Rameses married two Hittite princesses to cement this alliance with his old enemy. In structure, the Treaty is almost identical to modern agreements. Refer:

Egyptian version

Hittite version

Rameses was undoubtedly a great builder, although he appears to have preferred speed of construction to architectural refinement. Where he used his father’s artisans, as at Abydos and in the Valley of the Queens, the work was of the very highest standard, but elsewhere, as at the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, the work was poorly executed and quickly done. Refer:

Rameses II’s Temple at Abydos



Tomb of Nefertari QV66




The Ramesseum


Luxor Temple, First Court

Even his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV7, was cut into a layer of poor quality stone, resulting in its poor state of preservation today. Refer:

Increasing unrest in the lands of the Eastern Mediterranean caused Rameses to build a new capital city in the Delta, nearer to the point where foreigners might attempt to invade his country. Memphis was left, in favour of Pi-Rameses, the new capital named after himself ! Its site was poorly chosen, however, and within a hundred years it to had to be abandoned in favour of the new capital of the Twenty-first dynasty – Tanis. Refer:

Without doubt, the major works for which Rameses is best remembered are his two great temples cut into the mountainside at Abu Simbel. As a raw statement of pure power these two impressive monuments were unsurpassed until the advent of the atom bomb in the modern age. Rameses was challenging anyone to dare invade his territory. If he could do this to a mountainside, then think what he could do to your village! Refer:

 Victor Blunden

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