Ramses II was the third ruler in the 19th Dynasty (also known as the New Kingdom Period) and was born in 1303 BC. This pharaoh is many times referred to as Ramses the Great. Some alternative spellings for this Ancient Egyptian pharaoh are Rameses and Ramesses. Ramses II is also believed to be the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of Moses which gives him additional importance in history.
Ramses II’s Family
His father, Seti I, appointed Ramses II Prince Regent at the age of fourteen. After the death of his father, Ramses II then became pharaoh and ruled Egypt for many decades. Ramses II took the throne in his very late teens or early twenties. It is believed that Ramses II ruled from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for a total of 66 years. Ramses II had many wives and fathered about 100 children during his lifetime; although, the actual number is not known. At the time of his death, Ramses II was over 90 years of age and due to his longevity outlived many of his offspring, wives, and family members. Living this long was almost unheard of for people of that time. During his lifetime, Ramses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 Sed Festivals. These Sed Festivals were held after 30 years of a pharaoh’s reign and then every three years thereafter. The Sed Festivals were meant to celebrate the continued success of a pharaoh and also to rejuvenate a king’s strength.
Ramses II’s father was Seti I and his mother was Queen Tuya. Ramses II’s chief wife and consort was Nefertari although he had many other wives as well. Two other known wives are Isetnofret and Maathorneferure. It is believed that 12 sons died during Ramses II’s lifetime. Upon Ramses II’s death, he was succeeded by his thirteenth son Merenptah (aka Merneptah). Merneptah was thought to be between 55 or 60 years old when he actually took over the throne. Merneptah went on to rule for about ten years.
Due to the great discovery of Ramses II’s mummified body, Egyptologists and scientists have since been able to piece together some great information about this pharaoh. For example, upon analysis of Ramses II’s remains, the pharaoh is thought to have had red hair. Because this was not a prominent characteristic in Ancient Egypt, it most probably helped set him apart from other citizens of that time. In addition to standing out from the general population, persons with red hair were also seen as followers of the God Seth. Regarding other characteristics, Ramses II’s mummy further revealed that he had a hook nose with a strong jaw line and was about 5 feet 7 inches tall. It was also revealed that he was ridden with arthritis.
In addition to finding Ramses II’s mummy and learning more about this pharaoh’s attributes, information regarding the movement of his corpse was revealed through a linen cloth found wrapped around the mummified body. The linen cloth contained hieroglyphic pictures and provided details of how this move was accomplished in order to protect the pharaoh’s body from looters. The recordings revealed that Ramses II had been originally buried in the tomb KV7 (Valley of the Kings), but then the body was rewrapped and transferred to a holding area; the tomb of Queen Inhapy. It appears that within 72 hours, the body was again moved. This time it was moved to the tomb of the High Priest Pinudjem II. Today, Ramses II’s mummy can be found at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
More study of this great pharaoh reveals that toward the end of Ramses II’s reign, he developed serious health problems; although, these can be mostly attributed to old age. It appears that Ramses II walked with a hunched back due to his arthritis, had a hardening of the arteries, and had severe dental problems (abscessed tooth issues caused by bacterial infections).
Before Ramses II came to power, two thousand years of Pharaohs had come to rule before him, and the pyramids had been standing for at least a thousand years. By the time Ramses II died, he had accomplished many things. He was known as warrior, great king, family man, and venerated as a god. He had acquired several wives, many offspring, and had made the country wealthy by collecting riches and supplies from other empires. Due to his love of architecture, he had also created many memorials throughout Egypt. Some of the memorials completed were especially created for his first queen, Nefertari. Upon his death,