• Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

The Ramessid Dynasty: A Golden Era in Ancient Egypt


Feb 9, 2023

All through its very lengthy historical past, historical Egypt’s destiny has at all times been determined by the nice ruling dynasties. A strong state and empire wants an equally highly effective ruler, and ever because the unification of Decrease and Higher Egypt and the institution of the First Dynasty round 3000 BC, this historical empire often had a gentle guiding hand at its helm. When it didn’t, it descended into chaos and vulnerability. This observe of highly effective ruling lineages continued for hundreds of years. Some of the highly effective dynasties that stands out in Egypt’s historical past is the Nineteenth Dynasty, often known as the Ramessid Dynasty. Who had been the best pharaohs of this age? And what made them so particular?

The Ramessid Dynasty: Born from a Divided Historic Egypt

The unification of Higher and Decrease Egypt was one of the essential occasions in historical historical past. This diplomatic and army feat is usually attributed to  Pharaoh Narmer , and is dated to round 3100 BC – a really early time within the formation of the world’s oldest civilizations. With this unification, Narmer established the First Dynasty of Egypt, and started one thing that might affect the civilized world in its infancy. That one thing is, in fact, the magnificent civilization that was historical Egypt, which might span hundreds of years, with its ups and downs. And thru these ups and downs, there was at all times a ruling dynasty at its head.

Depiction of Pharaoh Narmer, of the First Dynasty of Egypt (Heagy1 /  CC BY SA 3.0 )

In whole, it’s typically agreed that there have been thirty 4 such dynasties in Egypt’s timeline, till it lastly lapsed out of existence by the hands of the Roman Empire and later conquerors. Some had been good, others had been nice, and but others had been merely unhealthy. And every dynasty produced some really legendary pharaohs. One dynasty that notably discovered its spot in Egypt’s historical past was the Eighteenth Dynasty. 

Through the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt reached the zenith of its energy and dominance within the area. It saved its enemies at bay and vastly expanded its affect. The rule of this dynasty started round 1550 BC and resulted in 1292 BC. However why did such a strong interval come to an finish? Properly, it’s usually stated that good and plentiful ages produce more and more worse rulers. The reality of that got here across the time of the rise of  Pharaoh Akhenaten , a strong however eccentric chief who sought to thoroughly reform the age-old faith of his nation. Akhenaten launched the worship of the solar, a lot to the anger of the folks. Egypt grew to become divided, stressed, and weakened. The folks weren’t prepared for such main adjustments.

The Aten depicted in art as a sun disc, from the throne of Tutankhamun, perhaps originally made for Akhenaten. (Djehouty / CC BY SA 4.0)

The Aten depicted in artwork as a solar disc, from the throne of Tutankhamun, maybe initially made for Akhenaten. (Djehouty /  CC BY SA 4.0 )

Taking Maintain of the Shattered Realm

When Akhenaten died, his inheritor and successor,  Tutankhamun, tried his greatest to revert the unconventional adjustments of his father and put Egypt again into order. He was, nonetheless, a baby weakened and deformed by generations of inbreeding, and his reign was comparatively quick. With no youngsters to proceed his lineage, Tutankhamun was succeeded by his shut advisor –  Kheperkheperure Ay . This man was the true energy behind the crown, and he had nice plans in persevering with the ill-fated Eighteenth Dynasty. Nonetheless, dying lower his plans quick, as he perished after solely 4 years of rule.

Ay performing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony at Tutankhamun. Wall painting from Tutankhamun's tomb (Public Domain)

Ay performing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony at Tutankhamun. Wall portray from Tutankhamun’s tomb ( Public Domain )

In his place got here a person of frequent beginning, with no relation in any respect to the previous royal dynasty. His title was  Horemheb. Horemheb claimed the crown via marriage – his spouse was one among Ay’s daughters. Though of frequent beginning, this pharaoh excelled in his position. He introduced collectively a divided state, stabilized it, and started a marketing campaign of erasing the traces of his predecessors. He crushed the temples and statues of Akhenaten, repurposed the monuments of Ay and Tutankhamun, and slowly erased the reminiscence of their spiritual reforms. He confirmed nice energy of judgment and the distinct means to carry collectively a fragmented realm. Horemheb reigned for fourteen years, and everybody thought that the Eighteenth Dynasty would proceed after him. Nevertheless it was not so. The pharaoh had no surviving sons: in his stead, he appointed his shut ally and vizier,  Paramesse.

