Nubiana

43 RAMESSES II AND HIS TIME View of the colossal statue of Ramesses II among the columns of the temple of Luxor, 1908. The political and religious events that occurred in the second half of the 14thCentury BCprecipitated a dynastic crisis. With the death of Tutankhamun, son of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenho- tep IV), in 1323 BC, power had in fact been seized by the advisers closest to him, firstly Ay, then the “generalissimo” Horemheb (1319-1292 BC), whose long reign was a period of relative calm that was required to restore harmony and order, although he did conduct some military campaigns in Syria. Since he had no heirs, Horemheb left the throne to Ramesses I, a trusted elderly general from the Del- ta: this marked the start of the 19th Dynasty (1292- 1190 BC). His reign lasted just one year andhewas succeededafter his death inaround 1291BC by his son Sethos I. Another former general, he waged a number of military campaigns against the disloyal Syrian princes and the Hittites, restoring Egyptian influence in south- ern Syria. After Sethos had reigned for about 12 years, his son, Ramesses II, ascended the throne in 1279 BC. The cornerstone of his foreign policy, like his father’s, was to recover lost Egyptian territory in Syria by attacking the Hittites and the princes that were faith- ful to them. Ramesses II was among the last pharaohs of the New Kingdom to have a clear policy of conquering and controlling the territories in Syria-Palestine, which had always been fought over with the neighboring empires of the Middle East. His mili- tary expeditions in the region lasted until the twenty-first year of his reign (1259 BC), when Ramesses II was urged to sign a peace treaty and form an alliance with the new Hittite King Hattušili III, since both were alarmed by the growing strength of the warlike Assyrian Empire. The treaty’s provisions provided for mutual recognition of the territories they had occupied in Syria. Ramesses II carried out other military campaigns, to the north- west against Libya which was in turmoil and to the south against the Nubians in revolt. He was also active in domestic politics. In the early years of his reign, he moved the country’s capital fromThebes to Pi-Ramesses (“The house of Ramesses”) in the east- ern Delta, an existing town which he turned into the most important city of Lower Egypt. Ramesses II undertook extensive building projects, the sign of a certain degree of pros- perity. He appears to have built more than any other pharaoh, with major achievements in both Egypt and Nubia, founding new and impressive temples and enlarging existing RAMESSES I I AND HIS TIME

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