XIX Egyptian Dynasty 1298 to 1187 B.C.E.
Seti I/Menmaetre 1296 - 1279 B.C.E.
Ramesses II/Usermaetre Setepenre 1279 - 1212 B.C.E..
Merenptah/Banenre 1212 - 1201 B.C.E.
Seti II/Userkheperure 1201 - 1195 B.C.E..
Amenmesse/Menmire-Setepenre 1195 - 1196 B.C.E.
Siptah/Sekhaenre/Akheperre 1196 - 1189 B.C.E.
Tawosret/Sitre-Merenamun 1189 - 1187 B.C.E.
Ramesses II (c. 1303 BC - July or August 1213 BC), referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC - 1213 BC) of the Nineteenth Dynasty.
He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor". Ramesses II led several military expeditions into the Levant, re-asserting Egyptian control over Canaan. He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, commemorated in inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein. At age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his late teens and is known to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for 66 years and 2 months, according to both Manetho and Egypt's contemporary historical records.
He was once said to have lived to age 99, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or 91st year. If he became Pharaoh in 1279 BC, as most Egyptologists today believe, he would have assumed the throne on May 31, 1279 BC, based on his known accession date of III Shemu day 27. Ramesses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 sed festivals (the first held after thirty years of a pharaoh's reign, and then every three years) during his reign - more than any other pharaoh. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings - his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum.
Ramesses built extensively throughout Egypt and Nubia, and his cartouches are prominently displayed even in buildings that he did not actually construct. There are accounts of his honor hewn on stone, statues, remains of palaces and temples, most notably the Ramesseum in the western Thebes and the rock temples of Abu Simbel.
He covered the land from the Delta to Nubia with buildings in a way no king before him had done. He also founded a new capital city in the Delta during his reign called Pi-Ramesses; it had previously served as a summer palace during Seti I's reign.
His memorial temple Ramesseum, was just the beginning of the pharaoh's obsession with building. When he built, he built on a scale unlike almost anything before. In the third year of his reign Ramesses started the most ambitious building project after the pyramids, that were built 1,500 years earlier.
The population was put to work on changing the face of Egypt. The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, which took about twenty years to build, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Ramesses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 BCE). It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself. It is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Rameses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt.
Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple, which is 35 meters wide and is topped by a frieze with 22 baboons, worshippers of the sun and flank the entrance. The colossal statues were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramesses II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue's feet.
It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on October 21 and February 21 (61 days before and 61 days after the Winter Solstice), the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark.
Early in his life, Ramesses II embarked on numerous campaigns to return previously held territories back from Nubian and Hittite hands and to secure Egypt's borders. He was also responsible for suppressing some Nubian revolts and carrying out a campaign in Libya.
Although the famous Battle of Kadesh often dominates the scholarly view of Ramesses II's military prowess and power, he nevertheless enjoyed more than a few outright victories over the enemies of Egypt. During Ramesses II's reign, the Egyptian army is estimated to have totaled about 100,000 men; a formidable force that he used to strengthen Egyptian influence.
In his second year, Ramesses II decisively defeated the Shardana or Sherden sea pirates who were wreaking havoc along Egypt's Mediterranean coast by attacking cargo-laden vessels travelling the sea routes to Egypt. Ramesses posted troops and ships at strategic points along the coast and patiently allowed the pirates to attack their prey before skillfully catching them by surprise in a sea battle and capturing them all in a single action. A stele from Tanis speaks of their having come "in their war-ships from the midst of the sea, and none were able to stand before them".
There must have been a naval battle somewhere near the mouth of the Nile, as shortly afterwards many Sherden are seen in the Pharaoh's body-guard where they are conspicuous by their horned helmets with a ball projecting from the middle, their round shields and the great Naue II swords with which they are depicted in inscriptions of the Battle of Kadesh. In that sea battle, together with the Shardana, the pharaoh also defeated the Lukka possibly the later Lycians), and the Shekelesh peoples.
His records tell us that he was forced to fight a Palestinian prince who was mortally wounded by an Egyptian archer, and whose army was subsequently routed. Ramesses carried off the princes of Palestine as live prisoners to Egypt. Ramesses then plundered the chiefs of the Asiatics in their own lands, returning every year to his headquarters at Riblah to exact tribute. In the fourth year of his reign, he captured the Hittite vassal state of Amurru during his campaign in Syria.
Although Ramesses's forces were caught in a Hittite ambush and outnumbered at Kadesh, the pharaoh fought the battle to a stalemate and returned home a hero. Ramesses II's forces suffered major losses particularly among the 'Ra' division which was routed by the initial charge of the Hittite chariots during the battle. Egypt's sphere of influence was now restricted to Canaan while Syria fell into Hittite hands. Canaanite princes, seemingly influenced by the Egyptian incapacity to impose their will, and goaded on by the Hittites, began revolts against Egypt. In the seventh year of his reign, Ramesses II returned to Syria once again. This time he proved more successful against his Hittite foes. During this campaign he split his army into two forces. One was led by his son, Amun-her-khepeshef, and it chased warriors of the Shasu tribes across the Negev as far as the Dead Sea, and captured Edom-Seir. It then marched on to capture Moab
He, too, then entered Moab, where he rejoined his son. The reunited army then marched on Hesbon, Damascus, on to Kumidi, and finally recaptured Upi, reestablishing Egypt's former sphere of influence.