Ramses II is one of the most famous Egyptian kings who ruled Egypt in its golden age. He is the mightiest third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty of Egypt. King Seti I gave the crown to Prince Ramses who turned to Ramses II. He gave him a house and harem, “prince of Egypt” Ramses participated in military campaigns with his father where he gained a solid military and kingship experience before he was a king.
Who is Ramses II?
Ramses II is one of the most powerful and influential Pharaohs’ to have ruled Egypt in its golden age. He is the mightiest third pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of Egypt. King Seti I gave the crown to Prince Ramses who turned to Ramses II.
He led several expeditions and focused on accomplishing his goals. This reflected his vision of a great nation and got him the title of “ruler of rulers”. This is the reason why he is admired as ‘Ramses the Great’ by history buffs. Also, Egypt was at its height of power and glory in his 66-years reign.
This great pharaoh is also remembered for the number of wives he had and children he fathered. While historians cannot estimate the exact number, they assume it is close to 162 children. Some of known children are: Amun-her-khepeshef (firstborn of Nefertari), Ramesses, Merneptah, Meritamen, Nebettawy, Khaemweset, and many others.
As a matter of fact, his immediate successor wasn’t his first son but the third one. Reigning for 66 long years, Ramses outlived many of his children. It was Merneptah, his 13th son, who came out as his eventual successor. And he was 60 years old.
Ramses II was born in 1303 BC and died in 1213 BC.
He was born into a commoner Egyptian family. He was the son of Pharaoh Sethi I and Queen Tuya. Ramses was named after his grandfather Ramses I who had elevated their non-royal family to royalty through his military prowess.
Ramses was raised in the royal court of Egypt where he was educated and trained by his father. He was blessed with this privilege because his father had become Pharaoh when Ramses was only 5 years old.
At that time, Ramses had an older brother who was in line to become the next Pharaoh. However, he died when Ramses was around 14 years old. Therefore, Ramses II was declared second-in-command during his father’s military campaigns and stood directly in line to become the Pharaoh of Egypt.
Having been crowned as the Prince, Ramses got married to Nefertari, who was his first and most beloved wife. She was referred to as the Royal Wife of the Pharaoh and became powerful in her own right. Over the course of their marriage, the royal couple had at least four sons and two daughters, and possibly more.
Father: Seti I
Mother: Queen Tuya
Birth: 1303 BC
Died: 1213 BC
Place of burial: KV7, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Deir el-Bahari.
Spouse: Nefertari, Nebettawy, Henutmire, Meritamen, Maathorneferure. Bintanath, Isetnofret
Children: Ramses II ranks 10th for male with the most children in history ( 162+)
After the death of his father, Ramses was crowned the Pharaoh of Egypt in 1279 BC when he was only 25 years old. He is well-known to have a remarkable command over the Egyptian army. Thus he was able to lead fierce battles to secure the Egyptian borders against the Nubians, Syrians, Libyans, and Hittites.
In 1281 BC, Ramses captured the Sherden sea pirates who had become a major threat to the Ancient Egypt’s maritime business. (Grimal 1992, 250–253)
Ramses resolved to put an end to this with an exemplary chivalry and great strategic plan. He posted ships and troops at critical points along the coast and patiently waited for the pirates to attack. As their boats approached nearer, they were skillfully caught by surprise in a fierce sea battle. (Tyldesley 2000, 53)
Ramses’ most famous battle remains the Battle of Kadesh, which was fought against a more substantial enemy— the Hittite Empire.
In May 1274 B.C.E. towards the end of the Fourth Year of his reign, Ramses initiated a military campaign to recover the lost provinces in the north. This is when the young King commanded a small troop of 20,000 men against the magnificent 50,000 men strong Hittite army. Till date, it remains one of the oldest combats recorded in history.
Although the battle was indecisive (not clear who won/lost), Ramses emerged as the hero of the war. He fought bravely, escaping death in the deadly battle and reclaiming the capitals he had lost to his enemies.
As the Battle of Kadesh did not reach a conclusive end, two countries remained on the brink of the war for several years. Finally, in 1258 BC, Ramses volunteered to signing and abiding by one of the first major peace treaties in history with the Hittites. This made him the first ruler in the world to sign a peace treaty. He was also successful in establishing a peaceful northern border all through the rest of Ramses’ rule.
Like all good things coming to an end, Ramses’ rein slowly came to an end. He died at the age of 90 because of “Arthritis”.
King Ramses II was first buried in the Valley of the Kings on the western bank of Thebes, in KV7. Ramses was a great leader and a powerful king who received worldwide acclamation for expanding and maintaining the Egyptian kingdom’s territory.
Just like Queen Nefertari’s tomb, which is one of the most celebrated architectural wonders of Ancient Egypt; Ramses too had a spectacular burial chamber. But to keep the mummy safe from the goons, it was shifted to an unknown place.
It was then rediscovered in 1881 in a secret royal cache at Deir el-Bahri. Later in 1885, the mummy of the great pharaoh was placed in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo where it remains as of 2007.
One statue of the pharaoh Ramesses II, called the Younger Memnon, is housed in the British Museum, London. Dating back to around 1250 BC, this statue depicts him as a beneficent ruler and a mighty warrior of all time.
In 1974, the Egyptologists of the Cairo Museum noticed that Ramses II’s mummy’s condition was rapidly deteriorating. It was decided to fly his mummy to Paris for thorough research and medical examination. The former Pharaoh was issued an Egyptian passport, which listed his occupation as The King of Egypt (deceased).
It was ascertained that the great pharaoh had sharp features complemented with a pointed nose and a strong, chiseled jaw line. It was also claimed that he was a redhead with tall muscular figure.
Renowned as the “Great Ancestor” by his civilization, the King was honored by his subsequent pharaohs who took the regnal name Ramses! Being the second-longest ruling Kings of the ancient Egypt, he helped flourish and prosper the Egyptian culture in every aspect. The divine figures and monuments constructed by him survive today and generate handsome revenue to the Egyptian tourist industry.