Ramesses the Great
I am going to tell you a story today of a child who became a god, and this story is entirely true.
Once upon a long time ago, a baby boy was born. His father and his father’s father served in the godking’s army so loyally and faithfully that the godking himself appointed the boy’s grandfather a position in his court. When the godking died without heirs, his grandfather was elevated to deific status and became the godking of the great kingdom. When his grandfather died, his father was also elevated to godking, and at the age of ten, the boy was named leader of the great kingdom’s vast army. The boy grew into a strong and brave man, heading armies alongside his father and later on his own, until such a time as his father died, passing the mantle of the godking onto him.
The young godking knew that the duty of his station was to carry on the dynasty and make his kingdom the most powerful kingdom in all that land, but more than that, the godking could hear the echoes of future history down the corridor of time. his boy become man become king become god served his role well, keeping many wives and having many children, but it is said that his whole heart belonged to one woman his whole life. She was said to be the most beautiful woman in all the land. He made war on many of the neighboring lands, bringing them under his rule, but his reign ended in peace. But perhaps the most important thing he did to ensure his memory throughout the ages was ordering many great works to be graven in his image throughout his kingdom. In the 66 years of his didactic reign, King Ramesses II changed the width and breadth of the known world with his public works, his conquests, and most noticeably, his image, carved in stone throughout Egypt in perpetuity.
Yeah, okay, cheap storyteller’s trick there, but you clearly read this far! Ramesses II was probably not the original rags to riches story, but he is certainly one of the most meteoric. Everything in the story above is absolutely true: His grandfather and father were military men until his grandfather was granted the position of vizier by Pharaoh Horemheb (who was commander in chief of the armies under Pharaoh’s Tutankamun and Ay, so some measure of precedence set there). It is widely assumed that Horemheb had no children of his own, as the line of succession passed to Ramesses I (grandfather to our guy), and subsequently to Seti I (father of our guy). Tada! A 19th dynasty is born.
Here is the thing. Ramesses II knew his business. The first job of a pharaoh is to maintain the dynasty. Before he was king, he fathered ten sons and many daughters. All told, he had upwards of 90 kids. I mean, when you have 66 years of being king of the world, you can do these things, I guess. He had many wives, but it is long speculated that the love of his life was his first queen, Nefertari. I will probably talk more on her in another post as she deserves a great deal of specific attention, but the bottom line is: This woman was beautiful, intelligent, and – ahem – fertile. Hers is the largest and most grand tomb in the Valley of the Queens, and that is REALLY saying somethng.
Ramesses II is known these days as Ramses the Great, and has been the subject of many articles, books, and movies over the years. He also played a somewhat important role in one of the bestselling books of all time. You know, the Bible?
Ramesses II is supposedly the pharaoh who prompted the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. There isn’t a lot of historical evidence to back this up other than to say 1) a large quantity of Jews left Egypt at some point, and 2) Ramesses II was pharaoh of Egypt at some point, and 3) the Bible tells me so. The Bible as a historical document has proven unreliable at best over the years, but it has gotten a few things right, so perhaps we can give it the benefit of a doubt. If we are counting victories overall though, the scoreboard looks a bit like this: Moses and the Jews: 1. Ramesses II: Dozens.
Photo credit: Wikipedia