Egypt – Ozymandias & The Cult Of Personality!

If you are under the impression, as I was, that Tutankhamen was the greatest pharaoh of ancient Egypt, you are very mistaken. The boy king ‘Tut’ barely lived long enough to leave his mark. The fanfare around the discovery of his tomb and all its treasures remains his sole claim to fame. Ramesses the Great - Abu Simbel, Egypt

The title of the ‘Greatest Pharaoh’ in the history of Egypt goes to his descendant Ramesses II.  Brave soldier & empire builder. Son of Seti I and playmate of Moses (also subsequent enemy) and father of nearly a hundred sons.

He is omnipresent in Southern Egypt. Some of the country’s most splendid surviving monuments were built during his 66 year reign (1279 – 1213 BC) mainly to pander to his enormous vanity.

His statues tower over entrances to temples – his own and those he usurped – and are carved into hillsides. And his cartouches (an oval shape enclosing his name in hieroglyphics) are inscribed into anything worth looking at. His mortuary temple, the Ramesseum, was reputedly the most spectacular of his temples, though much of it is in ruin. Of the colossal statue that once stood guard here and supposedly inspired Shelley’s “Ozymandias“, (Ozymandias is the Greek corruption of his throne name, User-maat-re Setep-en-re or “Chosen of Ra”), only the feet and a badly damaged head remain. Excavations near Cairo hint at the discovery of his famed capital city: Pi-Ramesses.

Cartouche of Ramesse IIAlthough his achievements were considerable, he appears to have been the true precursor of present day politicians. Expertly bolstering his faltering image with the help of huge painted reliefs and inscriptions all glossing over his defeats and glorifying his contribution to battles he had actually been humiliated in.

The march of the Egyptian empire was halted by the Hittites – under his watch – at the battle of Kadesh and Ramesses was forced to accept the humiliating restrictions of a peace treaty. The treaty of Kadesh (1274 BC), believed to be the first ever such treaty, survives to this day and can be viewed at the archaeological museum in Istanbul. Not surprisingly. it narrates a very different perspective. As do records maintained by the high priests of Egypt.

The palace controlled propaganda seems to have worked, however, for his name was the most favoured by nine more pharaohs after him and no one ever dared deface any of his monuments.Ramesses II statues in Luxor Temple

Shelley’s “Ozymandias“, on the transience of power, is a metaphor that possibly refers to that one broken statue. For contrary to his claim a lot remains.

The art and the written words remain, of this vain and powerful man who embellished his achievements and usurped those of his ancestors to stamp his name and his monumental presence indelibly on the face of Egypt.

Rameses remains, despite his dissembling, Rameses the Great.

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

59 thoughts on “Egypt – Ozymandias & The Cult Of Personality!

  1. Awesome pictures as always I would love to get to Egypt myself, thanks for letting me live vicariously through your lens

  2. Your blog theme looks different. Thought I had the wrong Madhu! 🙂
    This comment box is still open from last night! I’m so scattered that I have to leave it open so I won’t wander off. This theme is gorgeous and the photos … well, the photos are without a doubt superb, as always. I loved this post. I thought the same thing about King Tut. Saw the exhibit in Houston last year. You would not believe how tiny that man was! My grandson would barely fit onto his bed. His shoes look like a child’s shoes. And the neck bands might fit a very large housecat! Your tour chats are just real icing on a wonderful cake. Ah, you are a talent, child! 🙂

    1. And you are generous as always George 🙂 Thank you for reading this. I have a particular fondness for ancient Egypt. Still have a couple more temples to chronicle. Love the new profile picture 🙂

    1. I can see you aren’t done with your Egypt research 🙂 Took us two weeks for all this plus four nights/five days in Jordan. You need more if you want to do the desert or Sharm al sheik or Mount Sinai. Think Alexandria can be squeezed in. We didn’t do any of these.

      1. How cool to see Alexandria! It’s not going to be the very near future though. As you can see, I’m so inspired by your virtual tour.

  3. And the Hittites in turn were integrated with other peoples and ceased to remain as a distinct people in modern times. Egypt was a prize to be gained throughout history but their system of religion remained through these dynasties until the Islamic absorption in the current era. Your knowledge of history and literature is impressive.

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