When you study something for any length of time, whether you want to or not, you develop favorites. While I try to be as objective as possible when I research and write about the Egyptians, I do have a few favorite figures. One of the most impressive individuals from that time period for me is Ramses II.
There were a lot of Pharaohs and many of them are well-known. Everyone has heard of King Tut, for example. The boy king’s mask is probably the most memorable piece of art from the whole culture. While I am truly fascinated by him, Ramses II really stands out for me for a number of reasons.
First, he ruled for a long time. In fact, he is the longest documented ruler of Egypt, serving for an amazing 67 years (Pepi II ruled for 94 years, although there is not enough documentation to officially support that claim). To put that in perspective, the average life span for a man during that time frame was only about 33 years, although Pharaohs and other higher-class members of society often lived longer. In fact, Ramses lived to be 96, outliving many of his 200 wives and 156(!) children. Just about everybody considered him a relative, and with all those kids, wives, and concubines running around, that may have been more accurate than not.
Second, he was considered a great military figure. His father brought him on campaigns from a young age. By the time he was 10 years old, he had achieved the rank of Captain. He continued in his father’s footsteps by reclaiming areas lost to the Hittites over the years, including a battle over Kadesh. He was very proud of his military victories and they are well-documented.
Another reason I find him so interesting is because he carried out a lot of construction projects during his reign. He completed a hall and temple that his father had started, then built his father a funerary temple at Luxor. His own, the Ramesseum, is located in Thebes. The temples of Abu Simbel are also attributed to him. He also founded and named a capital city after himself, Pi-Ramessess. He also built a temple for his beloved wife, Nefertari, and for his sons – the largest of those at the Valley of the Kings, KV5.
All in all, his reign was marked by stability and prosperity. He established and secured the borders of Egypt, opened up new trading routes, created and completed many buildings, and supported the creation of many works of art. Many rulers after him took his name as a sign of honor. To me, that makes him stand out significantly over some of the other Pharaohs and leaders of Ancient Egypt. I am always interested in learning more about him and his accomplishments.
Do you have a favorite figure from Ancient Egypt? If so, why? Let me know in the comments!