Relief, reign of Ramesses II, Dyn.19

Relief, reign of Ramesses II, Dyn.19
Period:Egypt, New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, Ramesses II/Usermaatre-Setepenre
Dating:1279 BC–1212 BC
Origin:Egypt, Lower Egypt
Material:Stone (undetermined)
Physical:91cm. (35.5 in.) -

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Links to others from Dynasty 19

Bronze of King Sethi I as Nefertem, Dyn. 19
Foundation marker from Seti I, Dyn.19
Horus-the-Child, Dyn.19, 1300-1200 BC
Imsety canopic jar of Osorkon, Dyn. 19
Lapis seal of King Ramesses II, Dyn.19
Ptah-Tatenen pendant, Dyn. 19-20
Queen Isitnefret as Isis nursing, Dyn. 19
Relief of king offering small jars, Dyn. 19
Relief, procession of priests, Dyn. 19
Ritual pendant for the Priest of Ptah
Seal of Queen Maa-writ-nefrw-ra, Dyn.19
Shawabti from Deir el-Medineh, Dyn. 19
Shawabti of an unidentified king, Dyn. 19
Shawabti of Pa-iri, fan-bearer, Dyn. 19
Shawabti of the Vizier Paser, Dyn. 19
Unfinished stone statue, Dyn. 19
Wood shawabti of King Seti I, Dyn. 19
Wood shawabti of King Seti I, Dyn. 19
Wood shawabti of King Seti I, Dyn. 19

Links to others of type Relief

Relief of king offering small jars, Dyn. 19
Relief, procession of priests, Dyn. 19
  This limestone relief depicts a scene taking place in the home of a high dignitary. The man on the left holds the royal seal in his right hand, indicating a position of considerable power such as vizier or viceroy of Nubia. As often in Egyptian art, his position of importance is further conveyed by scale: he is carved literally larger than life, and certainly larger than anyone else in the scene. Above him, the sign haswt, meaning “foreign countries” may further suggest his being the viceroy of Nubia. The flowers arranged in a vase behind him tell us that the scene takes place in his residence, as floral decoration does not figure in official settings. He is greeted by his servants to whom he hands over his staff and stole (ceremonial scarf). On the far right, two women with ‘cones of cream’ atop their heads are sitting, holding lotus flowers. The columns of hieroglyphs above the women most probably record their names. Unfortunately, they are worn and all but illegible, save for the word mry (beloved).

The style and the details of this important relief secure its datation to the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II: elongated heads reminiscent of those at the temple at Abydos (Seti I) and the Ramesseum (Ramesses II) at Luxor, and the unusual fashion of folding the leopard skin.

The relief is alleged to have come from Saqqara.

Ramesses II
Ramesses II was determined to leave his mark in history. He succeeded beyond any reasonable dream. His name still resounds throughout the world and commands respect 3200 years after his death. Neither his unusually long reign, nor his unprecedented building program could have, by themselves, accounted for this eternal fame without his extraordinary dedication to self-promotion. Indeed, the name of Ramesses II is everywhere in Egypt, from the many temples he built, to the statues of himself he erected in front of other king’s temples, to statues of other kings he had recarved to his name and sometime his likeness, to his unprecedented propaganda tale on the Battle of Qadesh. Ramesses II became “Ramesses the Great” as much by being great as by tirelessly promoting his greatness.

If we believe his own version of the facts (the only one we have), Ramesses II was made co-regent by his father Seti I while he was still a child, and followed his father everywhere, including into battle. Seti eventually died in 1279 BC, and thus Ramesses became king at twenty five years of age.

His first years of reign were greatly occupied with the move of his capital to the new city of Piramesses, and control of the Levant and Syria. In his second year, he defeated the Sherden pirates who threatened his trade routes to the east. In his fourth year, he waged a successful campaign to regain most of Egypt’s former zones of influence in Syria. But as soon as he left, the Hittites re-invaded these territories. Ramesses resolved to fight it out directly with the Hittites at the next opportunity. The following year (year 5), his massive drive to rout the Hittites ended in a bloody stalemate (the Battle of Qadesh). The Egyptian and Hittites armies would never meet again in such large scale combat. Instead, after years of low grade conflict, and even an explosive diplomatic standoff in year 16 when Egypt refused to extradite a rebellious member of the Hittite royal family, the Hittites and Egyptian states finally signed a formal peace treaty in year 21. It would last half a century. Significantly, it constitutes the first known written peace treaty between two nations. Over the years, the relations between the two kingdoms kept improving. Ramesses eventually married two Hittite princesses, both armies met peacefully to escort the Princesses, the Hittite Crown Prince visited Egypt, and generally much correspondence and many gifts were exchanged over the years.

