April 19, 2012

The Queens of Ramesses II List

The Queens of Ramesses II
During his long reign Ramses took eight principal wives, but Nefertari was his first and favourite among them. Her tomb is the finest in the Valley of the Queens. Everywhere there is superb drawing and colour, recently restored to much of its pristine original condition by a team of international conservationists backed by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu. Details are shown here. (Right) The queen, described in the hieroglyphs as 'The Deceased Great Royal Wife Nefertari', being greeted by the goddess Hathor, identified by her name before her rather than by her usual iconography of a woman with cow's ears. (Below) Maat, the goddess of truth, kneels with her protective outstretched wings above the entrance to Nefertari's burial chamber. The queen's royal cartouches appear on the lintel and door jambs.

Ramesses II Wives
The Great Royal Wives
  1. Nefertari
  2. Istnofret
  3. Bint-Anath daughter of Istnofret
  4. Meryetamun daughter of Nefertari
  5. Nebettawy
  6. Henutmire king’s sister
  7. Maathorneferure 1st Hittite princess
  8. (Name unknown) 2nd Hittite princess
Ramses gathered together one of the greatest forces of Egyptian troops ever seen, 20,000 men basically in four divisions of 5000 each, named respectively after the gods Amun, Re, Ptah and Seth.

Following virtually in Tuthmosis Ill's footsteps of some 200 years earlier, Ramses moved up through the Gaza Strip and was about 10 miles from Kadesh in early May. With such a large army, plus all the necessary ancillary elements of baggage trains and camp followers, progress was slow and extended over a vast area. Two spies captured and interrogated on the approach to Kadesh indicated that the Hittite army was over 100 miles to the north. Ramses therefore moved forward confidently with the first division, Amun, crossed the river Orontes and camped to the west of Kadesh, a city that had created strong defences by diverting water through a canal from the river, making the city virtually an island. Ramesses' complacency was soon shaken, however, when a forward patrol captured two more spies who revealed under torture that the previous pair had been a 'plant' - the Hittite army was in fact just the other side of Kadesh, waiting in ambush.

The Hittite king, Muwatallis, had assembled an army even greater than the Egyptian one. In two sections each of about 18,000 and 19,000 men, plus 2500 chariots, it was a formidable force - and it struck almost immediately at the Re division, coming up to join Ramesses. The chariots swept through the Egyptian ranks, scattering the soldiery like chaff, and then plunged into the recently made camp. Confusion reigned and Ramses found himself isolated, abandoned by all except his personal guard and shield-bearer, Menna. Nevertheless, as a quick-witted commander, he rallied his few forces to resist the attack. He was saved from annihilation or, worse, capture by his elite guard which, having taken a different route from the main army, came up rapidly and made a flank attack on the Hittites. Forced to fight on two fronts, Muwatallis retreated and the quiet of night settled over the battlefield, which Ramses occupied.

The following day the now reunited Egyptian forces attacked, but the outcome was virtually a stalemate. Ramesses, however, did not view it as such. The pharaoh, young and remembering no doubt that his father Seti had not been able to hold Kadesh, reserved his options when Muwatallis proposed a peace. The Egyptian army marched home and the status quo remained.

Bombastic accounts of the battle and Ramesses' personal bravery under the hand of Amun were later inscribed on the walls of the temples at Karnak, Luxor (three versions), the Ramesseum (twice) and Ramesses' temples at Abydos, Abu Simbel and Derr. Many graphic incidents are illustrated in the reliefs: the charging chariotry, the heroic king, mercenaries in distinctive horned helmets cutting off the right hands of the slain for accounting purposes and, ludicrously (on the back of the Second Pylon in the Ramesseum), the fleeing Prince of Aleppo who tumbled into the Orontes, was fished out and suspended upside down by his adherents in an effort to drain him and bring him round. Accounts of the battle were also written in hieratic on papyrus, often as schoolboy exercises, and embellished with drawings of spirited horses.

Further campaigns were undertaken against the Hittites in subsequent years, but eventually Ramses realized that he could not hold the northern reaches of Syria, just as his opponents could not control the south. Internal troubles and a growing Assyrian menace to the east made the new Hittite king, Hattusilis III, realize that there was no point in the almost annual cat-and-mouse game with Egypt. He proposed a peace treaty. The outcome was terms agreed in Year 21 (1259), essentially of mutual non-aggression and support.

The treaty survives carved on the walls of Karnak and the Ramesseum and, by one of those coincidences of fate, in the Hittite version on clay tablets from Hattusas, the Hittite capital. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the two accounts do not quite agree. The Hittite sources say, for example, that it was Ramses who sued for peace.) Letters and gifts were exchanged between the two royal families. An affable situation obtained, so much so that in 1246 Hattusilis III proposed an even closer link by offering one of his younger daughters to Ramses as wife; her Egyptian name was Maathorneferure.

There was a slight contretemps over the size of the dowry to accompany the princess, with Ramses incongruously pleading poverty and asking for more, but it was resolved and she joined the court. A second princess, Hattusilis's oldest daughter, was offered some seven years later in 1239 and came to Egypt to join her sister. This new liaison was celebrated on marriage stele at Karnak, Elephantine, Abu Simbel and Amara West.

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