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A critical study of Ramesses II: His contributions to Egypt as the last great pharaoh

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  1. Introduction.
    1. The dictionary definition of 'great'.
    2. Events that led up to the nineteenth dynasty.
  2. Standard set by the actions of Ramesses I and Sethos I in relation to Ramesses II.
    1. Egypt: overcome by a series of conquests interjected by brief periods of regained Egyptian control.
    2. Position as last 'great' king of Egypt.
  3. Military endeavours.
    1. Initial victory at Kadesh.
    2. One unit stationed in Amor.
    3. His vast military endeavours in comparison to those of Ramesses III.
    4. The battle of Kadesh's uncertain outcome.
  4. Little evidence of the financial status of the kingdom.
  5. The workers commissioned into the service of their pharaoh and of religion for the building of the temples.
  6. The vigour and dynamism by which he ruled his country.
  7. Conclusion.

The dictionary definition of ?great? is: ?of extraordinary powers; having unusual merit;? This definition fits with the interpretation of what it was to be great according to the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, especially those of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties. Sethos I and his predecessor Ramesses I emulated the construction and foreign policy endeavours of their ancestors of the eighteenth dynasty such as Tuthmosis III and Amenophis III considering them to be the epitome of Egyptian grandeur. These eighteenth dynasty pharaohs had returned Egypt to its more traditional roots after the reign of the Hyksos during the Second Intermediate Period, while the nineteenth dynasty had to do the same after the rule of Akhenaton. Following the reign of Amenophis III, his son Amenophis IV (later called Akhenaton) came to the throne of Egypt. He destroyed the existing religious pantheon and made Aten (the sun) the principal god pushing the once great Amun to join the ranks of lesser gods establishing a quasi-monotheistic religion. Akhenaton was not interested in foreign policy as were his predecessors and during his reign the newly emerged Hittite kingdom took over Egypt's allies, the Mittani.

[...] Kitchen, K.A., Pharaoh Triumphant: The life and times of Ramesses II, (Warminster, England: Aris & Philips Ltd, 1982). Kuentz, C La Bataille de Qadesh, Poeme de Pentaour? et ?Bulletin de Qadesh?, Cairo, ed. Kitchen, K.A., Pharaoh Triumphant: The life and times of Ramesses II, (Warminster, England: Aris & Philips Ltd Manouvrier, Colette J. Ramsès Le Dieu et les Dieux ou la Théologie Politique de Ramsès II, (Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1996). Papyrus Leiden I verso ed. Kitchen, K.A., Pharaoh Triumphant: The life and times of Ramesses II, (Warminster, England: Aris & Philips Ltd, 1982). [...]

[...] Ramesses also had foreigners such as prisoners of war and immigrants working on the constructions, soldiers and the Apiru who are dragging stone for the great pylon-gateway of Ramesses According to Kitchen, the Apiru probably consisted of the Hebrews that had come into Egypt to escape the famine described in Genesis. These and other social and ethnic denominations were ?press-ganged? into manual and hard labour, whereas the Egyptian workmen seemed to have had a more pleasant lifestyle[14] as shown by the evidence found at Dêr-el-Medîna. [...]

[...] By the standard set by the actions of Ramesses and more importantly Sethos Ramesses II can be considered the last pharaoh of Egypt as the less successful policies of the later nineteenth and twentieth dynasties led to the invasion of the Libyans and the Sea People. The failure of these rulers, aside from Ramesses III, to quell these invasions is highlighted by the prominent role that the Libyans play in the twenty- first dynasty in which they take over the kingship of Egypt. [...]

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