The history of Ancient Egypt consisted of a number of very powerful rulers known as pharaohs. These pharaohs were regarded as gods by the Egyptian people. Every aspect of daily Egyptian life including the weather, and the success of the crops, was supposedly controlled by the pharaohs’ attitude. Many Egyptians would devote their entire lives to the construction of the tomb for their pharaoh. Egyptians believed that by helping the pharaoh, they were securing their own place in the afterlife. All of the information that is known about each pharaoh was obtained from what is depicted on the walls of the various structures and tombs. The reign of Ramses II was one of the longest and most prolific reigns in Egyptian history. Trends set by him in architecture and relations with religious leaders paved the way for future pharaohs. Ramses II was the third king of the nineteenth dynasty and the son of Seti I. Seti took great care in the education of Ramses. He educated him both as a sportsman, and a warrior, but also included lessons in history, politics, and religious practices. Seti made sure Ramses was constantly surrounded by beautiful ladies in waiting, and possibly had a wife chosen for him very early in life. Ramses eventually had five or six wives, the foremost being Neferatri, and possibly over one hundred children (Montet 164). Ramses reigned for sixty-seven years and outlived twelve of his sons. He died at the age of ninety, and his thirteenth son, Merenptah, who was in his sixties, became a pharaoh (Time-Life).
Immediately following the death of Seti I, Ramses began a massive restoration project on his father’s building projects which had been abandoned. The first of these projects was the expansion of Seti’s summer palace and ancestral home, at Avaris in the Nile Delta, into an entirely new capital city (Time-Life 51). Pi-Ramses, as it was later called, included a precinct which encompassed six square miles (half the size of the city), and contained a battle staging area complete with workshops, drilling fields, and stables for chariots. All of this to promote the army of Ramses. The location of Pi-Ramses was an attempt to move the center of Egyptian power closer to the center of commerce in the Eastern Mediterranean (Time-Life 32).
The reign of Ramses II consisted of numerous building projects, including the temple at Abu Simbel, Hypostyle Hall, the Ramesseum, and the temple at Luxor. All of these projects displayed in their enormous size, the power of Ramses. Abu Simbel is located about 762 miles south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile River. It consists of two temples commissioned about 1250 B.C. which were built into the sandstone cliffs over looking the water. The smaller of the two temples was dedicated to the god Hathor, and Ramses’ deified queen, Nefertari. The larger templemostly contained statues of Re-Harakhti, god of the rising son, but it also contained statues of Ptah, Amon-Re, and King Ramses II himself (Peck).
Ramses finished Hypostyle Hall, which was begun by Seti, and is the largest of its kind in the world. It encompasses 54,000 square feet, and includes 134 columns with a roof eighty feet high. The interior walls of Hypostyle Hall tell of Ramses’ divine coronation and other sacred scenes which partially covered the reliefs of his father. The outside walls depict Ramses’ military campaigns in Canaan and Syria, including the famous battle of Kadesh, and a copy of the peace treaty which was signed with the Hittites (Time-Life 51).
Both the Ramesseum, and the Temple at Luxor, display enormous statues of Ramses himself. The Ramesseum, a mortuary temple, contains a sixty-six foot tall seated statue of the pharaoh. This statue weighs one thousand tons, making it the largest known statue ever carved from a single piece of granite (Time-Life 54).