Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
The Horus, the Strong Bull, Beloved of Ma'at; the one protected by the Two Ladies, the Protector of Egypt who curbs foreign lands; the Golden Horus, the Rich in Years and Great in Victories; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Userma'atre` Setepenre`; the Son of Re` Ramesses Meryamun.note Also known as Ramses the Great, Ramses II (1303 BC-1213 BC, r. 1279 BC-1213 BC) was the third king of the Nineteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt. His long reign was an era of political stability, military power, economic prosperity, and cultural flourishing for New Kingdom Egypt. Egyptians of the day seem to have seen Ramses's time as a restoration of the glories of the middle Eighteenth Dynasty, of the days of Thutmose III and Amenhotep III, after the chaos of the Amarna Period. He is thus popularly considered the greatest and most famous of all Ancient Egyptian pharaohs.
To modern Egyptians, he's a national hero - sort of the equivalent of King Arthur, part real man and part legend - whereas to the rest of the world he is best known for his portrayal as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Believers actually claim that it's more likely that one of the pharaohs of the earlier Eighteenth Dynasty (the one with Thutmose, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, and Tutankhamun) was the one in Exodus. (Ramses himself was the third monarch of the Nineteenth Dynasty.) However, Egyptian rule in Canaan continued throughout that time and through his entire reign, making a founding of Israel unlikely at that time. One of the few clues in the Bible as to the time of the Exodus is that the Hebrews laboured to build the cities of Pithom and Pi Ramses, which are now known to have been constructed or greatly expanded in his reign. Also, the first mention of Israel outside of the Bible occurs in a record made sometime after his death, during his son's period on the throne, which indicates possible involvement, at least in the background. Altogether, the evidence points to the events on which Exodus is based most likely happening—if they happened at all—during the decline of the New Kingdom and the retreat of the Egyptian Empire from Canaan, which really only began after Ramesses II's death.
Although he has often been accused of exaggerating his own achievements, Ramses remains one of the most powerful figures of ancient history. He was a courageous warrior, indefatigable ladies' man, builder of enormous temples (some of them dedicated to himself), and is notorious for being one of the two kings to sign the first peace treaty between superpowers in all of recorded history, the Kadesh Peace Treaty, a clay tablet dated 1269 BC, signed by Hattusilli III, King of the Hittites, and Ramses, Pharaoh of the Egyptians.
Notably, Ramses is one of a handful of pharaohs to be commonly known worldwide, along with Tutankhamun and Cleopatra VII. In 1976, when Ramses' mummy was brought to France for restoration, he was issued a passport noting his status and received a king's welcome. Contemporary records indicate that he had feared being forgotten after his death, and sought to make himself known to the future.note By all accounts, he succeeded.
Tropes as portrayed in fiction:
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Despite the discovery he was red-haired in his youth (his mummy still has wispy red hair on its scalp), most portrayals after 1994 note still portrays him with black hair. Probably because a red haired Egyptian would run into both Reality Is Unrealistic and Black Vikings territory and the unaware might perceive it as a Race Lift with very Unfortunate Implications.note
- Adapted Out:
- As a young man, Ramses owned a lion that fought alongside him at Kadesh. The only works of fiction to have featured this lion has been the book series by Christian Jacq,Thunder At Kadesh by Gordon Doherty and the Classics Illustrated issue "The Ten Commandments".
- Screen adaptations tend to omit most of his children to the point where he only has one or two, though this depends on his role in adaptations of the Exodus. When he is the Pharaoh of the Oppression, he will have two at the most, while he usually only has one when he is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The H. Rider Haggard novel Moon of Israel is notable for featuring him as the Pharaoh of the Oppression and going pass the two child limit with his thirteen son and successor Merneptah being the initial pharaoh in the story, Merneptah's elder brother Khaemwaset being mentioned, and an unidentified daughter, who was Moses' adoptive mother, being mentioned.
- Big Bad or Predecessor Villain: In adaptations of the Exodus, which he is depends on whether he is the Pharaoh of the Exodus or the Pharaoh of the Oppression. If he is the former, then either his father Seti I or his grandfather Ramses I will be the latter. If he is the latter, then his son Merneptah will be the former. The one exception is The Moon of Israel where the Pharaoh of the Exodus is Amenmesse, one of Merneptah's two successors who was either a younger son of Ramses or a younger son of Merneptah. (He is specifically portrayed as Merneptah's nephew, being the son of his elder brother Khaemweset.)
- Cool Crown: He is often represented wearing the Kepresh, or "Blue Crown of War", which was basically a Cool Crown of the Pimped Out Helmet variety; basically a star-studed blue helmet with the royal ureus (the cobra) which was used during battle.
