Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Rameses, the Decline and Fall?

This is very, very late, and I hope you’ll forgive me. However, I’m afraid that’s going to happen again. I’m heading off on an adventure on 10 Nov and won’t be back until Dec. I’m hoping to get a couple of episodes ready for later release, but seeing as I also have two assignments for a course, I’m afraid this is taking a backseat.

However, all that aside, let’s talk Ramses the Great. As related by Dr. Brier in the Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, he honestly doesn’t seem that great. I really wonder if his longevity is the basis of his reputation. In the last episode, Dr. Brier indicated Rameses was known as the great chiseller because he replaced other pharaoh’s name with his own on many edifices. Then he lives into his eighties, giving him eighty or so years to build more stuff. Is that all it is?

Maybe I’m just way too cynical.

Okay, so this episode charts Rameses decline from his heyday as the “victor” of Kadesh – see the last review for my comments on that. And I loved it. Dr. Brier said from the outset he wanted us to see the pharaohs and other subjects as people, and this episode certainly does that. I again have some issues with how the history is presented (more on that later), but the portrayal is amazing. Even if much of this is projection by the historian, the character created is fascinating. With each event related, I was going through plot points and story hooks in my head.

But there wasn’t a lot here about Rameses being great other than he built a lot. Listen, the more time and money you have, the more you can build. And that money is likely because he signed a peace treaty with the Hittites. That treaty, though, was desired by the Hittites who were being pressured by the Assyrians (Assyrians! It had to be Assyrians). Rather than take advantage of an old enemy’s weakness, Rameses made an ally.

And maybe that’s what makes him great. Dr. Brier takes about this as Rameses decline, but maybe it’s just him becoming wiser. Seriously, he’s been on the throne for about twenty years. He’s seen some stuff. Maybe he finally figured out that war just wasn’t that awesome. And because of that, he had money and manpower with which to build stuff. That’s an analysis I’d buy.

But my problem with this episode is the amount of weight Dr. Brier gives to the Exodus. While admitting there is absolutely no archaeological evidence of either a large Hebrew population in Egypt at the time or for the movement of a large number of people, Dr. Brier uses textual clues within the Book of Exodus to claim it likely happened during Rameses time.

So, again, I have to reach back to the episode on Hatshepsut and how Dr. Brier deemed it impossible that she led an army because women did not and compare that with “we have no archaeological evidence, but I’ll twist some textual evidence into a shape I like and declare victory.”

I honestly like Dr. Brier as a presenter even though I’ve had some real issues with his presentation of history. This is just something that really annoys me.

But I’ll be in a better mood next time, because the next episode is the 25th dynasty. Nefertiti Overdrive y’all!

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