THEBES

RAMESSES III

THE LAST GREAT PHAROAH

Small Temple of Ramesses III at Karnak.

This photo depicts the colonnade of broken osiriform statues found on the east side of the forecourt. The statues represent Ramesses III (ca. 1182 B.C.) standing erect as the god Osiris, with arms crossed and holding the crook and flail. Ramesses III built this small temple in the First Court of the great temple of Amun at Karnak. It functioned as a way-station for the portable barks and statues of Amun, Mut and Khonsu when carried in procession. The white stains on the legs of the statues are the efflorescence of salts resulting from high levels of moisture and groundwater in the modern environment

Photo taken by Tom Van Eynde

EGYPT AND THE SINAI: Egypt, officially known as the Arab Republic of Egypt, is located in northeastern Africa and includes in its domain the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is bound on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Israel and the Red Sea, on the south by the Sudan, and on the west by Libya. Cairo is the capital and largest city. The land of the Nile River, Egypt is the cradle of one of the world's greatest ancient civilizations and has a recorded history that dates from about 3200 BC.

The City Of Thebes

A capital of ancient Egypt, Thebes rose in importance as the home of several royal families from the 11th dynasty (established c.2133 BC). Kings of the 12th dynasty lived near Memphis but honored the Theban god Amon, and under the 17th and 18th dynasties Thebes became the capital of the Egyptian empire. Kings of the 19th and 20th dynasties lived in the north but lavished attention on Thebes. As the empire began to decline (c.1200 BC), Thebes was controlled by militaristic high priests; in 661 the city was sacked by the Assyrians.

Thebes continued to be an important center during Ptolemaic times (304-30 BC), but it declined thereafter and now consists of the villages of Luxor and Karnak. Some Theban monuments are very well preserved. On the east bank of the Nile the principal ancient town site is covered by modern settlements, but two great temple complexes remain. Amon's temple at Karnak is the larger, covering more than 54 ha (133 acres) and representing almost 2,000 years of building activity (from 2000 BC). The other temple, at LUXOR, was begun in 1417 BC. On the west bank are tombs of 11th- and 17th- to 20th-dynasty royalty. The New Kingdom burial grounds are in the remote valley where TUTANKHAMEN's tomb was found. Several large royal funerary temples survive at the edge of the river, and the desert foothills are filled with tombs of nobles who lived during the New Kingdom and later. Many of the temples are decorated with paintings that are masterpieces of Egyptian art. Several west-bank towns were important, particularly the palace-city of Amenhotep III at Malkata and the town of Medinet Habu

For two thousand years Egyptian civilisation had been pre-eminent, indeed, Egypt had enjoyed a prestige throughout the know world second to none. By the time of Rameses III, however, the world was going through great upheavals. That long period of stability in the Middle East brought about by Thutmose III and continued by Rameses II's treaties with the Hittites was about to come to an end. This was the time of the Trojan Wars and the fall of Mycenae. A time when age-old empires were weakened by complacent rulers and failed harvests.

It is recorded in the longest know papyrus, the Great Harris Papyrus, that many people throughout the region were made homeless. 'The foreign countries plotted on their Islands and the people were scattered by battle all at one time and no land could stand before their arms.' This great movement of people was well armed and desperate. Known as the Sea Peoples, they obliterated the Hittite Empire and for a while threatened Egypt with extinction also.

But Egypt was not about to give up and sink into oblivion, not yet anyway. There was still one more moment of glory for these most ancient of ancients.

RAMESSES III

(Usermaatremeryamun)

1184-1153 B.C.

