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Will the real Ramesses please stand up?

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

In Egypt's 3,000 year history there has been hundreds of leaders of the unified nation. None as renowned, talked about, or as famous as Ramesses II. Known by western Judeo Christian religions as the Exodus pharaoh, knowing him only through the Exodus, discredits what he accomplished in his own right. In the ancient world he was more than just a ruthless antagonist to Moses, but perhaps the most powerful man in the ancient world around the end of the Bronze Age circa 1250 BC.

He had many cities and monuments erected in his name, but he also lived almost a century, and outlived several of his children whose deaths have yet to be determined by archaeologists. He also had countless children, over 100 children in his lifetime. Perhaps having more children than almost any other known historical figure. But he lived a long life spanning over ninety years which is an unheard of amount of time to live 3,000 years ago, and through it all he had a towering presence in the ancient world that few could match. Which is ironic is that he was small, frail, and short in stature and archaeologists who have used data to determine his actual appearance have discovered that for such a larger than life figure, he was quite small. His influence stretched through Canaan, Syria, and because of this he was challenged by opposing civilizations such as the Hittites. He wasn't a ruthless warlord, in fact on the contrary, he was actually quite the diplomat and statesman for making the first peace treaty in recorded history with the Hittites.

Beyond his political innovations he also erected monuments and accomplished architectural feats that few other Pharaohs accomplished. The Great Abu Simbel Temples and the Burial Chambers of the Valley of the Kings are among the many projects he accomplished during his reign taking roughly twenty years to complete between 1264 BC to 1244 BC. Even though he’s best remembered as Moses' primary antagonist during the Exodus, little evidence exists that Ramesses was even involved with the holding of captives for a lengthy period of time. The fact remains that there is so much about Ramesses as a powerful historical figure and presence that we shouldn’t try to limit him to simply being a foil for Moses. This does a disservice to one of Egypt’s greatest Pharaohs. So we must look past the mythology and appreciate him for his role in the Ancient World.

This is a reconstructed face of Ramesses II.

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