Ramesses II (c. 1303 BC – July or August 1213 BC; Egyptian: *Riʻmīsisu, alternatively transcribed as Rameses and Ramses referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC – 1213 BC) of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor”. Ramesses II led several military expeditions into the Levant, reasserting Egyptian control over Canaan. He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, commemorated in inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein.
At age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his late teens and is known to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for 66 years and 2 months, according to both Manetho and Egypt’s contemporary historical records. He was once said to have lived to be 99 years old, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or 91st year. If he became Pharaoh in 1279 BC as most Egyptologists today believe, he would have assumed the throne on May 31, 1279 BC, based on his known accession date of III Shemu day 27. Ramesses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 sed festivals (the first held after thirty years of a pharaoh’s reign, and then every three years) during his reign—more than any other pharaoh. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cachewhere it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum.
The early part of his reign was focused on building cities, temples and monuments. He established the city of Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta as his new capital and main base for his campaigns in Syria. This city was built on the remains of the city of Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos when they took over, and was the location of the main Temple of Set. He is also known as Ozymandias in the Greek sources, from a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses’ throne name, Usermaatre Setepenre, “Ra‘s mighty truth, chosen of Ra”.