National Geographic : 1941 Oct
Ramesses "the Great" WHETHER or not the second of the twelve kings of Egypt named Ramesses was entitled to the epithet now com monly applied to him is an open question. There can, how ever, be no doubt that, if not actually "great," he was one of the most remarkable-or, better, "incredible"-rulers the earth has known. A few statistics will show what is meant. Ramesses II, born in 1318 B. c., came to the throne in 1298 and reigned the amazing total of 67 years, dying in 1232 at the ripe age of 86. The names of seven of his queens, seventy-nine of his sons, and thirty-one of his daughters have been preserved to us, but this probably does not begin to represent the total number of his wives and children. Buildings erected, enlarged, or completed in his reign in clude the Ramesseum-his great mortuary temple and palace in western Thebes-, the temple of Amfln at Luxor, the hypostyle hall and other structures at El Karnak, his own and his father's temples at Abydos, his father's temple at El Qurna, the temple of Ptalh at Memphis, several large build ings at Tanis, a palace at El Qantara, and the two imposing rock temples at Abu Simbil in Nubia (pages 480-481). By virtue of his own gigantic building activities and his constant usurpation of the monuments of earlier kings, his name appears on almost every ancient building inEgypt and on literally hundreds oflesser monuments. As a warrior he was lessdistinguished than asabuilder. He did, however, conductallegedly successful campaigns against the Nubians, theLibyans, theSyrians, and the Mediterranean islanders; and managed tocheck forthetime being the rising power of the Hittites ofAsia Minor. His outstanding military exploit was hisinconclusive victory over the Hittites and theirallies inthebattle ofKadesh, where, whatever else may besaid ofhim, hedidundoubtedly display great personal valor. Personally Ramesses IIwas every inch aking: tall, handsome, majestic in his bearing, and utterly reckless, both on the field of battle and incivil life. His vitality hasprob ably never been surpassed,and this, coupled with hisun doubted popularity, permitted him toaccomplish deeds, which a nobler and more intelligent ruler might well have found impossible. His greatest faults werehis insatiable desire forpublicity and his unparalleled talentfor boasting-faults which have too often caused posterity, unimpressed and thoroughly bored by his endless self-eulogies,todismiss him asanempty and pompous "blowhard," unworthy serious consideration.