The title of this post is the throne name of Ramses II, variously known as Ramses the Great, Ozymandius, and the ‘Great Ancestor’. He was one of the most powerful and well-known pharaohs to ever have lived, both today and during his own time. The throne name itself is cited by Wikipedia as meaning “The justice of Re is powerful, chosen of Re”, but there’s something a little funky in the translation there. I couldn’t find a better on online, but I think it’s closer to ‘Ra’s powerful law (as in the strong arm of the law), beloved of Ra’.
So why is this mummy man still important? Well, there is his undeniable on our own culture. There’s Shelley’s poem. There’s the fact that this may or may not have been the Pharaoh of Exodus. There’s his deliberate defacement of the monuments and records of the Amarna period, when women ruled as king (Hatshepsut) and monotheism threatened to dominate the country (Akhenaten and Nefertiti). He’s the one who built a large number of the monuments that characterize our knowledge of his own day, as well as the chronologies and events of Ancient Egypt. He re-expended the boundaries of Egypt in a number of decisive battles, and may or may not have won against the Hittites. Even today, we are uncovering remains of what he built.
While I have no personal desire to be a pharaoh myself, or to burden the future with my own skewed version of the past, or to get upwards of a hundred children, still there is something appealing about the man. Perhaps only as a product of his culture, he was ruthless. But also as a product of that culture, he was a patron. He built more buildings in Egypt (temples, palaces, monuments) than any other pharaoh. In the sheer length of his life (he lived to be about 90), he was a living legend – Egyptians, almost all of which had been born during his reign, thought the world would end without him. I wish my life could also inspire that sense of living magic, that monumental outpouring of culture.