There are many well-known Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, but one of the most popular is Ramses II. This isn’t really surprising because he had accomplished a lot of things during his time. He also had an unusually long reign — he was in power for 67 years — which not only earned him recognition but also turned him into a god. (Egyptian pharaohs became gods if they stayed in power for 30 years.)
But what exactly did Ramses do that made him a popular and well-respected ruler? There are actually lots of answers to this, but some of his biggest achievements are the following:
Successful Military Campaigns
Ramses II became pharaoh when he was 25 years old and, when the crown was turned over to him, he focused his energies on defeating Egypt’s enemies like the Nubians, Libyans, Hittites, and Syrians. He did this to regain Egyptian lands that had been captured by these other kingdoms and to secure the country’s borders. He went on numerous military campaigns and won many of them, and he developed and fortified the Egyptian army until it grew to around 100,000 well-trained soldiers.
Perhaps the most famous campaign of Ramses II is the Battle of Kadesh. It was his second campaign against Syria, and he effectively prepared for it by pushing his people to create more than 200 chariots and thousands of shields and weapons. With these inventories, Ramses II was able to attack the formidable Hittite army. The Egyptians were ambushed and outnumbered at first (they only had 20,000 men while the enemies numbered 50,000), but they were able to counterattack and chase the Hittites back to their city walls.
No side was victorious in the battle, but Ramses II used it to prove that he could stand his ground and lead his army well. He tried again a few years later and eventually succeeded in defeating the Hittites.
First Peace Treaty
Despite his military campaigns against his enemies, Ramses was able to create a peace treaty with the Hittite king later on. Their agreement is considered to be the first ever peace treaty in the world. The treaty was recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs and in Akkadian cuneiform, and historians have found out that, though they’re similar in wordings, each version tells its own story. The Egyptian version says that the Hittites approached them asking for peace, while the Hittite version says otherwise. Despite these differences, the treaty proved to be effective since Ramses II didn’t carry out military campaigns in Canaan after the agreement was signed.
Experts point out that signing the peace treaty was a smart move for Ramses II. For one thing, it helped him maintain and solidify Egypt’s borders, ensuring that the kingdom retained its territories. It also helped keep the kingdom safe and stable. Ramses II concluded his military campaigns during the first 20 years of his reign, which meant that he was able to focus the rest of his reign on improving Egypt and that his people enjoyed safety and prosperity for a long time.
Under Ramses II’s rule, Egypt prospered and enjoyed economic stability. This became possible because of the riches and goods that Ramses II captured during his military campaigns and brought to Egypt. Although the kingdom crumbled several decades after his reign, it was undeniable that he was able to inject prosperity into it while he was in power.
Aside from undertaking numerous military campaigns, Ramses II also focused on (and, as some experts say, become obsessed with) taking Egypt’s architecture to the next level. He covered the land with buildings that reflected his glory and put many Egyptians to work to erect these structures.
One of these buildings is the Ramesseum, a memorial temple that’s located near Luxor. It’s well-known for its impressive pylon (the entrance of the building), which is carved with images that refer to Ramses II’s military campaigns and victories. The temple is also popular because of its two large seated statues of the pharaoh and its huge Ramses II statue (which used to stand at 56 feet but now lies in ruins). Another example of these monuments is the Abu Simbel, which is a set of two rock temples in the Nubian region that were erected to celebrate Ramses II and his Queen Nefertari. The temples contain four seated statues of the pharaoh that each measure more than 60 feet tall.
Aside from creating new monuments, Ramses II also found ways to insert his name into existing structures. He supposedly ordered that the smallest repair in a building had to include his inscription, and he renovated ancient temples to ensure that they would reflect his image and encourage people to pay homage to his divine power. These actions prompted many historians to call him an ancient graffiti artist.
Ramses II didn’t stop at building new structures, though; during his reign, he successfully moved the capital from to a new place he called Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, which was near Canaan and Syria. There, he erected his residential palace and filled the land with large temples. He reportedly even had a zoo near his palace.
Ramses II had many wives, but he was very fond of his first wife Nefertari (who died early, probably because of childbirth). Because of this, he had her likeness carved on numerous structures in the kingdom. He also ensured that her tomb would have beautiful and eye-catching wall paintings that reflect the best of Egyptian art. Nefertari’s tomb had been looted over the years, but the wall decorations are still intact and can be enjoyed today.
As mentioned above, Ramses II became a god after his 30th year as pharaoh. However, it wasn’t the only way that he left an impact on Ancient Egyptian religion. This comes from the fact that, during his reign, he exerted a large amount of effort to deface the monuments that were built during the Amarna period. He also did everything he could to reshape the structure of the Egyptian religion and ensure that people went back to the traditions that were practiced before the pharaoh Akhenaton came into power.
Ramses II contributed a lot to the growth and development of the Ancient Egyptian kingdom. With his military cunning and architectural fervor, he was able to create a period of peace and prosperity and make a name for himself as one of the successful pharaohs.