Towards the end of his reign, Horemheb, the last king of the 18th Dynasty, appointed his old comrade in arms, general Paramesu, to be his successor. The choice of Paramesu was a logical one, as the general, himself already an old man, had an adult son and a grandson to secure the new royal line.

General Paramesu thus became the new king upon Horemheb's death, the first of many kings to rule under the name of Ramesses. The reign of Ramesses I only lasted for two years but it marked the start of a new dynasty.


Ramesses I was succeeded by his son, Seti I, whose principal goal was to restore Egypt's power and prestige to what it had been before the Amarna Revolution. In order to achieve this goal, Seti used the same means as some of his illustrious predecessors: warfare to rebuild Egypt's international status and a building policy for the new dynasty's national prestige.

The international situation, however, had drastically changed since the Amarna Revolution and Egypt no longer was the only major power in the ancient Near East.

The warrior kings of the early 18th Dynasty had encountered only little resistance from neighbouring kingdoms, allowing them to expand their realm of influence easily.

Towards the end of the 18th Dynasty, the situation had changed radically. Helped by Akhenaten's apparent lack of interest in international affairs, the Hittites had gradually extended their influence into Syria-Palestine and to become a major power in international politics. A power that both Seti I and his son Ramesses II would need to deal with.

Seti I succeeded in reconquering a large portion of Syria-Palestine and establish an Egyptian presence in the strategically important city of Kadesh. Equally important was the defection of the king of Amurru to the Egyptians, prompting the Hittites to mount a counter attack during which they were able to reclaim both Amurru and Kadesh.


Seti I at Abydos

Arts and crafts flourished, as is shown by this fine relief representing Seti I in his magnificient temple at Abydos.

Map of Egypt and the Ancient Near East  

During the 19th Dynasty, Egypt's northern realm of influence stretched to just south of the city of Kadesh in Syria-Palestine.

The decisive battle between the two empires, however, would be fought during the early years of the 67-year long reign of Ramesses II near the city of Kadesh.

Although he rushed his army into a trap that should have led to certain defeat, Ramesses II was able to force a status quo with the Hittites. Neither party had succeeded in crushing the other, but both would, of course, claim a total victory back home.

For the years that followed, Ramesses waged several campaigns into Syria-Palestina, but the territories he reclaimed were lost as soon as his armies went back home.


Ramesses II at Kadesh

Some 15 years after the battle at Kadesh, the emmerging power of the Assyrian empire in Mesopotamia had once again changed the international situation, but this time for the worse as far as the Hittites were concerned. In order to cope with this change which threatened his posessions in Syria-Palestine, the Hittite king had no option but to seek the help of his former foe, Ramesses II. A peace treaty, the first of its kind in known history, was agreed between the two empires, each pledging to support the other against its ennemies.

The treaty was sealed when the Hittite king sent one of his daughters to be married to Ramesses. Just how much the Hittites needed this treaty is made obvious by the fact that no Egyptian princess married a Hittite king or prince.


The first pylon the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II on the Theban Westbank, is one of the many places where the battle of Kadesh is depicted.

Merenptah, Ramesses II's successor, had to subdue some rebellions in Syria-Palestine and in Nubia. His most important victory, however, was over a group of peoples, known as the Sea Peoples, who had brought destuction on the Aegean islands and parts of the Hittite empire and who, along with some Lybian tribes, now sought to invade the fertile regions of northwest Egypt.

Thousands of ennemies were killed during the ensuing battle, but many were taken prisoner and forced to settle in the Delta, where, several generations later, they would become a very important political factor.

The 19th Dynasty ended in dynastic upheaval. Although Seti was the legitimate successor of his father, Merenptah, another descendant of Ramesses II, Amenmes, appears to have succesfully claimed the throne for himself, at least for a few years in the south of the country. It is not known whether this happened at the beginning or somewhere during the reign of Seti II, but was is certain is that Seti outlived his rival and carefully set about to erase his titulary and usurp his monuments.

Seti II was succeeded by his only son, a young boy named Siptah, whose mother was not Seti's principal wife, but a Syrian concubine. Siptah's mummy also shows that this boy suffered from an atrophied leg caused by poliomyelitis. All this helped Seti's principal wife, Taweseret, to retain the title of Great Royal Wife and to impose herself as regent for the young king.

The true ruler of Egypt, however, appears to have been a chancelor of the entire land named Bay, a Syrian who even claimed to have established the king upon his throne. After Siptah's death, Taweseret officially continued to rule the country, probably with Bay directing her behind the scenes. With her death, the 19th Dynasty came to an end.


Statue of Merenptah

Merenptah was probably the last great king of the 19th Dynasty. His reign was followed by dynastic upheaval that led to the decline of the dynasty.


The table below lists the kings and queens of the 19th Dynasty:

Name Manetho Highest Year Dates (*)
Ramesses I Ramesses   1307 - 1306
Seti I Sethôs   1306 - 1290
Ramesses II Ramesses Miamun 66 1290 - 1224
Merenptah Amenephthes   1224 - 1214
Seti II     1214 - 1204
Amenmes Ammenemes   1214 - 1211 (?)
Siptah     1204 - 1198
Taweseret Thuoris   1198 - 1196

(*) Note that all dates are approximations only and that even the length of each king's tenure of power is subject to debate.

  New Kingdom   Valley of the Kings   Manetho
  18th Dynasty        
  19th Dynasty        
  20th Dynasty        


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