This article is taken from the Figaro Hors-Série: Ramsès II, the event exhibition at the Grande Halle de la Villette. Day of celebration at Tjarou. This border post located north of Sinai is the point of departure and arrival of any expedition to the East. The triumphant return of Seti I, who left in his first year of reign, in 1294 BC, is announced. What was the purpose of the campaign? Maintaining order in Canaan, where a turbulent tribe, the Chasou, rebelled against the Egyptian protectorate; liberate Phenicia from the tutelage of the Hittites, who from Anatolia claimed to extend their influence towards the south. Pharaoh crosses the border under the cheers of the delegation that has come to meet him, reaches Memphis, where the royal family and the jubilant people are waiting for him. His return closely coincides with the first anniversary of his accession to the throne. Everything fits to establish its prestige. At the sight of the "army of victories", of the booty, of the prisoners, it seems to Ramses that his father is reconnecting with the finest hours of the kingdom. Time returns, that of Thoutmôsis the conqueror, who made the glory of the XVIIIth dynasty. Ramses admires this proud and ambitious father who opens the way to greatness for him.
Seti I, in return, must have been well aware of the exceptional precocity of his son, since it seems that he associated him very early with supreme power. The dedicatory inscription that Ramses will have engraved at the beginning of his reign on his father's temple at Abydos recounts a capital event, which occurred perhaps in year 8 of the reign of Seti, which certain Egyptologists interpret as the index of a co-regency between father and son: "The Almighty Himself made me great, when I was a child until I reigned." He gave me the country when I was still in the bud. The great bowed down before me when I was installed, as eldest son, hereditary prince on the throne of Geb. Ramses doesn't take himself for nothing, like all child kings. Seti has him crowned before the senior officials and priests assembled in the courtyard of the palace of Memphis. "'Let him organize this country! Let him administer! Let him show himself to the people!” Thus he spoke, because the love that I inspired in him was in his entrails. »
Thus, even before his coronation, which will only occur at the funeral of Seti, Ramses is invested with royal authority. He will be obeyed as the sovereign himself. The king and queen Mouttouya choose him his first great wives, Nefertari and Isis-Neferet, who will remain his favorites until their death and will give him his first children very early.
These years of learning see Ramses directing the work ordered by his father. From the Delta to Nubia, Seti has grandiose plans: in Abydos, where he is building his funerary temple; at Karnak, where he erected the hypostyle hall planned under Ramses I; at Avaris, where he established a new palace; at Heliopolis, where he erects his obelisks; finally in the Valley of the Kings, where he had his tomb dug and decorated. On the ground, Ramses rubs shoulders with command. He is in Aswan in the pink granite quarries, in year 9 of the reign, to order the extraction of the future obelisks. He supervises the transport of the colossi, from the quarry to the Nile and from the Nile to the construction sites. In Thebes, he inspects the work of quarrymen, tailors, sculptors, draughtsmen, illuminators, architects, who participate in the embellishment of the kingdom. He sees concretely what a policy of great works means: first the cost, the need for abundant resources in gold and manpower, the supply of water, food, stones, attention to the morale of the workers, the control of the innumerable cogs that allow the fluidity of transport and the regularity of construction.
The construction sites of Séthi inspire in the crown prince the desire to print his mark in turn. Nothing better illustrates this desire to "take up the torch" than the reliefs of the temple of Beit el-Wali, south of Aswan, where Ramses will later be represented as a victorious pharaoh in battles won not by him, but by his father. We will see him fighting the Nubians, closely followed by his sons. To conquer, but also to pacify, to build: these are the three lessons of King Seti to his son.
Ramses II, the event exhibition at the Grande Halle de la Villette, 164 pages, €13.90, available on newsstands and on Le Figaro Store.