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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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The Pharoah of the Oppression

by the Rev. John Hoare, M.A., F. R. Hist. Soc.
Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 344-348


The discovery of the keys which unlock the thoughts of the writers of the hieroglyphic papyri of Egypt and of the cuneiform tablets of Assyria and Babylonia ranks among the greatest triumphs of our century. These keys enable us to throw open the doors which shut up the treasures of the history of the most civilized and cultured nations of the world of four thousand years ago, and let in a flood of light which quickens into life the dead world of the past. In Assyria we find ourselves face to face with Sennacherib and Shalmanezer and Nebuchadnezzar, who had been to us mere names or the shadowy creations of childhood; we enter into the details of their daily life, read the books catalogued in their libraries, examine their religious ideas, and listen to their account of the history of their times and of the traditions handed down to them. Sennacherib, for instance, gives his own account of the invasion of Palestine, justifies it by the conduct of Hezekiah, and narrates how he compelled the King of Judah to bring tribute and sue for peace at Lachish; and then ordered the whole scene to be sculptured in marble slabs to adorn his palace, where they were found by Sir Austin Layard. Or again, the annals of the kingdom tell us how the seventh day in each month was called Sabbathu, the "day of rest for the heart of man;" that on that day even the great kings of Assyria might not drive in their chariots, have a hot dinner, nor put on clean clothes. The legends record the great flood when the "Water of Dawn at Daylight" arose from the horizon like a black cloud, and Rimmon in the midst of it thundered, Nebo with his wind went on in front, the throne-bearers went over mountain and plain, Nergal swept away the wicked, Adar rushed onward, overthrowing all before him, and the Earth spirits carried the flood, and in their terribleness swept through the land until the deluge of Rimmon reached unto heaven and all that was light was turned to darkness; and tell how one man and his family were saved in a ship built by the command of Se, the god of wisdom.

In like manner have the buried treasures of Egypt been unearthed, and we not only see the likeness of kings and queens and priests and potentates chiselled by the sculptor's art, but we look upon the very faces of the men and women themselves. The bodies of the Pharaoh who mightily oppressed the children of Israel, Rameses II., and of his illustrious father Seti I., were found in 1886, and may now be seen "in the flesh," the hair still on their heads, and the nails on their fingers as in life; while the features are so well preserved that they demonstrate the faithfulness of the artists who sculptured and painted their portraits. There is a long series of portraits of Rameses II. We see him, while still a youth, returned from his first battle and welcomed home by his mother; he is gazing on her face with filial affection and pressing her arm as she puts it round his neck in a loving embrace. Rameses resembles his father Seti as well as his mother Tuaa. His grandfather, Rameses I., was not of the blood royal, and had usurped the throne on the extinction in the male line of the 18th Dynasty. Seti, the son of the Usurper, strengthened his hold on the throne by marrying Tuaa, a daughter of Amenophis III. by the Princess Tii, daughter of a king of Mesopotamia, the account of whose romantic courtship and marriage was discovered in 1888. Seti has a noble head, and his wife, who is declared on the monuments to be "Royal Wife, Heiress, Sharer of the Throne," is singularly refined and dignified as well she might be, for her mother Tii came of a kingly house, and her marriage contract describes her as "The Great Royal Lady," and her portrait, preserved in the Tombs of the Queens over against Thebes, shows "the nose straight and pointed, the brow high and far from continuing the slope of the nose, implying an intellect of superior order, and though her lips indicate a loving heart, she evidently possessed more of spirit than of gentleness, while the remarkably exact relations and equalities of her features must have made her not only a very attractive but an exceedingly beautiful woman."* She came from the land of Rebekah and Rachel, and, like the latter, clung to the gods of her fathers, thereby causing much dissension, for her son Khu-en-aten, or Amenophis IV., followed the religion of his mother, and, discarding the worship of the gods of Egypt, substituted that of the solar disk, thereby causing a great religious revolution. It is thus easy to see how from such ancestors came the handsome features of the Pharaoh of the Oppression. In the grove of palm-trees which now flourish on the site of the capital city, Memphis, is a colossal statue of Rameses II., as he stood erect in front of the great temple of Ptah. Forty-four feet in height, its "grandeur of size is paralleled by a majestic grandeur of beauty and style;" the face presents just such a contour as we should expect the features to have borne in middle life. Perhaps the most beautiful face of Rameses is the one which originally stood in the Ramesseaum at Thebes, and is now in the British Museum. These portraits, with the very mummy of the man, enable us to form a perfect picture of the Pharaoh of the Oppression. M. Maspero, when, in the presence of the Khedive and other distinguished persons, he unwrapped the mummy, describes him thus:--

