Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Was Ramses II Fighting?


Campaigns of Ramses II

Briefly, Ramses II’s campaigns, as summarised by Grimal,[1] were:

- against the Sherden pirates (2nd year);

- the Syrians (4th year);

- then the famous battle of Qadesh against the Hittites (5th year), “the military high point of his reign”;

- Judah (including Jerusalem), Edom and Moab (7th year);

- the Syrians, recapturing Qadesh (8th and 9th years);

- Edom and Moab (18th year).

- “Three years later he signed with Hattusilis the first [sic] state-to-state treaty in history …”[2] (21st year).

Ramses II’s earliest campaign against the Syrians would have taken place during the reign of his father, Seti I. The Hittite-backed Syrian foe was, as we saw, one Benteshina, who - I suggest - was at least related to the ‘Yuyides’. Following on from my [Damien F. Mackey] previous, tentative suggestion that Pasenhor’s Buyuwawa was Yuya/Ben-Hadad I, and his son, Mauasa (var. Mawasen) was Ay/Hazael, then Mauasa’s son, Nebneshi, would likely, I think, be Ben-Hadad II. Duppi-Teššub could be Nebneshi’s son, Paihuty. Benteshina, I am going to suggest, belonged to this same family, but to a different branch; the branch to which the elusive Shoshenq I also belonged. From these two family branches, I suspect, there arose what we know as the first two TIP dynasties, the 21st and the 22nd, both therefore being Libyan ‘Syrian’.

What is the significance of Ramses II’s campaigns in my revised context?

It cannot be as according to Rohl, who has gone to great lengths in trying to identify Ramses II as the actual biblical ‘Shishak’,[3] whilst however emphatically rejecting the conventional view about ‘Shishak’:[4] “There is no getting away from it. Shoshenq I cannot be identified as the Bible’s Egyptian ‘king Shishak’, plunderer of Solomon’s temple”. Apparently in Rohl’s favour, though, is the fact that Ramses II had in his seventh year campaign - unlike Shoshenq I in his 20th/21st year campaign - actually marched on Jerusalem.[5]

Moreover, Rohl has connected the name ‘Shishak’ to what he calls Ramses II’s “hypocoristicon – Sysa (Semiticised as Shysha)”, which he has apparently derived from “Ramesses-meriamun (pronounced something like … Riamashesha-miamana) …”. Murphie, however, has produced a strong point of criticism against this scenario, inasmuch as the most potent years of the long-reigning Ramses II would now clash with the most potent years of the expansionist king Asa of Judah:[6]

Firstly, given Ramesses’ 67 year reign, he would only have reached Year 22 when Asa of Judah, grandson of Rehoboam, ascended his throne. The significance of this date is that only one year previously Ramesses concluded his famous treaty with the Hittite King, Hattusilis. At this stage, with Egypt and the Hatti entering a long period of unprecedented harmony, consider the remarkably provocative actions of miniscule Judah [which] … under her new king, flouted the Egyptian/Hatti pact (which provided for mutual aid in just such an event), by starting the greatest fortress building phase of its entire history and developing a standing army of 540,000 men [II Chronicles 14:6-8] … and where did this military build up take place? Not in some distant corner of Egyptian/Hatti territory … but right in the demilitarised zone between the two powers, where all might see and not be under the slightest doubt that Judah meant business.

Murphie now adds a further dimension to this part of his critique:

To compound this difficulty, the Hebrew annals declare that in Asa’s 10th Year [II Chronicles 14:9-15] … (Ramesses’ 31st year in the New Chronology) Judah was invaded from the south. However the biblical record says the foe was neither Ramesses nor Hattusilis (as would be expected in Rohl’s scenario) but another character entirely: Zerah the Ethiopian. Would Hatti and Egypt stand back to allow this fourth party with a massive army (suggested as from Arabia rather than Nubia) to invade their territory? Moreover, Zerah’s expedition suffered a major thumping at the hands of the Judaean upstart, enhancing Asa’s reputation throughout the region. Still the New Chronology [Rohl’s] has us believe that Ramesses and Hattusilis did nothing! Even if Zerah was acting in some way as agent provocateur to take out the Judaean Maginot Line of fortresses, how could Ramesses have tolerated Asa’s humiliation of his agent?

One really does need to be circumspect in regard to with whom one is aligning this long-reigning and most potent of pharaohs, Ramses II. One might also argue that it would be disastrous to suggest a chronological alignment of Ramses II with Jeroboam II of Israel; that a huge clash between the two would be expected. If Ramses II were Jeroboam II, however, as I am proposing, then this major problem (and indeed the whole problem of placing Ramses II in a revised history) dissolves completely. Even if Ramses II were not Jeroboam II himself, but a related Jehu-ide, presumably a brother, then one could perhaps argue that there might have been a fraternal partnership of mutual support between the two relatives, to the detriment of Judah (a weakened Amaziah/early Uzziah).

