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Ramses II

Ramses II (rămˈsēz) [key], Rameses II, or Ramesses II both: rămˈəsēzˌ, d. 1225 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, of the XIX dynasty. The son of Seti I, Ramses was not the heir to the throne but usurped it from his brother. He reigned for 67 years (1292–1225 B.C.). Under him Egypt acquired unprecedented splendor. His empire extended from S Syria to near the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. The most notable incident of his reign was the battle near Kadesh on the Orontes, where the Egyptians were ambushed by the Hittites. Ramses, claiming to have saved his forces single-handed, had vast texts written about his personal valor. War continued with the Hittites for about 15 years until Ramses concluded a treaty of friendship (1280) with the Hittite king and married (1267) a Hittite princess.

Ramses left monuments throughout Egypt. The principal ones are probably the temple at Karnak, which he completed; the Rameseum, his mortuary temple, at Thebes; the temple at Luxor; and the great rock temple at Abu Simbel with four seated figures of the king on the facade. The period of his rule was characterized by great luxury, increased slavery, and the growth of a mercenary army, all of which led to the final decline of Egypt. He was probably the pharaoh of the exile mentioned in the Old Testament. Merneptah succeeded him.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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