"Il est grand, bien conformé, parfaitement symétrique. La tête est ellongée, petite par rapport au corps. . . . e front est bas, fuyant, etroit, l'a'cade sourcitière saillante, le sourcil blanc et fourni, l'oeil petit et rapproché du nez. Le nez long, mince, busqué comme le nez des Bourbons . . . e mâchoire forte et puissante, le menton très haut. . . . a bouche largement fendue, et bordu de lèvres épaisses et charnus, les dents blanches et bien entretenues. . . . e masque de la momie donne très suffisament l'idée'de ce qu'était le masque du roi vivant; une expression peu intelligente, peut-être légèrement bestial, mais de la fierté, de l'obstination, et un air de majesté souveraine qui perce encore sous l'appareil grotesque de l'embaumement."

"He was twelve years of age when his father, Seti, associated him with him in the kingdom. "I was a little boy," says Rameses, "when my father made me lord and gave the land over to me. I was solemnly enthroned as the eldest son in the dignity of heir of the throne on the chair of the earth-god Seb. I gave my commands as chief of the guard and of the chariot-fighters. Then my father presented me publicly to the people. I sat on his knee, and he spake thus: 'I will have him crowned king, as I wish to behold his grandeur before I die.' Then the chamberlain came forward with the double crown of Egypt, and my father said, 'Place the royal circlet on his brow. May he restore order to the land; may he have a care for the people.' Thus spake my father with his good wishes in his very great love for me."*

Rameses II., known as "The Conqueror," is the Sesostris of the Greek historians. His prowess in his great war with the Khitans is recorded by the sculptor on the walls of the temples of Abydos, Luqsor, and Karnak, and is sung by Pentaur in the heroic poem which won the prize offered to commemorate the event when the king was left alone in the midst of the battle:--

"Not one of my princes, my captains of chariots, my chief men, my knights was there; for my warriors and my chariots had abandoned me. Then I cried, 'Where art thou, my father Amon?** Has the father forgotten his son? . . . am all alone; no other is with me . . . ut Amon is better to me than millions of warriors . . . Amon'heard, and came to my cry. He reached out his hand to me, and I shouted for joy. He called out to me 'I hav' hastened to thee, Ramses Miamun; I am with thee; I am thy Father; my hand is with thee . . . have found in thee a right spirit, and my heart rejoices thereat.'"' An interesting treaty was made between Rameses and the Khitan prince, which exemplifies a gentle tender spirit. It was to the effect that fugitives from either country to the other shall be delivered up and sent back, but "his fault shall not be avenged upon him; his home, with wife and children, shall not be confiscated; his mother shall not be put to death, nor shall his eyes be put out, nor shall he be punished on his mouth nor on the soles of his feet." The treaty was written on a "silver tablet made by the great King of Khite, and presented to the Pharaoh by the hand of his ambassadors."

Rameses was a great builder of temples and founder of cities. Abydus, Memphis, Thebes, were objects of his especial care. It is with no idle boast that he invoked the Memphian God: "I have cared for the land, in order to create for Thee a new Egypt . . . have caused the whole earth to admire the perfection of the monuments which I have dedicated to Thee." "is own residence was on the Eastern frontier, in the lowlands of the Delta, in Pi-Ramessu,. "t"e city of Rameses."* This seems to be one of the two places named in the Hebrew Book of Exodus, in which Pharaoh had built for him "treasure cities," or it may be "temple-cities." No mention of the Hebrews is found in the Egyptian records; the tribe of Ben-Israel is merged in the general name of foreigners.

Rameses II. enjoyed a long reign. The monuments testify to a rule of sixty-seven years. It is perhaps indicated in the "it came to pass, in process of time, that the King of Egypt died" (Ex. Ii. 23). He had fifty-nine sons and sixty daughters, whose portraits are preserved on the outer wall of the front of the temple of Abydus. His favourite son was Khamus, a learned and pious prince, who died in the lifetime of his father. Of his daughters one was the princess who rescued Moses out of the water. Brugsch identifies her as the one who bears the name of Meri, since it resembles the Princess Merris, who according to the Jewish tradition found the child Moses when she went to bathe in the sacred river.

Diodorus tells us that Rameses lost his sight in his old age, which so distressed him that he put an end to his life. "This last act was admired by the priests as well as by the other Egyptians, as terminating life in a manner worthy the actions of this king." His apotheosis is depicted on the walls of his magnificent Ramesseum, with the double cartouche above his head.

* "The Century Magazine." New series, vol. xii.
*Brugsch's "History of Egypt," ii. 24.
**King of the Gods.

* An interesting account of this city is given in the "Letter of Panbesa," translated by Goodwin in "Records of the Past," vi ii.