Ramses II was not of royal descent – his grandfather, Ramses I managed to ascend to the throne thanks to his military prowess – prowess inherited by his son, Seti I, and grandson, Ramses II. Ramses II, like his father before him, not only wanted to secure the kingdom’s borders, but expand them, making their foreign policy somewhat imperialistic. Ramses II led many military campaigns North, against the Hittites and Libyans.
Ramses II’s most famous battle is probably that of Kadesh, against the Hittites. Recounted in many murals, Ramses II portrayed himself as the victor of the battle, embellishing the truth: the battle’s outcome was, in fact, more of a draw. This exemplifies one of Ramses’ main strengths, he was a great propagandist, and built many impressive temples and monuments that glorified him – the Abu Simbel temples, and Ramesseum in Luxor, to name a few. He was also in the habit of inscribing his name on monuments that had been built before his time, ensuring he be remembered, up until today. But such huge building enterprises also attest of the kingdom’s wealth at the time. Ramses was therefore not just a good advertiser, but continued the task his father had started: leading Egypt into an era of renewed greatness and prosperity.
Coming back to the battle of Kadesh, its true outcome is far more impressive than the one advanced by Ramses II: it resulted in the first recorded peace treaty in history. The peace between the two nations was also to be strengthened by Ramses II marrying a Hittite princess. She became one of the pharaoh’s royal wives, amongst a dozen others, including the famous and most beloved by the king, Nefertari. These, along with Ramses II’s many concubines resulted in his fathering over 120 children, many of which he outlived. Indeed, Ramses II died at the age of 90, after 66 years on the throne, making his rule the second longest in Ancient Egyptian history.