Ancient Egyptian History Egyptology the Motivation Behind the Harem Conspiracy Term Paper

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Harem Conspiracy

Of the hundreds of Pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt for three thousand years, only a few are considered truly great and well- remembered (Bible History Online 2011, Alchin 2009). The second ruler of the 20th dynasty, Ramesses III, is among these few and was the last to rule. He was born at a time of turbulence in the Mediterranean during the Trojan War, the fall of Mycenae and the massive displacement of people throughout the region that toppled even some empires. His name meant "Re has fashioned him" and his throne name was Usermaatre Meryamun, which meant "Powerful is the justice of Re, beloved of Amun." His father, Ramesses II, was his immediate predecessor Setnakhte. Some Egyptologists believe he originated the 20th dynasty. His mother was Queen Tiy-merenese (Alchin, Bible History Online).

Ramesses III had many wives and sons, among them were his successors, Ramesses IV, V and VI (Bible History Online 2011, Alchin 2009). While he reigned for 31 years and 41 days, not much is known about his royal family, according to the Great Harris Papyrus. His first wife, Isis, was likely to have been a foreigner from the Asian region. Many of his 10 or more sons died before he did. Each of them held high positions before their death. Ramesses III was said to have been devoted to his father. In his honor, Ramesses III gave his own sons names, which followed those of his father. A minor wife was Tiy, who figured in the Harem Conspiracy against the Pharaoh's life. She wanted her son, Pentewere, to take the throne after his father instead of his fifth son by Isis, named Amonhirkopshef who was the Pharaoh's choice (Alchin, Bible History Online). Ramesses III's refusal to name Tiy the "Great Royal Wife" and her son the crown prince created the suitable conditions for a conspiracy (Alchin, Bible History Online).

Political and Economic Environments

Political Environment

Ramessess III began his reign by consolidating the empire and dealing with problems his father encountered in the latter part of the 19th dynasty (Dunn 2011, Alchin 2009, Great Dream 1997). But in his fifth year, Libyans attacked Egypt for the first time since Merenptah's rule in the 19th dynasty as the fourth king. The Libyans consisted of the Mshwesh group and the Seped group. Ramesses III easily defeated these invaders, killing many of them and making slaves out of those who survived. These survivors inhabited the western Delta and increased in number by peaceful infiltration. In his eighth year of rule, Ramesses III found the need to deal with the forces with greater intensity. The effort was so great that it destroyed at least the Hittite empire while destroying the whole region. Historical accounts say that foreign countries conspired. The lands of the Hittites, Qode, Carchemesh, Arzawa and Cyprus were dislodged and scattered. The people were dislocated. The turbulence jarred Cyprus. Its capital, Enkomi, was ransacked. The invaders, known as the Sea People, destroyed the Hittite capital, Hattusas, and other empires. They captured Tarsus and settled in Cilicia in northern Syria. There they destroyed and dissipated Allakh and Ugarit. The Sea People came in waves from different regions in the Middle East. Earlier rulers, particularly Merenptah, had to struggle against these tribes in the past (Dunn, Great Dream, Alchin).

Ramesses' reaction to these invaders was quick and saved Egypt from the devastation, to which other empires succumbed (Dunn 2011, Alchin 2009, Great Dream 1997). He immediately sent his soldiers to the eastern Egyptian front at Djahy in southern Palestine, and to stay until the arrival of the main Egyptian army. This army easily overcame the contenders. But the Egyptians had to contend with the foes' sea counterparts. The Egyptians did not have a very strong navy, which chiefly consisted of an infantry of archers, who were especially trained for the sea. But they were not too comfortable with the sea. They called the Mediterranean the "Great Green." Nonetheless, the Egyptian fleet was at the mouth of the Nile when the Sea Peoples' fleet arrived. The Egyptians drove the Sea Peoples' boats to the shore where especially trained Egyptian archers awaited them. Arrows quickly flew into enemy ships from the archers' bows while the Egyptian marine archers from their ships complemented those on land in unison. Egyptian ships threw grappling hooks into the Sea Peoples' ships and flung them into the water. The combination of approaches gave them the victory. The Sea People fled to the Levant (Dunn, Alchin, Great Dream).