- Dated History: In 1994, Ramses was discovered to be a redhead and in 2016, he was discovered to be fair-skinned. Portrayals of him where he is black haired and brown skinned are thus dated. Since there have always been Egyptians of all skin and hair colors (some of Ramses' own hieroglyphic murals depict his subjects running the full gamut of skin colors), this shouldn't come across as surprising though.
- Due to the Dead: When his mummified remains were brought to France in September of 1976, millenia after his death, his arrival was celebrated like that of any contemporary, living royalty.
- The Evil Prince: He is sometimes portrayed as this in fiction, and at one point, Egyptologists believed he had been responsible for the disappearance of Seti I's true successor (whose name was erased of all records after the latter's death). But Ramses fans think this is slander.
- Folk Hero: Even today the Egyptians regard him as a national hero and many claim proudly to be his descendants. Given the number of his children (ninety-six sons and sixty daughters) such a claim is more than probable and effectively all but meaningless. He is often refered to as the "Great Ancestor" and it's thought that barring any extremely isolated tribes, everyone living today is a direct descendant of the guy.
- The Good King: The works that don't villify him tend to portray him as this, in line with how modern Egyptians view him.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Historical consensus is that he almost certainly wasn't the Pharaoh of the Exodus, but he's frequently depicted as the notorious tyrant in popular culture with his son Merneptah being the second most frequent and Amenmesse, son or grandson to Ramses, having been portrayed in the role once. Bottom line: The man and his descendants get a bad portrayal most of the time. Positive portrayals of Ramses and Merneptah can be found but due to Amenmesse having been a usurper his portrayals are universally negative and it is even possible to find downplayed versions of this trope, for in H. Rider Haggard's novel Moon of Israel, Ramesses is identified as the Pharaoh of the Oppression and the order that all male Hebrew infants is made, but never carried out due to Moses' adoptive mother having pleaded for them, Moses himself having been a case of prematurely hiding the infant.
- Phenotype Stereotype: Unlike his portrayal in movies, where it is black, when not shaved off, examinations of his mummy showed that he had red hair.
- Red-Headed Hero: When a work portrays him heroically and remembers he had red hair, this is the end result. Strangely, he rarely if ever shows up as an Evil Redhead except on Courage the Cowardly Dog.
- Spell My Name with an S: There are three different accepted spellings of his name so naturally it varies depending on the work. His name could be spelled "Ramses", "Rameses" or "Ramesses."
Portrayals in Media:
- Briefly mentioned in Red River (1995), where Ramses I is a major supporting character in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue marrying, Yuri and Kali's granddaughter.
- Appears in Im: Great Priest Imhotep as an Anti-Villain siding with the Big Bad. Unlike most versions, this version's is The Good King who fights for the weak, as well as a Boisterous Bruiser and a Blood Knight who savors a good fight against a good opponent.note
- Ozymandias from Watchmen takes his name from Ramses II's Greek name, a corruption of his Egyptian royal name Useermaatre.
- Tintin: In Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh Professor Sarcophagus goes mad and thinks he is Ramses II.
- Papyrus: His temple appears in "Ramses' Ravenge" and his son Merneptah is the current pharaoh making one of the main characters, Theti-Cheri, his granddaughter.
- Black Adam is oft portrayed as a son of Rameses.
- Orlando from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was sold as a slave to Ramses II as a youth, until he grew "older than the king prefered his boys". When Orlando visited Egypt millenia later to view the stone monuments left behind by Ramses, he notes that the famous statue doesnt resemble the real Ramses much, not having his weak chin or chubby jowls. Orlando himself notes that Ramses II, while not a tyrant or a bad leader by any means, had been self-absorbed and vain.
- An unusual example in that the Classics Illustrated adaptation of the Exodus, titled "The Ten Commandments", does not refer to the Pharaoh of the Exodus by name, but the inclusion of a lion in many of his scenes identifies them as Ramses and Slayer of His Foes in all but name.
- Often cast as the villain in most renditions of the Biblical exodus (the pharaoh is not named in the original), such as:
- The Ten Commandments (1923), portrayed by Charles De Rochefort.
- The Ten Commandments (1956), portrayed by Yul Brynner.
- The Prince of Egypt, voiced by Ralph Fiennes.
- Exodus: Gods and Kings, portrayed by Joel Edgerton.
- In 1995's Moses, he appears as the Pharaoh of the Oppression (father of the antagonist pharaoh), played by Christopher Lee (who was the only actor who both played him and who out-lived him past age 92).
- He appears (mummified) as a comedic character in Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, along with several other mummies.
