Ramesses II
Ramesses II - The Battle of Kadesh

Ramesses II
(c 1302 BC - 1213 BC)

Egyptian King


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The Life of Ramesses II

Ramesses II is also known as Ramesses the Great. The name has alternative spellings of Ramses or Rameses and means "Born of Re".

This major Egyptian pharaoh was born around 1302 BC. He was the second son of Seti I and his queen Tuya. His father appointed him Prince Regent when he was 14 years old. In his early 20s he became king, ruling Egypt from 31 May 1279 BC to July 1213 BC, a total of over 66 years. In all, he lived for around 90 years and was the longest-reigning of all the pharoahs.

His many wives included Isisnofret and Maathorneferure (a Hittite princess). His principal wife was Nefertari (c 1300 BC c 1250 BC), one of the best known Egyptian queens, along with Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. Her tomb is the largest and most spectacularly decorated in the Valley of the Queens in Luxor. She was deified even before she died.

Ramesses' children include Bintanath and Meritamen (both princesses who married their father), Sethnakhte, the Pharaoh Merneptah (who succeeded him), and a prince, Khaemweset.

Ramesses II fought several battles in the Eastern Mediterranean (modern Israel, Lebanon and Syria). The most famous battle was at a place called Kadesh (close to the River Orontes in modern day Syria) in 1274 BC. The Egyptians fought the Hittites under king Muwatallis. The Egyptians struggled but eventually won the battle but they effectively lost the war. This limited Egyptian control of the region to Palestine; Syria fell under Hittite rule. The story of this battle is told from an Egyptian point of view on the walls of the many temples built by Ramesses II. The Hittite accounts can be found at their capital, Boghazkoy (modern day Turkey).

The two empires battled over the Eastern Mediterranean but neither could defeat the other. In 1258 BC Ramesses II signed what turned out to be the world's first peace treaty with Hattusili III, the next Hittite king, at Kadesh. Later, Ramesses II married a Hittite princess, Manefrure.

Ramesses II gained territory in Nubia and constructed many monuments, including some of the most famous in Egypt: The Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, a mortuary complex at Abydos, The Ramesseum and The temple at Abu Simbel. The latter was built in 1270 BC. It later became lost, hidden by sand and was re-descovered in 1813 AD. In 1964 the whole structure was moved to save it from flooding caused by the building of the Aswan High Dam.

There are more statues of Ramesses II in existence than of any other Egyptian pharaoh.

Abu Simbel
The Temple of Abu Simbel (1270 BC).

Followers of the Jewish religion believe Ramesses was the Pharaoh mentioned in the book of Exodus. The first such identification occurred around 225 AD. This is disputed by many historians for a number of reasons including:

The mummy of Ramesses II was originally buried in the Valley of the Kings (Luxor) but was later removed for safe-keeping. It was found in 1881 and is one of the best preserved in Egypt.

Ramesses II Mummy
The Mummy of Ramesses II

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Ramesses II
Biography and links for Ramesses II.