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He came to the throne at the age of 20 or so, and ruled for a sixty-seven years. Ramesses the Great ruled longer than any pharaoh except Pepi II (who ruled 94 years), and from the number of monuments and activities during his years on nth throne, Ramesses is recognized as one of the most important rulers of Egypt.
The name of Ramesses II has been found at almost every site in Egypt -- which meant that most of our guides called him the "Coca Cola Pharaoh", because his name was up everywhere, like Coke billboards. Ramesses II either built, or simply took over, existing monuments, statues, and other inscriptions. He carved his name into just about everything, sometimes in very deep relief to keep anyone else from "overwriting" his name, as he had done to others.
One of the most spectacular monuments in Egypt belongs to Ramesses II, the Temples at Abu Simbel, on the southern border of Egypt. These awe-inspiring temples are even more amazing when you realize they have been dismantled and moved up the hill due to the building of the HIgh Dam.
He also finished the hypostyle hall at Karnak, added the two colossal statues to the Tempe of Ptah in Memphis, added to the Temple of Luxor, built a huge mortuary complex at Abydos (near his father's), and built the enormous Ramesseum.
Ramesses founded the eastern Delta city of Pi-Ramesse.
He waged war against the Hittites an the famous battle of Kadesh was recorded in a long composition that remains one of the best known and supported documents in Egyptian history. There is some question of whether he was actually ever there, much less a victorious military leader, but the story sounds good! John Wilson describes him as "a stupid and culpably inefficient general". He led his army of twenty thousand against thirty-seven thousand troops of the Hittites. The result was inconclusive. Even though the war ended in a virtual stalemate, Ramesses spent a lot of time and space describing his victory and his brilliance in leading his troops. However, he is responsible for the peace treaty between Egypt and the Hittites in the 21st year of his reign, with the Hittite king Hattusilis III. Both version (Egyptian and Hitter) exist.
One of the most commonly repeated fact about Ramesses II was that he had over 200 wives and concubines -- resulting in 96 sons and 60 daughters. His primary wives, Nefertari and Istnofret, he married quite early in his reign, and only eight of his wives are known by name: Nefertari, Isnofret, Bint-anath, Aerytamun, Nebettawy, Henutmire, Maathoneneferure. Even the names of some of his children are known.
Most pharaohs leave no written evidence of their children, but we have the names of over thirty of his sons and daughters. They are often shown in processionals in the reliefs on Ramesses II's temples (over ten of them) all over Egypt. The recently discovered tomb KV 5 in Thebes is believed to be tombs for many of his sons. It may be the largest tomb found in the valley.
His son, Khaemwise, was high priest of Ptah, governor of Memphis. He was responsible for the restoration of the pyramid of Unas. He is buried in the Serapeum, near the sacred apis bulls. He was outlived by his father.
Another son, Amun-her-shepseshef, the first son of his favored wife Nefertari, also predecessor his father. Amunhershepeshef died in his early forties, in year 40 of Ramesses II's reign. All in all, Ramesses II outlived thirteen of his sons, and it was the fourteenth son, Merneptah, with his second wife Isnofret, who eventually succeeded him.
Ramesses was buried in the Valley of the Kings, KV 7, although his mummy was initially moved into the 18h Dynasty tomb of Queen Inhapy, and then to the royal cache in Deir el-Bahari in the tomb of Penudjem. THe priests who performed the moved rewrapped the body (and the mummies of Ramesses I and Seti I, as well as Amenhotep I) and removed all the valuable materials (gold leaf, inlays, and jewels) in an effort to "protect" the bodies from "common thieves". It seems pretty clear that the priests were simply looting the bodies before anyone else did. It was nice of them, though, to document the entire process on the linen wrappings they used to re wrap the bodies!
His favorite wife, Nefertari, is buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Queens. Her tomb is considered the jewel of the necropolis.
Temple at Abu Simbel