The Megalomaniac Pharaoh


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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Abu Simbel
January 20th 2013
Published: January 20th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Usermaatra Setepenra, the chosen of Ra, born to be a god, otherwise, he was deeply convinced. Son of Seti I and Queen Tuya was the third Pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty. Rule Egypt for nearly seven decades between 1279 and 1213 BC with the name of Ramses II or Ramses Meriamon.

Under his reign moved the Egyptian capital of Thebes to Memphis and then to Pi-Rameses on the Nile Delta. Fought at sea against shardana pirates. On land pacified Canaan and Syria, and confronted Hittites in the Battle of Kadesh. All these facts have been written in several stelae engraved in numerous temples. Fighting pirates told in the Tanis Stelae. Syrian campaigns in Eleuteros and Byblos ones. The Battle of Kadesh is the first ever known with such detail and the subsequent peace treaty.

There are eight copies of the Pentaur poem perfectly preserved. Pentaur was the scribe who praised the Pharaoh bravery and courage against the king Muwatallis II troops with the same emphasis that currently would tell any television. Ramses wished that war against the Hittites were known throughout the empire. Copies of the epic made in relief are not uncommon.

The chosen of Ra was also concerned to find its place in the pantheon of deities. In all the temples he built and restored he represented itself along with other major gods. In Abu Simbel’s temple, the pharaoh was represented at the last and main interior room. Sitting next to Ptah of Memphis, Thebes Amon-Ra and Ra-Harakhty from Heliopolis. Each year, two months before the solstice, Pharao’s face receive through the temple door and along the entire length of the inner passage, a warm sunbeam.

Abu Simbel was the largest architectural construction undertaken and completed by Ramses dedicated to his own glory. Carved in stone on the Nile at the gates of the land of Nubia, four colossal sculptures of the sitting Pharaoh keep the temple’s facade. Inside Kadesh battle story in the atrium precedes new statues of the Pharaoh.

The passing centuries literally buried Usermaatra Setepenra memory, until, in 1813, the eyes of the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who had discovered the Nabatean city of Petra a year earlier, noticed that the ruins surfaced from the sand during a journey of exploration into Nubia. A sixteenth of September, three years later, one European, the Paduan Gian Battista Belzoni, entered for the first time inside the temple after removing a huge amount of sand. A few years later another expedition, this time French-Tuscan, attended by Ippolito Rosellini and Jean-François Champollion, future translator of the Rosetta stone, worked and explored the ruins south to Wadi Halfa, nowadays in Sudan. His investigations were embodied in nine volumes published between 1832 and 1844 titled "The Monuments of Egypt and Nubia".

Rescued from oblivion the huge pamphlet stone of Rameses was facing new threats. A first Aswan dam was built in the early twentieth century, between 1898 and 1902, but would extend this and a much more ambitious project drawn up in 1959, under President Nasser, who threaten to Abu Simbel and the rest of temples of Lower Nubia. While in January 1960, work began on the new dam the Egyptian government and UNESCO chose to dismantle and rebuild the temple piece by piece. Thousand and thirty-five blocks of stone between twenty and thirty-three tons moved location in what was probably the bulkiest moving history.

Near Abu Simbel, Nubian lands even, Ramses made his mark and his exploits in the temples of Beit al Wali, Wadi es Sebua, Amada and Derr. Also in the of Karnak and Luxor complex, as in the ancient capital of Memphis and Thebes, where the Ramesseum, the temple dedicated to Ramses, as was quoted by the historian Diodorus Siculus in the first century BC, calling the place Osymandyas Grave.

Today in Nubia land flooded by the Nile waters, the Sun god reflects in the evening twilight on the new dam. Ramses also does.

© J.L.Nicolas


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