20th Dynasty

RAMESSES III
AS OSIRIS

A Tomb Image

Ramesses III (20th Dynasty)

1184 - 1153 BCE (British Museum)

1194 - 1163 BCE (Baines and Málek)

1186 - 1154 BCE (Grimal)

1182 - 1151 BCE (Gardiner)

Birth Name: Ramesses heqaiunu
("Re Has Fashioned Him, Ruler of Heliopolis")

Throne Name: User-Maat-Re Mery-Amun
("Powerful is the Justice of Re, Beloved of Amun")

Ramesses III became the second ruler of the 20th Dynasty immediately following the death of Sethnakhte, his father, who ruled for a short two year reign. Though not related, he sought to mirror the actions of Ramesses II, even choosing a similar titulary. He modeled his own mortuary temple on the Ramesseum and in like manner glorified himself with depictions of great war victories on his monuments. He also ran trade expeditions to Punt. An important historical document of his reign is the famous Papyrus Harris I. This not only lists his benefits to the temples of Egypt's major gods, but gives a summary of the events leading up to his reign as well as his own acts in war and peace. Ramesses III started his rule with Egypt in ruins and in a very short time became the richest King of all.
The treasures of Solomon's Temple were handed over to the Egyptian King Shishak. The site in the Judean hills is a ruin which we believe is an Egyptian Temple built by Ramesses III as described in the Harris Papyrus.

Ramesses fought the Libyans twice during his reign. He compared himself to Mont, the god of war and was confident in his abilities. He overcame an attack by the Sea Peoples in his eighth year as pharaoh. After defeating the Sea People (of which he took many captives) he attacked the Palestinian tribes and was again victorious.

Ramesses received tributes from all conquered peoples. Egypt, however, was experiencing financial problems. Workers were striking for pay and there was a general unrest of all social classes. Consequently, an unsuccessful harem revolt led to the deaths of many, including officials and women.

Rameses IIIís death marks the end of an era. He had ruled for 31 years and was the last of the great Pharaohs. Egypt now began to suffer economic problems and was unable to exploit the revolution of the Iron Age (This began around 1200 BC) because she had no sources of ore.

During his thirty-one year reign, Ramesses built the vast mortuary complex at Medinet Habu, three shrines at Karnak that were dedicated to the gods Amon, Mut and Khons, and a palace at Leontopolis, just north of Cairo. Ramesses III's tomb is in the Valley of the Kings. His mummy was found in a cache at Deir el-Bahri and is now in the Cairo Museum. Ramesses III is thought to have been about sixty-five years of age at his death.

An X-ray of Ramesses III,
in the Cairo Museum.
The Mummy of Ramesses III,
in the Cairo Museum.

Ramesses III outlived several of his offspring, and buried a number of them in the Valley of the Queens along with his queens. Ramesses III himself was buried in KV 11, a tomb that was begun by his father Sethnakhte before abandoning it to use KV 14. His mummy was rewrapped by 21st Dynasty priests of Amun, moved to the Deir el Bahari cache, and discovered in 1881. The mummy is remarkably well preserved and not damaged at all by tomb robbers.

The tomb is sometimes referred to as the "Harpers Tomb" due
to the two harpers playing to the gods in four of the chambers.
Ten small chambers branch off of the main corridors.
These were for the placement of tomb furniture.

During the first few years of his reign, Rameses III consolidated the work of his father, Setnakhte, by bringing unity to the country. Therefore, in his fifth year when the Libyans attacked, Egypt was well prepared. It had been twenty-seven years since Merenptah had repulsed their last offensive, now again, an organized and efficient Egyptian army easily defeated them.

But this was nothing compared to the second and much greater threat, which came three years later. The Sea Peoples were on the move. They had, by now, desolated much of the Late Bronze Age civilizations and were ready to make a move on Egypt. A vast horde was marching south with a huge fleet at sea supporting the progress on land.

To counter this threat Rameses acted quickly. He established a defensive line in Southern Palestine and requisitioned every available ship to secure the mouth of the Nile. Dispatches were sent to frontier posts with orders to stand firm until the main army could be brought into action.

The conventional chronology dates this event of the Sea Peoples defeated in year 8 of Ramesses III. to 1190BC.

RAMESSES III - SHISHAK - MERNEPTAH - SESI


SHISHAK - IS THIS THE SAME PERSON?