Wall friezes from the Tomb of Horemheb, final pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. King Horemheb with the Gods. On the left, Osiris, seated, Anubis at the head of a jackal and Horus, son of Isis at the head of a falcon. (Jean-Pierre Dalbera / CC BY 2.0)

Wall friezes from the Tomb of Horemheb, last pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. King Horemheb with the Gods. On the left, Osiris, seated, Anubis on the head of a jackal and Horus, son of Isis on the head of a falcon. (Jean-Pierre Dalbera /  CC BY 2.0 )

Like his shut good friend and ally Horemheb, Paramesse was additionally not of royal beginning. His household, nonetheless, was fairly noble and distinguished, and paved the way in which for his ascension to the publish of vizier. And from vizier, he grew to become pharaoh. Upon his arrival to the throne, he adopted a regnal title: Menpehtyre Ramesses I, higher often called  Ramses I . And with that started the famed  Nineteenth Dynasty  of the Ramessids.

The Ramessid Dynasty: A Lineage of Nice Pharoahs

With Ramses I, a brand new interval of historical Egyptian historical past started. It was the Ramesside Interval, the reign of the highly effective Nineteenth Dynasty, which arose from the horrible downfall of its predecessor. It was clear that Horemheb, having no heirs, selected his shut ally Ramses with the destiny of Egypt in thoughts. Ramses already had each a son and grandson, and that meant that the road of succession was secured with him, and the realm wouldn’t undergo. And that was true: Ramses was already in his previous age when he grew to become pharaoh, and had a son and grandson behind him. Due to this, his reign was temporary; it lasted just one or two years, earlier than dying claimed him.

Reliefs from the Abydos chapel of Ramesses I which was built by Seti I, this king's son and successor to honor his father's memory. The finely cut chapel reliefs were presented by JP Morgan in 1911 to the Metropolitan Museum of New York where they are now on display. (John Campana / CC BY SA 2.0)

Reliefs from the Abydos chapel of Ramesses I which was constructed by Seti I, this king’s son and successor to honor his father’s reminiscence. The finely lower chapel reliefs had been offered by JP Morgan in 1911 to the Metropolitan Museum of New York the place they’re now on show. (John Campana /  CC BY SA 2.0 )

However there was no fear within the realm; his inheritor and successor had already been appointed. It was his son,  Seti, who rose to the rank of pharaoh and took up the title Menmaatre Seti I. He too, even after a while had handed, needed to treatment the in poor health results of Akhenaten’s controversial reign. However he did it efficiently, and reigned for roughly fifteen years as a strong and dominant king. He consolidated the empire, and shortly started tackling the weakening dominance of Egypt within the area. He centered on reaffirming his energy over Syria and Canaan, two historic areas that had been now affected by the fixed stress from the neighboring Hittite Empire, one of many conventional enemies of Egypt. On account of this, Seti I performed a number of sturdy army campaigns in opposition to the Hittites within the north, with good success. Most, if not all, of his campaigns ended as victories, or in favor of Egypt, besides, he didn’t handle to interrupt the facility of the huge  Hittite Empire . Nonetheless, he reconquered a lot of the territories that had been affected, and reasserted Egypt’s domination to a big extent.

The reminiscence of his nice victories in opposition to the Hittites and others was preserved in stone, as was the Egyptian customized. Nice and lavish bas-reliefs in stone adorned the entrance of the  Temple of Amun in Karnak , displaying his glory and would possibly for all to see. Historians agree that Seti was an amazing king with little flaws, and that his reign was a really profitable one, particularly after the turbulence of the Akhenaten period. It’s sure that a lot of the success trusted Seti’s army exploits, which had been directed mainly in opposition to the Semitic-speaking peoples of the north and east. He defeated Libyan invaders and conquered and defeated many Hebrews.

Pharaoh Seti I of the Ramessid Dynasty. Detail of a wall painting from the Tomb of Seti I, KV17, at the Valley of the Kings (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP / CC BY SA 4.0)

Pharaoh Seti I of the Ramessid Dynasty. Element of a wall portray from the Tomb of Seti I, KV17, on the Valley of the Kings (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP /  CC BY SA 4.0 )

The Ramessid Dynasty Introduced Again Egypt’s Golden Age

One among Seti’s most famous accomplishments was his seize of the border metropolis of Kadesh, located in Syria. There was nice rivalry between Egypt and the Hittite Empire, centered in town of Kadesh, and the Egyptians had misplaced management over it ever since Akhenaten. Now it was time to reconquer it, and Seti I took up the duty. He led an amazing military into what is taken into account one of many earliest pitched battles in historical past. The  Battle of Kadesh  occurred in 1274 BC, and was the biggest chariot battle ever fought, because it included some 6,000 battle chariots in whole. The battle was inconclusive, however Seti managed to triumphantly march into it as an indication of his triumph. Nonetheless, he couldn’t maintain it completely, and it quickly as soon as once more reverted to Hittite management.