If other kings of Egypt are more clearly associated with a particularly spectacular building, such as King Khufu (Cheops) with his pyramid, no pharaoh built more in more places than Ramesses II during his 67 years of reign. Through building anew, remodeling, or simply usurping, Ramesses left his mark everywhere in Egypt. The extent of this building program may have come at the cost of quality and workmanship. In wall decoration, the faster technique of sunk relief often replaces the more refined raised relief. Generally, work of his reign lacks the stylistic coherence of great periods such as that of Amenhotep III’s, whose statues he was so fond of usurping. Yet, there is no denying the architectural wonders he erected: The judicious additions he made to temples in Karnak and Luxor, his mortuary temple in Thebes (the Ramesseum), the temple of Osiris at Abydos, and the eight rock-cut temples in Nubia (amongst which is Abu-Simbel), plus the completion of his father’s mortuary temple at Gourna, and his father’s temple of Osiris at Abydos.

Ramesses already had two wives, Nefertari and Isitnefret, years before being crowned king and receiving a large harim. Nefertari remained all her life his “Great Royal Spouse”--a title that conferred considerable power. She lived just long enough to see Ramesses dedicate the Abu Simbel temple to her. When she died in year 25, the title passed to Isitnefret. And when she died nine years later, the Hittite princess Neferura arrived in Egypt to become the new Great Royal Spouse. In all, seven women acceded to that title during the sixty seven years of Ramesses II’s reign. Queen Isitnefret bore two sons who had a great impact on Egypt: Khaemwaset and Merneptah. Khaemwaset became one of Egypt’s preeminent scholars, and applied his resources towards the study and restoration of ancient monuments. Merneptah eventually became Ramesses’ successor.

Ramesses II died in 1212 BC. He was probably ninety two years old, and saw his elder twelve sons die before him. Over the course of sixty seven years of reign, Egypt lived its last hurrah: a level of prestige, peace, unity and riches to which it never rose again.

The Battle of Qadesh
If the Battle of Qadesh stands to be the most well known of all antique battles, it is not because of its importance, but rather because of the publicity it was given, and the detailed documentation that remains from both sides of the conflict.

Having resolved to fight the Hittites, Ramesses II assembled an unprecedented expeditionary force of 20,000. The Hittite king was ready to meet him with almost double that number. Ramesses had divided his force into four divisions of 5000 men each, and marched them through Gaza, then along the Orontes river towards Qadesh. Soon, the fore guard of Egyptian troops captured two Hittite spies who quickly confessed that the Hittite army was still gathering, a hundred miles north of Qadesh. Lulled into confidence by this information, Ramesses pressed ahead with his first division to set up camp west of Qadesh. The three other divisions would follow at a slower pace. Ramesses had fallen into the Hittite trap. The spies they ‘captured’, and their confession, were a plant. The Hittites were not a hundred miles north, but rather hiding just behind Qadesh. They let the first Egyptian division go though, then launched their chariotry for a blinding fast attack on the flank of the unsuspecting second division, which they shattered easily. The Hittites then veered to attack the first division busy setting camp. Panic ensued, and Ramesses found himself alone, surrounded by Hittites. With the second division scattered and the third division too far away to help, all seemed lost. But somehow, Ramesses managed to avoid capture, rally a few faithfuls and resist complete annihilation. Then, a providential supplemental division that had taken a completely different itinerary rushed in, just in time to repel the Hittite. Night fell. When the sun rose again, all Egyptian divisions were reunited. The conventional battle that ensued raged on without producing a clear victor. Ramesses would come back with many prisoners and much booty, but none of the territorial gain he sought. Yet, upon his return, Ramesses couched the battle as a victory for Egypt, and unleashed an unprecedented propaganda campaign on the theme. No less than thirteen monumental versions of the battle were carved on temples. The story was copied on papyri, was taught in schools, became an emblematic motif of the reign. Propaganda had been brought to a new level.

Ramesses II and the Exodus
Experts disagree on whether the Exodus of the Bible occurred under the reign of Ramesses II or that of his successor Mernemptah. Since Egyptians had little reason to record the event (it did not concern them), there is little chance this may be elucidated from Egyptian sources in the future.

Bibliography (for this item)

Khalil, Hassan M.
1976 Preliminary Studies on the Sanusret Collection. Manuscript, Musée l’Egypte et le Monde Antique, Monaco-Ville, Monaco. ((IV) 141- 145)

Bibliography (on Ramesses II)

Clayton, Peter A.
1994 Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, London, UK.

Grimal, Nicolas
1994 A History of Ancient Egypt (Reprint of the 1994 edition, translated by Ian Shaw). Blackwell, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Shaw, Ian
2000 The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

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