Ramesses: Egypt's Greatest Pharaoh Kindle Edition
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The author updates our knowledge of Rameses II's monumental construction including the rediscovery of the massive royal tomb KV5 in 1995 by Kent Weeks which proved to house over 150 passageways and chambers to house this king's many sons who predeceased their father, and the discovery of a Year 56 stela from his reign near Damascus. The location of the stela hints to Egyptian military activity in support of their new Hittite allies in Syria and the Levant after the signing of the Egyptian-Hittite peace treaty in Year 21 of Ramesses II.
Tyldesley notes that Ramesses II was a risk taker from the very beginning of his reign. Despite the spectacular failure of Akhenaten's decision to shift Egypt's political capital to a new city called Akhetaten (modern day El-Amarna), Ramesses proceeded to transform his father's summer palace in the Delta into a splendid new city called Pi-Ramesse Aa-nakhtu or the "House of Ramesses-Great-of-Victories." This city was about 60 miles northeast of modern day Cairo and served as both a military fortress, a springboard for his military campaigns into the Levant and a link to this region which was his family's spiritual heartland. (Ramesses II's family were northerners from the Delta) Ramesses' efforts was a great success unlike the fate which befell Akhenaten's isolated and ultimately doomed city of Akhetaten which was cut off from both Thebes and Memphis, Egypt's two great administrive centres. Pi-Ramesse Aa-nakhtu is likely the prominent Egyptian "treasure" city of 'Raamses' that the Ancient Israelites slaved in and eventually left behind in their great exodus to the Holy Land under Moses. (Exodus 1:11)
In summary, Tyldesley's book is an excellent study of the man who dominated Egyptian's lives for an unprecedented reign of 66 years. It is a real page turner and one must be amazed at how the Egyptian's reacted to the death of this larger than life figure who had provided them with so many decades of stability and wealth. To her credit, Tyldesley does not neglect to highlight the gradual and painful decline in Egypt's fortunes in the later Twentieth Dynasty under a whole host of kings named Rameses from III to XI. However, it appears that little of the blame for these events can be placed directly upon Ramses II and more on mother nature as the continuous eruption of the Thera Volcano in Iceland from 1159-1140 BC depressed Egypt's agricultural production leading to severe economic difficulties in conjuction with the arrival of the aggressive Sea Peoples and Libyan invaders on Egypt's shores during the later reign of Ramesses III. Ramses II's reputation among his subject's remained solidly intact and his accession date of III Shemu day 27 was declared a public holiday during the 20th Dynasty so that all Egyptians could pay homage to his memory.
Here are the chapter titles for those that are interested:
2-A New Beginning: Life Before Ramesses
3-Ramesses the Warrior
4-Ramesses the God
5-Ramesses the Husband
6-Ramesses the Father
7-Ramesses the Mortal
8-Decline and Decay: The last Ramesses
The book also includes many photographs, figures, and maps.
Other books from Joyce Tyldesley that I have read so far and would also recommend:
Nefertiti : Egypt's Sun Queen
Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt
Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh
Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt
Even though a lot more could have been said about this great man, it is a very insightful book and should be a must for anyone who has interest in Egyptian history (since Ramesses reigned for nearly 60 years this book covers a lot of ground in terms of history). This is an intriguing book on Ramesses and the best and most complete one I have seen.
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