Lesson: Learn about Pharaoh Rameses II with Mohamed Salah

Take a trip to mysterious Ancient Egypt and discover the incredible story of its most powerful pharaoh – Rameses the Great.

Learn about Rameses the Great with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah
Revision Notes

Egypt and Liverpool football sensation, Mohamed Salah, was born in Nagrig, a village near the city of Basyoun in Egypt’s Nile Delta.

The Nile is still the lifeblood of Egypt, providing irrigation to the country’s agriculture, just as it did during the reign of Ancient Egypt’s greatest pharaoh, Rameses II.

Discover the amazing story of Rameses the Great in our video!

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Mohamed Salah must be very proud of his illustrious ancestor. In fact, Mo is something of a pharaoh himself – the Liverpool fans call him their “Egyptian King”.

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Test: Rameses II

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Mo Salah

Mohamed Salah Hamed Mahrous Ghaly was born on June 15th, 1992. An Egyptian professional footballer, he plays on the right of a front three for Premier League club Liverpool and for the Egyptian national team. One of the world’s great players, he is known for his deadly finishing and scoring records.

Salah started his senior career with Egyptian club El Mokaawloon, before going to Swiss Club FC Basel. He then signed for Chelsea in 2014, where he went on loan to Italy where he played for Fiorentina and Roma. He was successful at Roma and in 2017, he signed for Liverpool for a club-record fee of £36.9 million.

He has achieved many accolades since joining Liverpool, including winning the Premier League Golden Boot and the PFA Men’s Player of the Year. His greatest honour so far is in winning the 2019 UEFA Champions League.

At international level, Salah has represented Egypt at the 2012 Summer Olympics and helped them reach the final of the 2017 African Cup of Nations, at which he won several personal awards.

Salah is a devout Muslim and celebrates his goals by performing the sujud, the Muslim prayer to God, where their hands, toes and forehead touch the ground in humility. He is heavily involved in charity work, especially in Egypt.

Mohamed is hugely admired by his fans, who call him the ‘Egyptian King’. Liverpool supporters have composed several songs about him and often chant that if he continues to score goals, they will convert to Islam: “If he's good enough for you, he's good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I'll be Muslim too.”

Rameses II

Rameses II, the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty 1292–1186 BCE of Ancient Egypt reigned from 1279 to 1213 BCE. In addition to his wars against the Hittites, he is known for his extensive building programmes and for the many colossal statues of him found all over Egypt.

Background and early years of reign

Rameses’ father, Seti I, subdued several rebellions in Palestine and southern Syria and waged war on the Hittites of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Seti achieved some success against the Hittites but it was only temporary. At the end of his reign they were firmly established on the Orontes River at Kadesh on the Syrian – Lebanon border.

During Seti’s reign, the young Rameses accompanied his father on his campaigns, so that when he came to power, he already had experience of kingship and of war. The first public act of Rameses after his accession was to visit Thebes, the southern capital, for the great religious festival of Opet, when the god Amon of Karnak made a state visit in his ceremonial barge to the Temple of Luxor.

Military exploits

Apart from his extensive building works Rameses’ reputation as a great leader rested on his fame as a soldier.

In the fourth year of his reign, he led an army to subdue rebellious locals in southern Syria. The following year he launched a larger main expedition to conquer the Hittite stronghold at Kadesh. Following the coastal road through Palestine and Lebanon, the army halted on reaching the south of the land of Amor, perhaps in the neighbourhood of Tripolis. Here Rameses detached a special task force to secure the seaport of Simyra and then to join the main army at Kadesh. He then marched to the Orontes River with four divisions of charioteers and infantry, a force perhaps 20,000 strong.

False information from captured Hittite spies led Rameses to misjudge the Hittites’ numbers. The Hittites attacked with a force of 2,500 chariots. The leading Egyptian divisions, taken entirely by surprise, broke and fled in disarray, leaving Rameses and his small corps of household chariotry entirely surrounded by the enemy and fighting desperately.

Fortunately for Rameses, at the height of the battle, the Simyra task force appeared and saved the day. The result of the battle was a tactical victory for the Egyptians, in that they held the battlefield, but it was a strategic defeat in that they did not take Kadesh. Neither army was able to fight the next day, so an armistice was agreed, and Rameses returned home.

Rameses continued to battle the Hittites, but, like his father before him, he found that he could not permanently hold territory so far from Egypt. So, after 16 years of hostilities, a peace treaty was agreed in 1258 BCE between equal great powers.

The wars over, the two empires established friendly relations, and in 1245, Rameses contracted a marriage with the eldest daughter of the Hittite king. Apart from his struggles against the Hittites, Rameses led several more expeditions against other rebels and a more serious war against the Libyans to the west, who were constantly trying to invade the Nile Delta. However, the latter part of his reign seems to have been free from wars.

Egypt during the reign of Rameses II

Domestically, there is no doubt that Rameses was the most prolific and successful of all the pharaohs of Egypt. He completed the great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak (Thebes) and continued work on the temple built by his father at Abydos, both of which his father did not complete. He also completed his father’s funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor (Thebes) and built one for himself, which is now known as the Ramesseum.

In Nubia, he constructed six temples, of which two were carved out of the side of a cliff at Abu Simbel, with their four colossal statues of Rameses at their entrance. There is little known of Rameses’ personal life, other than the remarkable statistics about his wives and children. His first and favourite queen was Nefertari; the smaller temple at Abu Simbel was dedicated to her. She seems to have died comparatively early in his reign. Her fine tomb in the Valley of the Queens at Thebes is regarded as an Egyptian masterpiece. The best portrait of Rameses II is a fine statue of him as a young man, now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. His mummy is preserved in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and tells us that he was a very tall man, over six feet tall and that he had a long narrow face, prominent nose, and pronounced jaw.

The reign of Rameses II marks the last peak of Egypt’s imperial power. After his death, Egypt was forced on the defensive but managed to maintain control over Palestine and surrounding territories until the latter part of the 20th, dynasty when Egypt lost its territories beyond its borders. He was a good administrator, the country prospered, and he was certainly a popular leader.

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