Egyptian chronology in this period is dated by a biblical synchronism, that of Pharaoh Shishak's attack on Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (c.925 BC - see I Kings 14:25, II Chronicles 12:2). Shishak is normally identified as Shoshenq I, founder of the XXIInd dynasty, and is in some ways a likely candidate. But, in view of the desirability of shortening all the dark ages, James suggests that Shishak was actually Ramesses III (normally dated c.1200 - 1165 BC), thereby removing about two and a half centuries from the dark ages. Ramesses III was nicknamed Sesi which was perhaps imperfectly transliterated as Shishak.

MERNEPTAH - IS THIS THE SAME PERSON?

The steep descent into the tomb is typical of the designs of the XIX Dynasty. The entrance is decorated with Isis and Nephthys worshipping the solar disc. Text from the Book of the Gates line the corridors. The outer granite lid of the sarcophagus is located in the antechamber, while the lid of the inner sarcophagus is located down more steps in the pillared hall. Carved on the pink granite lid is the figure of Merneptah as Osiris.

There were clearly two waves of migrating Sea Peoples: the first arriving circa 1200 B.C., after Pharaoh Ramesses II but before Ramesses III, and using locally made Mycenaean IIIC:1b pottery; and the second wave during the days of Ramesses III and using the classic Philistine pottery.

WHO WERE THE PHILLISTINES?

It is also interesting to note here that the Philistines are not listed with the pre-Israelite nations in Canaan in Abraham's time (Gen. 15:19-21). If the text reflects a tradition that goes back to the Mosaic period, this is logical to expect, since the Philistines were not "settled" by Pharaoh Ramesses III on the coast of southern Canaan before the time of Moses.

Therefore, if the Caphtorim were the ancestors of the Philistines (Stiebing 1980, 14) and the Philistines of Medinet Habu did not arrive in Canaan before the time of Ramesses III, then Deuteronomy 2:23 may also give us an approximate time for the coming of the Philistines into Canaan. There, Moses reviews the chronology of events after leaving Egypt and states, "As for the Avvim, who had lived in settlements in the vicinity of Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place." Moses does not use the term Philistines, though Joshua does.

The clash, when it came was a complete success for the Egyptians. The Sea Peoples, on land, were defeated and scattered but their navy continued towards the eastern Nile delta. Their aim now, was to defeat the Egyptian navy and force an entry up the river. Although the Egyptians had a reputation as poor seamen they fought with the tenacity of those defending their homes. Rameses had lined the shores with ranks of archers who kept up continuous volleys of arrows into the enemy ships when they attempted to land. Then the Egyptian navy attacked using grappling hooks to haul in the enemy ships. In the brutal hand to hand fighting which ensued the Sea People are utterly defeated.

Philistine Head Dress
from Medinet Habu

The power of the Sea Peoples was broken in the Nile delta but some, the biblical Philistines, settled in Palestine. With the exception of one more conflict with the Libyans, the rest of Rameses IIIís long reign was peaceful. Trading contacts were revived with the Land of Punt, law and order was reestablished throughout the country. There was a major program of tree planting and building, the finest example of which is the temple at Medinet Habu.

A CONNECTION TO KING DAVID ?

The final Canaanite stratum, stratum IX (1200-1150 B.C.), was destroyed in the mid-twelfth century B.C. This stratum contained no Mycenaean or Cypriot imports, the same finding that we observed at other nearby sites, but neither did stratum IX contain Philistine sherds. Philistine pottery did not appear until the following stratum, stratum VIII. Oren believes that the Philistine pottery did not appear before the end of the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses III in the mid-twelfth century B.C. (Oren 1982, 166). He also believes that the destruction of stratum IX may have been due to a group of the Sea Peoples or possibly the Amalekites (mentioned in 1 Sam. 30).

The eleventh-century B.C. buildings of stratum VIII contained late Philistine pottery of various types, such as common bell-shaped bowls, beer jugs, and Ashdod ware, a type of pottery that is decorated by applying black and white over a red background. Oren emphasizes that there is continuity without a destruction layer between the Philistine stratum VIII and the following Israelite stratum VII, which would be logical if Tel Sera` were David's Ziklag. There would have been no reason for David to destroy this town before moving to Hebron to become the king of Judah; ". . . therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day" (1 Sam. 27:6).

