Ramesses the Great was the third and final pharaoh of Egypt’s Nineteenth Dynasty. He was also known as Ramesses II, and he was one of Egypt’s most famous warriors, as well as the Egyptian Empire’s greatest and most powerful pharaoh. He was well-known for his wars against the Hittites and the Libyans, but he was also known for commanding multiple military expeditions into the Levant, re-establishing Egyptian sovereignty over Canaan. Ramesses was the son of Seti, the pharaoh of Egypt’s New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty. Ramesses was born into a non-royal family. Ramesses, who was appointed Prince Regent by his father at the age of 14, is thought to have ascended to the throne in 1279 BC and reigned for the second longest period in Egyptian history. During the early years of his reign, he participated in enormous construction projects, constructing a number of cities, temples, and monuments. He earned a reputation as a formidable warrior throughout time, leading multiple expeditions to conquer lands that his father had failed to conquer. His triumph over Sherden sea pirates who were spreading havoc throughout Egypt’s Mediterranean coast was another of his famous deeds. His most renowned military effort was the Combat of Kadesh, which involved roughly 5,000–6,000 chariots and was arguably the greatest chariot battle ever fought.
Childhood and Adolescence
Ramesses II was born in ancient Egypt about 1303 BC to Seti I and Queen Tuya. Seti I, a pharaoh of Egypt’s New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty, was regarded as a valiant warrior and a powerful ruler.
From a young age, Ramesses was groomed to succeed his father. When he was ten years old, he was already a captain in the army. Despite the fact that his position would have been honorary given his young age, it is thought that he had already begun military training at the time.
Ramesses’ father appointed him Prince Regent when he was 14 years old. By the time he was in his late teens, the young prince had begun accompanying his father on military campaigns and had gotten some experience with royalty and battle.
Reign & Accession
Ramesses came to the throne after Seti I died in 1279 BC. He spent the first years of his rule involved in large-scale construction projects. He oversaw the construction of numerous cities, temples, and monuments. In the Nile Delta, he also erected Pi-Ramesses as his new capital.
The young pharaoh grew into a fearless warrior who led multiple campaigns to reclaim the lands that his father had failed to conquer and protect Egypt’s frontiers.
The Battle of Kadesh took place in 1274 BC in the city of Kadesh on the Orontes River between the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II. Thousands of chariots were involved in the conflict. From the south, Ramesses’ army crossed the Egyptian border and arrived in Kadesh.
The pharaoh personally led many attacks into the Hittite ranks with his personal guard, attacking the Hittite chariotry with superior agility of their chariots. The lighter, faster Egyptian chariots easily overtook and dispatched the heavier Hittite chariots.
However, both the Egyptians and the Hittites sustained enormous losses as the fight progressed. The Egyptian army was unable to penetrate Kadesh’s defenses, while the Hittite army was unable to beat the Egyptians and claim victory.
The years that followed were characterized by sporadic warfare and enmity, with neither army able to claim a decisive victory. Finally, in 1258 BC, Ramesses signed a peace contract with the Hittites, making him the first ruler in history to negotiate a peace pact with his adversaries.
Years of antagonism between the warring troops came to an end, and the two countries became friendly. The Egyptians and Hittites exchanged diplomatic letters on a regular basis, and Ramesses married the Hittite king’s eldest daughter in 1245 BC. He may also have married another Hittite princess at a later date, according to legend.
During Ramesses’ reign, peace reigned for the most part. Some tales mention Ramesses leading huge military campaigns against the Libyans, although there are no comprehensive reports of such excursions.
Ramesses fought major battles, brought peace to the kingdom, erected vast monuments across the empire, and maintained Egyptian borders during his 66-year rule. During his reign, Egypt prospered greatly, and in the 30th year of his reign, Ramesses was ritually converted into a god during the Sed festival.
Battles of Importance
The Engagement of Kadesh fought between the Egyptian Empire’s forces under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire’s forces under Muwatalli II was Ramesses’ most renowned battle. Around 5000-6000 chariots were involved in the conflict, which is thought to be the biggest chariot combat ever waged.
The conflict raged for years, with neither army securing a clear victory, and was finally ended with a peace pact between the two armies.
Personal History and Legacy
Ramesses had a large number of concubines and wives. Nefertari was his first and most beloved queen, although she died quite early in his reign. She was both attractive and intelligent. She was well-educated and could read and write hieroglyphs, which was a highly rare skill at the time.
Isetnofret, Maathorneferure, Meritamen, Bintanath, Nebettawy, and Henutmire were some of his other queens. He had a vast harem of concubines in addition to his spouses. Through his various wives and concubines, Ramesses is said to have fathered over a hundred offspring.
He was a long-lived monarch who ruled over his country for 66 years. During his final years, he suffered from a variety of health issues and died around the age of 90 in 1213 BC. When he died, he was mummified, and his mummy is presently on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Merneptah, Ramesses’ son, succeeded him.
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