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Ramesses II, Egypt’s Ultimate Pharaoh

By Peter J. Brand



Ramesses II was the most magnificent and iconic pharaoh in Egyptian history. His reign was the longest, the most “monumental” in buildings and artwork, the most innovative in diplomacy, and even the most procreative, with over one hundred royal offspring. Drawing on the latest research, Peter J. Brand digs deep into Egyptian culture and archeology, revealing the mindset and motivations of Ramesses II. We find what his grand monuments reveal, and equally what they conceal. On the international scene, we peruse the diplomatic letters—often surprising, sometimes amusing—between Pharaoh and the kings of Babylon, Assyria, and the Hittite Empire. A courageous warrior in his prime, Ramesses was also a wise and visionary statesman. He ended six decades of war with the Hittite Empire by signing the first peace treaty in recorded history. In his later years Ramesses II became a living god, and finally an immortal legend. Forty years after Kenneth Kitchen’s Pharaoh Triumphant, here at last is a fresh, engaging look at Ramesses II, Egypt’s ultimate Pharaoh.


About the author

Dr. Peter J. Brand (PhD University of Toronto, 1998) is an ancient historian and Egyptologist specializing in history and culture of ancient Egypt during its imperial age (ca. 1550–1100 BCE). He is author of The Monuments of Seti I and their Historical Significance: Epigraphic, Historical and Art-Historical Analysis (Brill, 2000), and has written numerous articles on Egyptian kingship, monumental art and construction, history, popular religion, warfare, and diplomacy during the late Eighteenth Dynasty and Ramesside period. Ramesses II, Egypt’s Ultimate Pharaoh is his fourth book. Since 2001, Brand has served as director of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project, which is recording, conserving, and interpreting hundreds of scenes and hieroglyphic texts carved on the walls and columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall. The project uses cutting-edge technology to model and reveal the inscriptions on this forest of 134 giant columns. Brand has appeared in over twenty documentaries for the History Channel, Discovery, and National Geographic.



"Aimed at scholars and general readers alike, and packed with colour illustrations, notes and an extensive bibliography … Brand presents and in-depth chronological explorations of Ramesses' reign.… So does Ramesses II deserve to be caalled 'Egypt's Ultimate Pharaoh? Readers will find it difficult to disagree after reading Brand's compelling narrative."—Ancient Egypt 137 (July/August 2023)


"This is an impressive work about an impressive figure in human history.…The book is printed on high quality paper rendering the many full-color images of monuments, temples, and renderings of ancient paintings and inscriptions that serve as documentation of Ramesses II’s reign.

"Peter J. Brand has given us an up-to-date and illuminating account in this work, the first since Kenneth Kitchen’s Pharaoh Triumphant forty years ago. It reveals both the culture and the man behind the legends of this great ruler of Egypt at the zenith of Egypt’s power. We stand in wonder at the works portrayed in images that celebrate this Pharaoh three millenia later.… Brand’s work helps us appreciate one of the greatest rulers in human history, often hidden in the mists of time and legend."

Bob on Books (November 6, 2023)


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Ramesses II, Egypt’s Ultimate Pharaoh

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    170 x 245 cm

    xxiv + 574 (plus index) pages, 242 full color illustrations

    978-1-948488-48-8 (paperback) $39.95

    978-1-948488-47-1 (hardcover) $98.50

    978-1-948488-49-5 (PDF) $32.00

    978-1-957454-96-2 (Epub) $29.99

    Print: April 2023

    E-book: March 15, 2023

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  • Endorsements

    “Interesting; informative; extremely well-written. Obviously created from a wellspring of both expertise and emotion, this is a joy to read. Kudos to the author!”

    — Eric H. Cline


    “An evocative and up-to-date account of the life and times of the man whose shadow—for better or worse—dominated the image of pharaonic kingship over three millennia.”

    — Aidan Dodson


    “This book is not merely yet another foray into an attempted biography of a bygone ruler of the Nile Valley. Quite to the contrary, I believe that what Brand has achieved is a marvel. This scholarly work is a new stepping stone in the now two-full-centuries-long history of Egyptology not only owing to its in-depth critical approach, but also as Brand provides a perceptive secondary, or higher-level analysis of historical investigation. Brand’s volume is equally significant as it is a major advance in the field of Egyptology, especially in historical studies of the ancient world. He connects many sources together, all reflecting a disparate aspect and nature such as archaeology, inscriptions, visual panoramas and tableaux, not to mention “lowly” objects such as coffers or jewels and the like, into a coherent and stimulating whole. It is my firm position that Brand’s Ramesses II, Egypt’s Ultimate Pharaoh, will be seen not only as reconfirming the ruler’s importance in world history, but equally as a paradigm for historical studies of the ancient world. The book will become a milestone in historical writing on pharaonic Egypt.”

    —Anthony Spalinger


    "No Egyptian pharaoh had arguably as great an impact on Egypt than Ramesses II. Professor Peter Brand’s study provides more than a history of an eventful reign; it looks beyond the image of Ramesses as a great warrior and builder and puts him in a broader context of Egypt, the Levant, and Nubia. The narrative shows how Egypt’s place in the Late Bronze Age was maintained not just by war, but by judicious diplomacy as well. Especially interesting is the description of the negotiations between the Ramesses and the Hittite royal house that led to the peace treaty between the two empires in his twenty-first regnal year and the first diplomatic marriage to a Hittite princess in his thirty-fourth. Specialists and nonspecialists alike will welcome the balanced approach to the critical and controversial issues of his reign: a possible coregency with his father; the Battle of Kadesh; his complex family and many sons; the role of his queens and other royal women; Egyptian exploitation of Nubia and its gold mines; and, finally, his legacy in Egyptian and world history. The even-handed presentation allows a general readership to follow critical issues of the reign, while providing endnotes and an extensive bibliography that add solid scholarly support to discussions.  A generous number of illustrations and maps are well deployed and particularly helpful in describing the ambitious building program throughout Egypt and Nubia that marked Ramesses’s reign."

    —Ogden Goelet

  • Table of Contents



    List of Figures



    Map of Egypt and Nubia


    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Chapter 2: Rise of the Ramessides: The Reigns of Ramesses I and Sety I

    Chapter 3: Crown Prince Ramesses and His Career under Sety I

    Chapter 4: The Early Reign of Ramesses II

    Chapter 5: The Battle of Kadesh 

    Chapter 6: Great of Victories: Ramesses II’s Later Wars

    Chapter 7: All the King’s Wives: Ramesses II’s Royal Women

    Chapter 8: The Royal Children and their Ideological Role

    Chapter 9: The Path to Peace: International Diplomacy and the End of the Egyptian-Hittite Conflict

    Chapter 10: The Silver Treaty: The Egyptian-Hittite Peace Accords

    Chapter 11: Peace and Brotherhood: Diplomatic Relations Between the Egyptian and Hittite Courts

    Chapter 12: A Time of Wonders: The Earliest Royal Jubilees of Ramesses II and the First Hittite Marriage Alliance

    Chapter 13: Ramesses the Great God

    Chapter 14: Rich in Years: Monumental Construction and Hittite Relations during the Jubilee Period

    Chapter 15: Twilight of the Great God: Ramesses II’s Last Years and His Descendants

    Chapter 16: Afterlife: The Legacy of Ramesses II




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