Rameses III had two principle wives plus a number of minor wives and it was one of these minor wives, Tiye, who was the cause of his destruction. She hatched a plot to kill him with the aim of placing her son, prince Pentaweret, on the throne. She and her confederates stirred up a rebellion and used magic wax images and poison as their weapons. The conspiracy failed and the traitors were arrested but not before Rameses was mortally wounded. Fourteen officials sat in judgment and all the accused, with the exception one, was found guilty and condemned to commit suicide. Rameses died before the trial was completed.

Ramesses IV
(Hekamaatresetepenamun)
1153-1147 B.C.
20th Dynasty

Ramesses IV was the son of Ramesses III. His reign lasted no more than six years. He did survive the harem conspiracy which was designed to spoil his claims to the throne. He placed a document in the tomb of his father which is now known as the Papyrus Harris I, that gives an elaborate account of the reign of Ramesses III. Ramesses IV is thought to have been in his forties when he became king.

MORTUARY TEMPLE OF RAMESSES III

THE TOMB OF RAMESSES III - (MAP OF TOMB)

MEDINET HABU

ANOTHER PLAN MAP AND PHOTOS

Rameses IIIís death marks the end of an era. He had ruled for 31 years and was the last of the great Pharaohs. Egypt now began to suffer economic problems and was unable to exploit the revolution of the Iron Age (This began around 1200 BC) because she had no sources of ore. But the most important factor in Egyptís decline was a break down in the fabric of society. There were disputes between officials and governors and infighting between the north and south. The priesthood became over powerful and eventually they took control of the government. From this time onwards others would determine the destiny of the Mediterranean world. The Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and eventually the Romans were to become the lead players on the stage of international politics.

THE TEMPLE AT KARNAK

For the largely uneducated ancient Egyptian population this could only have been the place of the gods. It is the mother of all religious buildings, the largest ever made and a place of pilgrimage for nearly 4,000 years. Although todays pilgrims are mainly tourists. It covers about 200 acres 1.5km by 0.8km The area of the sacred enclosure of Amon alone is 61 acres and would hold ten average European cathedrals.The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big, St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls. The Hypostyle hall at 54,000 square feet with its 134 columns is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake.

Karnak is the home of the god Amon who was an insignificant local god until the 12th dynasty when Thebes became the capital of Egypt. He was represented in his original state as a goose and later as a ram, at the height of his power he was shown as a human with a head dress of feathers - all that remained of the goose.

In ancent times wars were not fought between countries but were considered as contests between gods. One deity subduing and replacing another, the victorious god and its people growing in strength. This is how Amon, with the help of Thutmose III and various other New Kingdom kings, rose to become the first supreme god of the known world and was hailed as God of gods. Little is know of him, unlike most other gods he has no legends or miracles to impress his worshippers and seems to be closer to an abstract idea of a godhead. His followers came from all the strata of society and he was known to some as 'Vizier of the poor.'

All Egyptian temples had a sacred lake, Karnak's is the largest. It was used during festivals when images of the gods would sail across it on golden barges. Karnak was also the home of a flock of geese dedicated to Amon.

The Eastern Gateway which once lead to a huge temple built by Akhenaten (the heretic king). In an attempt to obliterate his memory, Akenaten's enemies destroyed this shrine after his death.

THE SACRED LAKE

The lake is 129 X 77 meters and was used for ritual navigation. It was surrounded by storerooms and living quarters for the priests. There was also an aviary for aquatic birds.

Temple of the Theban moon god Khonsu - son of Amon and Mut. He is often represented as a human headed figure wearing a crescent and disk.

The temple was built by Ramses III.

THE TEMPLE OF AMUN - THE GREAT COURT

THE TEMPLE OF AMON - RA  

HYPOSTYLE HALL AT KARNAK

The massive columns in the hypostyle hall dwarf the people.

photo by Tom Van Eynde

Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

The entire Temple of Ramesses III, palace and town is enclosed within a defensive wall. Entry is through the Highgate, or Migdol, which, in appearance resembles an Asiatic fort. Just inside the Highgate, to the south, are the chapels of Amenirdis I, Shepenwepet II and Nitoket, wives of the god Amun. To the north side is the chapel of Amun. These chapels were a later addition dating to the 18th Dynasties, by Hatsepsut and Tutmose II. Later renovations were done by the Ptolemaic kings of the XXV Dynasty.

