Ramesses II, or Ramesses the Great, is one of the most famous figures in the history of Ancient Egypt. He was the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty, ruling for 66 years from 1279 to 1213 BC during the New Kingdom Period. After his death he was revered by his ancestors and later Egyptian rulers as a great king and a successful general. In fact, his success on the battlefield against the Nubians, the Hittites, and the “Sea Peoples” from across the Mediterranean stretched the Egyptian realm to new frontiers in Nubia to the south and in Syria and the Levant in the northeast.
Especially for the time in which he lived, Ramesses II lived an extraordinarily long-life. By the time of his death at the age of 90, he had outlived many of his wives and children; however, his long life, and correspondingly long reign as king, allowed him to leave behind a great legacy as a builder. Ramesses the Great is credited with building several of the largest monuments in Egypt, including a huge memorial temple called the Ramesseum (located at Luxor on the West Bank) and the famous temples at Abu Simbel, which marked the southern boundary of his empire. He also renovated or added to several other famous monuments. Luxor Temple in downtown Luxor was not built by Ramesses II, but his renovation filled it with reliefs and sculptures depicting his exploits. He also contributed to the temple complex at Karnak and left his cartouche on countless other monuments in an attempt to claim them as part of his legacy. The stunning tomb of his wife, Nefertiti, in the Valley of the Queens is another impressive monument, as well as the colossal statue of him found at Memphis, near Cairo. Ramesses the Great’s mummy is also on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.