Seti died in 1279 BC, and was laid to relaxation in a lavish and beautiful burial tomb within the Valley of the Kings. It’s the longest and deepest of all New Kingdom tombs, and is famend for its wealth of carvings, inscriptions, and work. Each single chamber and passageway had been adorned with scenes, extra proof of Seti’s wealth, energy, and grandeur.

Nonetheless, all of the grandeur and energy of Seti would quickly be overshadowed by his son and inheritor, Ramses II, who would turn out to be a good higher pharaoh than his father was. Bearing the title of his grandfather, Ramses II gained the epithet “Nice”, and is taken into account as “the best, most celebrated, and strongest” pharaoh of the New Kingdom interval, which is the golden period of historical Egypt. In the whole historical historical past of the world, Ramses II is remembered for his energy and energy as one among Egypt’s most succesful monarchs. In reality, he was so liked and admired, that each one the next pharaohs in historical past referred to him as “the Nice Ancestor”, though he lived centuries earlier than a few of them.

The primary a part of his rule was devoted to the constructing of gorgeous temples, monuments, and even total new cities. He constructed  Pi-Ramesses, his new capital that lay within the Nile Delta, from which he would conduct his new army campaigns. And this he did as quickly as attainable: he aimed to reconquer territories beforehand misplaced to Hittites, Nubians, and the Libyan tribes. He penetrated deep into Nubia, Syria, and Canaan, laying waste to his enemies and protecting the borders of Egypt safe from the threats of  Sea Peoples . Wherever threats arose, Ramses the Nice handled them effectively and decisively. And with that, he saved Egypt free to rise in its Golden Age.

From Nice Monarchs to Lesser Leaders within the Ramessid Dynasty

The energy of historical Egypt’s military peaked through the reign of  Ramses II . It numbered some 100,000 males, which was an awe-inspiring quantity for such an historical age. And it was this quantity that saved enemies at bay and solidified the affect of Egypt. Ramses the Nice loved a really lengthy reign, and died someday in his ninetieth or 91st 12 months of life. He was succeeded by his thirteenth son, Merneptah, already an previous man when he grew to become pharaoh. His reign was slightly uneventful when in comparison with his father or grandfather, and it lasted for not more than ten years. Together with his dying, there started a gradual decline within the energy and grandeur of the once-formidable Nineteenth Ramessid Dynasty.

Since Ramses the Nice had “innumerable” sons, it was inevitable that a few of them would try to usurp the Egyptian throne and interrupt the road of succession. This occurred through the reign of Merneptah’s son,  Seti II , when Egypt declined into temporary chaos as rival inheritor  Amenmesse usurped his place. After some 4 years of instability, Seti II regained his full place. Nonetheless, he didn’t get to reign so long as his predecessors; he died after solely six years as pharaoh. Additional instability continued within the royal court docket; Seti’s chief advisor, an upstart named Chancellor Bay, pulled the strings and schemed, rising to nice energy. Formally, Seti II was succeeded by his son, Merneptah Siptah, and informally by his eldest spouse, Queen Twosret.

Statue of Ramesses II, also known as Ramses the Great of the Ramessid Dynasty, located in the entrance hall of the Grand Egyptian Museum during construction (Djehouty / CC BY SA 4.0)

Statue of Ramesses II, often known as Ramses the Nice of the Ramessid Dynasty, positioned within the entrance corridor of the Grand Egyptian Museum throughout building (Djehouty /  CC BY SA 4.0 )

The Remaining Decline and Finish of the Ramessid Dynasty

The success and energy of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt was, alas, very temporary. Collectively, roughly eight monarchs of this period reigned for a collective 110 years, from round 1292 to 1187 BC. From their origins with Horemheb, they managed to stand up triumphantly from the chaos of Akhenaten’s reign, and to make use of the facility vacuum to their very own favor. Seti I and Ramses II excelled as vibrant, lively, and dominant pharaohs, etching their title in historical historical past as the perfect of all of Egyptian pharaohs.

But when historical past teaches us one thing, it’s that people who rise to nice heights are sure to fall again down slightly shortly. The pharaohs that adopted these two nice leaders weren’t in a position to fill the footwear of their forebears, and didn’t consolidate their energy and keep the affect of the royal court docket.

Prime Picture: Aswan temple, accomplished by Ramses II of the Ramessid Dynasty.  Supply:  Konstantin / Adobe Inventory

By Aleksa Vučković


Dalton, S.  The Historic Egyptian New Kingdom . Dttv Publications.

Frood, E. 2007.  Biographical Texts from Ramessid Egypt . Society of Biblical Lit.

Sweeney, E. 2021.  Egypt’s Ramesside Pharaohs and the Persians . Algora Publishing.

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