Ramesses believed to be father of public relations

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

CAIRO: On Monday, a light beam from a specially-crafted window illuminated the statue of not just an ancient pharaoh, but – some believe – the father of public relations.

The statues, depicting King Ramesses II seated alongside the gods Amon-Ra, Ra-Horachty, and Ptah, sit in the Abu Simbel Temple Complex southwest of Aswan. On February and October 22 – believed to be Ramesses’ birthday and coronation day, respectively – three of the four statues are illuminated by light from a specially positioned window. (Ptah, who symbolizes the dark void from which the Ancient Egyptians believed all life sprung, is intentionally left dark.)

Kristian Bonnici, the Embassy of Malta’s deputy head of mission and an expert in public relations, believes Ramesses to be the first historical figure to show a detailed understanding of public relations.

“The aim of public relations is reputation management and relationship building, he said. “Out of all the pharaohs, Ramesses had the most legacy of impact.

Bonnici acknowledges pharaohs preceding Ramesses also built impactful works. However, he feels Ramesses’ monuments show an understanding of mass communications earlier pharaohs lacked.

“The Great Pyramid of Khufu. OK- it’s a pyramid. It’s huge, it’s magnificent – but what does it communicate? he said.

“Ramesses communicated with his people internally, Bonnici continued. “He had PR people. he communicated to the people, and let the people communicate to him.

One statue of Ramesses, now in Munich, Germany, depicts the king with four ears on his back. Such symbolism, Bonnici believes, indicates Ramesses regularly received petitions from his subjects.

Ramesses, born around 1303 BC, was appointed Prince Regent of Egypt by his father, Seti I, at age 14. He succeeded his father in 1279 BC.

During his reign, Ramesses expanded the Egyptian Empire up along the Mediterranean coastline to present-day Syria, where Egypt’s border met the Hittite Empire’s, ruling from their capital Hattusha, east of present-day Ankara.

Muwatallish, the Hittite king, was content to maintain the border with the Egyptians, according to Burak Sansal, a Turkish historian.

However, Sansal said, “Ramesses often let his ambition outrun reality. in 1275 [he led] an Egyptian force of about 20,000 beyond Egypt’s borders. to march on Kadesh by way of the desert.

Tricked by Hittite spies, Ramesses marched his men into a trap. Historians consider the subsequent Battle of Kadesh to be amongst the largest in ancient Near Eastern history.

The battle, likely a draw or slight Hittite victory (no evidence records subsequent Egyptian incursions further north) resulted in the Treaty of Kadesh. Considered to be history’s first peace accord, the treaty records a friendship pledge between the Hittite and Egyptian empires, along with mutual military support to counter a rising Assyrian Empire further east.

Upon his return home, Ramesses declared he had won an overwhelmingly victory at Kadesh. Reliefs inside the Abu Simbel temple depict a chariot-bound Ramesses riding roughshod over decimated Hittite soldiers.

Bonnici believes Ramesses actually did win at Kadesh, but that it was a “Pyrrhic victory. The king’s subsequent “spinning of the event also shows a keen understanding of public relations, Bonnici argues.

In addition to his military campaigns, Ramesses held many festivals – far more than those of his predecessors.

“I have to point out that Ramesses used to make festivals for the people, Bonnici said. “[This] extended PR. the people were able to see the symbols [of Ramesses].

One such celebration, the Sed Festival, commemorated the king’s continued rule. Ramesses celebrated the festival an unprecedented 14 times during his reign.

Ramesses was also a prolific builder, often of statues depicting himself. At the Abu Simbel Temple in Upper Egypt – considered to be Ramesses’ masterpiece – the temple entrance is flanked by four enormous statues of the king, wearing the combined crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

In addition, Ramesses would often “claim earlier statues and monuments as his own, according to Rhonda Baligh, an Egyptology professor.

Ramesses would have his artists scratch out earlier pharaoh’s cartouches – the Ancient Egyptian way of recording names – and instead mark the monuments as those of his reign, Baligh said.

Considered by the Ancient Egyptians to be a living god, the pharaohs often depicted themselves in grandiose terms.

“Ramesses exaggerates, but it’s important to take things in context, Bonnici said. “The pharaoh had to appear super-human. in those days, this is what pharaohs did.

However, Bonnici said he thinks monuments like those at Abu Simbel did more than just promote Ramesses’ god-king status. They also served as a warning to anyone in Upper Egypt who might have ideas about rebelling against the king.

“In the South, maybe someone who sees these statues would think twice [about opposing Ramesses], Bonnici said.

In the end, Ramesses’ exploits were typical of Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, though on a larger scale, according to John Ray, an Egyptology professor at Cambridge.

“Modesty was never considered to be a pharaonic virtue, he said.

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