April 18, 2012

Ramses II and the Hittite Wars

The Hittite wars
Relations with the Hittites on Egypt's Syrian frontier were far from friendly during the first part of Ramesses' reign. In Seti's time, Egypt had kept her influence on the southern Phoenician coastline ports while the Hittites retained the northern city of Kadesh. In Year 4 of Ramesses' reign, however, there was a revolt in the Levant and in the spring of Year 5 (1275 BC) the new king was forced to mobilize his army.

Ramses II and Hittite Wars

Seti and Ramses II
The great dedication stele in Seti I’s temple at Abydos, the longest inscription of his son Ramses II’s reign (116 lines), is the prime source for details of Ramesses’ early years and association with his father in the kingship. It was set up later in Ramesses’ reign and opens by recounting how he sailed to Abydos, the sacred shrine of Osiris, and was aghast to find that the cemetery buildings of the earlier kings lay in ruins. Seti’s beautiful temple, under construction when he died, remained unfinished, and its endowments from land and the goldmines in the eastern desert had been suspended, despite Seti's own earlier 19-line long inscription calling down the retribution of Osiris, Isis and Horus upon any official or his family who might interfere with arrangements for the temple’s income.

Image of Seti I from his temple in Abydos
Ramses tells how he immediately summoned the Court, making known his intention to complete and re-endow Seti’s temple. Then he begins to recount the details of his appointment as coregent all those years earlier:

‘The All-Lord [Seti] himself made me great, while I was a child, until I reigned ... I was installed as eldest son, as hereditary prince upon the throne of Geb [the earth god] ... [He, Seti, said] “Crown him as king, that I may see his beauty while I live with him”... He equipped me with women, a royal harem, as beautiful as those of the palace, those of the South and North were under my feet....'

The Court, naturally, responded with acclamation.
inaugurating his own (smaller) temple to Osiris at Abydos. Many inscriptions of up-and-coming young men attest to Seti's keen and acute eye in spotting the high flyers, who were to grow up alongside Ramses and serve him well in his turn (although he outlived most of them).

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