Thursday, July 8, 2010

Unresolved Affairs

Although Ramses II was educated by the best tutors and had experienced battles by his father’s side, the priests still doubted his ability to rule Egypt. The young pharaoh had a number of plans in mind, including extensive construction goals that ultimately yielded glorious temples and stone reliefs dedicated to his reign (above).

Ramses took on the old and unsolved problems of the monarchy. Whether or not he had been pleased with his father’s mutual nonaggressive pact with the Hittites is uncertain. What is known is that Ramses had grown restless and now wanted to conquer the intruders so that he could gain back all the Egyptian territories lost by previous pharaohs. To fund these campaigns and build and equip an army he needed gold. There were rich deposits in the eastern deserts around Nubia, but to mine the ore water was essential, and every past king had tried and failed. In the third year of his reign, Ramses formed a plan and summoned his court to discuss how to bring up a well.

“Now, one of these days . . . His Majesty was sitting on the electrum throne, wearing the head fillet and tall plumes . . . thinking about the desert lands where gold could be found, and meditating on plans for digging wells . . . Ramses’ wishes were like magic. The court responded, ‘You are like Re in all that you have done whatever your heart desires comes to pass. If you desire something overnight comes the dawn and it happen[s] immediately!’” according to Kenneth A. Kitchen.

Satisfied with this response, Ramses sent a survey to the Nubians. He commanded a well to appear on the route to Akuyati. As if Hapi had been waiting for Ramses’ appeal, the god of the Nile responded. Overnight, water gushed forth at 12 cubits, a little more than 20 feet (6 meters) below ground. Not at all mystified by Ramses’ close relationship, nor surprised by Hapi’s immediate help, they were nevertheless elated. In honor of the new artesian well, Wadi Allaki, the court named it “the well, Ramses II is valiant of deeds.”

In the fourth year of his reign, Ramses and his Egyptian army of charioteers, infantry of swords and shield bearers, and Sea People in his captivity, set sail for Syria. They journeyed northward along the Phoenician coast. Canaan (Palestine and Phoenicia), Amurru, and Syria formed a vast bubble zone between the warring empires. When they reached Tyra, they advanced overland and eastward to attack Amurru (site of modern-day Lebanon) in the vicinity of Qadesh. Surprised by the unexpected Egyptian assault, Hittite ally and overlord Prince Benteshina was unable to defend Amurru. To prevent any further loss of territory, he surrendered the city. Benteshina became a tribute-paying vassal of Egypt. Confident with his effortless conquest, many prisoners, and much Hittite booty, Ramses planned to conquer the Hittites at Qadesh the following year. Upon their return to Piramses, the victorious battle was carved on the walls of the major temples.

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