Egypt enjoyed peace for about three years after these initiatives (Dunn 2011, Alchin 2009, Great Dream 1997). It was Ramesses III's 11th year of rule. Immigrants then had gradually infiltrated the west area of the Canopic portion of the Nile from the western border. Suddenly, the Libyans, with the support of Meshwesh and five other tribes, again attacked full-scale. Ramesses III's force countered and crushed the enemies, with 2,000 of them left dead. They captured and executed their leaders. The spoils were sent to the treasury of Amun. Details of this battle are contained in the inner north wall of the First Pylon at Medinet Habu. There were many other conflicts, which figured during the reign of Ramesses III, especially in the deserts around Thebes, but these were considered minor in significance (Dunn, Alchin, Great Dream).

These major battles took a heavy toll on Egypt's treasury to the extent of exhausting it (Dunn 2011, Alchin 2009, Great Dreams 1997). This drain contributed a great deal to the decline of the empire in Asia. It went so bad that it led to the first known labor strike in history in the year 29 and during Ramesses III's reign. Even the food rations to favored and elite royal tomb-builders and artisans in set Maat her imenty Waset were affected. Even the sunlight and the growth of trees for almost two full decades were disturbed until 1140 BCE. There was much inflation on grain prices, which persisted to the reigns of Ramesses VI and VII. The conditions in the last years of Ramesses III's rule hampered his ability to provide a constant supply to the workers of the Deir el-Medica community.

These occurrences were excluded in his official monuments, which document only to record those of his father. These monuments also present only an impression of continuity and stability. The uncertainty of the environments during his reign is inferred from the strong fortifications built to enclose this empire. In comparison, no other Egyptian before his reign needed such extensive protection (Dunn, Alchin, Great Dreams).

Economic Environment

Ramesess III's funerary temple and administrative complex at Medinet-Hau is among the largest and best-preserved in Egypt (Great Dreams 1997). He also made important additions to the temples at Luxor and Karnak. He set up many foreign trade contacts, especially with an old trading partner, Punt. This appears to have been Egypt's first contact with Punt since the famous initiatives in the days of Hatshepsut of the 18th century. There are historical records of his sending an expedition to Atika, where the copper mines of Timna can be found (Great Dreams).

Ramesses III was known and is remembered for his domestic building program, which consolidates law and order (Great Dreams 1997, Alchin 2004). When he inherited the empire from the 19th dynasty, it was immersed in much corruption and abuses. Ramesess III immediately investigated and reorganized the many temples of the country. The Great Harris Papyrus presents evidence that he made large donations of land to the most prominent temples in Thebes, Memphis and Heliopolis. The donations were so large that, by the end of his reign, a third of the country's cultivatable land belonged bo the temples, 2/3 to the temple of Amun at Thebes. He also sent many relief decorations and two small but new temples to his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu. One of the two temples was dedicated to the moon god Khonsu. He also ordered building work in a number of centers. These included Piramesses, Athribis, Heliopolis, Memphis, Hermopolis, Lycopolis, Abydoes and Edfu. For many generations, Egypt was governed by two viziers. One oversaw Upper Egypt and the other, Lower Egypt. A problem developed, which involved the Lower Egyptian vizier at the time. Ramesses III placed the high office under a single person named To (Great Dreams, Alchin).

Social Environment

The harem or royal harem originally referred to a "forbidden place" of women in Ottoman palaces (Reshafim 2002, Mudloff 2012). Egyptologists adopted the term to refer to an administrative institution serving the needs of royal women and their children. The scope of the meaning of the term was broadened to include singing and dancing ladies in the tomb of Shepsi-pu-Min. They were supervised by women overseers with appropriate titles for the task. In times that preceded dynasties, pharaohs had multiple wives to ensure the procreation of successors. The tomb of Djer at Abydos is surrounded by tombs of his women, believed to be his minor wives. Wives in ancient times also…[continue]

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