Rohl though, for his part, is able to raise a further telling argument against the conventional placement of Ramses II and Merenptah, as pharaohs of the Exodus and Conquest era, from Frank Yurco’s identification of chariots in the Israel blocks of the Ashkelon Wall at Karnak:[7]

I have a final point to add to the ‘Ashkelon Wall’ discussion which hammers one more nail into the coffin of the conventional chronology. The campaign scene which Yurco has identified as a battle against Israel (whether it belongs to Ramesses or Merenptah) presents a major problem for the orthodox dating of the Exodus. Beneath the horses of the pharaoh’s chariot you can just make out a much smaller chariot belonging to a fleeing enemy chieftain. This is a typical iconographic formula which is illustrated … in Egyptian battle scenes – the mighty king crushing his enemies under the hooves of his advancing chariot team. But just a minute! Is this not the time when Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt in the orthodox scheme? Even if we assume that Ramesses II was not only the Pharaoh of the Oppression but also the Pharaoh of the Exodus and the ‘Israel’ scene belongs to Merenptah … we could at best be in the time of the Conquest of the Promised Land and no later. So how come the Israelites are gadding about in chariots? There is no evidence whatsoever that the Israelites had chariots before the time of Solomon …. Indeed, their military tactics during the Conquest and Judges period demonstrate that they had no access to this form of military technology …. The appearance of a chariot in the ‘Israel’ register at Karnak is a complete historical contradiction within the conventional dating scheme.

But there is no contradiction with Ramses II and Merenptah re-set to the time of Jeroboam II of Israel, who had – initially at least – had to fight to reclaim the land of Israel from Syria as well as having to prevent king Amaziah of Judah from prevailing.

One can see that the campaigns of Ramses II were aimed mainly against the ‘Syrians’, backed by the Hittites. Ramses II was simply continuing the war that his own father (Israel’s “saviour”), Seti I, and grandfather before that, Ramses I, had had to wage against Ben-Hadad II (DU-Teššub) and now likely, too, Duppi-Teššub. But, in my context, the Libu (Libyans) with whom Seti I and Ramses III fought could also be classified as ‘Syrian’. These Libu were assisting the host of ‘Sea Peoples’ against whom Ramses III fought in his Year 8; a campaign that I had previously proposed to align, approximately, with Ramses II’s Year 2 war against the Sherden. These Hittite-backed ‘Syrians’ were again the target of Ramses III’s Year 11 campaign. Now this would connect chronologically with Ramses II’s most famous of all wars, his Year 5 against the Hittites, which must also – in my chronology – pertain to the late era of Seti I. The size and high organization of the Egyptian army at the time, a legacy of Seti I, was along the lines of what Amaziah (my Ramses III), was, for his part, organizing in defence of Judah (2 Chronicles 25:5). Ramses II, originally a king of Israel as I am claiming, also used elite Nearim troops of Israel in his battle against the Hittites according to Rohl:[8] “… Egypt’s troop levels [at the battle of Orontes had reached] thirteen thousand, plus the five thousand Nearim from Israel”.

May Ramses II have been fighting the Hittites in the north, whilst Ramses III engaged their allies in the south? But Ramses III himself also claimed to have fought Hittite and Syrian troops; a boast whose veracity the historians tend to dispute.

As with Ramses III, there are also certain apparent ‘Syrian’, or Syro-Palestinian, features pertaining to Ramses II. This is all to be expected in terms of my revision. For one, his celebrated wife Nefertari may have been of an important ‘Syrian’ line: namely, Ay’s. Thus Reeves:[9] “If the inclusion of Ay’s cartouche within Nefertari’s tomb was deliberate rather than accidental, can we hazard a guess that the queen was actually a member of [Ay’s] close family?” Moreover, some of the daughters of Ramses II had Syrian names. Clayton writes, for instance, of “…Bint-Anath (a definitely Syrian name meaning ‘Daughter of Anath’) …”.[10] And, according to Booth:[11] “It would … appear that there were Asiatic women in the royal harem as two of Ramses’ other children were named Meher-anath (Child of Anath) and Astarteherwenemef (Astarte is on the right) both Asiatic names”. Again, Ramses II honoured Baal, the god of northern Israel:[12] “In the moment of battle [Kadesh] Ramses is described as Seth or Baa’l (the Canaanite storm god) …: ‘I was after them like Baa’l in his moment of power …’.”




[1] Ibid., pp. 250, 253, 256, 257.

[2] Ibid, p. 257.

[3] The Lost Testament, ch. 16: “Schism”, pp. 389-414.

[4] Ibid, p. 390.

[5] Grimal, op. cit, p. 256. Whereas Grimal has dated the Jerusalem campaign to the seventh year, Rohl seems to have placed it here in Ramses II’s seventeenth year.

[6] ‘Critique of David Rohl’s A Test of Time’, p. 31.

[7] A Test of Time, p. 171.

[8] The Lost Testament, p. 380.

[9] Op. cit., p. 125.

[10] Op. cit., p. 147.

[11] Op. cit., p. 172.

[12] Ibid., p. 176. Emphasis added.

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