- He appears as a Rider-class Servant in Fate/Prototype: Fragments of Sky Silver, referring to himself as Ozymandias. Like many Servants in the Nasuverse, there's some Alternate History with his backstory. Moses was his best friend, and while their backstory does follow the events of the Book of Exodus, Ramesses does not pursue the Israelites upon seeing Moses part the Red Sea. Instead, he bids his once close friend farewell and lets Moses and the Israelites leave unopposed. Additionally, his backstory seems to be a combination of The Ten Commandments (1956)note and The Prince of Egyptnote .
- French writer Christian Jacq dedicated five books to Ramses II. Moses appears in books 1-4 and Ramses does play the role of Pharaoh of the Exodus but neither he nor Moses go under any Historical Villain Upgrade not does he pursue the Hebrews but rather a captain of the guard does. On further note all but three of his children (Khaemwaset, Merneptah and Meritamen) undergo Unrelated in the Adaptation with all of the others being children who attend school in the royal palace. And yes, he is portrayed as a Redheaded Hero.
- Anne Rice's Ramses The Damned
- The Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz wrote a book or two on the pharaoh during his early period as a writer of historical fiction (he switched to realistic fiction afterwards). This is part of the whole national-hero thing.
- Famously, Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" (Trope Namer for Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair) is about Ramses.
- Thunder At Kadesh by Gordon Doherty features Ramses as a mercurial tyrant and the Big Bad, seeking to utterly destroy the Hittite Empire and enslave its people.
- He appears in the 1974 miniseries Moses the Lawgiver as the Pharaoh of the Oppression but for some unfathomable reason Merneptah is portrayed as his grandson rather than his son as Moses' adoptive mother is referred to as Ramses' daughter yet Merneptah's father is not referred to as Ramses but rather the brother of Moses' adoptive mother.
- He is a mejor character in the Brazilian telenovela Moses and the Ten Commandments in which he is as usual portrayed as Moses' adoptive brother and the Phraoh of Exodus. One of the rare potrayals in which despite being an antagonist he is made a complex and even tragic character easy to sympathize with. He is portrayed by Sergio Marone.
- The song "Chosen By Re" by Timo Kotipelto (of Stratovarius fame), off of his solo Ancient Egypt-themed Concept Album "Waiting for the Dawn", is a power ballad dedicated to Ramses the Great.
- Death Metal band Nile has a song about him, appropriately titled "User Maat Re," in which his tremendous achievements are recounted, by Ramses himself, to the ghost of his father, Seti I, as an attempt to seek his approval. The kicker is that all of Ramses' extraordinary achievments have been solely for this purpose, and that Seti tells him "User-Maat-Re, thou hast done nothing."
- The second campaign of Cleopatra, the expansion of Pharaoh, takes place during his reign and has the player building his iconic monuments and fending off the Hittites under his direct command. One of the missions is an adaptation of the Book of Exodus, one of the very few to be told from the perspective of "the Pharaoh" instead of Moses.
- He is Egypt's leader in Civilization V. In IV, he shares the pool of national leaders with Hatshepsut.
- In Fate/Grand Order he's one of the summonable Servants, and is the same one mentioned above in Fate/Prototype: Pale Silver Fragments.
- Appears as a Bonus Boss in the Assassin's Creed Origins: Curse of the Pharaohs DLC. Stands as being one of the few depictions to actually mention he had red hair (we don't get to see it on Ramses himself, but it's noted that his offspring and descendants do have it).
- In the obscure and short-lived "Moe Strike EX", also known as "Kawaii Strike", a genderflipped, Ms. Fanservice version is a playable character.
- He appeared as "King Ramses" in an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog. He actually scared quite a few viewers. Understandable, considering that this version of Ramses is the bringer of a terrible curse for anyone who steals from his tomb, in this case the mythical "Slab Of Ramses". Interestingly, it's one of the man's few appearances to accurately depict him with red hair.
- Burbank Films Australia production Prince of the Nile: The Story of Moses featured Ramses as both Pharaoh of the Oppression and Pharaoh of the Exodus. Moses being given an Age Lift so he is twenty-seven by the time of the Exodus certainly made it easier as did the historical Ramses' sixty-six year reign.
- Due to being set during his reign and the title character being the sister of his wife Nefertari and thus his sister-in-law, Ramses is a major character in Princess of the Nile. On additional note, it portrays him with his red hair and he is a hero making him altogether a Red-Headed Hero.
- In Testament: The Bible in Animation Ramses is the Pharaoh of the Oppression who informs his son Merneptah of the need to be hard on the Hebrews following Moses' escape.
- He appears as the Pharaoh of the Exodus in A Tale of Egypt, Mockbuster of The Prince of Egypt.