Ancient Egypt - Pharaoh Ramesses III

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

The last of the great pharaohs of Egypt, Ramesses III consolidated his position and continued his father's efforts to stabilize the country. There were no problems in Nubia, since that had now more or less achieved, again, the status of a subdued colony. The outside world of the Mediterranean was a different story. This was the times of the Greek Dark Ages which were experiencing the Trojan War, the Fall of Mycenae, and a great surge of displaced people seeking new lands. A tidal wave of foreign invaders was about to break upon the shores of Egypt.

The first sign of trouble came in Year 5 with an attack from the West. The Libyans invaded and attempted to force their way into the fertile lands of the Western Delta. The Egyptian army responded and managed to annihilate them. However, in Year 8, a more serious invasion was attempted by the Sea Peoples. They had returned from their earlier attempt involving Ramesses II and had since organized into a confederation. These people were sufficiently desperate and well armed enough to have destroyed the mighty Hittite Empire. After waiting a while in Syria, they were now moving south toward Egypt, who took them very seriously. These invasions were not just military operations, but movements of large populations by land and sea who were seeking permanent settlement.

Ramesses III didn't hesitate and assembled a vast army to meet them on the Eastern frontier. He fought a land and sea battle and was victorious in halting their advance. The details of these battles are unfortunately unknown. Keep in mind, the Egyptians were terrible sailors and avoided the open sea at all costs. When thinking about these 'sea battles', picture a land-locked battle on the Nile for a more historically accurate picture.

For three years Egypt was quiet. Then came trouble on the Western border again involving the Libyans and Sea Peoples. The frontier forts took the brunt of the attack as the invaders again attempted to overrun the Delta. The campaign description occurs on the inner north side wall of the First Pylon at Ramesses III's mortuary temple in Medinet Habu.

The heavy cost of these battles slowly exhausted Egypt's treasury and contributed to the gradual decline of the Egyptian Empire in Asia. Every battle won was attributed to the god Amun and the spoils of war were building up the wealth of the Amun priesthood. This was going to have disastrous consequences in the following dynasty.

Ramesses III and Ramesses II were not related. The third is from the 20th Dynasty, and the Second is from the 19th. But Ramesses III wanted to be like him. He even named his sons after the Great, using names like Amunhirkepshef and Khaemwaset. Like Ramesses II, the III would outlive these sons who would be buried in the Valley of the Queens. The last 20 years of his reign is not documented... kind of a mystery, one that points to a period of decline.

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