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The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

Specially designed for Parents, Teachers, Homeschool, or Independent Study, grades 5+

Where Black
History Lives!​

Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 12: Ancient Kemet (Egypt): The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550 B.C. – 712 B.C.) Part 3

Pharaoh Rameses the Great, 19th Dynasty (1292-1186 BCE)

People To Know
Ramesses II was a pharaoh who ruled ancient Egypt for 66 years from 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C.
Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE, alternative spellings: Ramses, Rameses) was known to the Egyptians as Userma’atre’setepenre, which means 'Keeper of Harmony and Balance, Strong in Right, Elect of Ra’. He is also known also as Ozymandias and as Ramesses the Great. He was the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty (1292-1186 BCE) who claimed to have won a decisive victory over the Hittites at The Battle of Kadesh and used this event to enhance his reputation as a great warrior. In reality, the battle was more of a draw than a decisive victory for either side but resulted in the world's first known peace treaty in 1258 BCE. Although he is regularly associated with the pharaoh from the biblical Book of Exodus there is no historical or archaeological evidence for this whatsoever.

Ramesses lived to be ninety-six years old, had over 200 wives and concubines, ninety-six sons and sixty daughters, most of whom he outlived. So long was his reign that all of his subjects, when he died, had been born knowing Ramesses as pharaoh and there was widespread panic that the world would end with the death of their king. He had his name and accomplishments inscribed from one end of Egypt to the other and there is virtually no ancient site in Egypt which does not make mention of Ramesses the Great.


Ramesses was the son of Seti I and Queen Tuya and accompanied his father on military campaigns in Libya and Palestine at the age of 14. By the age of 22 Ramesses was leading his own campaigns in Nubia with his own sons and was named co-ruler with Seti. With his father, Ramesses set about vast restoration projects and built a new palace at Avaris. The Egyptians had long had an uneasy relationship with the kingdom of the Hittites (in modern-day Asia Minor) who had grown in power to dominate the region. Under the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I (1344-1322 BCE), Egypt had lost many important trading centers in Syria and Canaan. Seti I recaptured the most coveted center, Kadesh in Syria, but it had been taken back by the Hittite king Muwatalli II (1295-1272 BCE). After the death of Seti I in 1290 BCE, Ramesses assumed the throne and at once began military campaigns to restore the borders of Egypt, ensure trade routes, and take back from the Hittites what he felt rightfully belonged to him.

In the second year of his reign, Ramesses defeated the Sea Peoples off the coast of the Nile Delta. According to his account, these were a people known as the Sherdan who were allies of the Hittites. Ramesses laid a trap for them by placing a small naval contingent at the mouth of the Nile to lure the Sherdan warships in. Once they had engaged the meager fleet, he launched his full attack from both sides, sinking their ships. Many of the Sherdan who survived the battle were then pressed into his army, some even serving as his elite body guard. The Sea Peoples' origin and ethnicity is unknown, although many theories have been suggested, but Ramesses describes them in his account as Hittite allies and this is important as it underscores the relationship between the Egyptians and Hittites at this time. 

Ramesses next launched a military campaign into Canaan which had been a Hittite vassal state since the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I. This campaign was successful and Ramesses returned home with plunder and Canaanite (and probably Hittite) royalty as prisoners. The historian Susan Wise Bauer comments on this:

"At twenty-five, the new pharaoh had already been living an adult life for at least ten years. He had married for the first time at fifteen or so, and had already fathered at least seven children. He had already fought in at least two of his father's campaigns up into the Western Semitic lands. He did not wait long before picking up the fight against the Hittite enemy. In 1275, only three years or so after taking the throne, he began to plan a campaign to get Kadesh back. The city had become more than a battle front; it was a symbolic foot-ball kicked back and forth between empires. Kadesh was too far north for easy control by the Egyptians, too far south for easy administration by the Hittites. Whichever empire claimed it could boast of superior strength (247)."

In late 1275 BCE, Ramesses prepared his army to march on Kadesh and waited only for the omens to be auspicious and word from his spies in Syria as to the enemy's strength and position. In 1274 BCE, when all seemed in his favor, he led some twenty thousand men into battle divided into the four companies named after the gods: Amun, Ra, Ptah, and Set. Ramesses led the Amun division with the others following behind.

People To Know
Queen Nefertari. The twin statues depict Pharaoh Amenhotep III in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards towards the river. They once stood at the entrance gate of Amenhotep's memorial temple, a massive construct built during the pharaoh's lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth. Click for pictures and learn why they were once called the "Singing Statues." 


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