August 4, 2013

Mortuary Temple of Ramses II (The Ramesseum)

Mortuary Temple of Ramses II (The Ramesseum)
Ramses II left a greater mark in history than many other accomplished and successful pharaohs, such as Ahmose (who won the war of liberation against the Hyksos) and Thutmose III (who won a great empire). The reason is that Ramses II had one of the longest reigns in Egyptian history. He ruled for 67 years and built more numerous monuments, of greater size, than any other pharaoh. He repeated, in huge and detailed relief, his victory during the Battle of Kadesh in the,{|tR year of his reign.

Temple of Ramses II
The history of the batnC'may be summarised as follows: Ramses II’s objective was to capture the Hittite stronghold of Kadesh 011 the Orontes river in Syria. He encountered little resistance until he approached the north-west of Kadesh, when his intelligence brought twro prisoners of war (who were, in fact, spies). They told Ramses that the Hittite King Muwatallish had retreated in fear of the advancing Egyptian army, and Ramses II was delighted to hear this.

Without taking even the most elementary precautions, he pitched camp, making ready for his march on Kadesh the next day. But the Hittite army lay hidden beyond the crest of a hill. They took Ramses completely by surprise and, in fact, his first brigade was completely cut off from the rest of his forces. It was fortunate for Ramses that the Hittite army was not as well organised as the Egyptian. After several chariot charges, and the timely arrival of his other battalions, the tables were turned, and Ramses drove the enemy back. Although, he did not achieve his objective, Kadesh, neither did he suffer a defeat.

A poem was written about Ramses II’s military prowess by an unknown poet, who lauded his bravery and victory. He liked it so much that he had it inscribed on his monuments of which there were many; from Nubia to the Mediterranean he was honoured as hero.

Temple of Ramses II
Ramses II suppressed some Nubian revolts during his reign, and also carried out a campaign in Libya. His greatest accomplishment however, is the one about which least is known; his protection of Egypt from a threat from the sea. Recent excavations along the Mediterranean coast have revealed a series of fortresses which he built, and which achieved their purpose. The battles against the ‘People of the Sea', only occurred some thirty years after Ramses II’s death, in the reign of his successor, Ramses III.

Both towers of the Entrance Pylon are badly damaged. The inside of the northern tower (a) has scenes of the Egyptian camp and the southern tower (b) scenes of the battle.

Towards the south-eastern corner of the First Court (A) lie the remains of what was once the biggest colossus of the pharaoh (c) and, without doubt, one of the most enormous pieces of stone ever fashioned. The remains of this perfectly sculpted and polished granite statue include the chest, upper arm and foot. Careful measurements have been made and it is estimated that the statue’s total height must have been over seventeen metres, and its weight over a thousand tons. It was transported from the quarries of Aswan in one piece.

The Second Court (B) had colonnades on all four sides and a terrace to the rear. On each side of the central stairway leading to the terrace were monoliths of the king (d). Facing the court were still more statues of Ramses II backed by Osiride pillars. The representations on the shafts of the columns show him sacrificing to the deities.

To the right of the doorway (e), are more scenes of the Battle of Kadesh (lower registers) with Ramses in his chariot, and the enemy pierced by arrows or trampled beneath the horse’s hooves. In the upper registers are reliefs of the F'estival of the god Min. This important festival was celebrated at the time of the harvest. The priests, who stand to the side of the pharaoh, await a procession headed by other priests. They carry images of the royal ancestors. Four birds are released, to carry the royal tidings to the four corners of the earth. Ramses cuts a sheaf with a sickle to present to the god Min.

The terrace to the rear is approached by a stairway. On the left- hand wall (f) there are well-preserved reliefs showing Ramses II (to the right), kneeling before Amon, Mut and Khonsu. Thoth, who is behind him, records his name for eternal remembrance. To the left, the hawk-headed Montu holds the hieroglyph for life before the king’s face; and Atum leads him forward. The scenes of the top register show offerings to the deities, and those on the bottom depict Ramses as a family man with many of his sons.

Temple of Ramses II
The Hypostyle Hall (C) is similar to that of Karnak; it also has taller columns at the centre with spreading calyx-capitals, and lower ones at the sides with bud capitals. The difference in height is made up of pillars with the spaces creating windows which afford light into the hall. All the reliefs show Ramses II in battle. He storms the fortress, at (g), and is shown in vigorous battle. His sons took part and proved themselves worthy of their heroic father. Each is identifiable by his name engraved beside him, at (h) and (i).

Beyond the Hypostyle Hall are two smaller halls, one behind the other. The first (D) has astrological representations on the roof, and scenes of priests bearing the sacred boats of Amon, Mut and Khonsu (j) and (k). On the rear right-hand wall (1) Ramses is seated beneath the sacred persea tree of Heliopolis, on the leaves of w hich his names are being written by the god Atum, the goddess Sheshat, and Thoth.

Temple of Ramses II
The second hall (E) is mostly in ruin. It has some sacrificial representations that include a scene of Ramses burning incense to Ptah and Sekhmet (m).

The mortuary temple was surrounded by store-rooms and priestly chambers and, as already mentioned, there was a palace complex to the south where Ramses watched the work being- executed.

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