To the west is the temple proper, which was styled after the Ramesseum. On the north wall of the temple are reliefs depicting the victory of Ramesses with the Sardinians, Cretans, Philistines and the Danu. This was perhaps the greatest victory in ancient Egypt. Pharaoh watched as the invaders crossed the plains, destroying everything in their path. The multitude came with oxen-drawn wagons, laden down with all of their possessions, their families and their newly discovered iron weapons. No tribe or settlement was able to survive their passing. The horde came over the land and the sea heading straight for Egypt. Ramesses gathered together his army and defeated the land invaders. He then proceeded to the shore to meet the ships. Ramesses archers released their arrows against the landing ships. (The Egyptians's had an advantage over the enemy; the Egyptian's ships had both sails and oars, while the invader's had only the sail.) The Egyptian army then rowed out to sea and overturned the invaders' ship, drowning all that survived the archers' attack. These are the only know reliefs of a sea battle in Egypt. The Egyptians were excellent accountants and counted everything that was taken from the enemy and all that were slain. The reliefs show the bookkeepers counting the spoils. Entering through the massive Pylon (27m high and 65m long) is the First Court where athletic sporting events, such as wrestling, were held. Reliefs on the south wall are of Ramesses' victory over the Libyans and the Window of Appearances is on the west wall, flanked by eight columns. Behind this lies the audience hall with the kings' shower room nearby. The stone tank is still intact. On the east side are seven Osiride pillars.

The Second Court, accessed via ramp up and through the Pylon, is made up of eight Osiride pillars and six columns. Of the scenes in the Second Court are the Feast of Sokar and the lower part of the back wall being dedicated to Ramesses children. Of interest in the entrance at the right end of the hall is a relief of Ramesses kneeling on the symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt and a defaced scene of Ramesses before Seth, with the Pharaoh changed into Horus. The Hypostyle Hall through the west entrance was badly damaged in 27 B.C. by an earthquake. Originally, The Hall would have opened into many rooms but none remain due to the earthquake.

Close to the temple is the remains of a Nilometer. These 'flood warnings' were positioned strategically along the river to determine the position of the river every year. Not only did these register the height of the river, but also determined the amount of silt that was being deposited. With this information, the governors could, in advance, determine which crop would thrive and thus base the tax levy.

THE KINGS OF THE 20TH DYNASTY

SETAKHT

RAMESSES IV - RAMESSES IV

RAMESSES V

RAMESSES VI - RAMESSES VI

RAMESSES VII

RAMESSES VIII

RAMESSES IX

RAMESSES X

RAMESSES XI

OTHER EGYPTIAN LINKS

THE TOMBS OF THE RAMESSES PHAROAHS AT THEBES

THE TOMBS OF THE KINGS

THE RAMESSEUM

EGYPTIAN KINGS

THE PHAROAHS OF EGYPT

THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE KINGS

A BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY OF TIME AND DISASTERS

THE TWENTY SECOND DYNASTY - A HISTORY

NEW KINGDOM HISTORY

A BIBLICAL COMPARISON OF NAMES TO THE PHAROAHS

AN EPIGRAPHIC SURVEY OF THE TEMPLE TOMBS

TEMPLE OF KHONSU

THE TOMB AT LUXOR

TEMPLE OF MUT

THE EGYPTIAN ROYAL TOMBS OF THE NEW KINGDOM

GUARDIAN'S EGYPT - EGYPTIAN SITES AND MONUMENTS

A LISTING OF THUMBNAIL PHOTOS OF THE TOMBS AND EGYPT

THUMBNAIL PHOTOS OF THE TOMBS AND EGYPT

THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS

THE LUXOR AREA

THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT

OTHER PEOPLE OF INTEREST

QURAN REFERENCES TO THE PHAROAH

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