PiRamesse (Qantir)

Beginnings

Hutwaret again gained fame during the time of the Ramessids. The family of Horemheb's vizier and prince-regent, Paramessu, came from Hutwaret. Horemheb built a temple to Sutekh (Seth) at Hutwaret. When Horemheb died without any children to succeed him, Paramessu became Rameses I (1295 to 1294 BC) and founded the 19th Dynasty. Some say that the Ramessids consider Horemheb to be the founder of their dynasty while Sutekh/Seth is their royal ancestor.

Horemheb's former vizier, Rameses I, was quickly succeeded by his son, Sety I, who restored many of the temples to their pre-Akhenaten state. He also expanded the temple to Sutekh at Hutwaret and built a summer palace at Hutwaret. Sety I was succeeded by his son, Rameses II, also known as Usi-ma-re or Usermaatre ("Strong in Right is Re"). In the north (Greece), they call him Ozymandias.

PiRamesse

Soon after he became king, the young Rameses II expanded the city of Hutwaret and called it Piramesse ('house of Rameses'). Its full name is Pi-Ramses a Aanakhtu or "Domain of Ramses Great of Victories." Under Rameses II, the city has become the administrative capital of Kemet (Egypt). Rameses II's Residence is located at Piramesse. Politicians work under the vizier of the north, who works closely with the king. In addition, there are three other religious and political capitals, Mennefer (Memphis), which is sacred to Ptah, Iunu (Heliopolis), which is sacred to Ra, and Waset (Thebes), which is sacred to Amun. PiRamesse is almost 500 miles north of Waset (Thebes). Rameses also has his harem at Mi-Wer (in the Fayyum).

Piramesse has now spread across Hutwaret (Tell el-Daba) and Qantir in the eastern Delta. Piramesse covers 12 square miles in the Eastern Delta. It borders Djahi, an area that includes Canaan and the north. It is known for its faience-tiled palaces, many pillared chambers, gates of granite, and the liberal use of turquoise blue in its decorations. PiRamesse has been described as "beauteous of balconies, dazzling with halls of lapis and turquoise". The young men of PiRamesse "are in festival-dress daily, oil on their heads, hair freshly set. They stand by their doors, hands bowed down with foliage and greenery."

The grand palace of Ramses II is the center of PiRamesse. The palace walls are decorated with fishes, waterfowl, lotuses, grapes, and poppies. The royal table is filled with delicacies. One recent banquet was decorated with 200 bouquets of flowers in ring stands and was supplied by food from 500 food baskets. The food included 1000 loaves of fine flour, 10,000 ibshet biscuits, 2000 tjet loaves, 100 baskets of cakes, 100 baskets of dried meat, 60 measures of milk, 90 measures of cream, 30 bowls of carob beans, 50 sacks of grapes, 60 sacks of pomegranates, and 300 strings of figs in 20 baskets. Fish came from the Nile and the Ta-She (Fayyum), as did ducks and geese. There were also leeks, herbs, and honey. As always, groups of dancers and musicians kept the celebrations merry. Most dances are acrobatic or are filled with undulating motions. Drums, tambourines, rattles, ivory or bone clappers accompany the dancers. In addition, orchestral groups and soloists play flutes, harps, oboelike reed pipes, and lutes.

Besides the palace of Ramses II, Pi-Ramesse is the home of government buildings, homes for important officials (although they will probably be buried in Mennefer/Memphis and elsewhere), warehouses, and temples to Ra, Sutekh (Seth), Amen, Ptah, and other deities. There are many pleasant lakes and canals throughout the city. The city is also home to a giant bronze-smelting factory with furnaces that are almost 50 feet long. The furnaces employ 300 metalworkers on a regular basis. Stout walls surround a chariot garrison, parade ground, and workshops.

The city is strategically located near the road that runs from the Pelusiac branch of the Nile to the border fortress of Tjaru (Sile) and distant Palestine. It is an important international trade center and a strong military base. There has always been a strong Asian presence in the city but now many foreign deities are worshipped here as well. Ba'al, Reshep, Hauron, Anat, and Astarte are all worshipped in Piramesse. Many of the foreigners who live in the city often become high-ranking officials. The position of 'royal butler' seemes especially associated with foreigners. This position is a senior executive position that allows for special royal commisions. After the recent treaty was made with the Hittites, the Hittites have sent craftsmen to the armoury in Piramesse to train the people of Kemet (Egypt) on the latest weapon technology, including the Hittite shields.

Rameses II and his many sons will no doubt have a long and glorious reign in Pi-Ramesse and the city will never fade or be lost to memory.

Back to Hutwaret

Back to Khent Abt, the 14th nome of Lower Kemet.

[Seer's note: Rameses II will reign for 67 years and outlive his twelve eldest sons. Merneptah finally succeeded Rameses II in 1213 BC. The Ramessids continued for some time afterwards. Unlike other capital cities of Egypt, such as Thebes, the Delta location of PiRamesse was lost until the 20th century. After the Nile branch that led to PiRamesse dried up, the capital was moved from PiRamesse to Tanis, also in the eastern Delta. The captial was moved by the end of the 20th Dynasty. Many of the stones from PiRamesse's temples and monumental buildings, including Rameses' obelisks and statues, were reused in Tanis and other Delta cities. Archaeological remains of PiRamesse did not begin to appear in the 1920s but a scientific case for Qantir being PiRamesse was not made until 1953 when the Egyptian archaeologist Labib Habachi published the findings of his dig from the 1940s. The Austrian Manfred Bietak and others later began a systematic exploration of the area.]

Sources:

The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson, NY, Harry N Abrams Inc., 1995.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Ramesses II: Greatest of the Pharaohs, Bernadette Menu, Harry N Abrams, Inc., 1998, 1999.

Ramses II: Magnificence on the Nile, Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1993.

Last Updated November 30, 2009